Dealing With Adult Acne: Dos And Don’ts

By Tiffany Tseng. May 7th 2016

For many people, the words “acne” or “pimples” generally recall uncomfortable memories from their teenage past. But for some, acne is a problem that continues to plague them even in their adult years. It is important to realize that adult acne is different from adolescent acne, and even different forms of treatment. Read on to learn more about adult acne, and ways to prevent taking a stroll down teenage-acne-memory lane.

Adult VS Teen acne

The bare-bones mechanism of acne is the same for both adult and teen acne. Both involve a clogged pore (usually accumulated sweat, dirt, oils and bacteria), which can turn into the familiar blackhead or whitehead. As the bacteria multiply, they inflame the pore and cause painful, more serious cases of acne. Hormones have also shown to play a role in acne formation for both teens and adults.

The main difference between adult and teen acne is adult acne appears more on the chin, jawline and neck, as opposed to a more even distribution in teen acne. Also, while teen acne is caused by hormone surges during growth and puberty, adult acne is correlated to general hormone imbalances. Hence, in the adult years, stress or endocrine disorders (such as PCOS) can cause an eruption of spots on the face, even though we have gone through puberty and stopped growing taller. Adult acne can affect adults in their late 20s, 30s, and even well into the 40s. While you can’t really “outgrow” adult acne, there are certainly ways to prevent frequent breakouts.


  • Do consult a dermatologist. Your doctor can correctly diagnose the root of your acne and whether it’s a side effect of another underlying medical condition. A simple blood test can help screen hormone levels.
  • Do check your stress levels. One of the most common causes of adult acne is stress, as stress affects hormone levels. Try doing a yoga class, or just take a moment to breathe; it may just prevent that pimple from erupting.
  • Do quit smoking. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has performed studies that show a correlation between smoking and postadolescent acne.
  • Do eat a healthy diet consisting of low fat, low sugar and refined carbohydrates. Studies have shown low glycemic diets lead to less blemish eruptions in adults, as diets high in sugar may disrupt insulin levels of the body. When in doubt, load up on the veggies and whole grains, and say no to refined and processed foods.
  • Do lose weight and exercise. Obesity and excess body fat have been linked to hormone disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women, as well as insulin disruption. All these factors may contribute to adult acne eruption.


  • Don’t purchase the same brand of acne facial products as you did when you were a teen. The cause of adult acne is different from adolescent acne, and the treatment most likely will cause adverse effects (such as peeling and excessive dryness) instead of getting rid of the spots.
  • Don’t carry over your bad teenage acne habits. It may be tempting to pick at the blemish, but we need to remember that our skin is not as young and regenerative as it used to be, so open wounds and infected pimples will take even longer to heal than before.
  • Don’t go to bed without cleaning your face. Clogged pores are the root of all pimples, and since it’s easier to wash a face than dealing with hormonal factors, make this a good habit daily. Consult your dermatologist for a regimen suitable for your adult skin.
  • Don’t implement alternative therapies without professional consultation. There are international hormone creams and therapies boasting to have adult acne-curing properties, but they may also have dangerous side effects.
  • Don’t hop on the new-age skin treatment bandwagon. Before partaking in any up-and-coming skin treatments promising to banish adult acne, be sure to do thorough research and discuss the risk and benefits with your dermatologist.

Thankfully, there are many acne-friendly cosmetics and concealers than can help an individual in need of a pimple cover up. Look for cosmetic items with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide as active ingredients to treat and hide the pimple. Be sure to also wash your face thoroughly afterwards to minimize clogged pores. Adult acne is manageable and may be prevented altogether with a few simple dos, don’ts, and a handy concealer.


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