Adult Acne: Causes and Remedies



adult acne causes and remedies

Many people get through their high school years with clear skin, only to find that adult acne erupts during their 20s and beyond. This mostly effects women, due to hormonal changes and fluctuations.

Adult acne is not simply the odd blemish on the skin, it’s a cluster of sore and inflamed cysts and pustules beneath the skin’s surface.

Adult acne is a frustrating issue which can have an awful effect on the confidence and self-esteem of the acne sufferer. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent adult acne, treat existing acne, and treat the scars it not-so-kindly leaves behind. Read on for more on what causes adult acne and what can be done about it. 

What Is Adult Acne?

Adult acne occurs after adolescence has ended, (i.e. after you can consider yourself a “teen”!). Those in their mid-20s and beyond can experience their first bout of adult acne.

The kind of acne many teenagers and pubescent people experience is often visible whiteheads and “pimples” scattered over the face.


However, adult acne often comes in the form of inflamed, red and hard lumps beneath the surface of the skin. The acne can still come to the surface and appear as a whitehead, but it’s often a hard mass beneath the surface. The jawline is a common area to experience adult acne, especially for women.

Adult acne has a bad habit of hanging around. It tends to persist, or go away and come back again soon enough.

What Causes Adult Acne?

First of all, you are not to blame for your adult acne. While some people think it’s solely due to diet and lifestyle, that is just not true. You can have a clean and healthy lifestyle and still suffer from adult acne. The most common cause of adult acne is hormones.

While factors such as product allergies, food allergies and stress can contribute to adult acne, the main culprit is hormones.

One of the key reasons why we can break out with a face full of pimples during our teen years is because our hormones are “going crazy”, as they say. However, our hormones (especially for women) don’t really stop going through those crazy phases.

Certain hormones (such as androgens) increase the amount of oil (sebum) being created in the sebaceous glands, and when there is too much, the pores become clogged. Menstruation, menopause and contraceptives can jolt our hormones into causing the dreaded adult acne.

Remedies For Adult Acne

1. Home Remedies

To really solve adult acne, you will most likely need the help of medication or a change in your contraceptive pill. However, there are some great home remedies you can use to help your skin to heal from the outside.

Treating the overall facial skin (not just the acne-infected areas) helps to improve the appearance and quality of your skin. Gentle masks and toners leave you looking and feeling fresh, despite those bothersome acne blisters.


You can whip up a quick and easy face mask at home by using oats, honey and water. The oats are moisturizing, soothing and have a gentle drying effect on blemishes. Honey is a natural antibacterial and softly cleanses the skin.

Mix together two tablespoons of each ingredient, paste it onto your face and leave for twenty minutes before rinsing off. You will find that your skin feels smooth, cleansed and slightly exfoliated without irritation.

Apple Cider Vinegar Toner

Apple cider vinegar may seem like an odd thing to put on your face, you may imagine it to be drying or irritating. In fact, it actually balances the PH of your skin while clearing surface bacteria and removing dead skin at the same time.

Use apple cider vinegar as a daily toner by diluting in in water (about a 50/50 split). Wipe it over your face after cleansing your skin and before moisturizing.

Start Getting Enough Sleep

improve sleep quality

Not getting sufficient or quality sleep can lead to acne. This is because the lack of sleep puts the body under stress. When your body is under stress it starts to secrete the hormone Cortisol which causes the extra production of sebum. This can cause acne to be triggered.

Another good way to try and close up your sleep deficient is to take a power nap during the day. This can help stablilise the cortisol production.

2. Natural Remedies

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a pungent and powerful oil which really dries out any blemish when applied directly to the skin. Tea tree oil is antibacterial and can even break down whatever is blocking your pores and causing pustules.

Be careful when using tea tree oil as it can be a bit painful if you get it anywhere near your eyes or on thin, sensitive areas of skin.

The best way to go is to dilute the oil in a small amount of water and dab the solution directly onto your active acne. You will smell rather…strongly for a while, but it’s not an unpleasant smell! You should notice the acne start to dry out and reduce in swelling pretty soon after applying.


Topping up your levels of zinc with an oral supplement is a fantastic way of helping your body to fight and solve acne. Zinc acts as an antibacterial, an anti-inflammatory, and can even help to stop hormones from wreaking as much havoc on your skin. Talk to your doctor about the best zinc supplement for you, and the best way to take it.

3. Medication 

Adult acne often requires prescribed medication in order to solve the issue. There are a few different options to consider, and your doctor can talk you through each of them. Here are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for adult acne: 

Contraceptive Pill

contraceptive pill acne

You might find that the contraceptive pill you are taking is causing your acne. In which case, there’s a strong chance it contains a high level of androgens. Androgens are a hormone both males and females have, but when female bodies contain too much of it, it can affect the skin. You can ask your doctor to prescribe you with an anti-androgen contraceptive pill to see if it makes a difference.


Many doctors prescribe patients who are suffering from adult acne with Doxycycline, an antibiotic which destroys acne-causing bacteria. It’s recommended that antibiotics are taken only when really needed, to prevent your body from becoming immune to them, but as a one-time treatment, it can be very effective.


You have probably heard murmurs about the strongest acne-fighting drug on the market, especially as it has been surrounded by controversy in the past. Accutane is the trade-name for a drug called isotretinoin.

Isotretinoin is a form of Vitamin A which heavily reduces the amount of oil in the skin. This is not a drug to be taken lightly as it can have serious side-effects such as painful dryness of the skin, especially the lips. However, it is extremely effective at treating even the most severe cases of acne, often permanently.

If you are prescribed with Accutane, always protect your skin with an SPF sunscreen as this particular drug causes your skin to be extremely sensitive to sun damage.

4. Topical Treatments 

It’s important to treat the cause of your acne from the inside out, by way of medication and oral treatments. But sometimes you just want to reduce the look of your existing acne while your oral treatments take their time to work.

Benzoyl peroxide is a strong topical treatment which can be bought over the counter. It comes in a cream form and provides antiseptic action for acne and pustules.

If you have a small budget and you don’t like the idea of using non-natural topical treatments, tea tree oil is just as good! Remember to keep your face cleansed, moisturized with an oil-free moisturizer and ensure you use non-comedogenic cosmetics.

Treatment For Acne Scars 

As if adult acne wasn’t painful enough, it can leave long-lasting scars even after the cysts, blemishes, and causes have been treated. These often appear as red or dark patches of discoloration on the skin.

You might feel like your acne scars are glaringly obvious to everyone, but they’re never as bad as you think. You can fast-track the fading process of your acne scars by applying topical treatments, staying sun-safe and even opting for laser treatment. Let’s take a closer look at these options.

Rosehip Oil

Rosehip oil is fantastic for scarring and uneven skin tone. Buy a bottle of pure and natural rosehip oil (it should have a deep golden colour) and use it underneath your moisturizer, morning and night.

Rosehip oil is full of healthy fatty acids (Omega 6 and 3) which help to repair and restore the skin and fade scars and discoloration. Rosehip oil also contains vitamin A and vitamin E, both of which are powerful allies to the reparation of damaged skin. Your overall skin quality, not just your scars can improve greatly with daily use of rosehip oil.

Omega 7

Another fatty acid, palmitoleic acid, or also known as Omega 7 has been gaining popularity when it comes to clearing acne. It can be found in macadamia nuts, sea buckthorn which have the highest concentration.

Ultra Omega Burn which is primarily a fat burner has Omega 7 as its main ingredient. You can read more about Ultra Omega Burn here.

Sun Protection

Don’t go down the route of thinking that baking your skin in the sun will heal your scars and tan them a lovely golden color. As lovely as that would be, it’s just not true. Sun exposure can cause hyperpigmentation and cause your scars to darken and the skin to become more damaged. Ensure you wear a sun hat and apply an oil-free sunscreen every single day.

Laser Treatment

A popular treatment for the removal of acne scars is IPL (intense pulsed light) laser treatment. A professional therapist passes tiny bursts of light over your skin which penetrates deep into the scar.

The skin rebuilds and restores for a scar-free appearance.  Laser treatments can be expensive, so consider whether it might be better to buy a high-quality rosehip oil and use a good concealer in the meantime!


If you are struggling with an outbreak of adult acne, get yourself to the doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can shed light on what is causing your acne, and it could be as simple as changing your contraceptive pill.

Don’t be tempted to squeeze, poke and prod at your acne as you can spread the bacteria and increase your risk of scarring. Remember, it always looks worse from your own perspective. Even if you look in the mirror and all you see is a face full of acne, that’s not what others see.

Keep your head high and don’t be shy or ashamed, acne is a part of life for so many people and it doesn’t take away from your beauty.