Most Common Causes of Adult Acne

Adult acne can appear for a variety of reasons, from stress to imbalances in hormonal activity. We'll tell you more below.
Most Common Causes of Adult Acne

Last update: 22 December, 2022

Although many wish they could have forgotten about acne when becoming an adult, it isn’t always possible. Adult acne can occur in those over 25 or even 30 years of age.

As with other types of acne, it isn’t possible to establish a single cause, but, rather, several. For this reason, experts say that adult acne is a skin condition of multifactorial origin. Let’s take a look at this in more detail below.

Adult acne hormonal factors

Dr. Jonette Keri explains that even though hormonal activity has stabilized enough for acne to improve or subside by the age of 25 or 30, “up to 40% of women may still have acne when they’re 40“. The most recent scientific evidence states the following:

“The hormones involved in the appearance of acne are androgens, mainly testosterone, DHEA-S and dehydrotestosterone (DHT). High concentrations of androgens or hypersensitivity of the sebaceous glands to these cause an increase in sebaceous production and follicular hyperkeratinization”.

It has been observed that, in the case of women, throughout each phase of the menstrual cycle, there’s a series of hormonal fluctuations that can trigger acne breakouts. Pregnancy and menopause can also contribute to this.


Acne in adults can be influenced by genetics.
Acne is related to genetic factors in general, but environmental effects are also important.

According to Dr. Elena González-Guerra, acne in adults also has a genetic or hereditary origin. This means that if your direct family had adult acne cases (mother, father, siblings, etc.), there’s a greater chance that you too will experience acne even after you have passed puberty.

However, it isn’t as cut and dried as that. Even if your parents had acne as an adult, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll suffer from it in the same way. The probability is high, but not absolute.

Medications and medical conditions

In addition to hormonal factors and genetics, the use of certain medications (contraceptives, hormone therapy, steroids, and others) can trigger adult acne, as a side effect. Therefore, you’ll need to be attentive to the doctor’s instructions and the product as such.

If any medication seems to be causing acne breakouts and other problems (weight gain, etc.), see your doctor as soon as possible.

On the other hand, conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome can be a trigger for acne in adult women. This is related to hormonal activity, although it isn’t exclusive.

Cosmetic products

The use of cosmetic products (especially those with an oil base, not according to the type of skin), for cleaning, putting on makeup, etc., can also be a cause of acne in adults. Coupled with this is the way the person carries out their skin cleansing rituals.

If, in addition to having one or more risk factors, a person who uses unsuitable products for their skin type, spends long hours wearing makeup, and doesn’t wash their face properly before going to bed, may suffer acne in adulthood.

In relation to cosmetic products, it’s worth highlighting those that are intended for hair care. If these are not particularly suitable for the type of hair (dry, oily, mixed), this could trigger the appearance of acne.

Smoking is another habit that can greatly impair skin health and cause other predisposing factors to cause an acne breakout.

Can you treat acne in adults?

Adult acne has several types of treatment.
There are many topical products – even over the counter – that can be used to treat this disease.

Fortunately, adult acne is treatable. Dermatologists can establish different therapeutic strategies, depending on each case. This means that the treatment is completely personalized.

The treatment takes into account the factors with the highest incidence and the level of skin involvement, but also self-care, and, to a certain extent, the person’s lifestyle. As stated in an update on the subject:

“In general, a gradual and progressive treatment is recommended. The first option for mild cases is topical treatment (in monotherapy or combined), the the combination of topical drugs with oral antibiotics and finally systemic retinoids (isotretinoin oral) or oral contraceptives (in women)”.

At the same time that treatment is being applied, the dermatologist will establish a follow-up schedule to evaluate the results obtained, introduce improvements, and, above all, to see how the patient is doing. In general, the follow-up is carried out every two weeks, but this can vary depending on the case.

In addition to following the treatment guidelines and attending the controls, it will be essential to follow the specialist’s recommendations regarding self-care and other factors related to the routine, since this contributes significantly to skin improvement. Correcting habits and routines is a good way to start.

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