How to Treat Adult Acne

Acne is a common issue for many, yet you don’t expect it to reappear or stick around once you’ve reached adulthood.

Adult acne is more common among women and can occur during your 20s to your 40s. 15% of women in Australia suffer from adult acne. This type of acne usually appears on the chin or jawline, and, in some cases, on the torso and shoulders.

Adult acne is also known to scar easily, so it’s important to know what causes it, how to prevent it, and how to get rid of adult acne.

The Causes of Adult Acne


Generally, adult acne is caused by hormonal changes, and there are many things that can affect your hormones. Adult acne that is a result of hormone changes usually occurs on the chin, jawline, and cheeks. This type of acne is common among both men and women. These pimples appear as cysts and deep lumps.

A common cause of hormonal acne is stopping the use of oral contraceptives, also known as birth control medications. If your acne has been under control, and you notice a change after coming off of your birth control pills, it’s a sign that this is likely the cause. Also, increases in the male sex hormones called androgens are also known to cause acne. These hormonal changes can cause pores to become inflamed, sensitive, swollen, and more easily blocked and infected.

Poor Diet and Hygiene


Women who are overweight and have an unhealthy diet are more acne prone as adults. Excess fat can cause oestrogens (female hormones) to act like androgens (male hormones), increasing the amount of sebum that the body produces. Sebum is a natural oil that keeps skin moist. When too much sebum is produced, hair follicles are clogged, causing secondary bacterial infection and resulting in acne.

Poor skin care can also trigger adult acne. It’s important to use the right products for your skin, especially as you age. If you have acne prone skin, avoid pore clogging oils, sorbolene, and heavy creams. Also, keep in mind that your skin is more dry and fragile as an adult, so products you used as a teen may not have the same effectiveness for you as an adult.


Unfortunately, some people are genetically predisposed to adult acne. Certain genetic factors are known to cause dead skin cells that build up in the pores of the skin, acting like a plug. This obstructs naturally occurring oils from properly leaving the pore, thereby keeping the skin more moist. The pore is then more prone to infection and results in the formation of pimples. The type of bacteria that infects the pore is called Propionibacterium, which is unlike blackhead or whitehead pimples.

High Stress

High stress levels are also known for triggering a change in hormone levels, leading to acne outbreaks. When you are stressed your body creates higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone which can lead to an overproduction of oil. The excess oil will mix with dead skin cells and bacteria, causing an acne outbreak. While acute stress can cause acne on occasion, chronic stress can cause outbreaks more often.

How to Get Rid of Adult Acne

Choosing the proper treatment for your adult acne depends on your lifestyle. For instance, if you are trying to get pregnant, or you are already pregnant, you may need to take a different approach than a woman who is not.


If your acne is mild and you are open to trying some over-the-counter options before seeing your doctor, there are certain products you should use, and others you should avoid. For those with a mild case of adult acne, try products with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or acne washes that contain Montaline C40. Oil free or noncomedogenic products can also help. Avoid using products that contain sorbolene and creams that contain vitamin E without seeking specialist advice.

Always stick to the recommended dosages and do not overuse the products for longer than recommended without checking with a doctor. If you don’t see positive results within a few days, you may want to consider other options.

For more severe cases of adult acne, see your GP or dermatologist for prescription medications or creams. Your doctor can prescribe a variety of treatment plans. One of the most effective treatment plans is hormone treatments, which work in more than 75% of adult acne cases. This type of treatment can take 2-3 months to work and involves taking pills such as Cyproterone acetate, Drospirinone, or Spironolactone. As previously mentioned, pregnant women (or those trying to become pregnant) should avoid any type of anti-hormone treatment.

Another option is a topical cream that opens your pores and prevents them from becoming inflamed. For 30-50% of those that suffer from adult acne, creams successfully treat their outbreaks.

Proper Skin Care


Adopting a healthy skin care regimen can help control your outbreaks. Our skin becomes more sensitive as we age, so using a gentle face wash is important. Avoid using an exfoliant or toner, as these products can worsen acne. The use of sunscreen on a regular basis is also important. Anti-aging creams can help to improve the texture and tone of your skin after it has suffered from an acne outbreak.

Something as simple as a chemical peel can help decongest blocked pores and improve the texture and tone of your skin by reducing the amount of blackheads. Glycolic peels or Sal chemical peels are two examples of chemical peels that can help control acne for adults.

In addition to chemical peels and skincare, acne can also be treated with IPL laser. This practice stimulates collagen fibres and improves the look of skin, erasing acne scars and improving skin’s texture.

Acne Prevention Methods

For those who don’t have a genetic factor causing their adult acne, there are many things that can be done to improve the health of your skin and prevent adult acne.

Supplements for Healthy Skin

Taking supplements can help keep your skin healthy and prevent adult acne outbreaks. Consider taking 15mg-25mg of zinc per day, 10,000-50,000 IU of vitamin A per day (not if pregnant or trying to conceive), 1,000 mg-3,000 mg of vitamin C per day, and 2,000 mg-4,000 mg of MSM per day.

Clean Out Your Cabinet

Go through all of your skincare and hair products and make sure that you aren’t using anything with oil that could clog your pores. Fill your cabinet with products that are noncomedogenic and oil free. Toss the products that you don’t really need;. Using too many products on your skin can be harmful.

Don’t Touch Your Face

You may not realize how often you touch your face throughout the day. Resting your chin or cheeks in your hands, rubbing your eyes or nose, and touching your face in general can increase the growth of bacteria in your pores, causing an acne outbreak.

It’s also important not to pick or squeeze any spots that pop up on your face, this can make the inflammation worse and cause scarring. Being aware of your hands and making an effort to not touch your face will allow you to have healthier skin.

Be Careful When Sweating

When working out, make sure to remove your makeup (as much as possible). Even the right oil free cosmetics can clog your pores during an intense workout. Once you are done working out, make sure to rinse off as soon as possible. As you exercise and increase the temperature of your body, sweat mixes with the oils on the surface of your skin, clogging your pores.

Toweling off and rinsing off as soon as possible can help prevent this. If you are wearing tight, fitted clothes that are wet from perspiration, make sure to change into dry clothes as soon as possible. Staying in sweaty clothing can lead to breakouts on your chest, back, and other parts of the body.

Be Gentle

Using harsh products on your skin can actually harm your skin by creating more oil on the skin and, consequently, more acne. Instead of using harsh products, wash your face one to two times a day with a mild soap and lukewarm water. When drying your skin, make sure to pat instead of rub.




One of the common causes of adult acne is stress. Taking the time to relax and de-stress can prevent your skin from breaking out. Take actions throughout your day to help lower your overall stress levels. For example, you can take breaks throughout the day for deep breathing exercises, a walk, or to stretch.

Watch What You Eat

A 2007 Australian study found a 22% decrease in acne lesions for those who followed a diet low in refined carbohydrates, avoiding carbs like the ones in white bread. Scientists believe carbohydrates increase insulin levels, causing hormones to be released that lead to inflamed follicles and more oil on the skin.

Consuming less dairy has also been proven to improve the risk of acne. Monitoring your salt intake may help reduce your chances of adult acne, as the sodium found in salt can make acne worse. Stick to low-sodium options and try to consume less than 1,500mg of salt per day. Eating a well-balanced diet can decrease your chances of suffering from acne as an adult.

How to Get Rid of Adult Acne Naturally

Tea tree oil, which comes from the Australian native tea tree, contains antiseptic properties that help reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. Tea tree oil can be found as a pure oil, as well as in many soaps, face and skin washes, and topical creams.

It is best to use products with a minimum concentration of 5% of tea tree oil and up to 15%. Higher concentrations can burn the skin so they need to be watered down.

While adult acne may not be completely treatable for some, there are many things that can be done to battle it and prevent it from happening. Taking the proper steps to improve your general health as well as the health of your skin can go a long way in avoiding acne as an adult.

If you’re interested in tips for treating adult acne or would like to learn more about how to reduce the appearance of adult acne, contact Dr. Robert Goldman today.


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