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If concealing pimples at an age when you’re also contemplating eye creams seems like one of mother nature’s cruellest jokes, you’re not alone: According to a recent study, the median age for acne sufferers has risen from 20.5 to 26.5. Characterized by pustules and cysts around the jaw and neck, female adult acne usually has a hormonal origin, says Dr. Nowell Solish, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Toronto. Hormones stimulate the production of oil, which combines with bacteria to clog pores and create inflammation.
Your first instinct might be to spot-treat your pimples, but that’s the wrong strategy, says Dr. Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson, a P&G Beauty scientist. “Drying out the skin is the old way of treating acne, but it makes you more susceptible to wrinkling, irritation and sun damage.” Instead, the newest remedies take a gentler, all-over approach. Olay Professional Pro-X Clear Acne Protocol is a three-step system that has replaced old-school benzoyl peroxide with salicylic acid and niacinamide; the former eradicates oil and prevents future breakouts, while the latter fades spots and improves skin texture. Kellett Clear Skin Care System, developed by Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist based in Toronto, employs a similar philosophy, featuring not only acne-fighting ingredients but also antioxidants and anti-inflammatory herbs. For a fast fix, hand-held zit zappers such as Zeno Hot Spot, which delivers a controlled, low-level dosage of heat to kill acne-causing bacteria, can also be effective, says Dr. Mark Lupin, a dermatologist based in Victoria, B.C.
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A new and popular doctor’s-office treatment is Isolaz, which uses vacuum and broad-band light to wipe out sebum and dead skin cells over four to six sessions, with no downtime. Other options include the vascular Gemini laser and salicylic-acid-based SilkPeel, although many derms prefer oral medications such as antibiotics, spironolactone (an anti-androgen drug) or the birth-control pill as a first line of defence. “Whatever you do, the cornerstone of treatment should be a topical routine with vitamin A,” says Lupin. Combination retinoid-antimicrobial preparations are the big news on that front. One example, Tactuo—a vitamin A and benzoyl-peroxide blend—was launched this spring. If your acne is causing scarring, however, you could be a candidate for a course of vitamin A taken orally in the form of Accutane.
What to do if you've exhausted all other options on the next page ...
Michelle Villett is the founder of Beautyeditor.ca. Check out her latest beauty how-tos, trend updates and more. ON YOUR WEEK OFF
If you have exhausted other options or are averse to medications, photodynamic therapy can put acne in remission for months at a time. Levulan, a topical photosensitizing agent, is applied and left on skin for one to three hours before being activated under blue light. You will need 48 hours of downtime, during which you will have the appearance of a sunburn and be sensitive to light.
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Michelle Villett is the founder of Beautyeditor.ca. Check out her latest beauty how-tos, trend updates and more.