You have a mortgage, are planning for retirement, your children are out of the house, and… what’s that? A pimple?

Adult acne is a real issue that many women deal with — but it isn’t talked about often enough. There’s a misconception that blemishes cease after adolescence, though that couldn’t be further from the truth.

So what causes acne in your 50s and beyond?

Causes of adult acne in women

According to research on the prevalence of acne across the lifespan, the causes of adult acne are quite similar to pimples in adolescence. For both the young and the old, these causes include:

  1. Over-production of oil by the skin
  2. Plugging of the follicles by sticky/abundant skin cells
  3. Rapid increase of P. acnes (a skin bacteria that lodges within a plugged follicle)
  4. Inflammation of the skin

Going beyond the overlap between teens and older adults, there are a myriad of additional reasons that mature women might be struggling with acne. These include:

  1. Hormone fluctuations (i.e. oil production increases due to the onset of menopause)
  2. Family history/genetic predisposition to adult acne
  3. Cosmetics such as anti-aging creams, sunscreens and hair pomade
  4. Smoking
  5. A diet high in sugars, saturated fats, trans fats and/or dairy products
  6. Stress/anxiety
  7. Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  8. Medications (i.e. chemotherapy drugs, psychiatric medications like lithium, seizure medications and hormonal medications)

What to do about adult female acne

Acne at any age can be frustrating, painful and embarrassing. Since the skin condition is often most prominent on the face, acne can take a marked toll on an individual’s mental health and confidence.

So what’s one to do? According to Tsippora Shainhouse, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist in private practice, there are a few ways to banish those pesky blemishes.

Shainhouse tells AARP that since so-called anti-aging products are known to trigger breakouts in the acne-prone, it’s best to skip them. Additionally, stay away from anti-acne products that are aimed at teens, as mature skin won’t usually react well to these overly drying solutions. Instead, pick a gentle, non-comedogenic cleansing wash for your skin type — and consider adding a topical retinoid to unclog your pores and stimulate anti-wrinkle collagen growth.

When all else fails, consider seeing a dermatologist with regards to your adult acne. A skin specialist will help you determine your acne triggers and work with you to find the best treatment for your breakouts.

With professional help and patience, nearly every case of acne (at any age) can be improved.