adult acne blog march 2023

Adult Acne | Adult Acne Treatments

Blog, Skin Treatments

Acne is a notoriously problematic issue for teenagers, but it doesn’t always stop when those teenage years end. For some people, acne persists long after the leavers’ day and remains well into their 20s.

At this point, it is classified as adult acne, also known as post-adolescent acne.

Adult acne occurs after age 25. The causes and issues are similar to adolescent acne, and there are a number of treatments that can help.

In this guide, we’ll address questions such as:

What kind of adult acne treatment is available?

  • What are the causes of adult acne?
  • What are the best acne treatments?
  • What does adult hormonal acne look like?

Causes of adult acne

As with adolescent acne, adult acne occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and sebum. 

Sebum is an oil produced by sebaceous glands, which are located near the surface of the skin and are attached to hair follicles. The oil helps to lubricate the skin and hair and ensure they don’t dry out.

If the follicle is near the skin’s surface, it will bulge outward and create a whitehead. If not, it can turn into a blackhead. These plugged follicles can then become infected, creating cysts, pustules, nodules, and papules.

Increased testosterone levels are one of the main causes of adolescent acne. Testosterone levels spike during puberty, and the hormone plays an important role in growth and development, but as sebaceous glands are sensitive to hormonal changes, it can also cause acne.

Hormonal changes—specifically those related to oestrogen and progesterone—can also cause adult acne. These changes may occur as a result of pregnancy or menopause. Progesterone pills (known as “mini-pills”) are known to worsen acne, and some women experience hormonal acne flare-ups before their cycles.

Other potential causes of adult acne include:


In addition to the “mini-pill” adult acne can be triggered or exacerbated by medications like lithium and corticosteroids. Anabolic steroids are also known to cause acne.


Although stress isn’t a direct cause of acne, it can make the condition worse. Stress is a psychological reaction that triggers a physiological response. Your body produces hormones like cortisol and androgens, and as noted above, these can worsen acne.


Some studies suggest that a high-carb diet may cause acne, although the jury is still out on why this is the case and whether dietary restrictions can help.

It’s worth noting that eating chocolate and greasy food will not cause acne, contrary to popular belief.


Some cosmetic products worsen acne, but the idea that makeup can trigger the condition or make it considerably worse is largely a myth. Most cosmetics are extensively tested to ensure they don’t cause breakouts. 

If you feel like your cosmetics might be causing acne, just switch to oil-free alternatives that won’t clog your pores.


Not everyone will get acne. Some people are more exposed than others, and genetics play a big role in that. If either of your parents struggled with the condition (especially as an adult), you’re more likely to get it as well.

An underlying medical condition

Some medical conditions can worsen and even trigger acne. Such is the case with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can increase levels of androgens and thus stimulate oil production.

Adult acne treatment

The shelves of your local pharmacy are littered with acne treatments that promise to prevent breakouts and clear up spots. But they don’t always work, and when they do, the acne may return with a vengeance mere days later.

There are effective treatment options available, but they can’t be purchased over the counter and used at home. You need a doctor who specialises in acne treatments and can help to remove the whiteheads/blackheads and deal with excessive oil production. 

It’s not just current or future breakouts that you have to consider, either. You also need to consider the issues resulting from chronic acne, including scarring and hyperpigmentation.

At Pulse Light Clinic, we provide a range of adult acne treatments.

LaseMD, for instance, reduces oil production while also targeting swelling and treating bacterial infections. LaseMD works by creating microchannels and mini reservoirs underneath the skin. Each treatment concludes with the application of an RS Serum Ampoule, which contains a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol.

PicoSure Pro laser sessions may be recommended to remove post-inflammatory pigmentation and create more of an even and balanced skin tone. 

IPL sessions help with scarring, bacteria, redness, and collagen production.

Acne treatments

What is the best treatment for adult acne?

It all depends on the severity of your problem and whether there are any acne scars or other issues that need to be addressed.

At Pulse Light Clinic, you can book a free consultation with one of our specialists, during which time they will conduct a physical exam, ask some lifestyle and health questions, and then determine the best course of action.

So, if you’re ready to banish those blemishes and finally say goodbye to adult acne, contact us today and book your free consultation.

If you still have a few questions about adult acne treatment, check out the following FAQs. Alternatively, contact us today to book an appointment and discover how we can help.


What triggers acne in adults?

A number of things can trigger acne, and most of them relate to hormonal changes. In men, corticosteroids and anabolic steroids are the leading causes. In women, those changes can occur as a result of menopause, pregnancy, and medications that impact estrogen and progesterone. Stress is another trigger, though this is also the result of hormonal changes.

What does hormonal acne look like in adults?

Hormonal acne is common in women between the ages of 20 and 50 and is caused by hormonal changes relating to medications (birth control), menopause, and menstruation, as noted above.

Is acne more common in men or women?

Boys are more likely to have acne than girls, but once those teenage years are over, the roles are reversed. Adult acne is considerably more common in women than men. A previous study by The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology estimated that the condition was over 4 times more common in women.

At what age does acne stop?

You can develop acne well into your 20s, 30s, 40s, and even your 50s. Unfortunately, simply turning 18 or 21 doesn’t mean you can wave goodbye to those frustrating breakouts forever.

Does drinking water help with acne?

Water isn’t a magic bullet, and drinking a few glasses won’t cure your acne. However, keeping your skin hydrated is very important and may reduce breakouts.

At what age is acne the worst?

Acne tends to be the worst during adolescence, with the most problematic ages being between 14 and 19. However, it can strike at any age, and just because you didn’t have bad acne as a teenager doesn’t mean you won’t have it as an adult.

Can poor personal hygiene cause adult acne?

Infrequent washing won’t cause acne, and as long as you follow a basic personal hygiene routine, it shouldn’t make it worse, either. In fact, the opposite can be true, as intense scrubbing and cleansing irritate the skin.