Adult Acne: Types, Causes, and Treatment

Adult Acne: Types, Causes, and Treatment
Published : Jun 13, 2024

Acne is often considered a teenage disorder but might affect several people in adulthood. Several people experience adult acne in their twenties, thirties, and even in their forties. 

Adult acne can be caused by changing hormone levels, genetic predisposition, irritation from skin or hair products, and certain bacteria. Adult acne can affect your self-confidence & self-esteem, and severe acne can even lead to depression. 

If we talk about signs of acne in adults, they are similar to those of teenage acne, including redness and inflammation, excess oil, increased cell turnover, and bacteria.

Types of adult acne 

There are three main types of adult acne include:

Mild adult acne 

Whiteheads and blackheads characterize mild adult acne and are mainly found among people with congested skin. It is easy to treat this type of acne with a proper skincare routine that includes non-comedogenic products. 

Moderate adult acne 

Whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and pustules characterize moderate acne. Compared to mild adult acne, the bacteria causing this type of acne are more aggressive. 

Severe adult acne 

Hormonal imbalances cause severe adult acne and require specialist treatment. People suffering from adult acne experience painful cysts and nodules that occur in different areas of the body.

Causes of adult acne 

Acne occurs when your pores get blocked with oil, dirt, and dead skin cells. However, when you suffer from adult acne, it can be due to factors which did not come into play during the teenage time:


Hormonal fluctuations that happen later in life are responsible for most adult acne cases. When your skin starts producing more oil due to hormone fluctuations, excess oil blocks the pores and interacts with bacteria present on your skin, causing adult acne. 

Women are more prone to adult acne throughout their lives, mainly during the days that surround menstruation, during pregnancy or menopause, and when starting or stopping contraceptives. 

While men with high testosterone levels naturally can be affected with adult acne. 


Some people might experience an acne flare-up while experiencing stress because their bodies start to produce more androgen hormones in response. These hormones further stimulate the oil glands present in the skin and lead to adult acne. 

Medicines and supplements 

Adult acne is also a side effect of certain medicines like mental health medications such as lithium or corticosteroids. Apart from this, testosterone medicines, some seizure drugs, and birth control pills are also responsible for adult acne. Supplements like whey protein and vitamin B can contribute to adult acne. 


You might have never considered the effect that the environment can have on your skin, mainly the dirt and UV radiation present outside. Air pollution often puts a layer of dirt on your face. Excess dirt and grime on your face increases the chance of blocked pores, which causes adult acne. 


Sometimes, acne is a lifelong problem for people with certain skin types, especially if you have oily skin naturally or slower skin-cell turnover where dead skin cells get retained and block pores. However, these problems increase with age and hormonal changes. A family history of adult acne can also increase your chance of getting it. 

Treatment of adult acne 

The best treatment for adult acne depends on the severity and frequency of the symptoms. In some cases, lifestyle changes, such as trying other skincare products or improving cleansing habits, can help. 

Some common treatments for adult acne include home remedies, over-the-counter products, and prescription medicines. Once you notice adult acne symptoms, you should consult a dermatologist. 

Here are some treatment options for adult acne:

  • Home remedies
  • Home remedies for adult acne usually include topical treatments and oral supplements, including:
  • Tea tree oil
  • Aloe vera
  • Zinc
  • Green tea extract
  • Vitamin A 
  • Probiotics
  • Medical treatment 
  • OTC and prescription medicines that treat adult acne include:
  • Antibiotics
  • Retinol
  • Salicylic acid
  • Blue light therapy
  • Oral isotretinoin
  • Spironolactone


Therefore, there are several ways to deal with adult acne. It can happen at any age and affects both men and women. Using the right combination of anti-acne treatments and natural products and maintaining a good skincare routine can help clear acne and attain flawless skin.