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Adult Acne

Causes and Prevention of Adult Acne

Surviving the adolescent acne phase doesn’t guarantee clear skin in adulthood. In fact, many adults can be experiencing acne for the first time. If an unpredictable complexion has you frustrated, check out these explanations and recommendations to banish blemishes!

What Causes Acne?

Acne can be caused or worsened by several factors, some which we can control, and others which we might need help managing.


While diet’s role in skin condition is still debated and being studied, what we know for sure is that your diet dictates a lot about your total-body health. And total-body health is definitely reflected in your complexion.

A diet too high in dairy, sugar, gluten, fat, or highly processed foods could be a catalyst for outbreaks on different areas of your body, or even with different types of blemishes.

The diet most commonly associated with acne outbreaks is a high-glycemic index diet. 

adult acne

High-glycemic foods cause a spike in your blood sugar, which causes your body to produce more of the sugar-regulating hormone, insulin. These spikes have been linked to oilier skin and increased acne outbreaks.


Believe it or not, it really is possible to wash your face too much. If you wash your face too frequently, use too harsh a cleanser, or are too abrasive on your skin, you can cause dryness, irritation, redness, inflammation, and an overproduction of sebum (oil) as your body tries to compensate for the irritation. This can lead to more acne outbreaks.

With that said, you definitely need to cleanse your face once or twice daily. Just make sure you’re doing it correctly.

Finding a cleanser that works well with your skin type is important and could require some trial and error or a consultation with a dermatologist. Gentle cleansers with salicylic acid are good options for daily face washing if you have acne.


Stress plays a major role in every facet of your health. It could also be one of the biggest components of your complexion. When you’re stressed, your body produces hormones such as cortisol and an influx of androgens. These can lead to an excess of oil, and consequently, breakouts. 


Your hormone levels are another key factor. Hormones account for many facets of your skin’s health and appearance. And due to the more complex hormone cycles of a woman’s life, women tend to have more issues with adult acne. Things like starting or stopping birth control pills, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and other medications can affect your hormone levels and, in turn, your complexion.

How Can I Prevent Acne?

Lifestyle Changes

Once you discover the cause of your acne, you can improve, prevent, or even eliminate the problem by modifying your lifestyle. Is your diet too high in sugar? Cut back on the sweets. Are you living in a state of constant stress? Find ways to decompress on a regular basis.

Topical Treatments

Cream applications of antibiotics, over-the-counter retinoids (chemical compounds that regulate skin cell growth), salicylic acids, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or alpha hydroxy acids (all used to kill bacteria and unclog pores) are great starting points for home treatment. Just use care when selecting your treatment method, and consult a health care provider if symptoms worsen. 

Oral Medications

foaming cleanser

For more severe cases that aren’t responding well to lifestyle changes or topical treatments, your doctor or dermatologist may recommend oral medications. Antibiotics, birth control pills, and prescription retinoids are typically explored as options. But with all of these, it may take several months to see results, so be prepared to commit to a routine. 

See Your Doctor

It’s always a good idea to see your doctor or dermatologist if you’re experiencing painful, cystic acne or if your skin condition is causing excessive amounts of stress and anxiety in your daily life. The sooner you address your concerns in consultation with a health care professional, the sooner you can start your path to healing!

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