Why you have adult acne and what to do about it ? – Dr Anastasia Therianou

Why you have adult acne and what to do about it ?

12 Aug 2020

Adult acne is common

Acne is the eighth most common skin disease worldwide* and one study found that 85% of females and 15% of males have adult pimples*. You may have had spots since your teenage years, or it may be a new skin problem even if you’re in your 30s, 40s or 50s. This is known as adult-onset-acne. The good news is that if you are an adult pimple sufferer you don’t have to just live with it. First, you need to identify the cause of your adult spots, before seeking appropriate treatment.


Types of adult acne

Mild adult acne usually consists of small pustules, whiteheads, and blackheads. It may also include papules – raised areas of skin or lesions – covering up to three-fourths of the face or body. Symptoms of severe adult spots include swelling, extreme redness, irritation, and deep cysts. Acne is not to be confused with rosacea, which is a different skin condition.

What causes acne?

There are many potential causes of adult pimples. Read on for the factors that trigger this condition:


Fluctuating or excessive male or female hormones can lead to adult spots. Hormonal fluctuations are often experienced by women around pregnancy, breastfeeding, perimenopause, and menopause as well as around their periods. Hormone levels can also fluctuate after starting or discontinuing taking birth control pills.


If a close blood relative has suffered from adult spots, you may be more genetically predisposed to get it. Research has shown that having a parent, brother, or sister who has (or has had) pimples will make a person more likely to have this problem.


Certain toiletries can trigger adult spots. A protective reaction can lead to inflammation if harsh cleansers or razors are used against dry skin. Check the ingredients of products like sunscreen, moisturizer, hair conditioner, etc. Only use products whose ingredients are described using one of the following terms: “non-comedogenic”, “non-acnegenic”, “oil-free”, or “won’t clog pores”.

Emotional stress

Adult pimples have been found to be connected to high levels of emotional stress. Research has identified a relationship between stress and acne break-outs, as stress causes our bodies to produce more male hormones. Oil glands and hair follicles in the skin are stimulated by male hormones, resulting in acne.

Physical stress

Hormonal changes, weakened immunity and inflammation can all be triggered by physical stress. This can arise from factors including lack of sleep, dehydration, environmental irritants, pollution, and extreme weather. People who have allergies and migraines and those who smoke are more likely to have adult acne.

Medication for acne

If you are taking medication and experiencing spots, it’s important to find out if acne is one of the side effects of what you are taking. If so, your doctor can hopefully prescribe a different medication. If this is not possible, a dermatologist can treat the resulting pimples. Medications that can trigger adult acne include antidepressants, epilepsy treatments, and certain corticosteroids.

A medical condition

Acne can be a sign of an untreated underlying medical condition. It’s important to see your GP to find out if you have a medical condition and get a full diagnosis. If so, once the condition has been treated, the spots may well clear up without further treatment.

Skin hygiene

Excessive oil can clog the pores and a build-up of skin cells can cause blocked hair follicles, resulting in acne. Exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and appropriate skin hygiene are essential for preventing this and removing bacteria that lead to acne development. Use a gentle chemical exfoliant rather than a harsh scrub or other physical exfoliants.


While there is no consensus on dietary factors, some experts believe that white flour, dairy, nuts, sugar, and fast food may be contributing factors to the problem of adult pimples. It is also believed that chocolate can worsen pimple in some sufferers.

If you have persistent acne that you have been unable to treat effectively, I can help. An expert in dermatological care for hair loss, mole problems, and skin conditions, I can provide you with advice via online video consultation and offer face-to-face consultations when necessary. Contact me, Dr. Anastasia Therianou on 0203 464 4884.

* Source: PubMed Central.

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