The American Academy of Dermatology notes that contrary to popular belief, acne breakouts can continue or even begin to appear as you get older. Treating breakouts in older skin can be tricky, since you need to ensure that your skin gets adequate moisture. Here's a look at the causes and treatment options.

Breaking Down Breakouts, Blackheads, and Blemishes

Blemishes and breakouts are basically another name for acne. Blackheads occur when skin cells and sebum (oil) get trapped in hair follicles and partially block the pore. Whiteheads are similar, but involve a completely blocked pore.

These can be caused by any number of factors, including:

  • Hormone changes that cause your glands to produce excess oil.
  • Cosmetics that contain ingredients which can lead to or aggravate acne.
  • Bacteria coming in contact with your face (e.g. dirty hands, cell phone, yoga mat).
  • Ingredients in medications that stimulate a hormone change.
  • Overwashing your face that dries it out and irritates skin.
  • Stress causing the body to produce more cortisol, which stimulates glands to over-produce oil.
  • Underwashing your skin and allowing skin cells to accumulate and clog the hair follicle.
  • High androgen levels that lead to acne flares.

Treating Breakouts

In order to target occasional breakouts of blackheads or whiteheads, you need to unclog pores and loosen dead skin cells. Squeezing will likely aggravate the problem, as will a grainy exfoliant. Opt for a cleanser based in salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide that will help exfoliate without irritating skin.

Treatment for mild acne is best begun with a visit to a dermatologist, or you could start self-treatment with an over-the-counter formula containing a topical retinoid, benzoyl peroxide, or salicylic acid. Take extra care to keep using an oil-free moisturizer during treatment.

For moderate to severe acne, you should seek advice from a dermatologist. Doctors may prescribe a prescription-strength retinoid or combination of treatments to address acne.

For women, oral contraceptives have been known to clear acne, especially when paired with an anti-androgen medication. However, these have potential side effects and risk factors, especially for anyone with a history of breast cancer, heart attack, or high blood pressure. Speak to your doctor about whether hormone therapy might be effective to treat your particular acne situation.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Acne Breakouts

  • Wash your face every night and limit the morning wash to splashing water on your skin (unless you have oily skin).
  • Choose smooth cleansers without grainy texture that can aggravate skin.
  • Look for Non-Comedogenic Products that won't irritate skin.
  • Moisturize your face regularly with an oil-free moisturizer.
  • Exercise patience! Treating acne is a gradual process and you are unlikely to see immediate results. Start any treatment regimen slowly, and know that it may be two to three months before you see positive changes in your skin.

Sources: "Dermatologists Offer Advice from Head to Toe on What to Expect When You're Aging." American Academy of Dermatology. Web. November 10, 2009. "Hormonal Factors Key to Understanding Acne in Women." American Academy of Dermatology. Web. March 16, 2012.