What is adult acne?

When acne is mentioned, we tend to think of adolescents and a skin problem that usually clears up as you grow up.

That’s not strictly true though: you can suffer from acne at the age of 25, 30 and even over 40 and when it occurs in adulthood, it is referred to as adult acne. It has a variety of different causes and is more common among women, especially during pregnancy.

What is adult acne and why do we get it?

The word “adult” indicates that acne can occur at any age, even up to 50. Adult acne can either be “recurrent” or “adult-onset” acne:

  • In the first case, it affects people who have already suffered from acne as adolescents.
  • In the second case, the person develops acne for the first time after the age of 25.

While both men and women are prone to this condition, more women are actually affected by it than men.

The causes of adult acne

The main causes of adult acne are:

  • Certain physical conditions or genetics.
  • Side effect of taking medicines or using unsuitable cosmetic products.

Certain physical conditions or genetics

Acne is often caused by a hormonal imbalance, when there is a change in the hormone levels in our body. Imbalances can also occur in adulthood and women are particularly prone to them, especially in pregnancy, menopause or after they start or discontinue taking birth control pills.

Genetics can also influence the onset of adult acne. Scientific research[1] has shown that some people may have a genetic predisposition for this condition: your chances of developing acne are higher if a close relative, like a parent for instance, has suffered from it.

Side effect of taking medicines or using unsuitable cosmetic products.

Adult acne can be triggered by taking medicines or using cosmetics.

In fact, it may be a side effect of certain medications. If this is the case, your doctor may be able to suggest an alternative therapy.

Using cosmetic products that are unsuitable for acne-prone skin can lead to a breakout, at any age. This is why it is always important to choose products which are non-acnegenic, non-comedogenic and oil-free.

Acne in pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes major changes, including hormonal changes. As we saw before, hormonal imbalances can trigger acne, even if you're into your thirties.

Acne in pregnancy is a common problem and should be dealt with carefully, taking all the precautions that this time in a woman’s life calls for.

Pregnant women should steer clear of treatments containing doxycycline, minocycline or tetracycline. Studies, on the other hand, have not shown any side effects of skincare products containing azelaic acid.

The golden rule is always follow the advice of your dermatologist or pharmacist to ensure the best solution for your problem.


[1] Adult acne (aad.org)