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Adult Acne Unmasked: Digging Deeper into Causes and Solutions

Adult acne, a skin condition affecting millions worldwide, can be frustrating, embarrassing, and challenging to deal with. While most people associate acne with the teenage years, many adults experience breakouts well into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.

In this blog post, we will delve into the underlying causes of adult acne and provide practical solutions to help you take control of your skin once and for all.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Identifying and addressing the root causes of adult acne, such as hormonal imbalances, stress, and dietary factors, can help improve your skin's health and appearance.

  • Developing a consistent skincare routine, managing stress, optimizing your diet, prioritizing sleep and exercise, and using OTC treatments are key to combating adult acne.

  • Understanding the clinical and histological effects of acne treatments, and tailoring treatments to adult skin and specific skin types, can lead to better outcomes.

  • Exposed Skin Care offers a comprehensive and balanced approach to managing acne, targeting multiple factors that trigger acne and providing a suitable solution for all skin types.

A woman looking at her adult acne

Causes of Adult Acne

Hormonal Imbalances

One of the most common culprits behind adult acne is hormonal imbalances. Fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly androgens, can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. This excess oil can clog pores and lead to acne lesions.

Menstrual Cycle

Many women experience acne breakouts in the days leading up to their period due to fluctuating hormone levels. These hormonal changes can cause an increase in oil production and inflammation, leading to the development of acne.

Woman having menstrual cramps

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It is characterized by elevated levels of androgens, which can trigger acne breakouts and other symptoms such as irregular periods and excessive hair growth.


Stress is another significant factor that can contribute to adult acne. When you're under stress, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that can increase oil production and inflammation in the skin, ultimately leading to acne breakouts.

Diet and Lifestyle

Your diet and lifestyle can also play a role in the development of adult acne. Consuming high amounts of sugary, processed foods or dairy products has been linked to an increased risk of acne. Additionally, a lack of sleep and exercise can negatively impact your skin's overall health and contribute to breakouts.

Women eating pizza

Solutions for Adult Acne

Develop a Consistent Skincare Routine

Establishing a consistent skincare routine is essential for managing adult acne. This routine should include cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing your skin daily.

Gentle Cleansing

Use a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser to remove dirt, oil, and makeup from your skin without stripping it of its natural moisture. Avoid harsh soaps or scrubs that can irritate the skin and exacerbate acne.


Exfoliating your skin helps remove dead skin cells that can clog pores and contribute to acne. Incorporate a chemical exfoliant like an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) into your routine to help keep your skin clear and smooth.

Woman adding exfoliant to her skin


Moisturizing is crucial for maintaining your skin's health and preventing acne. Opt for a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer that won't clog pores or cause breakouts.

Manage Stress

Reducing stress is not only beneficial for your overall well-being but can also help improve your skin's appearance. Try incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga into your daily routine to help manage stress levels.

Woman relaxing in a spa

Optimize Your Diet

Making dietary changes can have a significant impact on your skin's health. Consider incorporating the following dietary tips to help manage adult acne:

  • Limit processed and sugary foods

  • Reduce dairy consumption

  • Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water

  • Incorporate healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, and fish

Prioritize Sleep and Exercise

Adequate sleep and regular exercise can improve your skin's health and help manage adult acne. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night and engage in moderate physical activity for 30 minutes daily, most days of the week.

A woman having a good night sleep

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Acne Treatments

OTC acne treatments can help manage mild to moderate adult acne. Some effective ingredients to look for include:

  • Salicylic acid

  • Benzoyl peroxide

  • Glycolic acid

  • Niacinamide

  • Tea tree oil

Always follow the product instructions and use as directed. Discontinue use if irritation occurs.

Clinical and Histological Effects of Acne Treatments

Understanding acne treatments' clinical and histological effects is essential for choosing the most effective solution for your skin. Different treatments target specific aspects of acne formation, such as reducing inflammation, unclogging pores, and removing dead skin cells. When selecting an acne treatment regimen, consider the unique needs of your skin and the severity of your adult-onset acne.

Inflammation Reduction

Anti-inflammatory treatments, such as topical creams or gels containing ingredients like niacinamide or green tea extract, can help reduce redness and swelling associated with acne. By minimizing inflammation, these treatments can promote faster healing and reduce the risk of scarring.

Pore Unclogging

Clogged pores are a primary cause of acne, making it crucial to find treatments that effectively unclog them. Look for ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which help break down the debris trapped within pores, preventing the formation of new acne lesions.

Person applying alicylic acid to her face

Exfoliation and Skin Cell Turnover

Accelerating the natural skin cell turnover process can help prevent the buildup of dead skin cells contributing to acne. Chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) can promote skin cell renewal and prevent clogged pores.

Acne Treatments for Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, finding an effective acne treatment that doesn't cause irritation can be challenging. Look for products containing gentle yet effective ingredients like salicylic acid, which is known to help unclog pores and exfoliate dead skin cells without causing excessive dryness or irritation. These treatments can help clear adult acne without exacerbating sensitive skin concerns.

Gentle Cleansers and Moisturizers

For sensitive skin, opt for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic cleansers and moisturizers that are specifically formulated to minimize irritation. These products should be gentle enough for daily use without causing redness or discomfort.

Soothing Ingredients

Incorporate soothing ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, and oatmeal into your skincare routine. These natural ingredients can help calm irritated skin, reduce redness, and promote healing.

Adult Onset Acne Vs. Adolescent Acne

While both adult onset acne and adolescent acne share similarities, they often require different approaches for successful treatment. Adult acne tends to be more persistent and resistant to conventional treatments than adolescent acne.

Additionally, adult skin is generally more sensitive and prone to dryness, making it crucial to use gentler treatment options. For women, hormonal factors such as birth control pills can also play a role in managing adult acne, as they can help regulate hormone levels and reduce breakouts.

Adolescent children seating on a curb side

Tailoring Treatments to Adult Skin

Adult skin often requires more targeted, personalized treatments than adolescent skin. Look for products formulated specifically for adult acne, as they are designed to address the unique challenges and needs of adult skin.

Hormonal Treatment Options

For women experiencing adult acne due to hormonal imbalances, treatments such as birth control pills, anti-androgen medications, or hormonal therapy may be beneficial.

Benefits of Using Exposed Skin Care to Manage Acne

Exposed Skin Care is a comprehensive skin care regimen designed to address the multiple factors that can lead to acne. This unique system combines topical and systemic treatment options, offering a well-rounded approach to managing acne vulgaris. By targeting the underlying causes of acne, Exposed Skin Care can help prevent future breakouts and improve overall skin health.

Exposed Skin Care Expanded Kit

The benefits of using Exposed Skin Care to manage acne include:

  • Combats multiple factors that trigger acne: Exposed Skin Care addresses various factors that can develop acne, such as excess oil production, clogged pores, inflammation, and bacteria.

  • Balanced approach: The combination of systemic treatment and topical therapies ensures a balanced approach to treating acne persists, catering to your skin's specific needs.

  • Suitable for all skin types: Exposed Skin Care is designed to work effectively on various skin types, including sensitive skin, oily skin, and combination skin.

  • Ease of use: The Exposed Skin Care regimen is easy to follow, with clearly labeled products and step-by-step instructions to ensure optimal results.

Incorporating Exposed Skin Care into your daily routine can help you take control of your acne and achieve clearer, healthier skin. With a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of acne, Exposed Skin Care offers a highly effective solution for managing this common skin concern.


Adult acne can be a challenging and frustrating issue to deal with, but understanding the causes and implementing effective solutions can help you regain control of your skin. Factors such as hormonal imbalances, stress, and dietary choices, like weight gain or eating chocolate, can contribute to adult acne.

By developing a consistent skincare routine using suitable skin care products, managing stress, optimizing your diet with foods that have anti-inflammatory effects, prioritizing sleep and exercise, and using OTC treatments like topical tretinoin, you can combat adult acne and achieve the clear, healthy skin you deserve.

Understanding acne treatments' clinical and histological effects and tailoring them to adult skin, sensitive skin, or different skin types can lead to better outcomes.

The use of comprehensive skincare systems like Exposed Skin Care, which combines systemic and topical treatments, offers a balanced approach to managing acne, addressing multiple factors that trigger the condition.

In conclusion, taking a proactive and informed approach to treating adult acne, considering anti-inflammatory effects of treatments and dietary choices, and selecting appropriate skincare products can make a significant difference in improving your skin's health and appearance. With the right strategies and commitment, you can overcome adult acne and enjoy clear, radiant skin.


Can makeup cause adult acne?

Makeup can contribute to adult acne if it is improperly removed or contains ingredients that clog pores. Opt for non-comedogenic, oil-free makeup products, and always remove makeup thoroughly before bed.

How long does it take for adult acne treatments to show results?

The time it takes to see results from adult acne treatments can vary depending on the severity of your acne and the specific treatment being used. Generally, it can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks to see significant improvement in your skin.

Can I prevent adult acne?

While you may not be able to prevent adult acne completely, you can take steps to minimize the risk and severity of breakouts. Maintaining a consistent skincare routine, managing stress, making dietary changes, and prioritizing sleep and exercise can help keep your skin in the best possible condition.

Are there any natural remedies for adult acne?

Some natural remedies that may help improve adult acne include tea tree oil, green tea extract, aloe vera, and apple cider vinegar. However, the effectiveness of these remedies can vary, and they may not be suitable for all skin types. It's always best to patch-test any new treatment on a small skin area before applying it to your entire face.