Why do I have spots and blemishes?

You might have thought you’d said goodbye to spot cream once you became an adult – but wrinkles aren’t the only skin change you could be coping with as you get older. Whether you’ve noticed a smattering of whiteheads or a few age spots, we’ve taken a look at why they happen and what you can do about them.

Why am I getting spots and blemishes as I get older?

The reason for your skin change depends on the type of blemish. But, hormonal swings, ageing or your lifestyle can play a part:

Age and liver spots

As you get older, we see a drop in the number of pigmented skin cells producing melanin – these are the ones that change colour when exposed to the sun. Meanwhile, your remaining pigmented cells grow in size – appearing as age or liver spots.1

These patches of pigment tend to cluster in areas where your skin is thinner and exposed to the sun, like the backs of your hands.2

Spots and pustules

Smoking and hormone swings can all trigger zits, while spots are really common among women going through the menopause – thought to be because the drop in oestrogen upsets the delicate testosterone-oestrogen balance in the body.3 Stress is also a culprit: a particular stress hormone, corticotrophin-releasing hormone, forces the skin to increase oil production and this can lead to a breakout.4

A 2014 Brazilian study suggested that the rise in the number of adult women with spots may also be connected to urban noise and changes in sleep routine over the menstrual cycle.5

Rashes and itchy skin

When you hit 50, the pH level of your skin starts to change, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This can impact the skin barrier, making skin more sensitive and prone to irritation and rashes.6

For women going through the menopause, decreasing oestrogen levels can also cause your skin to become itchy and sensitive to irritants, like perfumes and soaps.7

How to curb spots and blemishes

Certain simple lifestyle changes can make a difference to the appearance of your skin:

1. Apply sunscreen

To curb the development of age spots, or prevent ones you already have from getting darker or growing in size, slap sunscreen on exposed parts of your skin, and stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of 11am to 3pm.8

2. Look out for non-comedogenic skincare

These are products that have been made with ingredients that don’t clog up your pores – helping skin breathe and stay free of spots and breakouts.9 The Manuka Doctor ApiClear range is completely non-comedogenic, and so perfect for blemish-prone or oily skin. For sun protection, we like Manuka Doctor ApiClear Daily Defence SPF20, a non-comedogenic facial moisturiser with built-in sunscreen.

3. Take a skin-friendly supplement

Manuka Plus Blemish Bee-Free is a supplement tailored to support skin spots and blemishes. It contains freeze-dried Mañuka Honey – made by bees collecting nectar from New Zealand mañuka bushes – which has an anti-bacterial effect on the body, according to a 2016 study in the journal Microbiology.10 Honey may also help the regeneration of skin cells and connective tissues.11

The supplement also contains three more key skin-friendly ingredients: zinc, a mineral needed for normal skin;12 burdock, a herb with anti-inflammatory effects on the body, according to a 2011 study by Hong Kong Polytechnic University;13 and propolis – a sort of ‘bee glue’ shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.14

4. Tackle age spots

Help fade the appearance of existing age spots, for example Manuka Doctor Brightening Facial Oil which is rich in nourishing Mañuka Oil. In a clinical trial of women aged between 50 and 75 years, 70% of women reported positive effects on their skin, including a reduction in age spots.

5. Switch to natural skincare products

Are you experiencing rashes and itchy skin? To help curb inflammation and irritation, swap perfumed soaps and moisturisers for fragrance-free or natural skincare that’s kinder to your skin.15

6. Speak to your doctor

Book an appointment with your GP if your skin has changed recently, or if you’re worried about it in any way. They can rule out more serious health conditions, and may refer you to a dermatologist for treatments or medication.16

1. MedlinePlus. Aging changes in skin. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004014.htm
2. Harvard Health Publishing. Age Spots (Solar Lentigo, Liver Spots). https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/age-spots-solar-lentigo-liver-spots-a-to-z
3. Everyday Health. Menopause And Acne: Causes and Control. https://www.everydayhealth.com/menopause/menopause-and-acne.aspx
4. Time. You Asked: Can Stress Really Cause Acne? https://time.com/5014072/stress-pimples-acne/
5. Albuquerque RGR, et al. Could adult female acne be associated with modern life? Arch Dermatol Res (2014) 306:683. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00403-014-1482-6
6. American Academy of Dermatology. Caring for your skin in menopause. https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/skin-care-during-menopause
7. Medical News Today. Does menopause cause rashes? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321526.php
8. As Source 2
9. Healthline. Noncomedogenic oils. https://www.healthline.com/health/non-comedogenic-oils
10. Johnston M, et al. Antibacterial activity of Manuka honey and its components: An overview. AIMS Microbiology. 2018. 4(4):665-664. https://www.aimspress.com/fileOther/PDF/microbiology/microbiol-04-04-655.pdf
11. Simon A, et al. Medical Honey for Wound Care – Still the ‘Latest Resort’? Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Jun; 6(2): 165–173. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686636/
12. European Commission. EU Register of nutrition and health claims made on foods. http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/labelling_nutrition/claims/register/public/?event=register.home
13. Chan Y-S, et al. A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock). Inflammopharmacology. 19(5):245-54 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47567515_A_review_of_the_pharmacological_effects_of_Arctium_lappa_burdock
14. Mohammad Ali BM, et al. Significance of topical propolis in the treatment of facial acne vulgaris. The Egyptian Journal of Dermatology and Venereology. 2015; 35 (1): 29-36. http://www.ejdv.eg.net/article.asp?issn=1110-6530;year=2015;volume=35;issue=1;spage=29;epage=36;aulast=Mohammad
15. NHS. Itchy skin. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/itchy-skin/
16. Mayo Clinic. Age spots (liver spots). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/age-spots/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355864