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How to manage adult acne

How to manage adult acne

Breakouts aren’t just for teenagers, and adult acne is a common concern. Understanding the facts and using the proper skincare routine are key for improving the appearance of acne.
03 Oct 2023

Most women and men are surprised when they find themselves struggling with breakouts beyond the teenage years, but adult acne is actually very common. In fact, this study found that up to 51% of women and men over the age of 20 experience adult acne, although its prevalence declines with aging.1 According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), adult onset acne is more common in women, especially as they approach and enter menopause.2


Breakouts later in life can resemble teenage acne, but adult acne is generally associated with less oil and more stubborn inflammation. For the most part, adult acne has a strong link to hormones, specifically the male types, which both men and women have. In women who are experiencing the decline of estrogen associated with peri-menopause and menopause, this hormonal imbalance can lead to an influx of red, persistent breakouts. In addition to hormonal fluctuations, other causes of adult acne include stress, genetics, pore-clogging hair or skincare products, and certain medications.2 Environmental factors such as UV rays and pollution generate free radicals that promote a process called oxidation that can lead to the development of adult acne as well.3


The main difference between adolescent acne and adult acne is that adult acne tends to appear on the lower third of the face, including the jawline, chin, and upper lip.4 There are three types of adult acne.

  • Adult onset acne: When people who never experienced acne when they were younger develop it for the first time as an adult
  • Persistent acne: Those who experienced acne as a teenager and it persisted into adulthood
  • Recurrent acne: After experiencing acne in adolescence that cleared up, it reappears as an adult


In order to treat acne successfully, it’s important to separate facts from fiction. The truth: Adult acne (and acne at any age) develops when pores get clogged with oil and dead skin cells, which allows C. acnes bacteria to grow and thrive.

  • Myth: Acne is caused by poor hygiene

It’s a misconception that dirty skin leads to acne. This is why over-washing is highly unlikely to improve acne, and more likely to make it worse by stripping the skin of its essential moisture and leaving it dry and irritated.

  • Myth: The sun improves acne

At some point in your life, you may have noticed that a day in the sun improved your acne temporarily—but the sun is not an effective adult acne treatment. UV rays can minimize C. acnes bacteria for the short-term, but the sun does a lot more harm than good. A sunburn can cause inflammation that makes breakouts worse, and UV rays can cause long-lasting discoloration of recently-healed pimples. And, of course, sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer.

  • Myth: Popping pimples helps them go away faster

In terms of acne myths, believing this one can lead to more skin inflammation as well as infection and permanent scarring.


Successfully clearing adult acne requires working with a dermatologist or skincare professional who can recommend a product regimen that is supported by skincare science. Adult acne treatment requires a comprehensive approach that helps protect the skin from environmental aggressors that may contribute to breakouts, balancing skin hydration levels, and addressing additional concerns related to your unique adult acne.

LHA Cleanser: Formulated with oil-soluble lipo-hydroxy and salicylic acids to decongest pores plus glycolic acid to minimize dead cells that can clog pores, this exfoliating gel cleanser effectively removes excess oil and makeup while brightening the complexion.

Silymarin CF: Designed especially for oily and acne-prone skin, this daily topical vitamin C antioxidant serum is proven to reduce the oil oxidation that contributes to blemish formation by 76%. It also helps reduce oiliness, refine skin texture, and improve the appearance of skin clarity and fine lines.

Blemish + Age Defense: Featuring a unique combination of dioic, alpha-hydroxy, and beta-hydroxy acids, this adult acne treatment simultaneously addresses breakouts and visible signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone.

Hydrating B5 Gel: The ideal hydrating serum for adult acne, this oil-free formula combines moisture-attracting hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 to reinforce the skin barrier. It can also be used as a stand-alone moisturizer.

Phyto Corrective Gel: Offering hydration with hyaluronic acid, soothing botanical extracts, and mulberry to minimize the appearance of skin discoloration, this gentle yet effective serum improves visible redness and can be used as a moisturizer as well.

Phyto A+ Brightening Treatment: This lightweight, oil-free daily moisturizer offers soothing and skin-balancing benefits in addition to fading post-blemish marks by 20%. It also helps reduce visible oil and redness while minimizing the appearance of pores.

Discoloration Defense: Ideal for fading the appearance of discoloration that lingers after adult acne has healed, this clinically-proven serum is formulated with tranexamic acid, niacinamide, and HEPES to help even skin tone and brighten the skin in as little as two weeks.

Retinol: Retinol is key for adult acne treatment because it helps promote cellular turnover and prevent pores from becoming clogged with dead skin cells. With nightly use (once the skin has demonstrated tolerance), retinol also helps improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration. Any of our retinol creams are appropriate for acne-prone skin, however the ideal concentration depends on your skin’s pre-conditioning and tolerance.

Broad-spectrum sunscreen: Daily use of effective sun protection is important for those with adult acne. Protecting the skin from UV rays can help reduce the formation of long-lasting discoloration during and after blemish healing, while preventing the development of visible signs of aging.

Clarifying Clay Masque: This weekly purifying treatment helps eliminate excess oil and decongest the pores. Featuring kaolin and bentonite clays, a blend of exfoliating alpha-hydroxy fruit acids, and soothing aloe and cucumber, it helps calm and clarify the skin.

To learn how to treat adult acne and discover the best skincare for adult acne, use our online Regimen Finder, visit one of our SkinCeuticals SkinLab locations, or schedule an appointment with a SkinCeuticals Skincare Professional for a one-on-one consultation.



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