ADULT ACNE: When Zits Follow Us As We Age

Pinched Cheeks Were A Compliment
Pinched Cheeks Were A Compliment

I remember being 13 years old and receiving so many compliments on my beautiful complexion. “Oh, your skin is so beautiful” or “Your complexion just glows my dear” (followed by my cheeks then being pinched by a neighbor or a dear friend of Grandma’s).

Shorty after those sweet pinches, I got Chickenpox and my skin has never been the same. All three of us, my two younger sisters and I, got Chickenpox within the same week. Our home became an itch festival. Yes, yes, my Mother constantly told us not to pick or scratch. But I was stubborn and have a few (barely) noticeable scars to prove it.


Wasn’t it enough to go through having Chickenpox that I felt changed my “oh so beautiful complexion?” Of course not. Let’s just throw puberty into the mix and really change that face!

Acne Begins At Puberty
Acne Begins At Puberty


Acne (appropriately called common acne) affects almost all males and females during puberty. Increased hormone activity begins to stimulate the oil glands. Greasy secretions block the hair follicle openings causing blocked pores. Depending on the size of the pore, blackheads and/or whiteheads take form on the face and sometimes neck, upper back, chest and shoulders.

Whiteheads form in the smaller follicles and are usually closed, skin-colored bumps. Blackheads form in the larger follicles and are usually flat spots with centers that become darkened due to a chemical reaction from exposure to air.

Although the cause of acne is said to be complex and somewhat unknown, major factors include overactive oil glands, blocked skin pores, normal skin bacteria activity and inflammation. Common acne affects males and females beginning in their early teens during puberty and usually subsides by the early 20’s.

Nobody's Perfect!

All Grown Up And Still Breaking Out
All Grown Up And Still Breaking Out


Adult acne is more common than you may think and includes facial acne as well as acne on other parts of the body. Women are more likely than men to suffer from adult acne. An estimated 30% of adult women and 20% of adult men have episodes of adult acne in their later 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s. And some people show signs of adult acne throughout their entire lives.

Potential causes include stress, hormones, bacteria, certain medications and make-up. Struggling with adult acne can be difficult and cause social anxiety and depression much like it does in teens.


Acne medications geared toward teens should not be used by adults because the skin of an adult is usually drier than a teen’s oily skin.

Over-The-Counter Lotions and Cleansers

Adults with acne should avoid abrasive products with granules or beads that will irritate already sensitive skin. Use gentle cleansers such as Cetaphil and Aquanil. Use lotions that contain retinol to clean pores. Retinol also helps reduce fine wrinkles. Use products with benzoyl peroxide to help eliminate bacteria. Products that contain salicylic and glycolic acids will help fade scars caused from acne.

Medications by Prescription

There are antibiotics that are used topically or taken orally that will help eliminate skin bacteria such as tetracycline or clindamycin. Oral contraceptives can help women in balancing their hormones.

Laser and Light Treatments

These types of treatments can be costly. To kill acne-causing bacteria, blue light therapy is used. To assist in eliminating acne scars, laser and pulsed light treatments are found to be helpful.

There are a variety of treatment options available for adult acne. A Dermatologist can help prescribe the proper option for you.


  • Consider switching to hair and skin products that are noncomedogenic, especially formulated to not clog pores.
  • Products marked “dermatologist tested” can still cause acne.
  • Avoid heavy make-up or skin products when exercising.
  • Rinse off or at least towel dry if you are sweaty.
  • Eating chocolate does not cause acne.
  • Drinking soda does not cause acne.
  • Reduce breakouts by minimizing the number and variety of products that you use.
  • Avoid resting your chin or cheeks on your hands.
  • Acne is not simply a matter of poor hygiene.
  • Picking or squeezing will lead to deeper inflammation and scarring.
  • Wash straps often on helmets and other safety gear to reduce bacteria.
  • Reduce stress.

As with any condition, talk with a healthcare provider if problems persist. Happy Aging!

This is Sharyn's Slant


How often do you have breakouts of adult acne?

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Comments 42 comments

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Point well made that caring for acne-prone skin is different when you are older. Very helpful facts and tips! Voted up and useful.

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Good Morning Sally,

Thanks for being the first to comment. I'm so glad you found this useful. Happy 4th of July!


pearpandas profile image

pearpandas 5 years ago from Vancouver

I have struggled with it since I was 13, and am now 26. Changing your diet, cutting out grains and all sugar is the only thing that EVER worked. Paleo diet is what it is called and I will eat this way forever. Sucks to have acne, but now my skin is clear and I love it!

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hello pearpandas,

I do believe overall diet has a lot to do with it. But I have had hormonal problems ever since puberty. I blame that on my struggles with adult acne. And I'll admit, I am closer to twice your age. So I do believe that I'm a person with "acne for life" unfortunately.

Thank you for mentioning the Paleo diet. I'm so glad it is working for you as it may help others too. Have a great 4th of July holiday!


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

Thank you Sharyn for a Good, Honesty look at Adult Acne. Yes, I am one of those Adults who will be calling a Dermatologist, as I still get weird breakouts.

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi B,

Happy 4th to you! My "breakouts" can be bothersome. For example, I had a pretty ole' zit on my nose a few weeks ago when I went on a job interview. Ha-maybe they just thought I was younger than I am? :) Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.


Ebower profile image

Ebower 5 years ago from Georgia

My mom has adult acne and I'm 26, so I'm beginning to wonder if I'll have it as well. Thanks for the great tips!

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hello Ebower,

It so nice to meet you. I don't think people realize how common it is. I have read that there may be a hereditary link as well. Yet there are many treatment options that do appear to help. Thank you so much for stopping by!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

Ugh. Acne is the worst. Thank goodness for your helpful tips - and all the industrial strength prescription acne pills/creams out there! Hahaa!

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Simone,

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Yes, there are things to keep it a bay-thank goodness. Have a great day!


Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

Hi Sharyn! How are you? This is such a common problem, for all ages! Thanks for sharing some great information!

Up & Useful!

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marellen 5 years ago

Sharyn..I have break-outs from eating chocolate and sugar. I have heard for years that chocolate doesn't break out your skin but it does mine. I also have rosacea and that doesn't help either...I have noticed in the past month or so, saying away from chocolate and sugar has really helped. Thanks for your informative hub...

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hey Kathy,

I'm doing ok. Things could be better but I'm hanging in there. Thanks for stopping by. As always, I appreciate you. Hope all is well with you!


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Mar,

Although it is said to be a myth that chocolate causes acne, others have said it does too. For me, it's not chocolate - maybe only because I don't eat much chocolate. I truly believe, for me, it's a combination of "bad" high cholesterol foods and hormones. Thank you so much for stopping by to comment. Take care,


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Sharyn...this is very useful...very useful! I still, even to this day and age (of which I am NOT divulging!!)...have an occasional 'outbreak' or breakout or outburst! of those annoying little blemishes..such a nice word...blemish; a euphamism for the real dealio! Anyway...thank you for this informative hub, Dr. Slant!

PS...I have a way for you to feel a little better today...go visit my July 4th greeting to'll recognize someone there...with love!

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Thanks for sharing such a needed hub. These things cause so much bother no matter what age we are.

I am sure that many will benefit from reading this.

Take care


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Kathy,

It is so great to see you stop by. I know you are SO busy lately. Thanks for making me laugh with your great comments. I will check out your 4th of July hub. Take care dear,


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Eiddwen,

For me, it does not matter what age I am. Maybe after menopause the acne will stop? I can only hope. lol

BTW, I love your new profile pic. Thanks so much for stopping by - have a great evening!


tumblintumblweed profile image

tumblintumblweed 5 years ago

Hello again, Sharyn! Very useful hub and great topic.Thanks for sharing that helpful information! Voted up!

Have a great day!


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Sharyn, Dear,

This is very well penned, filled with accurate and helpful information. I love your range and ability to write on such a wonderful variety of subjects for us!

Voted UP & UAB-- hope all is well, mar.

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author


How are you? Thanks for your comment and votes. You know I always appreciate your support. Take care,


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hey Mar,

I've missed seeing you. I haven't been on HP too much for the past couple weeks. Thank you for your "boost my confidence" comment. I appreciate you so much. I hope all is well with you too . . .


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

I said 'never' in all truth, simply because I'm one of those lucky ones who didn't/doesn't have that problem. Had very little problems when young--now, I have so many wrinkles they wouldn't show if I did have 'em. HOWEVER, my grown daughter would really appreciate this. Hates this battle, and I don't blame her! She's gorgeous, and even a tiny breakout gets worse because she knows it's there! Then, of course, she feels even less gorgeous than she feels the rest of the time! Thanks for the hub! I'm keeping it for her! We all need all the confidence we can get!

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Teylina,

Thank you so much for your comments. You are lucky to not have this problem. And yep, wrinkles are my next issue :) I'm glad you will pass this on to your daughter. Thank you so much for your support. I hope you are enjoying your Sunday.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK

I have one annoying pimple that keeps coming back and I was wishing only this morning that someone would write a hub on how to get rid of pimples. It seems wishes sometimes come true! Thanks Sharyn!

Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland

Hello Sharyn! I was pleased to read that I am NOT the only grown woman who deals with acne. It really irritates me because I NEVER had the problem even as a teen. It wasn't until I had babies that I started to have breakouts. And guess what I discovered causes it...DAIRY! I even get eczema on my hands if I eat too much sucks. I didn't get the problem until I had babies because I never worried about getting in my dairy until I had to eat for the health of a little one growing. Thanks for sharing this :) Oh, and for the celeb vid!

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hey Yvonne,

See, ask and you shall receive. So glad I could be of assistance, ha! Thanks for stopping by.


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

No Ardie, you are not alone! And you are a great Mom. I can't use babies as my excuse, darn it :) I really think I will be "acne prone" my entire life. It's hard not to think that at this point. Unless it changes after menopause, geez. Thanks so much for your feedback. I love cheese btw. Maybe I need to look in to that . . .


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 5 years ago from California

What a great article. My grandmother would occasionally break out when she was in her 60s --and I still get the occasional zit--so good to know about all this--thanks!

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Zits are the pits!! Johnny Depp could have tons of zits he still would never be the pits!! ;)

VeronicaFarkas profile image

VeronicaFarkas 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

30%? Really? That's higher than I would've guessed.

I had great skin until I hit my 20s. Since then, I've tried everrrything... glycolic acid peels, products costing hundreds of dollars, proactive, facials, over the counter stuff, prescribed medicine, & even acutane. I could go on & on. lol Regardless, I still get breakouts. I have that pesky sensitive but very oily skin that makes it difficult to treat. =/

Anyway, I really appreciated this hub!

Funny, useful, & interesting!

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Audrey,

That is not good news about your Gram as far as I am concerned. I was hoping acne would at least go away when menopause happens, lol. Thank you so much for your feedback.


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Silly Sunshine! I agree, some people are just gorgeous even with zits. Depp would be one of them . . .

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author


I totally understand. I have what you call "pesky sensitive but very oily skin." And you are right, it is difficult to treat. Thank you for your great feedback. Hopefully when you get to be my age, it won't be a problem.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

I felt so lucky as a teen without acne and in my 20s, when my skin was clear. It was only in my 30s that I began to have an occasional "zit", but it usually responded to an OTC acne preparation.

Is it fair, I ask, to be 68 years old and suddenly have adult acne on my chin? No, I don't think so. Acne and wrinkles shouldn't go together, but it's happened to me. The OTC ointment no longer works. These "zits" are like small round knots underneath the skin. They aren't sore or inflamed, but are unsightly. I always seem to have three or four of them. Next step: an appointment with a dermatologist.

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Jaye,

I really didn't mean to giggle reading what you wrote, but I admit, I did :) Is it fair? Well I certainly do not think so. I also don't think it's fair that mine has never truly gone away - for over 30 years. I know what you mean by "small round knots." Very aggravating.

I just recently noticed two wrinkle lines on my forehead. They look like they've been there forever but I swear they just appeared one day. They are up and down from my hairline to my eyebrows, both sides. I truly was shocked because they are quite pronounced. When I was telling a friend about them, she said go and make a "frown" face in the mirror. I obliged. Damn if those wrinkles are exactly where my face changes when I kind of close my eyes and frown. I told my friend she was kind of right. I said I think the lines are from when I have my "inquisitive" face on, lol. Good thing I like wearing bangs.

Thank you so much Jaye for your fun comments. Good luck at the doc!


missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas

Adult Acne - OUCH! These pesky things pop up on me about once a month. Mine are usually painful. I didn't really have this problem as a teen - I guess I was overdue. Thanks for the tips and the video.

Interesting results on the voting poll. Looks like I'm not the only one :)

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi MO ~ you are lucky not to have had acne as a teen. I hate that I still have an issue at my age, ugh!!! I appreciate your feedback, thank you. And I'm glad you stopped by so that I can see that one of my hubs now has the new format. Not sure if I like it?


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Hey, Shary, I've never had acne or rarely even pimples. I know I'm lucky that way. My boyfriend, who has diabetes, gets pimples all the time. Do you think it has to do with his diabetes? Thanks! Great info in this hub!

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Vicky ~ You are SO lucky not to have had to deal with acne. And yes, as far as your boyfriend, I do think diabetes is a factor for acne. I really appreciate you stopping by. Thanks!

Robbie 2 years ago

I am 68 and have struggled with acne since I was 12 and it isn't fair!!! I've been to many dermatologists. I use doxycycline and it helps but I have a big bump right now. It seems I have been on and off antibiotics most if my life. I guess I now have rebound acne and don't know what else to do. Any thoughts? I've never been to an endocrinologist. I'm thinking if trying that.

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA Author

Hi Robbie ~ I agree, it isn't fair! I definitely think seeing an endocrinologist is a good idea. I say that because many years ago, in my early 20's, I was diagnosed with PCOS. One of the side effects is acne. I think because I am somewhat being treated for PCOS, my acne is under control. An endo doc may be able to get to the root of the problem for you. I wish you the best. Thanks so much for stopping by.


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