Adult Acne

Adult Acne

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While many think acne is for teenagers, adults also experience lesions, both as the occasional pimple or as chronic outbreaks. Mild adult acne may consist of blackheads, whiteheads, or pustules, while more severe acne comes with extreme redness, swelling, irritation, and deep cysts or nodules. Adults are more likely to have developed a daily skin care routine, but this isn’t always enough to prevent acne.

It doesn’t feel good to deal with acne as an adult, but there are several treatment options and strategies. Whether you’re unsure of your acne’s cause or can’t get your skin to stop breaking out, visiting our Chesterfield dermatology clinic is an excellent option. A dermatologist can help you effectively treat or manage adult acne, no matter its cause.

What Causes Adult Acne?

Most adult acne is caused by inflammation and clogged pores, but can be difficult to pinpoint the exact source, regardless of age. That said, a few causes may affect adults more acutely.

  • Acne Vulgaris: Stress and changes in hormone levels are the leading cause of adult acne. Experiences like menopause, pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, and both physical and emotional stress can cause oil glands to overproduce, creating excess oil on the face. This substance, along with dirt, can clog hair follicles and create acne vulgaris. Drugs like lithium, corticosteroids, and antiseizure drugs can also affect oil gland production, creating acne.


  • Acne Mechanica: Some adults also experience acne mechanica, or acne that appears where friction occurs on skin. For adults, this could mean anything from tight clothing and exercise equipment to razors used against dry skin.


  • Acne Rosacea: Acne rosacea is most commonly seen in adults older than 30 years. It develops on the face and manifests as swollen, red bumps. There is no cure for this skin condition, but a dermatologist is essential for effectively managing symptoms.


  • Pyoderma Faciale: These painful nodules and pustules typically affect women between the ages of 20 and 40. The condition appears abruptly and is often confined to the face, but it generally disappears within a year with the help of a dermatologist.


  • Acne Conglobata: This severe form of acne appears as interconnected lesions on the chest, upper arms, face, thighs, and buttocks. While rare, the condition typically affects young adults and requires medical attention.

Regardless of what you believe to be your acne’s cause, a dermatologist can help you figure out why it’s happening.

Adult Acne Treatment

Most adult acne responds well to at-home treatment with over-the-counter products. Most widely available creams, cleansers, and gels will include salicylic acid and/or benzoyl peroxide at relatively low concentration levels. These ingredients work together to kill bacteria and chemically exfoliate the outermost layer of skin. Similarly, retinoid creams are a great addition to an adult skincare routine, as they can both clear skin and decrease the appearance of wrinkles.

When faced with acne, some adults may resort to bad habits acquired as teenagers. This includes popping, expressing, or extracting whiteheads and blackheads. While doing this may temporarily decrease the lesion’s appearance, it can push the inflammation deeper into the skin, causing a more severe form of acne that may lead to scarring. If your acne does not respond to a spot treatment, enlist the help of a dermatologist to drain or extract the lesion.

Similarly, if acne does not respond to over-the-counter medication, or if the condition is severe, a dermatologist should be consulted. A doctor can prescribe stronger and different treatments, like antibiotics or oral hormonal pills, but they might also identify your blemishes as something other than acne. For example, rosacea, a separate skin condition, is often mistaken for adult acne, but it requires a separate treatment course. You won’t know until you see the doctor, and if you live in the St. Louis area, our Chesterfield office is a great place to start.

When to See a Doctor for Adult Acne

Seeing a doctor for adult acne is the easiest way to clear your skin. A dermatologist can assess your skin type and blemishes to determine the cause and a treatment that works for you. Whether you have acne at 40 or acne at 70 years old, don’t let blemishes ruin the confidence you’ve worked so hard to achieve in adulthood. Getting a consultation is the best way to develop a safe and effective treatment plan that works for your adult acne.

Contact us to schedule an appointment.

*Results may vary per patient.