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Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

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Adult Acne May Be Different For Men—This Is Why

dr jaggi rao Reviewed by Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

As usual, when it comes to information about the skin and hair, there just aren’t many full articles dedicated to men. Acne is just as prevalent in adolescent males as females. As adults though, more women tend to get acne than men. But that doesn’t mean men don’t suffer the same issues and heartache as women do in regard to this condition. There are sometimes different reasons men get acne and there are different types of treatments for them as well.

Acne Men
Men can get acne too.

A Man’s Take On Acne Treatment

As a man, acne is embarrassing and troublesome. From personal relationships to personal care, acne gets in the way. Men don’t usually wear makeup to cover blemishes or hide discolorations, so this isn’t a mainstream option for them. Scarring caused by adolescent acne is, most times, more severe in males and scarring becomes even more prominent with age.

So how can a man cover this? Men are typically not interested in taking the time to worry with cleanser and moisturizers, opting for shampoo, body wash, and even bar soaps for their facial skin cleansing routines. However, men who shave tend to have smoother, softer, and even healthier skin on the chin, cheeks, and jawline than women. That’s because shaving is exfoliating, and some men do that daily! Shaving becomes a whole different ballgame when acne is present though. The list of differences could go on and on but let’s take a look at what can cause acne for men that probably isn’t a factor in women’s acne.

Types Of Acne Seen In Men

Of course, acne requires great hygiene, a healthy diet and a lifestyle of overall healthy choices such as exercise and routine sleep schedule. With all that in place, men still can start to see acne well into their 30s. Why is that?


Some people are genetically predisposed to acne. In the case of males, this disposition can mean disaster. There’s pretty much nothing that can be done to prevent it. It might be mild. It might be cystic. No matter what though, it will be.

So why is it inevitable that men who carry this in their genes will develop some sort of acne? The simple answer is, well, because they’re male. The more definitive reason is because men have a hormone called dihydrotestosterone or DHT. When the sebaceous glands that make oil to keep our skin moist and protected come in contact with DHT they overproduce oil. This, in turn, creates an environment ripe for bacteria, which everyone has on their skin, to reproduce and thus become an infection. These infections are called whiteheads. And there it is, acne. Hormonal acne.

Steroid Use

Another type of acne that is much more common among men is acne caused by the use of anabolic steroids. These steroids are the kind used for strength and speed. Although mild to moderate acne can be seen in both men and women who use a prescribed systemic steroid for one or more of many ailments, acne caused by metabolic steroids is usually cystic and leaves behind deep scars and discolorations. Metabolic steroids imbalance the hormones, and among the many reversible and irreversible conditions, acne can be treated but often leaves behind the scars forever.

Folliculitis: Not Really Acne, But Worth Taking A Look At

Folliculitis is not acne, but it creates the same effects as acne. Bacteria gather in open pores and creates whiteheads and cysts. Unlike acne, however, this is totally preventable by just adjusting how close a man is shaving. Too close of a shave will remove too many of the outer layers of the skin and leave pores unprotected. This causes ingrown hairs which also tend to get infected. Treating folliculitis like acne will help in healing but if the close shaving continues, so will the infections of the pores.

Skin Care-less

Sometimes men get acne because they’re just not taking proper care of their skin and they don’t even know it. If a male has a condition that causes dead skin cells to block pores or a job that is in a very dirty or closed environment, more attention must be paid to skincare. Not aware that their face wash routine isn’t as effective as they think it is or even not being aware of the existence of a whole other skin disorder can lead to the problem of late and long term acne. This too is a simple fix but one has to be aware of the fact that something is wrong before it can be made right.

Best Treatments For Men

There are countless over-the-counter options, prescription medications, and natural remedies that can treat acne in men. Here are a few of our favorites:

Benzoyl Peroxide Products

Benzoyl peroxide is one of the best acne treatment ingredients available for killing acne-causing bacteria. It works by drawing extra oxygen underneath the surface of the skin. This kills the bacteria because acne-causing bacteria are anaerobic, meaning they can’t survive in the presence of oxygen for long. It’s best to use products that contain benzoyl peroxide in concentrations between 2.5% and 5%. Any lower, and it won’t be very effective, but any higher, and it won’t get rid of any extra acne, it’ll just increase your skin’s irritation. One of our favorite benzoyl peroxide products is the Acne Treatment Serum offered by Exposed Skin Care. It contains 3.5% benzoyl peroxide, plus other soothing ingredients like green tea extract to prevent excessive irritation.

Topical Tretinoin

Tretinoin is a type of retinoid available through a prescription, and it’s best-suited for those with moderate-to-severe acne. Unlike benzoyl peroxide, which primarily functions by killing acne-causing bacteria, tretinoin works by acting as a pace car for the skin cells. Acne often involves clogged pores, and if the skin cells are being produced too quickly, dying too slowly, or some combination of both, this can lead to even more clogged pores. Tretinoin prevents this problem through its keratolytic properties. This means it helps shed the outer layer of skin, preventing clogged pores and effectively treating serious cases of acne. Some new prescriptions combine tretinoin with other key ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid to reduce the irritating side effects of tretinoin. If you have sensitive skin, it might be worthwhile to ask about these options when you speak to your dermatologist.

Green Tea Extract

When it comes to natural remedies for acne, green tea extract is a powerful tool you don’t want to miss out on. Unlike benzoyl peroxide or tretinoin which generally treat acne after it’s already formed, green tea extract can help prevent the conditions that often create acne. Dry, irritated, or inflamed skin is far more likely to develop acne than calm, well-hydrated skin. Green tea extract helps hydrate and protect the skin, and studies show that it can effectively reduce acne. You can purchase skincare products that already contain green tea extract, or you can make your own by brewing some green tea and applying the warm tea bag gently to the affected area of your skin.

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