Why Do Adults Still Get Acne?

Why Do Adults Still Get Acne?

You thought acne was a skin condition you’d never have again after suffering from it during adolescence. But it’s still popping up in adulthood. What’s going on? 

Acne is a skin disorder that primarily affects adolescents. In the western world, it afflicts 79-95% of adolescents ages 16-18, but it also affects at least 5% of adults over age 25. And one study reports that it persists into middle age in 12% of women and 3% of men, while other research reports that up to 25% of women ages 40-49 are troubled by acne. 

Our board-certified dermatologists at Seacoast Dermatology are the experts you need to see for acne breakouts. 

Your acne may be mild with a few red pimples dotting your face or shoulders, moderate with inflamed pimples, or severe with larger raised cysts or nodules. Our advanced treatments control the inflammation, then we provide guidance on what you can do daily to keep acne at bay. 

What causes adult acne? 

There are several reasons why you may still get acne as an adult. Here are a few of them.

Excess oil production 

As during your teenage years, your body produces sebum, an oily substance that coats your skin and provides hydration as well as protection from bacteria. If your body produces too much sebum, the glut of this oily substance mixes with bacteria and dead skin cells to block your pores. 

A partially blocked pore may result in a blackhead, while a pore that’s completely blocked becomes a white pimple with reddened, inflamed skin around it, or a whitehead. Papules,  raised, red bumps on your skin, or pustules, red bumps containing pus, can develop. 

Excess bacteria on your skin 

When you produce too much sebum, it clogs your pores. A special type of bacteria thrives in that environment. The bacteria produces waste that causes red bumps, inflammation, and sometimes pus. 

Regularly cleansing your face as part of a good hygiene routine doesn’t get rid of this specific type of bacteria. You need a dermatologist’s help to get control of the oil and bacteria to reduce the inflammation.  

Skin cell proliferation

You’re constantly shedding dead skin cells and developing new ones. If you have acne, your body produces too many dead skin cells. The cells don’t shed because they’re blocked by excess oil and bacteria in your pores. 

Hormonal changes 

The male androgen hormone testosterone is a culprit in acne breakouts. Testosterone is present in both men and women. Androgen hormones can trigger your sebaceous glands to produce an overabundance of sebum. Mixed with bacteria, it can trigger acne. 

Adult women may notice acne breakouts during hormonal fluctuations. The hormones may increase oil or bacteria that thrive in closed pores to produce inflammation and breakouts: 

Some birth control pills help calm acne. If you’re on birth control pills and have acne, talk to your dermatologist. 


Check your medicine cabinet. Some prescriptions such as corticosteroids and anabolic steroids, among others, can produce an acne breakout. 


Makeup can clog pores. Look for makeup that is labeled noncomedogenic or  nonacnegenic. Use an oil-free foundation and sunscreen.


If others in your family have had acne, you’re more prone to it too. 

If you suffer from adult acne, call us today or book an appointment online. We have offices in Portsmouth, Exeter, and Dover, New Hampshire. We’re here to help you get acne under control so you can live your life to the fullest.

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