Acne is a common nuisance that plagued many of us during our teenage years. By the time we reached our 20s, our skin became clean and clear as pimple breakouts lessened. However, for some adults, specifically women, acne is still a very real problem, and a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests lifestyle habits, among other factors, play a role.

Italian researchers at the Study Center of the Italian Group for Epidemiologic Research in Dermatology in Bergamo, Italy, wrote that, “[h]aving a personal history of acne in adolescence, a family history of acne in first-degree relatives, no previous pregnancies, having hirsutism, working as an office worker, reporting a higher level of psychological stress, and having some dietetic factors, including a low consumption of vegetables or fruit and fish, were all associated with [adult female acne]."

Read: Why You Get Pimples And What You Can Do To Stop Them

Dr. Luigi Naldi, lead author of the study, and his colleagues found women who ate fruits and veggies, or fresh fish, fewer than four days a week, were more than twice as likely to have acne, compared to women who ate those foods more often. It's unclear whether fruits and veggies specifically ward off acne, or whether women with unhealthy diets eat a lot of high glycemic foods, which could be to blame.

Previous research has implicated diet, specifically foods with a high-glycemic index — which causes blood sugar to surge — in acne flare-ups. High-GI foods include white bread and rice, chips and crackers, and sugary baked goods. The body responds to this high intake by producing more insulin, which increases the production of skin oils, and contributes to the clogging of follicles, which wreaks havoc on our skin.

Acne And Hormones

The link between dairy products, particularly milk, has been linked to breakouts. Dairy, even organic and varieties without added hormones, all contain natural hormones that may lead to acne. Dairy comes from pregnant cows, so when we have dairy, we’re also drinking male and female hormones involved in cow reproduction. There are over 60 hormones in one glass of raw milk (free of added hormones), which raises the question if dairy products are good food for the skin.

Dr. Luigi Naldi, lead author of the study, and his colleagues found a large reason why women get adult acne more than men — changes in hormone levels, and or hormonal imbalances. For example, women may get acne before their menstrual period, or when they start or stop birth control pills. Acne in adult women can also signal an underlying hormonal disorder.

The most common cause of hormonal change is known as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. Typically, birth control pills are prescribed to patients with PCOS to lower their levels of male hormones.

In the study, Naldi’s team surveyed women seen at dermatology clinics in 12 Italian cities. A total of 248 were diagnosed with acne and 270 were diagnosed with other conditions to serve as the control group. Some women had a diagnosis of PCOS or other disorder that boosts testosterone levels. This limits the potential to extend the findings to the general population of women without hormonal disorders.

Read More: Popping Pimples Can Lead To Long-Term Skin Damage

Acne And Stress

Along with diet and hormones, stress levels were also linked to acne risk. Those with "high" or "very high" stress levels faced three times the risk of acne compared to women who were less stressed.

When we're under psychological or physical stress, we are less likely to eat well, and we also get less sleep and may disregard facial upkeep at night.

Moreover, when our body is stressed, there is a hormone fluctuation that causes an increase in the amount of oil our skin secretes, which can cause acne to form or worsen. These fluctuations can also affect weight, blood pressure, and other physical attributes.

The researchers determined acne risk was higher among women whose parents or siblings had adult acne. The same was true of women who'd never been pregnant or had hirsutism — male-pattern hair growth on the face or body.

Natural Ways To Treat Adult Acne

Adult acne can be frustrating, but there are several natural remedies that can alleviate symptoms.

Milk Of Magnesia

This product works as an acne treatment because it supports the muscles and nerves, and has a relaxing effect. This property, combined with the liquid's ability to reduce stomach acid and increase intestinal water, makes it an excellent laxative. In the same way it calms and relaxes troubled intestines, it does the same for the skin. It reduces acid in the stomach, and reduces oil on the face. A few drops of Milk of Magnesia daily as a toner can make a real difference since it has natural zinc.

Apple Cider Vinegar

This vinegar has antibacterial and antifungal properties that can kill bacteria, remove excess dirt, oil and makeup and dissolves dead skin cells. Apple cider vinegar returns the acidity to the skin. Our skin is naturally acidic with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5, but since we tend to use harsh cleansers and soaps, this natural acidity goes away and destroys the acid surface of our skin. Apple cider vinegar can treat acne and other skin conditions due to its malic and lactic acids that soften and exfoliate the skin to reduce red spots.

Simply taking a deep breath could do wonders for your skin.

Source: Di Landro A, Cazzaniga S, Cusano F et al. Adult female acne and associated risk factors: Results of a multicenter case-control study in Italy. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016.

See Also:

How To Get Rid Of Acne Scars

4 Shocking Home Acne Remedies That Work Fast