When Acne Hits in Your 20's and 30's
I am guessing that you never expected to still have acne in your late 20’s and 30’s? Many of my patients sailed through their teens and early 20’s with perfect skin only to be saddled with what we call “late onset adult acne”. I have a confession to make, I am one of those people. I always had great skin, which is really helpful when you have a skincare line! Then suddenly when I started my practice, my face broke out and didn’t stop for close to 3 years. Why was this happening?! There I was a “skincare expert” with a face full of acne. I needed this to get fixed, and fast.
My research into adult acne over the last 5 years has lead me to a few conclusions about adult onset acne. The most important of which are that it is either
- Hormone Related
- Food Related
Allow me to expand, hormones play a critical role in skin health and there are a lot of things working against women from a hormonal perspective in their late 20’s and early 30’s. This is often one of the most stressful times in their lives. They are either working their tails off to establish themselves in their career, having and raising small children, or doing both at the same time. There are often financial struggles that come from paying off student debt while trying to get your first mortgage. The bottom line is this additional stress wreaks havoc on hormones. The stress hormone cortisol rises when we are under stress, it is linked to the fight or flight response. Increased cortisol leads to increased insulin. If you are under chronic stress, then your cortisol is constantly elevated. This means your insulin frequently elevated, which in turn, elevates your testosterone. Testosterone increase acne by increasing oil production on the skin, the acne’s food source.
Acne that is related to increased testosterone tends to develop on the chin and jawline area. Think of the area of a man’s face that is covered by a beard, that is where your testosterone linked acne will be. If it is not bad enough that all this stress is increasing cortisol and increasing testosterone, in your late 20’s and early 30’s your progesterone levels start to naturally decline. When your progesterone levels decline, your estrogen levels “look higher” this also makes your insulin levels spike. Having your hormones starting to work against you makes it all the more important to avoid foods that aggravate acne prone skin.
I also see a number of women who are diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in their late 20’s and early 30’s. Symptoms of PCOS include: acne, weight gain and hair growth. These are all symptoms of elevated insulin and testosterone. Your acne could be the first sign that you are headed down the path to PCOS. For more about PCOS and how to help reverse it, click here.
So how does food play into all of this? Well as I mentioned last week, foods that increase your blood sugar, increase insulin and increase testosterone. But that is not the whole story. When your body has been under stress for many years, this stress causes damage to your digestive system. There is a layer of cells that line your intestines that are supposed to keep proteins within the digestive track. Stress aggravates this layer, leading to it having gaps in it, known as “Leaky Gut”. When your gut is leaky, proteins that are supposed to stay in the digestive track make their way into the bloodstream. These proteins are very inflammatory and can lead to acne.
So What Should You Do
- Stress Reduction: this does not have to mean yoga and meditation. The best stress reduction is whatever works the best for you. That could be hiring a house cleaner, delegating certain tasks, a night out once a week or exercise. What’s most important is that you implement some strategy to lower your stress
- Eat the Right Foods: Food is fuel. Don’t give your body garbage
- Lift Weights: Weight bearing exercise is one of the only ways, besides eating better, to lower your blood sugar. This in turn lowers your insulin and testosterone levels.
- See a Naturopathic Doctor: I have helped many patients find the ideal eating patterns and exercise for themselves, as well as, prescribing targeted supplements for stress and hormonal balance. I also usually do acupuncture on these patients as it works quite well with helping to regulate hormones.
I hope you found this post helpful. Please share it with your friends and family who may be dealing with adult acne. It can be fixed!
Dr Alexis practices in Kanata, and is currently accepting new patients
Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended insurance benefits