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How To Get Rid of Adult Acne, Plus Doctors Pinpoint Why Women Over 40 Deal with Breakouts

Learn why it's different than the acne of your youth

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Acne: It’s not just for teenagers. Battling breakouts as an adult can be extremely frustrating, not to mention that you may now also be dealing with the double whammy of both pimples and wrinkles. Generally speaking, adult acne is considered to be acne in anyone over the age of 25 — but that can continue long into future decades. According to Yale University, over 25% of women in their 40s report that they have acne. And while in some ways it is very much similar to adolescent breakouts (more on those specifics to come), treating the adult version does call for a slightly different approach. That’s why we tapped top dermatologists to explain more how to get rid of adult acne. Read on for all you need to know about banishing breakouts in adulthood.

What causes adult acne?

1. Hormonal changes can result in adult acne

While hormones are a factor in both adolescent and adult acne, they’re even more of a prevalent player later in life. The hormonal fluctuations that occur during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause are all a major cause behind adult acne, explains Mona Foad, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at MONA Dermatology in Cincinnati, Ohio. More specifically, these can cause an increase in androgens (sex hormones such as testosterone) which in turn leads to increased oil production and subsequently clogged pores and acne, she explains.

Related: MDs Share the Best Menopause Skin Care Routine + Products for Women Over 50

2. Genetics, stress, diet and more can cause adult acne

Adding to the above, “acne is multifactorial, meaning there’s not just one reason or cause, but rather several at play,” explains Jeremy Brauer, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Spectrum Skin and Laser in New York. Everything from genetics to diet to stress to using your skincare products incorrectly can all exacerbate any kind of acne, he says.

For more on what causes adult acne, watch the below video from YouTuber and medical esthetician Cassandra Bankson.

How adult acne differs from teenage acne

It’s worth mentioning that adult acne may look a little bit different than the blemishes of your youth. “Teenage acne typically includes a variety of lesions such as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts and nodules,” says Dr. Foad. Adult acne usually has a greater number of inflammatory lesions — think red, swollen, painful pimples and bumps — and fewer blackheads and whiteheads, she says.

And it’s not just what it looks like but where it pops up, too. Adult acne often appears on the jawline and neck; it’s a visual indicator that there’s a hormonal component involved, says Dr. Foad. Why? The exact reason is unknown, but it’s thought that increased oil production (caused by androgens) in those particular areas is to blame, she notes.

Related: How to Get Rid of Textured Skin: What Women Over 50 Need to Know for Smoother, Youthful Skin

How to get rid of adult acne

mature woman looking at acne
Prostock-Studio/Getty

A lot of the same general skin-clearing tips and tricks apply to any type of acne, although again, there is some nuance.

1. Choose these types of acne products

For starters, it’s very important to choose non-comedogenic and oil-free products in order to minimize the likelihood of clogged pores, notes Michele Farber, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia.

2. Exfoliate skin regularly to help fight adult acne

Dr. Farber adds that the regular exfoliation with ingredients such as glycolic and salicylic acid is also a good idea to help keep pores clear. Typically, if acne is mild, using these types of over-the-counter products will do the trick, notes Dr. Brauer.

3. Prescription treatments or medications can help with adult acne

In more severe cases, it’s worth seeing your dermatologist. He or she can prescribe either topical medications (for example, antibiotics such as clindamycin) or even oral ones; Dr. Farber adds that spironolactone, an oral medication that’s particularly effective for addressing the hormonal factors behind adult acne, is one such option.

4. In-office treatments may reduce adult acne

There are also in-office laser and light-based treatments available. For example, AviClear is a laser for mild to severe acne that targets oil glands, says Dr. Brauer. This is beneficial because excess oil can lead to breakouts and laser treatments also promote cell turnover so dead, dry skin cells won’t clog pores and form new blemishes.


See more skincare secrets for mature skin:

The Best Affordable Skincare Brands for the Summer So Your Skin Glows All Season Long

13 of Trader Joe’s Best Skincare, Hair and Body Products for Women Over 50

Oilplaning Steps and How to Do This Viral Trend That Makes Skin Look Smoother and Youthful Instantly

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