What Causes Adult Acne and How to Treat It

Date Published: May 25th, 2023
Blog Category: Uncategorized

Acne is a skin disorder that most often affects teens, although it may also affect adults. Adult acne is a chronic condition that may be distressing and difficult to manage. If you’re struggling with adult acne, then it’s best to consult a board-certified dermatologist who can work with you to create a personalized treatment plan. Here’s what to know about adult acne and how to treat it.

Causes of Adult Acne

There are a variety of causes of adult acne, making it especially important to consult a dermatologist. A few of the most common causes include:


Hormonal shifts are a significant contributor to adult acne. Anxiety, menstruation, childbearing, puberty, and hormonal birth control are some factors that might cause hormonal swings. Increased sebum production due to hormone fluctuations may contribute to pore blockage and acne.


Acne in adults may also be influenced by heredity. If one of your parents or a sibling suffers from acne, chances are high that you will, also.


We already know that stress may aggravate acne in adults. A rise in cortisol levels has been connected to an increase in sebum production, which has been associated to clogged pores and acne.


Although more research is needed, several studies have shown that some diets may cause or exacerbate acne. High-glycemic foods like white bread, spaghetti, and sweets have been linked to inflammatory responses and, by extension, acne.

How to Treat Adult Acne

Adult acne may be frustrating to live with but there are many effective treatment options that your dermatologist can recommend. A few of the most effective and common ones include:

Topical Treatments

While treating adult acne, topical products should be used initially. Both over-the-counter and dermatologist-prescribed medications may be helpful, depending on your circumstances. Benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinoids, and antibiotics are some of the most often used topical therapies. These help reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, and prevent excess oil production.

Oral Medications

Adult acne treatment may, at times, need the use of oral medicines. Antibiotics, hormonal birth control, spironolactone, and isotretinoin are some examples of the kind of drugs that dermatologists often prescribe. Acne may be treated with either antibiotics, which are anti-inflammatory and kill bacteria involved with acne, or hormonal birth control, which balances out your hormones. Spironolactone is an effective hormone blocking agent which reduces hormonal flares. Isotretinoin is a potent medicine used to treat moderate to severe acne – however, there are side effects associated with it and your dermatologist can help you weigh the benefits vs the risks.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to topical treatments and medication, lifestyle changes can help treat adult acne. Here are a few tips:

  • Use a mild cleanser and rinse thoroughly twice a day. Select a cleanser that does not strip oils from the skin.
  • Avoid harsh scrubs or exfoliants, as they irritate the skin and may worsen acne.
  • Use non-comedogenic skincare products that won’t clog pores.
  • Use sunscreen daily to safeguard your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) damage and protect your skin from sun sensitivity that may occur from topical acne medications like tretinoin.
  • Avoid touching your face or picking at pimples, as this can spread bacteria, cause more acne and potentially lead to scarring.

Professional Treatments

Professional skin treatments may be especially beneficial for adults with severe acne. Chemical peels, laser therapy (Theraclear), and HydraFacial are some examples of the kinds of treatments that dermatologists often use to great effect. With a combined treatment approach, you may see significant relief from acne.

Contact Us

Several effective treatments exist for adult acne. Understanding the cause of your acne with the help of a dermatologist is an essential first step. To meet with our team, contact our Bellevue office by calling or scheduling an appointment online.