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Be comfortable in your own skin despite having adult acne

Acne is considered a teenage problem yet many women experience it later in life. Karen Ireland meets two mums, Anna Morris from Bangor and Rachael Harriott from Greenisland, who still suffer from blemishes and breakouts.

Poor diets and high stress levels mean the teenage angst of acne is something more women in their thirties and forties are having to deal with. A new study has revealed many women will get their first breakout when they are older, having got through puberty almost spot-free.

The research points to poor diets and high stress levels for the surge in women suffering from pimples and flare-ups many years after their teens. Around five per cent of women and one per cent of men over the age of 25 suffer from spots and oily skin.

But it's women who tend to get adult acne more often than men, due to changes in hormone levels causing imbalances, dermatologists say.

A diet low in fruit and vegetables can trigger acne, while high stress levels may also be responsible, according to the research.

Dr Debra Jaliman, an assistant of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, explained: "We see that people who have a diet of junk food tend to break-out more."

'My diet isn't great, but that doesn't make it worse'

Anna Morris (31), is managing director at Clearbox Communications. She lives in Bangor with her two sons, Ashton (10) and Leo (7). She says:

When I was younger I always had clear skin and never had any problems. All my friends had teenage acne and were plagued with it but it escaped me and I was very lucky.

I used to model and do promotional work so I was fortunate to have good skin.

I had my first breakout when I was 25 and I couldn't believe it. I thought you were supposed to grow out of acne, not into it.

At the time I was very busy in work so put the flare-up down to being stressed and tired.

And that has pretty much been the pattern ever since. I can honestly say I now never have completely clear skin. I can't remember the last time my skin was spot-free.

There are always a few blemishes on it or a complete breakout.

It is a really annoying condition to have in my thirties but, to be honest, I'm glad to have it now and not when I was younger. As a teenager you are so conscious of your looks and they are really important to you, and there is a lot of peer pressure to look good so I don't think I would have coped as well as I do now.

If I have a breakout, now I just get on with things. I am comfortable in my own skin (pardon the expression) and I don't let the acne rule me or dictate my life. It's frustrating but that's all.

I try to have a healthy skin regime and found a good product called Alpha H Liquid Gold which helps with the scarring and dead skin cells.

There are times, though, when my skin can become very inflamed and sore. I can't cover it up with make-up as it would have to be too heavy and I prefer a natural and minimal look. I wear Bare Minerals make-up and it works for me.

Other products I've tried over the years just cause me to break-out and make it worse. I have been to my GP about my condition and have been given cream but I just found that it dried my skin out and didn't really help.

Nothing seems to make it better or worse. I eat chocolate but that doesn't cause flare-ups and I don't really drink a lot of alcohol so that doesn't aggravate it.

My diet isn't great and I love a McDonald's but that doesn't make it any worse.

The main cause for me is stress, being tired and run down. As a busy working mum, running a business with two young children, life can be stressful but I can't do much about that.

My skin does calm down and is better when I get some down time and can relax. It hasn't been too bad this past couple of weeks as I have been spending time with family and just taking some time out from the business of day-to-day life.

If we get away to the sun for a break my skin will clear up. Other than that it is pretty constant.

While I don't let my skin condition define me, I might have done when I was 14 or 15.

I'm not self-conscious about it and I certainly don't worry about it in my line of work.

I want to do well and succeed because I'm a good businesswoman, not because of how I look. I hope people judge me on my work ethics and not my skin.

My children and work are important to me, and family and friends, not blemishes on my skin which I can't do anything about."

'I'm glad it happened when I was older and wiser, and not a teen'

Rachael Harriott (40), owner of Harriott Communications, is married to Craig (45). They live in Greenisland and have two children, Jake (14) and Evie (9). She says:

I was extremely fortunate as I never had any skin problems when I was a teenager. I cruised through my teenage years when all my friends were breaking out and having nightmares with their skin, without as much as a spot.

My mum always looked after her skin and she had a beautiful complexion, and I followed her regime of looking after my skin.

I had acne both during and after both my pregnancies but it became a huge problem after Evie, my second child, was born and I had terrible problems.

My skin would just completely break-out and be covered in blemishes and pimples. I was 31 and had skin which looked like a teenager's.

Initially I went to see my GP who prescribed a course of tablets and gave me cream. This did help at the time but ever since I have had flare ups - some really bad and really sore.

Over the years I have found ways of managing the condition - I take proper care of my skin and make sure I cleanse, tone and moisturise every day, but still I get acne.

It is nowhere near as bad as it was after Evie was born but I still have good days and bad days. My worst flare-ups were caused by hormonal changes in my body. But I find that stress is the one thing which makes it worse and will cause breakouts. If I am busy and working hard and having late nights, I will get run down and my skin will suffer.

I try not to let my skin influence other areas of my life. When it comes to the business, I park it. It isn't an issue. If I have an important meeting and my skin is bad, I don't allow it to influence me. I just trust that I will be judged on my experience and work, not the condition of my skin.

I have done a lot of research into adult acne and it's a lot more common than you would think, which is reassuring.

It is particularly common after pregnancy as, like teenage years, the body is going through major hormonal changes.

I am not sure I would have been as confident or laid back about it if it had happened to me when I was younger.

There is so much pressure on teenagers to look good, and peer pressure to be perfect.

I've never been able to cover my acne up with make-up as it is so bumpy it just ends up looking worse and the make-up looks like it is caked on.

I prefer to let the skin breathe without too much make-up.

When it is bad it is very uncomfortable and sore. I don't think other factors such as diet impact my skin. For me it has all been hormonal.

I still have breakouts on a smaller scale during my period.

While I don't let it impact on my work, it does bother me sometimes, especially if I'm socialising and my skin is bad, as you obviously get dressed up and want to look your best and then your skin lets you down. We are surrounded by images of such beautiful and perfect women in today's society, but there are also strong role models such as Cameron Diaz (below left) who make no secret of the fact that they have bad skin and they just get on with it.

However, sometimes that is easier said than done.

I also have scarring on my skin as I had bad weeping eczema when I was a baby and I am conscious of that, although others probably don't notice it unless I point it out.

Now if I have a bad breakout I use the cream which was prescribed by my GP and that gets it back on track.

Although it is not a nice thing to have, I'm glad it's happened when I was older and hopefully a bit wiser as I don't let it interfere with my life.

As a teenager, I might have found it a real challenge."

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