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What adults can do about acne

We tend to think of acne as kid stuff—an annoyance that disappears along with adolescence. For many, however, acne persists right through adulthood. (For some women, in fact, acne doesn’t even begin until age 30 or so.) If you’re plagued by pimples—or if you have an occasional bad bout of acne—there’s plenty you can do.

Acne develops when skin glands work overtime, producing an oily substance that blocks ducts on the skin’s surface. Pimples occur when the plugged ducts become swollen and, sometimes, infected.

Over-the-counter medications such as benzoyl peroxide can control mild acne, but serious cases may call for a prescription drug. Although they’re often a permanent cure, prescription drugs are not without risks. In any case, consult your doctor early; acne is much easier to treat before scarring occurs.

Various factors can cause acne. Stress has been shown to trigger acne in those who are predisposed to the condition. Many women notice that they tend to break out the week before the onset of their menstrual period. A bad case of acne could signal an ovarian or adrenal tumor. So if you get acne out of the blue, see a doctor.

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no evidence that chocolate, french fries and other fatty foods cause or aggravate acne. If using cosmetics seems to make you break out, choose products labeled “noncomedogenic”—that means they probably won’t clog your pores.

Acne is an annoyance at any age. But with a little perseverance and the right treatment, you should be able to reduce or eliminate blemishes for good.