10 Surprising Causes of Adult Acne (and How to Get Rid of It)

10 Surprising Causes of Adult Acne (and How to Get Rid of It)

In This Article


    Acne is often associated with tumultuous teenage years, but it can persist well into adulthood, causing frustration and distress. Dealing with adult acne can be challenging, as its causes can differ from those of adolescent acne. In this blog, we will explore ten surprising causes of adult acne and provide effective strategies to combat it.

    What is adult acne?

    Adult acne refers to acne breakouts that occur in individuals who are past their teenage years and into adulthood. While acne is commonly associated with adolescence, it can persist or develop in adults, affecting both men and women. Adult acne often presents itself as pimples on the forehead, blackheads, whiteheads, or cysts on the face, neck, chest, back, or other areas of the body.

    Adult acne can be categorised into two main types: persistent acne and late-onset acne. Persistent acne refers to individuals who continue to experience acne breakouts from their teenage years into adulthood. Late-onset acne, on the other hand, occurs in individuals who didn't have significant acne during their teenage years but develop it in their 20s, 30s, or even later.

    Treating adult acne requires a personalised approach. It often involves a combination of skincare practices, lifestyle modifications, and, in some cases, medical intervention. A dermatologist can assess the severity and underlying causes of adult acne and recommend appropriate treatments, which may include topical or oral medications, hormonal therapies, chemical peels, or other procedures.

    It's important to note that adult acne can have a significant impact on an individual's self-esteem and emotional well-being. Seeking support from healthcare professionals, maintaining a consistent skincare routine, and practising self-care can help individuals manage adult acne effectively and improve their overall quality of life.

    10 Surprising Causes of Adult Acne and How to Get Rid of It

    10 Surprising Causes of Adult Acne (and How to Get Rid of It)

    1. Hormonal Fluctuations:
    Hormonal imbalances play a significant role in adult acne. Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as those experienced during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause, can trigger sudden acne breakouts on the face or sudden pimples on the face. To combat hormonal acne, it's crucial to maintain a balanced diet, get regular exercise, manage stress levels, and consult a healthcare professional for potential hormonal treatments.

    2. Stress:
    Did you know that higher stress levels can cause more havoc to your skin? When stressed, the body releases cortisol, a hormone that stimulates oil production and clogs pores, leading to acne flare-ups and breakouts. Practice stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, deep breathing, or engaging in hobbies to reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being. Exercise improves blood circulation, reduces stress, and promotes overall skin health. Engage in activities that get your heart rate up and increase blood flow to the skin. Just make sure to cleanse your skin afterwards to remove any sweat or impurities.

    3. Diet:
    Although the relationship between diet and acne is still being studied, certain foods have been associated with acne breakouts. High glycemic index foods, dairy products, and diets rich in unhealthy fats have been linked to increased acne severity and the reason for pimples to appear on the face. Although the relationship between diet and acne is still under study, a balanced diet can contribute to healthy skin and can help improve the condition of your skin. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins in your meals. Limit your intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and high glycemic index foods, as they may worsen acne for some individuals.

    4. Skincare Products:
    Using the wrong skincare products or overdoing them with too many products can aggravate adult acne. Harsh cleansers, abrasive scrubs, and oil-based moisturisers can clog pores and trigger breakouts. It is advisable to choose non-comedogenic, oil-free, and gentle products specifically designed for acne-prone skin.

    5. Medications:
    Certain medications can cause or exacerbate acne as a side effect. These may include corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, lithium, and some contraceptive pills. If you suspect your acne is medication-induced, consult your healthcare provider to explore alternative options or discuss potential remedies.

    6. Environmental Factors:
    Pollution, humidity, and exposure to certain chemicals and irritants can contribute to adult acne and blemishes on the face. Airborne pollutants can settle on the skin, clogging pores and causing inflammation. Minimising exposure to environmental pollutants, cleansing the skin thoroughly, and using protective measures such as wearing hats and sunscreen can help combat acne caused by environmental factors. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher protects your skin from harmful UV rays. Sunscreen prevents sun damage and reduces the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by acne.

    7. Smoking:
    Apart from its well-known detrimental effects on health, smoking can also contribute to acne breakouts. Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin, impairs wound healing, and increases sebum production, leading to clogged pores and acne. Quitting smoking significantly improves the health of your skin and its appearance.

    8. Poor Sleep Habits:
    Inadequate sleep can disrupt hormone balance and compromise the body's ability to repair and regenerate the skin. Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, making the skin more susceptible to inflammation and acne. Prioritising regular sleep patterns and creating a sleep-friendly environment can help promote healthy skin.

    9. Over-cleansing and Over-scrubbing:
    While it is essential to keep the skin clean, over-cleansing and over-scrubbing can strip away the skin's natural oils and disrupt the skin barrier, leading to increased sebum production and acne, particularly acne on the forehead and face. Gently cleansing the face twice a day, in the morning and before bed, to remove excess oil, dirt, and impurities. Using a soft cloth or brush can help maintain a healthy balance. Use a gentle cleanser specifically designed for acne-prone skin.

    10. Genetic Predisposition:
    Genetics can also play a role in adult acne. If your parents or close relatives have struggled with acne, you may be more prone to experiencing it as well. Although you cannot change your genetic makeup, following a healthy skincare routine and adopting lifestyle modifications can still help manage acne effectively.

    General tips to help manage your acne

    Moisturise with care: Choose non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturisers that won't clog pores. Even if you have oily skin, moisturising is still important to maintain a healthy skin barrier. Look for lightweight, water-based moisturisers that provide hydration without adding extra oil.

    Avoid touching your face: Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible to prevent transferring dirt, bacteria, and oils. Touching your face can exacerbate acne and introduce new bacteria to the skin.

    Use topical treatments: Over-the-counter topical treatments containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids can help control acne. These ingredients unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and actively promote skin cell turnover. Follow the instructions on the product and be consistent with your application.

    Don't pop or squeeze pimples: It may be tempting, but popping or squeezing pimples can lead to inflammation, scarring, and the spread of bacteria. Instead, allow them to heal naturally or seek professional help if needed.

    Seek professional help if needed: If your acne persists or worsens despite following a consistent skincare routine, it may be beneficial to consult a dermatologist. They can assess your skin condition, identify any underlying causes, and recommend personalised treatments such as prescription medications, oral contraceptives, or procedures like chemical peels or laser therapy.

    Give SkinQ’s Acne & Oil Control Serum a try, it’s a gentle formula made by an expert dermatologist that is enriched with Niacinamide to reduce pimple breakouts. It reduces acne, controls oil secretion and reduces marks & blemishes. It’s a very effective serum on oily skin to reduce pimples and white bumps on the face.

    While you’re at it also check out their Acne Control Mask too. Clinically testing shows that there is a 50% visible reduction of acne size and inflammation and a 57% reduction in sebum content for an oil-free glow. It significantly increases skin brightness in 15 minutes, ideal for bringing inflammatory acne, black pimples on the face, and blackheads & whiteheads under control and it is incredibly gentle on the skin with naturally derived ingredients


    Adult acne can be a frustrating and persistent condition, but understanding its surprising causes is the first step towards finding effective solutions. By addressing hormonal imbalances, managing stress levels, adopting a balanced diet, using appropriate skincare products, and making necessary lifestyle modifications, you can significantly improve the condition of your skin. Remember, consistency and patience are key when it comes to treating adult acne, and if the condition persists or worsens, it is always recommended to seek professional guidance for personalised treatment options.

    Back to blog

    Featured Products