8 Things You Need to Know if You Have Adult Acne

Jeff Hautala
By Jeff Hautala, Co-Founder of Exposed Skincare

Adult acne is a growing problem, affecting over 25% of adult men 🤵 and over 30% of adult women 🙎‍♀️. The best way to treat this condition is to get the facts about what causes it, who gets it, and which treatments work best for which skin types.

Are You Asking The Right Questions?

To find the best treatment for your adult acne, it’s important to know the answers to these questions and more.

Adult acne is a common problem, but many adults still feel alone in their struggle.

Adult Acne Is The Same As Adolescent Acne

Acne in different age groups may be caused by different things, but they are still the same skin condition.

Inflammation Is The Main Factor

Regardless of age, three main triggers cause face acne: inflammation, bacteria, and oil production – and inflammation is the primary cause. Prior to this finding, dermatologists believed it to be mainly a bacterial condition, but inflammation causes the skin to swell slightly, forcing the pores to constrict.

This traps oil, dead skin cells, and sometimes bacteria.

Acne Has Different Causes, Though

Oil and dead skin cells cause blackheads and whiteheads when trapped in a pore, and if bacteria such as p. acnes 🦠 get trapped as well, a pimple or cyst can form.

Different factors cause acne, and many factors only contribute to acne, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology hormonal changes probably play a big role. For medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, it would be best to visit a dermatologist 👩‍⚕️.

In Which Zone is Your Breakout?

You may have heard of the “T-zone” because this area is where teens get acne the most: the forehead and nose. Often but not always, adults get acne in what is called the “U-zone” : the cheeks, jawline, and chin.

Hormones Are A Big Culprit

This difference traces back to the shift in hormones from the teenage years to adulthood. Fluctuating hormones can lead to increased oil production by sebaceous glands, which can clog pores and worsen acne. The T-zone contains more sebaceous filaments than any other area of the body, so teenagers 🧑‍🤝‍🧑are particularly susceptible to breakouts here.

But Not Necessarily In Adults

Adult skin, on the other hand, produces less oil, but dry skin can also cause acne. When the protective layer of oil disappears, the skin is easily irritated. This can trigger acne because of an inflammatory response and a sudden spike in oil production, but adult acne products for oily skin will probably cause severe breakouts.

Dry Skin Needs Extra Care

This is why the American Academy of Dermatology suggests dry-skin relief with good products, especially for adults with acne-prone skin. If you have skin that needs hydration but is also prone to acne, look for a water-based gel moisturizer like our signature Moisture Complex.  It moisturizes while controlling oil production, keeping your pores clear and your skin calmed while giving a dose of hydration.

Acne along the jawline, on the cheeks, or on the chin is very common in adults, and a water-based moisturizer is a key ingredient for effective treatment.

The Two Main Types Of Adult Acne

Sometimes people have acne as an adolescent, and it just never seems to go away and continues into adulthood as well. This is called persistent adult acne. Other times, people have little to no acne in adolescence, only to suddenly start getting pimples in their 20s and 30s, which is known as adult-onset acne. Both types are still the same skin condition.

Adult-Persistent Acne

Persistent acne is by far the more common type of adult acne: around three-fourths of adults with acne also had acne in their teenage years 🧑‍🤝‍🧑. It is far more common in men than in women.People with persistent acne show more pronounced symptoms and women with persistent acne typically have worse flare-ups before their period.

Adult-Onset Acne

The other one-fourth who have adult-onset acne typically get less severe breakouts, and they are predominantly women.

But Neither Has To Be A Life Sentence

Anyone can get acne at any stage in their lives. The truth is, dermatologists are seeing more and more adults with acne, but researchers aren’t sure why. If your dad didn’t have acne in his 40s but you do, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything incorrectly. It means that acne in adulthood 🤵 is on the rise.

It’s important to note that people with either type of adult acne can achieve clear skin with the right treatment. Get help finding your ideal treatment here.

Adults Typically Have More Inflammatory Acne

Regardless of whether your acne is adult-onset or persistent, adult acne can more often be linked to inflammation.

Blackheads and Whiteheads vs Pimples and Cysts

Blackheads and whiteheads are generated when mild inflammation 🔥 causes pores to constrict, but as a rule, they don’t remain inflamed.

Pimples and cysts, on the other hand, are a different story. Pimples start when the skin becomes inflamed and traps oil and p. acnes bacteria 🦠 in a pore. Because these bacteria consume oil, their number can grow quickly.

Any increased bacterial load will activate the body’s immune system to deal with the infection, which, in turn, triggers an inflammatory response. For this reason, pimples are also sometimes labeled “inflammatory acne,” and it is more common in adults than teenagers. This may be because blackheads and whiteheads are caused by excess oil, which is typically a bigger problem in the teenage years.

Latin And African Skin Types – More Acne In Adulthood

If you have an olive, brown, or black skin tone, you are more likely to have adult acne than those with paler skin. People with dark skin tend to have more inflammatory acne but fewer blackheads and whiteheads at any age. Because most acne in adults is also inflammatory, people with dark skin may be predisposed to continued acne.

Adult Acne Usually Results In More Scarring

Increased or constant inflammation in adults goes hand in hand with increased scarring. The body treats a pimple or cyst just like it would any other infected wound: it sends extra melanin to speed up the healing process. You may be familiar with melanin for one of its other functions: providing color to the skin.

What Is Hyperpigmentation?

So when your body sends melanin to the site of healing, it deposits color too. The longer it takes for a pimple or cyst to heal, the longer the melanin stays, and this turns the skin a bit darker. The longer the melanin remains in a certain spot, the darker the spot becomes. This is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, often just called hyperpigmentation for short, and is associated most often with acne vulgaris.

Because adult skin doesn’t produce new skin cells as fast as teenage skin, the cells affected by the melanin remain at the site longer, which means that hyperpigmentation can take a long time to fade. This is an especially prominent problem for Latin and African skin types.

What To Do To Reduce Severe Acne Scarring

As mentioned, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment is best obtained from a dermatologist. To reduce scarring, they will take different factors into consideration, such as where the scarring is located on your body, the type of scarring you have, and whether or not you’ve used isotretinoin as part of your adult acne skin care routine.

Is Surgery A Good Option?

According to the Dermatology Society👨‍⚕️, different grades of scarring require different interventions. For instance, a deep so-called boxcar scar will most likely require only laser therapy, while very severe subcisions, also called depressed scarring, will probably need surgery. Surgery sometimes involves lifting the scars to the skin’s surface which, paradoxically, makes them less visible. Or surgery can simply mean breaking up the scar tissue.

Different techniques are available for surgery of this kind. It is not invasive and dermatologists often perform it in a medical office. You will also only receive local anesthesia and a prescription for pain management.

Good News – Adult Acne Fades With Age

Not all is doom and gloom for adult acne. Research indicates that after age 20, the likelihood of having acne steadily goes down. 45% of women in their 20s have acne, but only 12% of women in their 40s have acne. If you’re in the 12%, it might be helpful to know that there are definitely ways for you to get clear skin for good.

But How Do You Treat Adult Acne?

This is not a question easily or quickly answered because people’s physiology differs and this skin condition can be quite complex to treat.

Treatment For Acne Mainly Around The Hairline

If you have adult acne that seems to be primarily located around your hairline or at your temples, you may be able to solve the problem by switching hair products.

Oily Products Can Be The Cause

If you use a pomade or oil, it may be clogging the pores around your hairline and those in the closer hair follicles, which may contribute to acne in that area. To treat what is commonly called pomade acne, try using glycerin- or water-based pomades rather than oil-based ones. Completely oil-free will be better than too oily, in this case.

Before buying, look up different ingredients’ comedogenicity scale (a scale measuring how likely a substance is to clog pores) and avoid products that contain ingredients with a rating of three or higher ❌.

If I Beat Chronic Inflammation and Stress, Will I Gain Good Skin?

Probably, yes. The link between psychological stress and serious chronic disease is an established one and as discussed, acne-skin worsens when inflamed.

Chronic systemic inflammation is the medical curse of our time and beating it would require a lifestyle change and a serious reduction of uncontrolled psychological stress. If you can lessen your stress and add effective and high-quality skin treatments to your routine, you might soon see a great reduction in breakouts.

One Important Treatment For Adult Acne Is A Gentle Skin Care System

Adult acne is caused by different factors than teenage acne, and therefore, many typical skincare products and acne treatment systems just don’t work for adults. Often acne care products contain high concentrations of abrasive ingredients that may work well for very oily teenage skin but irritate adult acne.

Not Too Oily But also Not Completely Oil-Free

Irritation of acne-prone skin will always exacerbate the problem. This is particularly true for adults, who generally produce far less oil than teenagers. If you haven’t had luck with other products, they were probably too harsh for your skin. You need gentle adult acne products that can kill p. acnes, exfoliate the skin, clean clogged pores, also prevent and alleviate inflammation 🔥.

Products for severe acne breakouts need to be chosen with extra care. In women, the main cause of adult acne is often hormonal, and for this, a birth control pill may be ideal.

But don’t rely on the Internet for medical advice, diagnosis, etc. Talk to your doctor about hormonal treatment, and remember that employing a multi-pronged approach to alleviate acne may be the best route to take, starting with a range of good adult acne products.

Treating adult acne doesn’t have to be complicated. Consider an all-in-one kit that includes the ideal treatment products for adult acne and plus clear instructions on when and how to use them. Exposed Skin Care kits contain responsible concentrations of scientifically tested natural ingredients. We added benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil 🌱 to fight p. acnes bacteria 🦠; salicylic acid and glycolic acid to exfoliate the skin, and green tea extract and aloe vera to reduce inflammation and prevent irritation. Try out our three-step system in the Basic Kit, add the Moisture Complex moisturizer with our Expanded Kit, or get our full suite of products with our Ultimate Kit 🏆.

With the Exposed Ultimate Kit, you can treat any acne dilemma.