How to Manage Acne as an Adult

Most people think of acne as a teenage problem, but the truth is that many adults also suffer from acne. In fact, adult acne can be even more difficult to manage than teenage acne. With the right dermatologist-recommended treatments, it is possible to keep adult acne under control and maintain blemish-free skin.

What Causes Adult Acne?

Acne develops in areas of skin where the pores have become blocked by excess oils, bacteria, or dead skin cells. This can cause acne lesions to form in adults of any age. The most common contributing factors to adult acne include:

  • Hormonal imbalances (especially during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause)
  • Hereditary conditions
  • Bacteria buildup (especially due to poor hygiene or air pollution)
  • Certain medications
  • Humidity in the weather or climate
  • Using oil-based cosmetics
  • Stress
  • Poor skin care routine (using the wrong products and/or failing to use the right products)

How Can Adults Keep Acne Under Control?

There are many causes of adult acne, and it can be tough to find the right treatment. Dermatologists agree that the best way to manage adult acne is to keep acne triggers under control so that acne can be prevented in the first place. This means addressing ways to prevent any contributing factors from affecting your skin.

Hormonal Imbalances

If adult acne is related to hormone fluctuations, then managing your hormones may help keep your acne under control. This can be done through various lifestyle changes and/or medications. However, because hormones have a profound effect on your overall health, this should only be done with the help of your doctor. If you believe you may be experiencing hormonal imbalances, speak with your doctor about ways to balance your hormones and decrease the likelihood of adult acne. For women experiencing acne due to pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause, bear in mind that the skin will usually clear up as these cycles of life come to a close. 

Hereditary Conditions

Some people are genetically predisposed to develop acne breakouts as adults. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do in this case except treat the acne when it occurs. However, knowing that your adult acne is caused by genetics may help you be more patient with any treatment plan and less likely to become discouraged. It can also help you develop a more proactive skin care routine to keep your skin as healthy as possible so that breakouts are minimized.

Bacteria Buildup

Adult acne may also be caused by bacteria buildup. This can happen when sweat, oils, and environmental toxins mix with the dead skin cells on your face, creating an ideal environment for acne-causing bacteria to grow. To prevent this, make sure you wash your face twice a day and after any exercise or sweating. If you live in an area with high air pollution, or if you visit a location that exposes your skin to toxins, cleanse your skin thoroughly when returning home. Be especially diligent about removing makeup at the end of the day and cleansing your skin before going to bed.

Certain Medications

Some medications, such as oral contraceptives and hormone therapy drugs, can cause adult acne. Certain over-the-counter medications may also aggravate adult acne. If you’re taking any medications and are experiencing sudden breakouts, speak to your doctor about the possibility of switching to an acne-friendly alternative.

Humidity in the Weather or Climate

The weather can also play a role in adult acne breakouts. If you notice that your acne flares up when the humidity is high, try to stay indoors as much as possible or invest in a good air conditioning unit. Alternatively, if you live in a dry climate, drink plenty of water to help keep your skin hydrated so that it does not overproduce oil.

Using Oil-Based Cosmetics

Oil-based cosmetics may cause adult acne, so it is better to choose water-based products if you are acne-prone. This is especially true for foundation and for makeup that you put on areas of the face where you more frequently notice breakouts.


It’s no secret that stress can wreak havoc on the skin, and stress can be a contributing factor to adult acne breakouts. When you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, your body produces the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can trigger skin inflammation and increase oil production, which can lead to acne flare-ups.

While it’s not always possible to completely avoid stress as an adult, there are some things you can do to help manage it. Take time for meditation, leisure, yoga, journal writing, or another calming, stress-relieving activity as part of your regular schedule. Not only will you feel better, but your skin will also be calmer and clearer.

Poor Skin Care Routine

If you are not cleansing your skin properly, if you are not washing or moisturizing your skin often enough, or if you are not using the right products for your skin type, you may get adult acne breakouts. As a general tip, adults should wash their face twice a day using a gentle cleanser. Apply moisturizer after cleansing (both morning and night) so that your skin does not overcompensate by producing excess oil. Because skin tends to become drier with age, moisturizing and hydrating after cleansing becomes even more important as you get older.

Getting Help with Adult Acne

A big part of managing adult acne is knowing what skin care products to use and when to seek additional help. Sometimes, even when you’ve done everything possible to prevent it, adult acne still occurs, and you need treatment to get it under control. Our expert dermatologists at Medovate Dermatology can help you get the right acne treatment for your skin. Effective treatments may include:

  • Topical medications (retinoids, antibiotics): creams, gels, or lotions applied to the skin
  • Oral medications: antibiotics, spironolactone, isotretinoin, oral contraceptives
  • Salicylic acid
  • Chemical peels
  • Steroid injections
  • Lasers and photodynamic therapy

For more help managing adult acne, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified dermatologists here at Medovate Dermatology. We can help you deal with this skin condition so that you can enjoy a better quality of life.

Call Medovate at (847) 499-5500 to schedule your personal consultation today.