Usually people suffer from acne in their teenage years. At that age, they hope that as they grow up to adulthood, the acne will also go away. Unfortunately, they receive a jolt when acne doesn’t leave them even after they have reached their 30s. In fact, the skin gets worse in their twenties and thirties. There have been instances when people have suffered from acne even in their 40s. Even people who have had clear skin as a teenager sometimes begin getting acne for the first time as adults.At an estimate, acne affects 25 percent of all adult men and 50 percent of adult women at sometime in their adult lives. People can develop acne, or have a recurrence of acne, in their 30s, 40s and sometimes beyond that. Acne is difficult to cope with in any age and can affect an adult in the same way as a teenager by bringing down the person’s self confidence, causing anxiety and depression. Fortunately, Acne is completely treatable. Taken care of the right way, a person can become acne free for the rest of their lives.

Adult acne is thought to have hormonal roots. It is better to get a thorough check up of hormones in your body if acne troubles you in your adult life.


It is still not certain what triggers the adult acne. In women, the development of hormonal irregularity in the menstrual cycle may be one factor resulting in acne flare-up. Women benefiting most from hormonal treatment are usually in their 20s and 30s and have a history of showing intolerance to standard acne treatments, both topical and systemic.

Many of these women have been found to have menstrual irregularities, acne flare-up and facial oiliness. These women show positive improvement in acne treatment with hormones. However, in severe cases of cystic and nodular acne, hormone treatment is not used.

It should be noted that adult acne is more common then people may think. In fact, studies have shown that adult acne has been rising and in the past decade it has come to be acknowledged as a common skin disorder and not just a teen skin problem.

For the majority of people suffering from adult acne, the root cause seems to be hormones, just as is the case with acne related with the onset or puberty. This is the time when body starts producing male hormones called androgens. These hormones cause the sebaceous glands in the second layer of the skin, the dermis, to enlarge and increase the sebum production. This leads to acne formation by clogging the hair follicle and inducing a bacterial attack on skin tissue.

Sometimes these sebaceous glands continue producing a higher amount of sebum well into adulthood and thus acne infection continues even at that age. Androgens have also been associated with acne flare-up in women before menstrual cycles, or sometimes during pregnancy.

One of the examples of adult acne is acne rosacea. Although it is not exactly acne, its red-faced, acne like appearance can cause many physical, psychological and social problems if left untreated. In a recent survey by the National Rosacea Sociaty, nearly 70% of rosacea patients said that this skin disorder lowered their self esteem, and 41% of patients said that they avoided social contact or functions because of their skin disease.

The cause of rosacea in unknown and there is no cure, but with available medical help this skin disorder can be controlled and minimized. Its typical symptoms are redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead, small visible blood vessels on the face, bumps or pimples on the face, and watery or irritated eyes.

Adult acne (juvenile acne continuing into adult years) and the adult onset acne (acne beginning in the adult years) may involve dry skin, sensitive skin. Adult onset acne is usually triggered by a combination of factors like stress, dietary habits and hormonal changes.

Emotional Impact

It’s never fun, and there’s never a good time to get it. Whether you’re a teen experiencing the first signs of a breakout or an adult who has suffered for years, it’s difficult to underestimate the emotional impact this condition has on your confidence, your social life and your outlook.

Acne – from mild to severe – affects nearly 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24. The emotional impact of acne is both long-lasting and far-reaching. Many adults report their teenage acne devastated their lives, shortchanging future choices and forcing them to hide in the shadows. Not only can acne cause physical scars if left untreated, but also it can leave lifelong emotional scars, including:

  • Reduced self-confidence
  • Social dysfunction
  • Embarrassment
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Anger and frustration
  • Poor body image

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms are spots that range from tiny, painless whiteheads to large, angry red cysts filled with sebum and pus. Scarring may leave discoloured pitting of the skin.

Acne appears most frequently on the face, but can also appear on the neck, behind the ears, on the chest and in the groin. Usually it’s a mild condition, but for 15 per cent of people it’s severe.

Who’s affected?

Acne affects young adults the most, but can also be a problem for older people. It usually starts in puberty, between ages 12 and 14, when increased levels of the male-type sex hormones androgens (girls have these as well as boys) stimulate the sebaceous glands to increase production of sebum.

Women are generally affected at a younger age, the peak severity being between ages 17 and 18, while men peak between 19 and 20 years old. Men tend to be worst affected, because they produce more testosterone.

More than 90 per cent of teenagers have acne.


The goal with treatment is to prevent skin scarring and psychological distress, and to shorten the time someone has to put up with acne. The treatments used depend on the severity of the acne.

Healthy skin needs a good intake of vitamins A, C and E, zinc and at least eight glasses of water a day (all of us should do this whether or not we have spots).

If someone only has a few spots occasionally, a medicated lotion or face wash that removes excess grease and cleanses the skin is all that’s needed. Gels, creams and lotions containing benzoyl peroxide are also helpful because the antibacterial and skin peeling actions help to reduce inflammation and unblock skin pores.

Many complementary treatments that claim to treat acne work for some people but not others. Some of the more reliable ones are a facial gel mask of colloidal silicic acid (which should be used twice a day to remove excess grease and dead skin cells) and tea-tree oil gel, which has antiseptic and antibacterial effects.

Avoid squeezing spots, which can push infection and inflammatory chemicals deeper into the skin, making cysts and permanent scars more likely.

Where spots are numerous and resistant to simple measures, a course of antibiotics to reduce the number of bacteria and the inflammation is used. It sometimes takes up to eight weeks for any noticeable improvement and the treatment is usually needed for at least six months.

Lingering problem, lasting effects

Whether one’s acne persists through adolescence into adulthood or strikes suddenly after 30, the condition can have lasting physical and psychological ramifications. Dermatologists have known for many years that adult acne is more likely to leave permanent physical acne scars; as the skin ages and loses collagen, it’s much harder for it to bounce back after tissue damage. Psychological scarring is much harder to trace. For many years, the prevailing perception was that older acne patients were less affected by their condition than younger patients, having accepted its symptoms as part of life.

Sources: Acne, Acne resource

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