While acne is viewed primarily as an issue for teenagers, adult acne in 30s, 40s, and 50s is common especially in women. In a study about adult acne, 50% of women 20 to 29 years old, 35% of women 30 to 39 years old, 26% of women 40 to 49 years old, and 15% of women 50 or older reported they had acne.*
In general, the factors that cause acne in adolescents are those that cause adult acne which include hormones, diet, bacteria, and inflammation.
Hormonal changes during puberty are the primary cause of teen acne, but hormonal fluctuations continue as we age. Hormonal imbalances caused by the menstrual cycle, menopause, oral contraceptives, or pregnancy can contribute to acne by disrupting hormone production. These hormones stimulate oil production within the skin, promoting the growth of acne-causing bacteria.
While diet may or may not contribute to acne in teenagers, diet can be associated with the prevalence of adult acne. In a new study of 24000 adults, higher intake of high-fat, high-sugar foods was associated with a higher incidence of current acne. **
As we age, our skin cell’s turnover rate decreases - renewing itself once a month and by 50, it slows down more and more - leaving a layer of dead cells on the skin's surface. Additionally, the pores become larger, leading to more clogged pores followed by acne.
Over-the-counter acne treatments, such as salicylic acid and AHAs, help manage oily skin and increase skin cell turnover in adults.
For severe or hormonal acne, prescription treatments, topical acne creams and ointments, isotretinoin, or prescription antibiotics can all address the underlying causes of adult acne.
Everyone’s genetic makeup is a little bit different and finding solutions will depend on the cause of acne in adults.