We hear the same cry of distress from many of our customers: “I have pimples for the first time in my life and now I’m getting wrinkles too–what’s wrong?” They are not alone. Incidence of adult acne, especially with respect to women, is on the rise. And, while acne is a complicated condition, we do know the root causes of acne are, in general, related to hormone levels.
Fortunately, there are now treatments that benefit both teenagers and adults. One of the answers to acne problems resides in our old friend, the ever-versatile lactic acid. Let’s take a look at common treatments and how a few modification can change the picture for adult acne sufferers.
Adult acne certainly responds to the treatments given to teenagers, but the problem is that many of the treatments revolve around the use of harsh exfoliants that leave the skin taut and very dry. Teenage skin can tolerate a lot of over treatment, even abuse, as it is quite resilient. As soon as an exfoliant touches their skin, processes go to work to step up sebum and new cell production.
Too much of this is certainly not good for teenage skin as it can set up a vicious cycle, but for adults it may result in an entirely new set of problems. Over drying adult skin on a consistent basis may not produce the fresh crop of pimples the teenager gets, but it might cause something even harder to deal with—wrinkles.
Nearly all of us are familiar with comedos, commonly known as whiteheads and blackheads. Excess sebum and skin cells get trapped in follicles and form comedones, which, when infected, become pustules. Since comedones are the first step on the way to acne many treatments involve breaking up the congested matter in the pore before it becomes a full-blown pimple.
This is where comedolytics come in. Some of the most common comedolytics include salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. BP also has anti-microbial properties (it targets P. acnes) which make it the ideal choice for teenagers. The downside to BP is that causes excessive skin dryness and is a photosensitizer.
Some combination of alpha –hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids are often used to exfoliate. The combination is quite effective, as they work in different ways. AHAs soften the stratum corneum and remove dead skin cells. BHAs like salicylic acid exfoliate retained cells and loosen dead skin cell impactions.
The difference between an alpha and a beta hydroxy acid is that the alpha HA seeps in from the stratum corneum, while the beta HA peels away layers of the skin, actually dissolving skin protein from the outside in.
All ance-prone skin types can benefit from regular use of treatment products containing BHAs (salicylic acid) and AHAs. The trick with adult acne is to use products which dissolve skin impactions without excessively drying or irritating the skin.
Cleansers containing lactic acid and salicylic acid will remove dead skin cell build up on the skin’s surface without causing irritation. Lactic acid is the AHA of choice in a cleanser, as it is less irritating than glycolic acid, and in addition has outstanding anti-aging and skin lightening benefits.
In the daytime, follow with a sunscreen containing the anti-inflammatory zinc oxide.
Lactic acid used in a nighttime serum acts as a gentle exfoliant, increasing shedding of dead skin cells. At the same time it delivers anti-aging benefits by triggering increases in cell renewal and cell turnover. Serums are an excellent addition to a wash, as the lactic acid has time to penetrate to deeper layers of the skin.
Facial masks containing salicylic and lactic acid are an excellent way to decrease comedones. The salicylic acid is the comedolytic agent, while the lactic acid’s humectant properties keep the skin from drying out too much. LA also increases natural ceramides, the barrier lipids that help the skin retain moisture and keep bacterial growth in check. Lactic acid in high concentrations (>10%) helps to improve scarring and discoloration associated with old acne. If scarring or discoloration is a problem, we also recommend topical applications of Vitamin C.
A simple way to get benefits of lactic acid at home is to use yoghurt. It contains lactic acid to exfoliate, AND it contains probiotics to help balance bacterial growth on the skin’s surface. It is so gentle it can be used daily as a face wash. Just take about ½ teaspoon fresh, whole fat organic yoghurt and spread it on the face like a creamy cleanser, then wash it off. To use as a facial mask, simply leave it on for 10-15 minutes before washing it off. It’s that easy!
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