Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Aren't I a little too old to still be getting pimples?

I am 30 years old, nearly 31, and I have a pimple on my cheek. When I was younger, and I imagined being in my 30's, it was not pimples that I foresaw. The 30's seemed so grown up. That was a time when you bought a house, got married, had babies and did equally scary grown up things. Surely the 30's should be about buying home wares and nappies and such; and not time to still be buying Clearasil. Don't get me wrong, my skin is pretty good. I tend to only get the odd pimple these days, excluding hormonal pimples on the chin. Those I can understand. As long as I have hormones surging through my system I expect that there will be the odd hormonal break out. What I want to know is at what age are my non-hormonal pimples going to bugger off for good?

To answer this question I decided to look at my family. I don't recall either of my Grandmothers, Nonny and Nanna, ever having a pimple. So I guess that means that, at the very least, they will be gone by the time I hit my 60's. But that's still a bloody long time to wait. I also can't recall my mum ever having a pimple. She had me when she was 30, but to be honest, I wouldn't have had a clue what a pimple was until I was at least 10. So does that mean from the age of 40 I can be guaranteed to be free of pimples? That still seems like a while, too long if you ask me. Unfortunately, my little genealogical acne investigation fails when I think back to how my sister's skin has behaved over the years. She is 29 and I think it would be at least 10 years, if not longer, since she last had a pimple. So maybe my skin is a genetic throwback and my question as to the age I will stop getting pimples can't be answered by studying my family.

Pimples generally first appear when puberty strikes as this coincides with a sudden increase in secretion of the skin's natural oil - sebum. The purpose of sebum is to waterproof the skin and keep it protected and hydrated. Pimples occur when sebum and dead skin cells block the pore. Therefore, people with oily skin are more likely to get pimples than those with dry skin. My sister has dry skin explaining her lack of pimples, whereas I my skin is oily so pimples will continue popping up as long as my sebum flow is high.

So, when will my skin start producing less oil? Sebum production decreases with age and in women it decreases substantially after menopause. So that explains why I don't recall ever seeing a pimple on my Grandmothers or Mum. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything more definitive than 'sebum production decreases with age'. So I guess my pimples will get less in the coming years, but who knows when.

What can I do to slow down my oil flow? Since I couldn't answer the question of when I will stop getting pimples, or even when my skin will start producing less sebum, my next point of research was to find out if there was any way to control my oil flow. I found an article on eHow that said experts recommend you wash your face with soap 3 times a day. I don't believe that this will help. I know if you wash your hair too regularly it becomes more oily as it starts to produce more oil to compensate for what is being stripped. So, I assume the same would be true for the face - the more oil you strip off your face, the more the body then produces to protect itself. At any rate, I can barely manage to squeeze washing my face twice a day into my schedule so a third wash has no chance of happening.

In my research I found the following can reduce sebum production:
  • Vitamin A - either topically or through supplements or in the diet can help to reduce sebum production. But this should be avoided if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant as it has been known to cause birth defects.
  • The contraceptive pill - as oil production and crazy hormones go hand in hand, the contraceptive pill can help to reduce sebum production as it evens out hormone levels
  • Oil cleansers - using harsh cleanser to strip off excess sebum causes the skin to over react and produce even more sebum. Oil cleansers can be very effective as they dissolve the excess oil and gently remove it without stripping the skin.
  • Jojoba oil - jojoba oil is the closest match to sebum so applying this discourages the skin from producing more sebum as it recognises that there is already sufficient present.
So, my fellow oily-skinned beauties, it looks like we will still be cursed with pimples throughout our 30's, and even 40's if your production is that high. But there is some good news for us. When out dry-skinned comrades hit menopause they will all be complaining how wrinkly their skin has become. Our skin, however, will have finished its long running stint through puberty and will finally be hitting it's clear-skinned prime!