Acne in adults: causes, treatment and prevention

People can associate acne with adolescence, but it can also occur in adulthood. Hormonal changes, stress, and certain medications can all contribute to acne in adults. However, there are many options available to help individuals treat and prevent this skin condition.

This article explores what acne is, what causes it, and how it presents. He will also look at some treatment options, including natural remedies and prevention strategies.

Acne is a common inflammatory skin condition that affects approximately 50 million Americans each year. It usually begins at puberty, but can occur at any stage of life and can continue into adulthood. Doctors may also classify adult acne as adult acne or post-adolescent acne.

It usually develops when oil and dead skin cells clog the pores of the skin, leading to the development of lesions commonly known as pimples or pimples.

Many types of acne can occur all over the body. Acne most commonly develops on the face, but it can also occur on the back, chest, and shoulders.

Although acne is more common in the teenage years, it is possible that acne will persist into your 30s, 40s, and 50s. Some people may even develop acne for the first time in adulthood. Research also notes that acne in adults is more common in women.

The American Academy of Dermatology states that the most common causes of acne in adults are as follows.

Hormone changes

Similar to the main cause of acne in teens, a hormonal imbalance can lead to acne. Many factors can change hormone levels, including:


When under stress, some people may have an acne breakout, which is likely due to the body making more androgenic hormones in response. These hormones can stimulate the sebaceous glands in the skin, resulting in acne.

Family history

Some evidence suggests that some people may have a genetic predisposition to acne. This means that if a close blood relative, such as a parent or sibling, has acne, then a person may be more likely to develop acne in adults.

Beauty products

Some hair and skin care products may contain substances that can make acne-prone skin worse. Their use can lead to acne breakouts. Therefore, people may want to consider using only products labeled as:

  • non-comedogenic
  • non acne
  • oil free
  • does not clog pores

Medication side effects

Some medications can cause acne as a side effect. If a person suspects that their medication is triggering their acne, they should continue to take the medication, but consider discussing other treatment options with their doctor.

Medications that can cause acne can include hormonal drugs, antidepressants, B vitamins, halogens, and anti-epileptics.

Undiagnosed medical conditions

In some cases, acne in adults can be the result of an underlying medical condition, so treating the condition can often make the acne go away. For example, people with Polycystic ovary syndrome usually develops acne in adults due to fluctuations in their hormone levels.

Symptoms of acne in adults will generally be similar to those of acne at any age. During an acne breakout, people may notice:

  • white dots
  • black dots
  • papules, pustules, or both
  • nodules, cysts or both

Treatment for acne in adults is likely to be similar to that for acne in younger people. They can involve topical anti-acne medications and look at potential causes such as underlying conditions, certain medications, stress, and any skin care or beauty products that a person uses.

A dermatologist may recommend the use of over-the-counter (OTC) products that contain the following ingredients:

  • benzoyl peroxide
  • retinoids, such as adapalene gel
  • salicylic acid

If over-the-counter products don’t work, doctors may prescribe stronger treatments. These may include:

  • prescription retinoids, such as topical tretinoin or oral isotretinoin
  • antibiotics, such as tetracyclines
  • antiandrogens, such as birth control pills or spironolactone

However, it should be noted that it can take 4-6 weeks to start noticing an effect with acne treatments. In some cases, it can take between 2 and 3 months for the acne to go away completely.

Currently, there is not a lot of scientific evidence to indicate that natural remedies can relieve acne in adults. However, proponents suggest that remedies with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing properties can help treat acne.

For example, a 2016 review suggests that the compounds in tea may help reduce sebum secretion and treat acne. A 2018 study Also states that tea tree oil and aloe vera may be beneficial in treating acne scars and reducing the severity of acne. However, more research is still needed to prove the effectiveness of these natural products.

A 2020 review also suggests that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may improve acne.

Click here to learn more about natural acne remedies.

To try and prevent possible acne breakouts in adults, people can try to avoid any possible acne triggers and follow a skin care routine. For example, this may involve avoiding certain skin or wash products, such as those that are not labeled as non-comedogenic. People can also try to manage their stress levels by practicing yoga, mindfulness, or breathing exercises.

Additionally, people should also follow their dermatologist’s advice and continue to use any products or medications as their doctor suggests.

People with acne-prone skin may want to consider the following tips:

  • wash twice a day and after sweating
  • using products that are gentle on the skin
  • with your fingertips to gently apply a non-abrasive cleanser
  • avoid or reduce friction of the skin
  • lukewarm water rinse
  • avoid pimples – let the skin heal naturally
  • avoid touching the face

Acne in adults can be very frustrating to deal with. If a person finds that over-the-counter medications aren’t working, they can talk to a doctor about more effective treatments. Note that it can take up to 6 weeks to notice the potential benefits of over-the-counter acne treatments.

If any underlying conditions are causing the acne, after diagnosis and treatment, the acne will usually go away. If a person suspects that a medication they are currently taking may trigger their acne, they should not stop taking it. Instead, they may consider discussing their concerns with their doctor and asking about alternative medications.

Acne is a common skin condition in teenagers, but it can also affect adults. Although it can occur at any age, it seems to affect women more often than men. Acne usually occurs when oil and dead skin clogs the pores, causing pimples to appear. Common causes of acne in adults include hormonal fluctuations, stress, and certain skin or beauty products.

Using a combination of over-the-counter acne treatments, natural products, and a good skincare routine can help clear acne. However, it can take up to 6 weeks to see the benefits. If the acne does not improve, people can see their doctor, who can prescribe more effective treatment options.

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