If you thought zits were for teens, think again because adult acne is on the rise. Here’s what causes it and how to clear it for a happy, healthy complexion

Most of us think that acne is something we all get to leave behind in our teen years. In reality, cases of adult acne are on the rise. 85% of adolescents and young adults will experience it to varying degrees. Around 15% of adult women are also prone to pimples. Celebrities Mindy Kaling, and Kendall Jenner are just a few of the famous faces who struggle with this chronic inflammatory skin condition.


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While acne is not a serious condition by medical standards, it can wreak havoc on people’s self-esteem. One study found that those with this condition are at an increased risk for depression and anxiety than those with clear skin. But what exactly is the cause of adult-onset acne? Here’s why it happens, and what you can do to soothe and clear it.

Adult acne: What is it?

Adult acne, much like the teenage variety, is a result of excess oil and bacteria on the skin. Collectively, it refers to blackheads, whiteheads, zits and cysts which can appear on the face, neck, chest, back and shoulders. While usually manageable from a pain perspective, some acne, particular cysts, can cause discomfort. Picking or popping zits can also lead to infection or cause long-lasting scars, and isn’t advised by dermatologists.

What makes adult-onset acne different, however, is that younger people tend to develop zits on the upper half of their faces. Foreheads and across the nose are common areas, and they are often surface-level. In older people, the lower half of the face is usually affected, especially around the jawline, and acne can be in the form of deep cysts.

What causes it?

While lifestyle choices, medication, and beauty products can lead to blemishes, one of the main culprits behind adult acne is our hormones. Fluctuations in our hormones, such as when we are premenstrual, pregnant, or menopausal, can play a big role in the production of sebum and how your skin functions. It is also considered a genetic condition, so it tends to run in families.



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Can it be treated?

Luckily for our complexions, there are a number of ways to go about treating adult acne. Skincare products and medicated creams containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are a good starting point. Retinoids are also great at keeping skin zit-free. The prescription variety, which can be obtained via a dermatologist or doctor, is generally the most effective.

There are stronger topical and oral medications that can be prescribed by healthcare professionals to get breakouts under control. Maintaining a healthy diet, having a good skincare routine, and managing your stress levels will also help to keep you balanced on the inside and radiant on the outside.