Understanding What Causes Acne in Adults?

Understanding What Causes Acne in Adults?

While acne is often associated with teenagers and hormonal changes during puberty, it is not uncommon in adults. In fact, adult acne is on the rise, affecting up to 15% of women. But what causes acne to persist or even start in adulthood? Here’s an exploration of some of the key triggers.

Hormonal Fluctuations

Hormonal imbalances are one of the main causes of adult acne, particularly in women. These imbalances can occur during menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, or due to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Hormonal changes can stimulate excess oil production, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.


High stress levels can lead to an increase in the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. This can stimulate your skin’s oil glands to produce more sebum, leading to clogged pores and acne.


Certain foods have been linked to adult acne. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as sugary snacks and drinks, white bread, and pasta, can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, which can lead to increased sebum production and inflammation. Additionally, dairy products have been associated with acne in some people, although the connection isn’t fully understood.

Poor Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can lead to hormonal imbalances, which in turn can trigger acne. Lack of sleep also increases inflammation in the body, potentially leading to breakouts.


Using the wrong skincare or makeup products can cause acne in adults. Look for “non-comedogenic” on the label, which means it won’t clog your pores. Also, make sure to remove makeup thoroughly each night before bed.


Certain medications can cause acne as a side effect. These can include corticosteroids, lithium, and some anti-seizure medications. If you suspect your medication is causing your acne, consult with your healthcare provider but do not stop taking it without their approval.


If your parents had adult acne, you’re more likely to have it too. Studies suggest that some people may have a genetic predisposition to acne.


Smoking has been associated with adult acne, especially non-inflammatory acne (whiteheads and blackheads).

In conclusion, adult acne is caused by a combination of factors including hormonal changes, stress, diet, and lifestyle habits. If you’re struggling with adult acne, it’s important to consult with a dermatologist who can help identify potential triggers and provide a suitable treatment plan. Remember, each person’s skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It might take some time and patience to find the right solution, but effective treatments are available.

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Martin Dupuis