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Adult Acne: Causes and Solutions

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Acne isn't just a teenage problem. Adult acne is a common issue that affects many people well into their adult years. While the actual occurrence of acne hasn't increased, cases of adult acne have been on the rise. In this article, we'll delve into the underlying causes of adult acne and discuss ways to banish those pesky breakouts.

Understanding Adult Acne

Acne occurs when oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria clog pores. When the pores become clogged, inflammation occurs, leading to pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Many people believe that acne is exclusively a problem that teenagers face, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Adult acne is caused by the same factors as teen acne, including hormones, genetics, stress, and diet.

Causes of Adult Acne


Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy or menstruation can cause acne in women. Androgens, a male hormone typically present at higher levels in males than females, can also contribute to acne, particularly in women who experience hormonal imbalances.


Diet can also contribute to adult acne. Consuming high glycemic index foods, such as white bread and sugary drinks, can spike blood sugar levels, leading to increased oil production and inflammation. Dairy products, particularly milk, have also been linked to adult acne.


Stress can also cause acne or exacerbate existing acne. When stressed, the body releases cortisol, a hormone that can stimulate oil production and inflammation.


If your parents had acne, it's more likely that you'll experience it too. Genetics can play a significant role in the development of acne.

Prevention & Treatment

Skincare Routine

Developing a consistent skincare routine can help prevent and manage acne. Using a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and non-comedogenic (doesn't clog pores) sunscreen can help keep skin healthy and blemish-free.

Diet Changes

Making changes to your diet, such as reducing the consumption of high glycemic index foods and dairy products, can also help manage acne.


Over-the-counter treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, can help unclog pores and reduce inflammation. Prescription medications, such as oral contraceptives and isotretinoin, can also be used to treat acne.

Lifestyle Changes

Stress Management

Stress management techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises, can help reduce cortisol levels and manage acne.


Regular exercise can also help manage acne. Exercise reduces stress, improves circulation, and increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to the skin.

Natural Remedies

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties that can help reduce inflammation and unclog pores.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has soothing properties that can help reduce inflammation and redness associated with acne.

Green Tea

Green tea contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that can help reduce inflammation and improve skin health.

Alternative Therapies


Acupuncture can help balance hormones and reduce stress, two contributing factors to acne.

Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements, such as spearmint tea and saw palmetto, can help regulate hormones and manage acne.

Professional Treatment

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy can help reduce inflammation and kill acne-causing bacteria.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels can help unclog pores and reduce inflammation.

Acne Scarring

Acne can leave behind scars, but there are treatments available to help reduce their appearance. These include laser therapy, chemical peels, and microneedling.


Adult acne is a common condition that affects many people. Understanding the underlying causes and making lifestyle changes can help manage and prevent breakouts. Consistent skincare, stress management, diet changes, and natural remedies can all be effective treatments. For more severe cases, prescription medications or professional treatments may be necessary.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Can wearing makeup cause acne?

Yes, certain makeup products can clog pores and cause acne. To prevent breakouts, choose non-comedogenic (does not clog pores) and oil-free makeup products.

2. Are there any foods that can help prevent acne?

Foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help improve skin health and prevent acne.

3. Is stress really a factor in acne?

Yes, stress can trigger hormonal imbalances and inflammation, two contributing factors to acne.

4. Can acne be cured?

While there is no cure for acne, it can be effectively managed with the right treatments and lifestyle changes.

5. How long does it take to see results from acne treatments?

Results will vary depending on the severity of the acne and the treatments used. Some treatments may produce results within days, while others may take weeks or months to work. It's important to be patient and consistent with your treatment routine.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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