Adult Acne: Causes and Cures

A Path To Clear Skin At Any Age


Acne was bad enough in your teens and 20s. In your 30s, 40s — or even 50s — it’s downright embarrassing. Additionally frustrating, treatments which helped in your teen years often don’t work on adult acne. The reasons for later-life zits are many, including:

  • Fluctuating hormones due to menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, or cessation of birth-control
  • Stress that causes our bodies to produce more androgens and stimulates oil glands
  • Genetic disposition
  • Hair and skincare products that clog pores
  • Medication
  • Undiagnosed medical condition (such as polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • Pollution in the environment
  • Over-washing your face (more than twice a day)
  • A combination of these

But it’s not all bad news. According to the American Dermatological Association, there are ways to combat adult acne and an experienced dermatologist can consult with you about which treatment — or combination of treatments — can help you have clear skin again.

Topical Treatments

While not every topical product or ingredient works for everyone and even the right product may take weeks to achieve noticeable improvement, talk to your dermatologist about the efficacy of compounds such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, polyhydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, retinoids, or azelaic acid. Each one addresses acne a bit differently, so it’s important to work with an expert who can diagnose the root cause of your problem and work with you to determine the best treatment options.


A chemical or physical exfoliant can help prevent breakouts by removing clogs from your pores then working to keep them clear. But be warned. Exfoliating too often can leave your skin irritated, flaky, and dry. One to three times a week is plenty for most people.

Spot Treatment

Spot treating with a product containing benzoyl peroxide can kill the germs that cause acne and help you zap a single zit fairly quickly. But be careful. It can be harsh on sensitive skin.

Products That Fight Inflammation

Pimples form when a pore is clogged with dirt, oil, or dead skin then often worsen as bacteria in the irritated area multiplies. In conjunction with other acne treatments, products containing colloidal oatmeal, aloe, or Centella Asiatica can help calm inflamed areas.

Oral Medications

If your acne is beyond anything topical treatments can cure, talk to your dermatologist about prescription meds such as oral contraceptives, spironolactone, or isotretinoin. Once your dermatologist has determined the cause of your acne, they’ll better know what RX can help.

Cortisone Injections

If you’re suffering from painful cystic acne lesions (the kind likely to leave scarring), ask your dermatologist whether a cortisone shot might not be in order. In the meantime, know you’re not the only adult still dealing with zits. With the help of an experienced dermatologist and a little effort and patience on your part, you can absolutely look forward to clear skin again.

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