Causes and Treatments of Adult Acne

Health Writer

Adult acne affects 25 percent of men and 50 percent of women at some time in their life, according to About one-third of people with adult acne also have acne on their back and body. Recently, dermatologists indicate they are seeing an increase in adults with acne, but why there are more adults today with acne isn’t understood.

Some of the causes of adult acne according to American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) include:

Fluctuating hormone levels — Women experience this around the time of their period, during pregnancy, and peri-menopause and menopause. Adult-onset-acne — when you get acne for the first time as an adult — is most common in women who are going through menopause. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome may experience acne as this affects hormone levels. Starting or stopping hormonal birth control causes a change in hormone levels and can result in an acne flare-up.

Stress — There is a relationship between stress and acne flare-ups according to the AAD. Hormones produced during times of stress can stimulate the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin, which can cause acne to flare or worsen.

Family history — Some people have a genetic predisposition to acne. If other people in your family have acne, you are more likely to get adult acne.

Hair and skin products — Some skincare products clog pores, which can cause acne. When shopping for skincare products, look for products that are non-comedogenic, non-acnegenic, oil-free, or won’t clog pores

Medication — Certain medications have acne as a side effect. For example,one study found that a possible side effect of lithium is acne. Medications used to treat epilepsy may also cause acne, according to a study published in 2015. When you are prescribed a new medication, it is always good to talk to the doctor and pharmacist about potential side effects.

Treatment for adult acne

Acne can be controlled. Without treatment, it can lead to dark spots and permanent scars. Treatment for adult acne is similar to treatment for acne during the teenage years. Products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are most often recommended. For women with acne, hormonal treatments, such as using birth-control pills, might be an option. Other potential treatments include antibiotics or spironolactone, which is a medication used for high blood pressure.

Accutane is a prescription-strength medication that is effective in treating acne. However, it does have very serious side effects, including:

  • Inflammation of the lips
  • Dry or peeling skin
  • Facial rash
  • Nose bleed
  • Itchy skin
  • Pink eye
  • Dry eyes

Taking Accutane also comes with an extremely high risk of causing birth defects, according to These include birth defects of skull, ear, eye, facial, central nervous system, cardiovascular, thymus and parathyroid abnormalities, and potentially death. It is recommended that you use two forms of birth control while taking Accutane.

Treatment for adults might need to be modified for sensitive or thinning skin. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each type of treatment and work together to find the one that is best for you.

See more helpful articles:

4 New Ways to Fight Adult Acne

Prescription Acne Medication: Why Your Insurance May Deny Coverage

How I Got Rid of My Adult Acne

5 Myths About Acne

The Different Types of Acne and How to Treat Them