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Adult Acne: How to Leave Pimples in the Past Once and For All

Adult acne affects about 40% of men and 54% of women between the ages of 25 and 44. When your acne recurs or does not dissipate as you get older, you may wonder why and what you can do to alleviate it.

Adult acne is caused by many of the same reasons as earlier-onset acne. In addition to overactive oil production and build-up of dead skin cells and bacteria, it could be due to hormonal changes. With that being said, your acne triggers may be different than when you were younger, which we will discuss more in-depth below.

In order to treat adult acne, use a skincare regimen including ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and tea tree oil, which are all found in various Exposed Skincare products.

Keep reading to identify your acne triggers, and find adult acne causes and solutions.

A woman pinches the skin on her face

Causes of Adult Acne

In general, what we call "adult" acne is typically the same condition that affects many teens and young adults. Inflammation causes the skin to swell slightly, forcing the pores to constrict, trapping oil, dead skin cells, and sometimes bacteria. However, the greater cause of the inflammation may vary.

Persistent Adult Acne

Sometimes people have acne as an adolescent that continues into adulthood as well, called persistent adult acne. Persistent acne is by far the more common type of adult acne: around 80% of adult women, according to a 2009 study, with acne also had acne in their teenage years.

Persistent adult acne may often be caused by the same factors that led to the individual's adolescent acne. In these cases, it can be triggered by:

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Stress

  • Hormones (namely monthly hormonal changes due to menstruation, cosmetics or skincare products with poor ingredients)

Adult-onset Acne

When individuals have little to no acne in adolescence, only to suddenly start getting pimples in their 20s and 30s, this is known as adult-onset acne. In the 2009 study linked above, 20% of adult women with acne had only started getting acne after 20 years of age.

The cause of adult-onset acne may be:

  • Hormonal changes (for example: changes in birth control, beginning menopause, or beginning hormone replacement therapy)

  • Increased stress

  • Increased cosmetic use

  • Tobacco use

  • Medications (for example: lithium, antibiotics, and anti-epileptic drugs)


Hormonal fluctuation is a leading cause of the inflammation that leads to both persistent and adult-onset acne, especially for women. An imbalance in an adult's hormones can occur:

  • during menopause

  • during menstruation

  • due to a change in birth control, such as birth control pills, a hormonal IUD, a hormonal implant, etc.

  • during pregnancy

  • due to an endocrine disorder

  • due to HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)

Hormones can cause acne as they change the oil production in the face. When oil production changes, oils and dead skin cells build up and become trapped in your pores causing acne.

It’s important to note that people with either type of adult acne can achieve clear skin with the right treatment of skincare products with proper ingredients that blend the best of science and nature.

A man washes his face

How to Treat Adult Acne

A Gentle Skincare Regimen

A skincare regimen with an emphasis on balanced treatment is especially important for adults with acne. An ideal adult acne solution can fight all the causes of acne by reducing bacteria, exfoliating dead skin cells, and preventing and alleviating inflammation without further irritating sensitive skin.

Fight Bacteria

Exposed Skincare products all contain responsible concentrations of scientifically tested and natural ingredients that will be gentle and effective on your skin. To fight bacteria, we use:

Try out our Acne Treatment Serum which uses 3.5% benzoyl peroxide to target excess acne-causing bacteria and clear blemishes.


Exfoliation is key to reduce acne as it helps to clear away dead skin cells that can clog pores. A combination of chemical and physical exfoliation is beneficial for most adults' skin types. At Exposed we use:

Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is the primary cause of acne, so it is essential to utilize calming, anti-inflammatory ingredients like:

These natural ingredients are featured in a number of Exposed Products such as our Clear Pore Serum and the Clearing Tonic.

Consider Hormonal Changes

Take the time to examine any potential hormonal side effects that may occur due to the use of medications or birth control, as well as due to natural bodily fluctuations. Before changing contraceptive methods, for example, make a note if acne is one of the side effects. If you suspect that your hormones are a leading cause of your acne, it is all the more important to maintain a skincare routine.

If you have hormonal acne, your adult acne solution should focus especially on sebum reduction without drying your skin. Look to our Clarifying Mask which incorporates sulfur to reduce sebum.


Mesa Coral suffered from acne into adulthood, until she was able to get rid of her acne with Exposed.
Mesa Coral completely cleared up her acne in just two months using Exposed.

 Better Skin on the Horizon

If you are someone who experiences adult acne, be it since adolescence or onset in your adult years, there is hope for clearer skin with a regimen of skincare products that are proven to work. Simply take our quiz to find the product recommendations tailored to your needs.

The Exposed Skincare Ultimate kit