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Adult Acne – What Causes It And Best Acne Treatment For Adult Acne

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

Adult acne is an issue that many people don’t like to discuss. This is because most people feel that acne is something that only adolescents get. They assume that once you grow past the teen years you will also leave behind the skin blemishes. Believing that the issue is one that only teens have to contend with is misguided at best, and potentially dangerous at worst. After all, as you read on you will learn how common the condition is, what the best treatments for adult acne are, and other important pieces of information you need to know about the condition.

Adult acne is an issue that many people don’t like to discuss.
Adult acne is something that many women get and the condition is becoming more common.


  • Adult acne is a condition that is becoming more common. There are several factors that can contribute to someone getting it
  • The best treatment for those with acne is going to vary by person. Some of the most effective treatments include hormone therapy, dietary changes, and topical therapies
  • Adults who have acne may experience lower self-esteem, depression, and have a lower quality of life.
  • There are two additional conditions that people should be aware of that are related to adult acne, which include sports acne and rosacea.
  • Some people may feel overwhelmed with the number of acne treatment options. To avoid this, evaluate the options and determine which one makes sense to try with your personal variables and skin condition.

Adult Acne On The Rise

Until recently, many people thought that acne was something only young people got. They assumed that adults having acne was quite rare, as most people would lose the skin condition once their hormones leveled out and they entered adulthood. But in recent years professionals are seeing an increase in the amount of adult acne. In fact, in research published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, researchers report1 that the prevalence of adults with acne, especially women, is increasing. They also report that treating the condition requires a different approach to diagnose, as well as requiring a management plan that takes into account the variables that the woman may be experiencing.

According to the International Dermal Institute (IDI), between 40 and 55 percent of adults between the ages of 20-40 are diagnosed as having minor, persistent acne, as well as oily skin. While they know that the condition is on the rise and that women get it more often than men, there is no clear answer as to why it is becoming more common. The IDI reports that while acne can be triggered by hormones and can come at anytime during one’s life, stress can bring on breakouts. The theory is that women today are more stressed out as they increasingly take on additional responsibilities. As a result, the stress leads to more acne breakouts.

Factors That Contribute To Adult Acne

In order to help combat acne, it is a good idea to understand what it is and how it happens. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, acne is a disorder that causes outbreaks of skin lesions2 that people refer to as pimples. People typically get the pimples on their face, chest, neck, back, and shoulders. They report that it is the most common skin disease, and although it is not considered to be a serious threat to one’s health, it can lead to scarring and other problems.

Acne is the result of the body making too much sebum, which is an oily substance that the skin makes. When someone’s body makes too much sebum, it can lead to the pores becoming clogged. Once the pores are clogged a pimple is the end result. If you have ever looked at acne you may see that there are whiteheads and blackheads. The whiteheads are a result of a plugged pore staying underneath the skin. Blackheads, on the other hand, are pores that open up. Many people may think that they appear black because of dirt being in the pore, but in reality it’s that color because the air has reacted to the extra sebum.

Adult Acne And Depression

In addition to the fact that these blemishes on the skin can leave people with scars, it is important to be aware of the psychological toll they can take on adults. In a study published in a Brazilian journal called Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, researchers reported3 their findings regarding the psychosocial impact of acne. They reported that it has a significant effect on a person’s self-image and that it also negatively impacts the person’s quality of life.

Additional research has shown similar findings in that those with adult acne may suffer from depression and a lower quality of life as a result of the skin condition. It is easy to see how having acne as an adult could diminish your level of confidence, possibly having a negative impact on everything from one’s career aspirations to their love life. Those adults who have acne issues may want to seek out professional psychological help to help them cope with the condition while they are working toward an end to it.

Adult acne is an issue that many people don’t like to discuss.
Adults having acne can lead to a lower self esteem, depression, and lower quality of life.

Best Treatment Considerations

One of the challenges that health professionals have when it comes to treating adult acne is the variables that are involved. More women than men get acne, and they can have variables that impact the treatment options that may be available to them. Some of those variables include whether or not they are pregnant, lactating, their skin type, genetic and hormonal issues, and their personal goals and preferences. After all, a woman who is in her 20s who has plans to have a baby may not wish to go on birth control pills in an effort to help get rid of acne. There are special considerations that need to be addressed and taking the variables in mind for each person is the best way to devise a treatment plan that will work for that person.

Best Treatments For Adult Acne

There are numerous effective treatment options for those adults who may have acne. Ideally, you will want to consider each of the options to see which one fits best with your lifestyle and variables. Having more treatment options offers people a variety of options to choose from, because there is no one right solution that fits everyone.


You can help treat adult acne problems with every meal and snack you decide to eat. You can even help get rid of it with what you have to drink. While there are some skeptics out there who are not convinced diet plays a role in acne, there is plenty of research to back up the fact that there are certain foods that can cause acne (link phrase to the other article about foods that cause acne). Some of the foods that research has shown that cause acne include unhealthy fats, such as the kind found in french fries and pizza, as well as foods high in carbohydrates. Those carbs that are seen as the culprit in helping to create acne include some of the things people love, including breads, rolls, and crackers.

Just as there are foods that can cause acne, there are also some foods that help to fight it. By increasing your intake of plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables, you can help to keep those blemishes away. This is because the plant-based foods change the gut microbiome. They are also loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that are beneficial to your skin, as well as the rest of your body. There has also been research that shows green tea is great for helping to get rid of acne and stop it from occurring. Drinking green tea reduces the amount of sebum being made by the skin, which will help keep adult acne away.

Takeaway: Take an honest look at your diet and see if you can make a few changes that may help get rid of acne. If you are eating a lot of unhealthy foods, chocolate, and refined carbohydrates, you may benefit from backing off those foods. Also, swap your daily beverage of choice for green tea and up your fruits and veggies, and you should see some benefits!

Hormonal Therapies

Hormones can influence the amount of sebum that is produced. When hormones increase the amount of sebum that is produced, it can lead to adult acne, due to the pores becoming clogged. One of the treatments that is an option for some people is hormonal therapy. This is not a treatment option that will be appropriate for everyone, but those who have a high level of testosterone may be a good candidate for it. A research study published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, reports that there are several hormones that are implicated in acne growth4, including estrogens, progesterone, insulin, and androgens. Oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, may be one of the hormonal therapies that help some people to get rid of acne.

The most important hormones when it comes to regulating acne outbreaks are androgens, because they help to regulate the amount of sebum being produced. On the other end of the spectrum, an increase in the hormone estrogen, for example, will help to inhibit sebum production. They report that hormonal therapy is not an ideal option for everyone who has acne, but it may be the best and most effective route for those who have resistant cases, as well as those who have not had successful results trying to get rid of the acne using other methods.

Takeaway: While hormonal therapy to get rid of adult acne is not for everyone, if you are someone who has tried other methods and nothing has worked, you may be a good candidate. Start by speaking with your dermatologist about the hormonal therapy options and if you would make a good candidate!

Adult acne is an issue that many people don’t like to discuss.
Hormonal therapies are an ideal treatment for those who have not had success with other treatments.

Topical Therapies

When it comes to topical therapies helping to get rid of blemishes, the same ones that are used on adolescents are used. In a research study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, they report that late onset acne, otherwise referred to as adult acne, happens to women in up to 40% of the cases5. They also report that topical therapies can be helpful, but they need to be adapted to the specific needs of the person and their skin type. For example, they report that is uncommon to see an adult with dry skin who also has acne.

It’s important to consider the person’s skin type so that an appropriate topical solution can be recommended. Older patients tend to produce less sebum to begin with, and they may experience some irritation from the topical solution, which would make them not want to continue using them. The researchers also advise that when combating adult acne, such things as the use of appropriate moisturizers, and gentle, non-soap cleaners with a pH that is close to the skin should be recommended as part of the treatment plan. Some of the more effective topical therapies include retinoids, and benzoyl peroxide. While some people may benefit from using one topical therapy, others may need a combination in order to see the results they would like. One of the major challenges to using topical solutions is getting people to adhere to the therapy. Many people start them, but fall short of sticking with it for the duration of the therapy.

Takeaway: There may be topical therapies that are right for your skin. If you would like to use a topical therapy, be sure to take into account your skin type, as well as learning about what type of moisturizers and cleansers you should use for your particular skin type.


When it comes to adult acne, there is a cycle that is difficult to break without careful planning. It’s using makeup to cover up acne, but yet the makeup may actually lead to the acne. It’s true! Millions of women wear makeup, some even on a daily basis. For those who don’t have acne issues, they don’t have to worry, but for those women who have the condition it is important for them to stop and take a look at the makeup they are using. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that even woman who don’t usually develop acne can get it from wearing makeup6.

Called acne cosmetic, the acne that is caused from wearing makeup can usually be prevented. If you are someone who has acne and wears makeup on a regular basis you have to ask yourself which one came first. Even without knowing the answer it is important to take steps to try and get rid of the acne, rather than continue to try to hide it with more makeup. To get rid of the adult acne being caused from makeup, try to go without wearing any whenever possible, always wash the makeup off before going to bed using a mild cleanser, and keep your makeup brushes clean. It’s also a good idea to not share your makeup with others, because it can spread around.

Takeaway: Whether you suspect your acne is from cosmetics or not, now is the time to evaluate your makeup. Opt for makeup that is labeled as being oil-free, non-pore clogging, and non-comedogenic. This will help keep your face blemish-free and may be your best treatment option.

Probiotics And Prebiotics

Increasingly, people are taking probiotics as a way to help put beneficial strains of bacteria into their bodies. As it turns out, probiotics may be one of the best treatments for adult acne, too. In a research study published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, researchers evaluated the effect that probiotics had on helping to treat adult dermatological diseases. They reviewed 12 research studies that have been conducted. What they found was that the nutritional supplements that people took that had probiotics and prebiotics were shown to improve adult dermatological diseases, including acne7. They also found that the patients who used the probiotics had an increase in quality of life.

Takeaway: Probiotics and prebiotics are an inexpensive nutritional supplement that can be purchased at most pharmacies and health food stores. Opting to take one may end up being your best treatment option, and if it doesn’t you will still gain the other benefits of taking them, which include helping to balance your gut bacteria, protect your heart, and improve digestion.

Highly Rated Treatment Products For Adult Acne

Some of the best options for adults who have acne include using highly rated treatment products. You will find that there are many different types of acne treatment products on the market, but not all of them are created equal. If you are going to put money out on trying them, it’s important to opt for one that has a great reputation for helping people to successfully get rid of acne.

Here are a few highly rated acne treatment products to consider, whether in addition to some of the above options or on their own before trying some of the ones already mentioned:

Adult acne is an issue that many people don’t like to discuss.
Most acne can be treated with the gentle, consistent care of an acne treatment system like Exposed Skincare.

Exposed. This is one of the highest rated acne treatment products available. With 98% of those who have used Exposed Skin Care products reporting that they saw results within 30 days, it’s hard to find something more effective. Plus, the products contain powerful natural additives that will not only clear up the acne fast, but will do it without irritating or drying the skin out.

Keeva. This product contains tea tree oil as well as a blend of other natural ingredients. It helps get rid of adult acne fast, doesn’t dry out the skin, and helps to control the balance of oily skin. It’s also a popular product for the treatment of acne scars.

Essy. This acne treatment cream gets a lot of great reviews and remains highly rated from users. It contains aloe and ginseng, offering a powerful combination of ingredients to help get rid of acne and help restore skin.

Additional Skin Condition Awareness

There are two additional skin conditions that adults may want to be aware of that may be confused with having adult acne. The first is sports acne, which are the small pimples that can develop from playing sports. There can be several issues at work here, including exercising with your makeup on, wiping the sweat off your body, and not sharing equipment that may harbor acne-causing bacteria that you can’t see. If you work out regularly and have pimples that you suspect may be from sports acne, take steps to help reduce it. Be sure to remove makeup before working out, gently wipe away sweat, and only use clean equipment.

The other condition that may be confused with adult acne is rosacea. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, rosacea is a common skin disease that makes the skin flushed, red, and have an acne-like breakout8. Consulting with a dermatologist you will be able to determine if your condition is actually being caused by rosacea.

Takeaway: Knowing about the additional conditions that can cause acne and acne-like blemishes can help you determine the best treatment. Being able to narrow down the source of your skin condition is often the first step toward getting rid of it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Should I stay out of the sun to help treat acne?

A. Many people believe that sun exposure helps to clear up acne. This is not true and may dry out and damage your skin further. It also exposes you to harmful ultraviolet rays that can increase your chances of skin cancer.

Q. Do adults really get acne, or is it just adolescents that do?

A. Yes, plenty of people have adult acne. It’s a myth to believe that only adolescents get it. Plus, adult women getting acne is a condition that on the rise.

Q. What adults are more prone to getting acne?

A. The vast majority of adults who get acne are women. While there is no one culprit, some professionals believe it is due to the increase in stress levels women are now experiencing.

Q. What is the best treatment for an adult who wants to get rid of acne?

A. There are numerous effective treatments for getting rid of acne, but the one that is best is going to vary by person. It’s important to consider your condition and variables in order to find the best treatment for you.


  1. Skroza N., Tolino E., Mambrin A., Zuber S., Balduzzi V., Marchesiello A., Bernardini N., Proietti I., Potenza C. Adult acne versus adolescent acne: A retrospective study of 1,167 patients. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2018;11(1):21-25.
  2. Acne. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Website). Accessed 2019.
  3. França K., Keri J. Psychosocial impact of acne and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. 2017;92(4):505-509.
  4. Elsaie M.L. Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: An update. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. 2016;9:241-248.
  5. Zeichner J.A., Baldwin H.E., Cook-Bolden F.E., Eichenfield L.F., Friedlander S.F., Rodriguez D.A. Emerging Issues in Adult Female Acne. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2017;10(1):37-46.
  6. I have acne! Is it okay to wear makeup? American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
  7. Notay M., Foolad N., Vaughn A.R., Sivamani R.K. Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics for the treatment and prevention of adult dermatological diseases. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2017;18(6):721-732.
  8. Rosacea. American Academy of Dermatology (Website). Accessed 2019.
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Rosie Reply

I think it possible that more adults have acne than teens .I thought i will outgrow acne or it will go away by its own as i was advised by my buddies but that din't happen . However, i eventually cured mine . I like to share my experience that will hopefully help others in a similar position as myself. I've had acne for several years and spent a lot of time researching how to stop it and finally cured it . It is important to do many things at a time like, Changing your pillowcase daily. Avoid dairy. This one actually worked for me. Again, this might not work for some people .Try to use lukewarm water , drink a lot of water . Have a healthy diet , don't touch your face , don't pick at your skin or squeeze parts of your skin , pat your skin dry instead of vigorously rubbing it dry . Basically, do as many of these at a time. Some may impact your acne slightly, some a great deal, and some not at all.

July 23, 2018 at 1:27 pm Reply

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