If you were one of the (many) unlucky teens in your high school who dealt with acne, you sure were in good company. And while you weren’t happy about it back then, we know just how frustrating it is to have the same skin problem decades later. You’ve tried every beauty product out there, and perhaps even seen a dermatologist for prescription-strength medication. But despite all your best efforts, the acne probably persists — and you have no idea why.
Acne is a stubborn beast, so when you’ve exhausted all other options, it’s time to think outside the box. And many bad-skin sufferers are finding this particular vitamin (for the reveal, check out Page 5) is the source of their problems.
The acne you have now is a lot different than teen acne
Gone are the days of smearing as much benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid on your face as possible. While you probably have fond memories of accidentally staining your clothes, sheets, and towels with these products, adult acne usually can’t be solely treated using topical antibacterials.
Murad explains your teen acne was caused by oily skin, and it was likely all over your face. Adult acne, however, is more often across the jaw and chin region and caused by your cells renewing too slowly. When you grow out of your teen years, you’re also more likely to have breakouts that are tender, red, and sensitive, rather than blackheads or whiteheads.
Out-of-whack hormones are a problem for most
There’s a reason most women notice a pre-period breakout or two — and that’s due to fluctuating hormones. While this is totally normal, persistent acne, particularly around the jawline, is a sign of a bigger problem. Aside from menstruation and menopause, excess male sex hormones (like testosterone) in women are also a common culprit.
Healthline explains fluctuations in hormones can cause skin inflammation, more oil production, and slower cell turnover that causes clogged pores. And while it’s nice to think expensive creams and masks may work, you’re better off asking your doctor about oral contraceptives or medications that lower testosterone levels if your acne is severe.
Certain conditions and family history can also predispose you
Verywell explains genetics play a strong role in who develops acne and who doesn’t. And some studies show if your mother had skin problems, you’re more likely to have them yourself. This suggests the “acne gene” passes through the X chromosome.
If you’re a woman with adult acne and it doesn’t tend to run in your family, you may want to ask your doctor about whether or not you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome. WebMD explains one of the most common symptoms of PCOS is acne, along with weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, and thinning hair.
And what you eat certainly has an impact
So, does the food you eat have an impact on your skin? As one of the longest-running acne debates rages on, the current thought is yes. One review finds Western diets that are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids are to blame, as populations eating non-Western diets generally had an absence of the skin condition. Also, any sugary, high-glycemic foods that spike your blood sugar are likely to lead to breakouts.
And don’t forget the importance of keeping hydrated, WebMD reminds us. Many people with adult acne have severely dehydrated skin, which can actually increase oil production.
The vitamin to avoid: B12
Here’s the thing about the bacteria that causes acne — every single person has it on their skin. But some strains cause breakouts, and others don’t. It seems an excess of vitamin B12, which is vital for brain function and healthy nerves and blood cells, may actually alter this bacteria in a way that promotes the growth of acne lesions.
According to Live Science, a study shows acne-promoting bacteria found on the skin produces inflammatory molecules when this vitamin is present. This, in turn, is likely to create acne lesions, especially in those who are already prone to the condition. More research is needed to confirm these findings.
Foods high in vitamin B12
Even if you don’t take a multivitamin, you could be getting way more B12 than you realize. Health says B12 is only found naturally in animal sources — so meat, fish, and dairy lovers, you’re most likely consuming quite a lot.
Shellfish like clams, oysters, mussels, and crabs are among some of the highest sources of the vitamin. Beef, chicken, eggs, and milk also contain quite a lot. If you notice you’re breaking out after eating these foods, perhaps consider switching to beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds, and soy as your main protein sources.
The best way to take care of adult acne
There are a number of other things you can do to keep breakouts at bay. The first rule to live by (for your skin and overall health) is to always go for whole grains when possible, and skip refined carbs. And Prevention says dairy may be particularly aggravating for acne-prone skin, so switch to almond, soy, or coconut milk products instead.
If you visit a dermatologist, inquire about topical retinoids. They work differently than the products you used in your youth, as they penetrate deeper into the skin to increase cell turnover. Because of how they work, they’re also great for preventing fine lines and wrinkles.
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