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Though acne is often thought of as an affliction of adolescents, it seems that an increasing number of adults are contending with the problem. Can you describe some of the factors that lead to adult acne?

Yes, more than half of women over the age of 25 have acne. Stress is often the main culprit. It turns on inflammatory pathways, which result in breakouts. Genetics, menstruation, hormonal changes, a new medication, the occasional irritating cosmetic, and other factors can also contribute to acne—but stress is by far the most influential.

Are there preventive strategies that women can employ to keep their skin clear of acne?

No matter how tempting it might be, do not pick, pop, or squeeze pimples. It can cause more inflammation, not to mention scarring and marks. Apply a warm compress on blemishes to loosen the thick oily plug of sebum and then apply gentle, even inward pressure using two clean cotton swabs. If something comes out, pat the spot dry and put on a treatment. If not, leave it alone.

Eliminate stress by getting enough exercise and sleep, eating cleanly, having sex, and using relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises. Keep skin clean, but don’t over-cleanse skin, as this strips it of natural oils. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can work together to treat and prevent acne at home, but be advised that it’s best to start off using low-strength options. Use oil-free, noncomedogenic lotions and sunscreens.

If prevention strategies fail, what are the most effective treatments available?

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Topical retinoids, salicylic acid peels, and Isolaz acne therapy, which combines a vacuum and painless broadband light to deep-cleanse and purify your pores from the inside out—all are helpful. In some cases oral antibiotics, Accutane® (isotretinoin), and oral contraceptives might also be considered.

Are there any other general skin care tips that you would offer women as a complement to acne prevention and treatment?

Never smoke and always wear sunscreen—the sun makes acne worse!