Acne is the eighth most common skin disease in the world. The onset of acne typically occurs in adolescents around the onset of puberty, when sebum production increases. Acne usually goes away in the late teens or young adulthood. But for some, acne may continue to plague them into their 20’s or 30’s. It is even possible to get acne for the first time as an adult. Dermatologists call this “adult-onset acne.”

If you are getting acne as an adult, it is likely due to one or more of the following reasons:

Hormonal changes

Fluctuations in hormone levels is a common cause of acne in women. Typically women will experience acne flare ups each month around their menstrual cycle or when starting/stopping birth control pills.

Perimenopause women can have a flare in acne due to an imbalance in hormones which occurs initially around the start of menopause and can continue until after menopause. During this time, the ovaries produce less and less estrogen, leaving testosterone levels unchecked. This creates an imbalance in androgen levels leading to higher sebum production.

Researchers are also discovering links between consumption of certain foods which contain higher levels of hormones than in previous decades as well as associations with environmental exposures.


In response to stress, our bodies release certain hormones, one of them being androgens. Androgens, like testosterone, stimulate the oil glands and hair follicles in the skin, which can lead to acne. This explains why, especially during these times with the pandemic our stress levels are at an ultimate high and we are finding more and more cases of adult-onset acne.

Increased use of topical irRitants and occlusives

Skin and hair products can unknowingly cause increase in blackheads and acne. Look for one of the following buzz words on the product labels: “non-comedogenic”, “non-acnegenic”, “oil-free”, “won’t clog pores”. It’s important to also remember hair products can lead to skin irritation and breakouts, so pay close attention.

Recently, there has been an increasing number of people with either 1) new-onset acne or 2) a resurgence of acne or 3) people with existing acne that is becoming difficult to treat. You may have heard reference to this phenomenon as “maskne”, acne as a result of continuous use of facial protective wear during the pandemic. It is being caused by occlusion of pores and an increase in sebum production.

Medication side effect

Certain medications can have acne as a side effect. If you think your medication may be causing your acne flare up, continue taking your medication and check with your prescribing physician. Your physician may be able to prescribe an alternative medication. If not, there are ways to control the acne.

Undiagnosed medical condition

Acne can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Once the condition is treated or controlled, acne tends to clear.

There is effective treatment for adult acne

We use combination of therapies to effectively treat acne. Since the cause of acne can be different for each individual, our approach to treatment is customized for each individual’s unique needs.

Leave a Reply