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Why do I Still Have Spots when I am not a Teenager?

Posted on 22 September, 2015

I see many people who are frustrated by the presence of spots on their skin. Although this can be a very distressing situation during adolescence, it is at least ‘expected’ and commonplace. The impact can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the often precarious emotional state of teenage years. However, moving into adulthood, the appearance of spots can be really upsetting as it is generally unexpected at that age. Having made it through the teen years blemish free it can seem unfair to be in the mid - late twenties or thirties and find oneself with greasy spotty skin. The number of well-educated adults who start a consultation  assuring me of their rigorous hygiene and healthy diet often surprises me. Why are these myths so prevalent? I blame the media (as you may have seen in my previous posts ‘Why changing your diet will not improve the appearance of your skin’   and ‘Stressed skin’.

The endless articles on how to  achieve great skin in very easy steps are all well and good but they assume that your starting point is already problem free and that you have no existing conditions. If you have a skin condition such as acne or rosacea then these steps will not provide a cure for you. If you fall into this category you are not to blame. Acne can have a hereditary component but is essentially controlled by our hormones.  Our hormones are delicate chemical substances which are very easily influenced by many variables such as stress, activity, weight gain or loss, and also medication. We have sebaceous glands all over our bodies (apart from the soles of the feet & palms of the hands). These glands produce an oily substance called sebum which lubricates hair follicles and skin. The surface of our skin which is exposed, is continually being renewed and replaced, old cells are shed from the surface. Although you do not see this happening, this process is ongoing. Sometimes old cells will get trapped and stuck by the oily sebum and create a plug in the skin pore. The gland continues to produce sebum which accumulates behind the plug. This then has the potential to become infected by a bacteria found on our skin called p acne bacteria. This bacteria, on its own, does not cause any problems but in this situation the ensuing immune response can result in inflammation. So those who produce more sebum are more at risk.

This is why we see a peak during adolescence when the raised level of hormones increases the amount of sebum. The problem of spots are not  restricted to the period of adolescence. Raised testosterone levels can occur at different times and for different reasons, or some people may be overly sensitive to normal levels of testosterone which is responsible for the increased production of sebum.  So if you understand why the spot is there in the first place you can see that most of the advice or products in the media are not going to be very effective. Depending on the severity of your skin status, it may be advisable for you to take a multi layered approach to dealing with your breakouts. Again if you consider the various elements present in the formation of a spot (or comedones), it makes sense to try to counteract these a through a  number of interventions. The sum of the approaches can be more than that of their individual components.  Interventions to be taken into consideration are: Medical skincare Antibiotic creams Antibiotic tablets Contraceptive pill Isotretinoin LED phototherapy Chemical skin peeling I have 3 take home messages for you from this post: It is not your fault that your skin is prone to spots There is no cure or quick fix for acne - if anyone tells you otherwise please let me know what it is! We can manage acne and reduce its activity significantly with the right treatments & time If you wish to discuss your skin why not come and have a chat with me.