adult acne

What Are The Common Causes Of Adult Acne?

What is adult acne?

It is a common belief that acne is a problem that only haunts one during the teenage years when your body is going through a flood of hormonal changes. It is a common belief that they will disappear once a person enters their twenties, never to be seen again.

However, as several middle-aged folks would attest, acne continues to break out during the twenties, thirties and even into the fifties. Adult acne is a reality.

However, adult acne is different from teenage acne and affects woman more than men. While teenage acne typically breaks out on the forehead and cheeks, for adults, the affected areas include the jawline, the neck, the lower part of the face and, if you are particularly unlucky, the entire face. However adult acne may also appear as body acne such as in the back or the chest area.

Teenage acne includes blackheads, whiteheads, small zits and cystic bumps. Adults experience acne in the form of deeper nodules and red bumps.

However, there is nothing to worry about. Adult acne is a more common phenomenon than you would think and with the correct identification of the root cause, you can get rid of adult acne and achieve the clear complexion that you aspired to achieve in the adult years.


What are the causes of adult acne?

Here are some factors that could trigger adult acne breakouts or exacerbate existing breakouts:


Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that help to regulate various bodily functions and processes. Fluctuations in hormone levels are responsible for a variety of problems in health, including acne. For example, before and during the menstrual cycle or even during menopause, women often experience acne breakouts due to changes in hormone levels. Unfortunately though, these changes and fluctuations in hormone levels are really unpredictable and typically beyond your control. Abnormal changes in hormone levels, however, can be treated through medication.


This is one of the major causes of acne. Dirty or dusty air can clog the skin pores, trapping bacteria inside and causing inflammation. This can be partly addressed through preventive measures such as wearing a protective face mask or avoiding direct exposure to car exhaust and dust while commuting but, being an environmental factor, it is not completely avoidable.


Whether we believe it or not, stress can take a toll on one’s overall health and can also trigger breakouts of acne. Too much stress can send the sebaceous glands (glands in your skin that secrete sebum which coats your skin and hair) to go into overdrive, thereby making your skin more oily. So, keep yourself as stress-free as possible by developing coping mechanisms. Meditation and deep-breathing can really help keep your stress levels under control, boosting your overall well-being.

Hair styling products:

Not one of the reasons one would typically associate with acne. But hair-styling gels and creams are a prime suspect in causing forehead acne. These products can trickle down to the forehead skin, clogging the pores, trapping bacteria and leading to infection and inflammation which manifests as red, angry-looking pimples.

Using the wrong skin-care products:

Oily skin demands the use of specific kinds of products that help keep the skin relatively dry. If you have oily skin, you should factor this in even while choosing a sunscreen; pick a variety that does not have moisturizing effects as this will only make your skin oilier and increase the chances of an acne breakout. If you are unsure, always consult a dermatologist before picking a skin-care product. Avoid changing products very often as this can also irritate the skin.

Over-cleansing of the face:

It’s time to bust the myth that acne occurs if face is not washed frequently. In fact, the contrary might be true in some cases. Avoid frequent cleansing and scrubbing of the face. This will make your skin too dry, leading the body to compensate through the excess production of sebum and, consequently, triggering acne.


High carbohydrate diets or too much sugar may result in acne. Dairy products too are known to trigger acne in some people. This varies from person-to-person and you should look at your own history to see if previous breakouts of acne have often coincided with certain changes in your diet.

Mobile phones:

Your otherwise best friend can be your worst enemy in this case. Your cell phone surface is a haven for bacteria colonies as it is frequently in contact with your hands and many other public surfaces. When you hold the phone too close to the face while talking, these same bacteria on the phone surface can migrate over to your facial skin and trigger acne. Furthermore, holding the phone too close to your face can also create pressure on the sebaceous (oil) glands, stimulating them to produce more sebum and consequently leading to acne flair-ups.


Treating Adult Acne

The good news is that adult acne can be treated through a whole host of topically applied skincare products or medicated creams and also contained through lifestyle changes.

1. Products:

Opt for products that contain the following:

  • Salicylic acid: This ingredient is known for unclogging pores, reducing redness and swelling. Hence, it is an effective way to get rid of acne breakouts. Plus, it is mild on skin.
  • Benzoyl peroxide: this is a chemical that can help treat mild-to-moderate acne. This is however a harsh ingredient and, hence, should be only on the affected area rather than the whole face since it leads to excessive drying of the skin. It is nice to always have one handy since they can help zits disappear really quick.
  • Retinoid: these skin creams (Retinol) contain derivatives of Vitamin A that can lead to faster new skin re-generation or cell turnover and therefore help unclog pores as well as remove wrinkles and fine lines. However, this product can sometimes cause dryness and redness of the skin but this typically dissipates over time.
  • Glycolic acid: this is a naturally occurring substance found in many plants such as sugarcane, pineapple and beetroot and acts as an exfoliant. Glycolic acid can help clear away dead skin, unclog pores and prevent acne. Since it also helps remove fine lines and wrinkles, it can also work as an anti-aging agent.

2. Stress control:

Learn to combat stress as this is one of the greatest cause that leads to acne. Try meditation, cardiovascular exercise or any other activity which helps you relax. Even simple deep-breathing exercises can help.

3. Food:

Cut down on carbohydrates and dairy products.


4. Drinks:

Drink plenty of water and keep the body well-hydrated. This helps cleanse the body of toxins, thereby also boosting skin health.

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5. Tea tree oil:

Try regularly applying tea tree oil to your skin. This is a natural ingredient that has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Most importantly, it is gentle on the skin and can therefore be used regularly. Using tea tree oil, in itself, has been found to be more useful than using face-washes that contain tree oil as an ingredient.

6. Dead skin removal:

Occasionally exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin. However avoid doing this excessively as it can stimulate oil production.

If your acne gets out-of-control, see a dermatologist. If the root cause of your acne is a hormonal imbalance, you will need prescription medication to restore balance.