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ADULT ACNE: When Zits Follow Us As We Age

Updated on December 3, 2012
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


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