Acne in Adults


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Adults can be affected by acne for one of two reasons. Either teenage acne can persists into adulthood (persistent acne) or late onset acne can develop in people who have never experienced acne before. The incidence of adult acne is higher than you might have thought and the numbers of adults seeking treatment for acne has been steadily rising over time. Statistically 25% of men and 50% of women will experience some degree of acne in adulthood. Adult acne is just as likely to cause depression and social anxiety as teenage acne. It is important that you are candid with your practitioner about the effect your acne has on you emotionally to ensure you receive the help you need.

Causes of Adult Acne

Identically to teenage acne, adult acne has no definite cause and the reasons for its appearance can vary from person-to-person. Hormonal changes are less likely to be a major factor; however, birth-control pills, pregnancy and the menopause can cause changes in hormone levels in women. These hormonal changes can trigger acne. Stress can also prompt changes in hormone levels, which can, in turn, cause acne. It has been hypothesised that the increase in adult acne in recent years can be linked to the increasingly stressful lives we lead. The use of some kinds of cosmetics can also cause acne.

Adult Acne in Women

Women are at least twice as likely to have adult acne than men. Both persistent acne and late onset acne are more common in women. This is partially due to the relatively fluctuating state of female hormones compared to those of men. Many women experience a monthly occurrence of acne, in sync with their menstrual cycle. Birth-control pills can be used to control these hormones yet some birth-control pills, those that contain progestin for example, can make matters worse. Any fluctuation in hormones can cause acne to appear and so women are particularly susceptible to acne when discontinuing birth-control pills, during and after pregnancy and during the menopause. Conditions such as polycystic ovaries and other gynaecological conditions can also cause acne.

Treating Acne in Adulthood

Problematically, many adults suffering from acne find that the over-the-counter products aimed at teenage acne are not effective and can even make matters worse. Older skin is more susceptible to the dryness and irritation caused by these products and so it is advisable to consult your pharmacist, doctor or dermatologist about the best treatment for your acne. If the root of your acne is not hormonal changes in lifestyle are often recommended. Reducing stress, eating a more balanced diet, reducing your alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, using oil-free cosmetics and generally maintaining a healthier lifestyle have all been shown to help in some cases of adult acne. In moderate-to-severe cases of adult acne your doctor or dermatologist may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics, birth-control pills, prescription creams or, in severe cases, Accutane which must not be used by women who have any chance of becoming pregnant within 1-2 months of its use as it is known to cause severe birth defects.

Types of Adult Acne

Some forms of acne only affect adults. Acne conglobata and acne fulminans affect men aged 18-30 while the rare Pyoderma Faciale (Rosacea Fulminans) generally only appears in women between 20 and 40 years of age. These forms of acne can be severe and should be immediately treated by a doctor or dermatologist.


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