Adult life typically includes an array of responsibilities, from mortgage payments and student loans, to balancing a job with a social life. Acne is something most adults don’t want to deal with, and some lucky ones haven’t had too since junior prom. However, doctors estimate that anywhere between 30 and 50 percent of adults have skin problems and will encounter moderate to severe breakouts. Fortunately, dermatologists can recommend a number of treatments for your adult acne and suggestions to prevent scarring.

The root cause of both adult and teenage acne is inflammation under the skin caused by pore-blocking oils, called sebum. However, contributing factors can be slightly different from adults to teens. The American Academy of Dermatology has identified a number factors contributing to adult breakouts. For women in particular, fluctuating hormones can lead to blemishes. Stress is another cause. This is bad news for adults, who are under constant stress from multiple sources, like the endless list of responsibilities and obligations. Your body responds to stress by producing a hormone called androgen, this chemical reaction stimulates the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin, causing pimples.

It is also possible that some of your skin products are causing breakouts, so check to make sure that your products are labeled as oil-free or noncomedogenic. There is often a hereditary component too, like an allergy to a certain chemical, so if you have a close family member with a similar skin condition, you may have it for the same reason. Finally, a study showed an association between smoking cigarettes and breakouts, so clearing up acne may be among the many benefits you experience from quitting.

Dermatologists have a number of treatments at their disposal. Oral antibiotics and a topical gel or cream, combined with washing with a gentle cleanser, are often a starting point for treatment. Doctors have found that oral medications developed to treat other conditions are effective for acne as well, so it is possible that he or she may experiment with a few different drugs to see how your skin responds. Blue-light treatment targets bacteria; however, it’s costly, and should only be considered as a last resort.

Some patients with skin problems might not want any treatment if they are worried about making it worse with harsh chemicals. Untreated breakouts can lead to scarring, and studies have confirmed a link between blemishes, self-esteem, and depression. If you prefer to avoid medications, there are a few things you can do to help prevent pimples. Decrease stress hormones by developing an exercise routine, and getting enough sleep. Additionally, cut back on white bread and sugar too, as these can also affect your skin.

Finally, dermatologists advise that you take special care of your skin during treatment. Breakouts can lead to scarring, which can be made worse by sun exposure. Many treatments also make the skin on your face thinner, so it is imperative that you avoid excessive sun. You should always use sunscreen on your face, even if your skin is flawless, and you can even opt for oil-free sunscreen to minimize any additional buildup in your pores. If you do develop scars, therapies range from glycolic acid-based washes and treatments, to lasers and intense pulsed light treatments. Dermatologists also recommend chemical peels to help eliminate scars.

Your doctor will likely take a combination of approaches to address the causes and effects of your breakouts. Following his or her advice will help banish your skin problems back to where they belong, your high-school yearbook photo.