Understanding Adult Acne: Causes, Remedies, and Prevention

Adult Acne | Dermatology Group of the Carolinas

Acne is often associated with adolescence, but many adults also grapple with this skin condition. At Dermatology Group of the Carolinas, we frequently encounter patients in Concord and Charlotte, NC, who are surprised to find themselves dealing with acne in their adult years. Understanding the unique dynamics of adult acne is crucial for effective management and treatment, as the causes and appropriate responses can differ significantly from those applicable to teenage acne.

What Are the Causes of Adult Acne?

  • Hormonal Fluctuations: Especially prevalent in women, changes during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, or conditions like PCOS can trigger acne.
  • Stress: Increases in cortisol levels can stimulate oil production in the skin, leading to breakouts.
  • Medication Use: Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, androgens, or lithium, are linked to the development of adult acne.
  • Dietary Impact: A diet high in sugars and dairy products may worsen acne in some individuals.
  • Skincare Routine Issues: Using products that are too harsh or unsuitable for one’s skin type can exacerbate acne.
  • Environmental Factors: Pollution and humidity can clog pores, contributing to acne development.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Some adults may be more prone to acne due to genetic factors.

How Can You Treat Adult Acne?

Treating adult acne effectively requires a multi-faceted approach, often combining topical treatments, prescription medications, and lifestyle modifications. Over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can benefit mild cases by reducing inflammation and clearing clogged pores.

For more persistent acne, dermatologists may prescribe retinoids, vitamin A derivatives known to accelerate skin cell turnover and prevent clogging of hair follicles, or antibiotics to combat bacterial growth and reduce inflammation. Hormonal therapies, including certain birth control pills or anti-androgen drugs, are often effective, especially in women whose acne is influenced by hormonal fluctuations. 

Professional Treatments for Adult Acne

Chemical Peels

These are carefully administered to exfoliate the top layers of the skin, helping to unclog pores, reduce the appearance of scars, and improve overall skin texture. Chemical peels also aid in diminishing inflammation and are particularly effective for patients with persistent acne.

Topical Solutions

Our range of topical treatments includes creams, gels, and lotions containing active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids. These products reduce oil production, fight bacterial infection, and promote the shedding of dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores.


For severe or stubborn cases of adult acne, we offer isotretinoin, a potent oral medication known for its ability to reduce acne dramatically. Isotretinoin targets all significant factors contributing to acne, including oil production, bacteria, inflammation, and clogged skin pores.

How Can You Prevent Adult Acne?

Adopt a Gentle Skincare Routine

Using non-comedogenic and gentle skincare products can help prevent pore clogging and skin irritation. It’s essential to cleanse the skin daily but avoid over-washing or using harsh scrubs, which can exacerbate acne. In addition to gentle cleansing, integrating a hydrating, non-comedogenic moisturizer can help maintain the skin’s natural barrier, reducing the likelihood of irritation and breakouts.

Maintain a Balanced Diet

Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting high-glycemic foods and dairy may help reduce acne flare-ups. Staying hydrated and decreasing the intake of processed foods can also support skin health. Incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and nuts, can also be beneficial as they are known to have anti-inflammatory properties that may help in managing acne.

Manage Stress Levels

High stress can trigger hormonal changes that may lead to acne. Stress-reduction activities like exercise, yoga, or meditation can help maintain hormonal balance and improve overall skin condition. Consistent sleep patterns and time management techniques can also be effective in reducing stress levels, further contributing to a healthier skin environment.

Avoid Certain Medications When Possible

Some medications, like corticosteroids or lithium, can contribute to acne. If you suspect your medication affects your skin, consult a healthcare provider about possible alternatives. Being open with your healthcare provider about your skin concerns can help them tailor medication choices to avoid potential acne aggravation.

Use Non-Irritating Hair and Makeup Products

Hair and makeup can contribute to breakouts, especially if they contain oils or other comedogenic substances. Opt for products labeled “non-comedogenic” and remove makeup before sleeping. It’s also helpful to choose hair care products that are specifically designed to be skin-friendly, reducing the risk of acne along the hairline and forehead.

Regularly Clean Items That Touch Your Face

Cell phones, pillowcases, and makeup brushes can harbor bacteria and oils that lead to acne. Regularly cleaning these items can minimize the risk of transferring acne-causing agents to the skin. Consider using antibacterial wipes for items like cell phones, and wash pillowcases and makeup brushes in hypoallergenic detergent to further reduce the risk of acne.

Avoid Picking or Touching the Face

Touching the face can transfer oils and bacteria from the hands to the skin, leading to breakouts. Avoid picking at the skin, which can also exacerbate acne and lead to scarring. Implementing a regular skincare routine can help address acne concerns, reducing the temptation to pick or touch the face, thus preventing additional skin issues.

Say Goodbye to Adult Acne With Our Tailored Treatments in Concord & Charlotte, NC

At Dermatology Group of the Carolinas, we understand how frustrating and uncomfortable adult acne can be for our patients in Concord and Charlotte, NC. That’s why we offer a range of acne treatment options specifically tailored to adults. We take a scientific and informed approach to treating acne, utilizing the latest techniques and products to help clear up your skin. Whether your acne is mild or severe, we can work with you to find the best treatment plan that fits your unique needs and preferences. Contact us online or call (704) 784-5901 to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward clearer, healthier skin.

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