Adult Acne: It’s Not High School All Over Again!

Adult acne is more common than you might think, especially among women. (We’ll look at some of the causes in a minute.) In this back-to-school season, an acne flare can make you feel like a young, insecure teen reaching for the cover stick again, no matter what your age. Aren’t we supposed to outgrow this stuff? And what can we do about it?

Acne can continue to, recur at, or even appear for the first time in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. Here are some of the reasons adult acne might crop up:

Hormone-level changes. This is the primary reason that adult acne is more of a problem for women than for men. Both sexes tend to develop acne at equal rates during puberty, when levels of make and female hormones surge and ebb erratically. But women continue to experience hormonal changes at other times during adult life. Pregnancy, menstruation, starting or stopping hormonal contraception, and peri-menopause or menopause can all trigger adult acne in women. Men who take testosterone supplements for growth or performance enhancement (not merely to replace age-related loss) can also experience hormone-related acne outbreaks.

Genetics. Like being female, this is one factor in adult acne susceptibility you can’t do much to change. If others in your family have had adult acne, you might have a greater tendency to develop it due to a genetic predisposition.

Stress. Researchers have found a strong link between stress and adult acne (as well as rosacea). The culprit is largely hormonal. Stress stimulates overproduction of the male hormone androgen in both men and women. Androgen, in turn, ramps up the production of skin oils and the growth of hair, both of which can clog pores and make them breeding grounds for the bacteria that causes most acne. Stress also depletes the immune system, leading to high levels of inflammation, another contributor to acne flares. Stress management should be your first line of adult acne defense.

Skin care products. You might be doing your adult acne more harm than good if you fall back on using the same treatment products you relied on as a teenager. Older skin is less resilient and more sensitive. Stay away from harsh cleansers and drying agents unless your dermatologist prescribes them. Use makeup, skin care products, and sunscreens you trust to be non-comedogenic and gentle. (“Natural” isn’t always a guarantee. Many essential oils are too harsh to be applied topically.) Of course you should always use clean sponges and applicators, and toss all dated or contaminated products.

Medications and diseases. Adult acne can also be triggered by medications you take for other conditions, and in rare cases it can be a symptom of an underlying illness. Always let your dermatologist know what other conditions you’re being treated for.

The good news is that there are treatments available (many used in combination) to help manage and clear your adult acne, no matter what the cause. At Comprehensive Dermatology Center of Pasadena we offer a full range of acne treatments for women and men of all ages — from refreshing anti-acne facials and our own portable Acne Treatment Kits to chemical peels, steroid injections, and prescription topical or oral antibiotic treatments. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) combines Levulan, a topical medication. with Blu-U laser light to treat acne. We also offer treatments to minimize the appearance of acne scars and marks.


So put down that cover stick and contact us today! Thank goodness, it’s not high school all over again.