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Adult Acne More of a Female Problem, Study Finds

Just when most adults thought the trials and tribulations of the teenage years were behind them, acne comes back to haunt many of them long after adolescence, and it affects women more than men, according to new research.

Women ages 20 years and older will suffer from acne more than men in the same age group, according to the study, The Prevalence of Acne in Adults 20 Years and Older, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Dermatologists at the University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Medicine studied 1,013 men and women ages 20 years and older to determine the prevalence of acne after adolescence.

Volunteers were asked to fill out a questionnaire that evaluated the occurrence of acne in their lives, factoring in whether the person ever had acne or pimples in their teens or later in life — their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and older. The survey also asked whether the acne had improved, gotten worse or stayed the same since they were teenagers.

The study found that 73.3 percent of volunteers had acne at least one time in their lives. When asked about acne in the teen years, the number for men and women almost matched as 68.5 percent of men and 66.8 women reported cases of acne as teenagers. However, for every report of acne after the teen years, the numbers were significantly higher in female cases than in male cases.

The following is a breakdown of the findings among men and women:

—During their 20s, 50.9 percent of women and 42.5 percent of men reported experiencing acne.

—During their 30s, 35.2 percent of women and 20.1 percent of men reported experiencing acne.

—During their 40s, 26.3 percent of women and 12 percent of men reported experiencing acne.

—During their 50s or older, 15.3 percent of women and 7.3 percent of men reported experiencing acne.

“Although acne is one of the most common skin diseases, there is a general misconception that it only affects teenagers,” said C. Harper, MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama. “As dermatologists, we treat acne patients of all ages — from those who have experienced acne since they were teenagers to others who have developed the condition for the first time as adults. Our study set out to determine just how common acne is among adult men and women.”

Female Factors

Another section of the survey analyzed specific acne questions directed toward women, including if changes were noted during their menstrual cycle, if they were pre- or post-menopausal as well as if any treatments for menopause had an effect on acne.

Of the pre-menopausal women, 62.2 percent reported more acne around the time of menstruation, and of the 86 women who were using a hormone replacement therapy or over-the-counter medications, 10.5 percent (9 women) reported improvement in the acne with treatment while 75 women, or 87.2 percent, reported no change while two women reported worse acne.

“Our findings demonstrate that acne is a persistent problem for people of all ages, but clearly women seem to be affected by this medical condition more than men when we examined the 20-plus age groups,” said Harper.

“Research examining the role hormones play in the development of acne may hold the key to explaining why more adult women are affected by acne and could lead to future treatments to control this condition.”

Harper added that most of the participants reported that acne improved after their teenage years. For example, 63 percent of men and 53.3. percent of women said that their acne improved after the teen years, while 3.6 percent of men and 13.3 percent of women reported that it worsened.

“Despite the fact that adult acne tends to be generally milder than teenage acne, this common medical condition can have a significant impact on a person’s overall quality of life — regardless of when it occurs,” said Harper. “Involving a dermatologist in the diagnosis and treatment of acne is vital to managing this difficult condition.”

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following for the proper care and treatment of acne:

—To prevent scars, do not pop, squeeze or pick at acne; seek treatment early for acne that does not respond to over-the-counter medications.

—Gently wash affected areas twice a day with mild soap and warm water. Vigorous washing and scrubbing can irritate your skin and make acne worse.

—Use “noncomedogenic” (does not clog pores) cosmetics and toiletries.

—Use oil-free cosmetics and sunscreens.

—Avoid alcohol-based astringents, which strip your skin of natural moisture.

—Shampoo hair often, daily if it is oily, though African-Americans may prefer to wash it weekly.

—Use medication as directed and allow enough time for acne products to take effect.