top of page

Adult Acne Unmasked: Conquering Inflammation for a Clear Complexion

One unfortunate facet of adulthood that we’ve all had to accept is that acne doesn’t stop after teenagehood. Post-adolescent acne, acne that occurs after age 25, is incredibly common and has a large number of causes and treatments.

But what if none of the topical treatments or home remedies aren’t working for you anymore? It may be time to look inward to find the root of your adult acne. And that answer might just be inflammation. In this blog, we’ll explore how and why inflammation can cause acne and what you can do about it.

The skin 101:

As many of us know, the skin is our largest organ. It’s a sensory organ, a biofactory for the processing, synthesizing, and metabolizing, containing a wide array of structural proteins, glycans, and lipids. The skin has three layers, each serving a vital role:

  1. The epidermis → The epidermis is the main protective layer, working to block out harmful bacteria and germs that could potentially lead to infection. The epidermis also serves a role in regulating your internal body temperature and creating new skin cells.

  2. The dermis → This is the middle layer of the skin and contains blood vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and nerve endings. The dermis is filled with collagen and elastin, which works to keep your skin strong, elastic, and supported.

  3. The hypodermis → This is the deepest layer of the skin. Consisting mainly of fat cells, connective tissue, and larger blood vessels, this layer helps to regulate body temp and protects the underlying muscles and bones.

The three levels of the skin work together to maintain the skin’s integrity, protect the body from external elements, regulate temperature, and provide sensory information. However, in this carefully calibrated ecosystem, internal health disruptions (like inflammation) can make an impact that can reverberate all the way out to the epidermis layer.

More on acne:

Acne is a skin condition we have all struggled with at least one time in our lives. Acne is formed when hair follicles under the skin become clogged by oil and dead skin. This will lead to an outbreak of lesions (also known as pimples or zits). There are several different kinds of such lesions:

  • Whiteheads- closed, plugged pores

  • Blackheads- open, plugged pores

  • Small red, tender bumps- papules

  • Pimples- pustules, which are papules with pus at the tips

  • Nodules- large, solid, painful lumps under the skin

  • Cystic lesions- painful, pus-filled lumps beneath the skin

Acne typically forms where the skin has the most oil (sebaceous) glands, these areas include the face, forehead, chest, upper back, and shoulders. These oil glands are connected to hair follicles, and when they become blocked or clogged, it will result in acne.

Many different factors have been implicated in acne- such as age, hormonal changes, family history, greasy or oily substances, and friction or pressure on the skin. But in this blog, we will be focusing on the deeper causes of acne- which can stem from inflammation.

Back to the skin and inflammation:

So, where does inflammation fit into all of this? Inflammation, or the release of inflammatory cells by the immune system, occurs in response to an illness or an outside toxin. But, when the illness is left untreated, the protective inflammatory cells can begin to build up and negatively impact other systems throughout the body. Chronic inflammation can be caused by a number of different factors including:

  • Smoking

  • Obesity

  • Long-term exposure to irritants (like polluted air or industrial chemicals)

  • An autoimmune disorder

  • Chronic stress

  • Untreated causes of acute inflammation

  • Excess alcohol intake

  • A diet full of sugar or carbs

Going back to the skin, inflammation can disrupt the normal functioning of sebaceous glands, which are responsible for moisturizing and protecting the skin. Inflamed glands produce excess oil, which can lead to clogged pores and the growth of acne-causing bacteria. This creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, triggering an immune response and further inflammation.

Further, inflammation can also impact your skin’s ability to heal. When acne lesions occur, the body attempts to repair the damaged skin by initiating an inflammatory response. However, if the inflammation becomes chronic or unresolved, it can hinder the proper healing of acne lesions and contribute to scarring or the persistence of acne.

Addressing the underlying inflammation is crucial in managing and treating adult acne. By identifying and addressing the triggers of inflammation, such as hormonal imbalances or chronic stress, individuals can take steps to regulate their immune response, reduce sebum production, and prevent the growth of acne-causing bacteria. This may involve adopting a holistic approach that includes lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, targeted skincare routines, and in some cases, medical interventions.

What to do about inflammatory acne?

Treating acne caused by inflammation involves a comprehensive approach that targets the underlying causes and helps manage the inflammatory response. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  1. Nourishing diet: Emphasize organic, whole foods that are rich in nutrients and free from harmful chemicals. Choose organic fruits, vegetables, and grains whenever possible, as they are less likely to contain pesticides or synthetic additives that can contribute to inflammation. Include anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, which provide essential nutrients for skin health and help reduce inflammation.

  2. Gut health optimization: Pay attention to your gut health, as it plays a crucial role in inflammation regulation. Incorporate probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir, or consider taking a high-quality probiotic supplement to support a healthy gut microbiome. Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and artificial additives that can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and contribute to inflammation.

  3. Stress management: Chronic stress can trigger inflammation and worsen acne. Prioritize stress reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in activities that promote relaxation. Regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and finding time for activities you enjoy can also help reduce stress levels and support overall well-being.

  4. Skincare choices: Opt for organic, non-toxic skincare products that are free from harsh chemicals and potential irritants. Look for natural ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties, such as tea tree oil, chamomile, or aloe vera, which can help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.

  5. Seek professional guidance: Consult with a functional medicine practitioner or dermatologist who specializes in a holistic approach to acne treatment. They can help identify individual triggers, assess nutrient deficiencies, and recommend targeted supplements or therapeutic interventions to address inflammation and promote skin healing.

Of course, inflammation may not be the cause of your acne. To get to the real root of your adult acne, further testing will be required. At the Johnson Center, we will work with you to find the true cause of your acne and create a plan to eradicate it.

To learn more about the Johnson Center, click here to contact us! If you have any more questions about your path to optimal health, email our office at or call 276-235-3205.

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags

Schedule Your Complimentary 20-minute Discovery Call

bottom of page