Adult acne is on the rise.

Most people suffering from acne have tried countless creams, lotions, and serum and often without effective results. The fact is that the acne market is a big business worth several billion of $.   To truly try to treat acne requires getting to the root cause of the problem. In other words, just applying a cream or serum will not do.


Most people associate acne with teenage years but sadly it also affects millions of adults. This is distressing for most and coming to terms with this condition is difficult. Acne can be quite hard to treat but there are solutions. Knowing what is causing the breakouts can help clear your skin.


The fact is that adult acne affects more women than men. Acne Female Acne (AFA) is distinct from acne vulgaris (adolescent acne) and is considered a particular subtype of acne “not only for differences in clinical status and etiopathogenesis but also for its chronicity, which may last until the postmenopausal period. Some characteristics such as more sensitive and less oily skin, and multiple etiopathogenic factors, such as new work rate in women’s lives, stress, sleep disorders, dietary supplements, and certain types of contraceptive methods make management more complex” (Bagatin & al.)


Keep reading to learn some of the most common adult acne causes and a story from a client that came to Nar London with this skin issue.


What is acne?

Acne usually starts at puberty. Indeed, this is a very common skin condition identified by the presence of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and pus-filled spots (pustules).  Acne ranges from a few spots on different parts of the body (the face, neck, back, and/or chest),  to a more severe problem that may cause scarring. For most people, acne tends to go away by the early to mid-twenties, but it can go on for longer. Furthermore, acne can also develop for the first time in people later on in life (the late twenties and beyond) and we currently see an explosion of this phenomenon.

What causes acne breakouts?

At the root of all acne is a clogged pore. If the pore gets clogged by dirt, dead skin cells, excess oil, and possibly bacteria, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

There’s a difference between the causes of acne and the triggers that lead to breakouts. Acne results when you have an overproduction of sebum, a substance your body produces to protect and lubricate your skin.

However, too much sebum can collect dead skin, bacteria, and dirt and clog your pores and follicles. These clogged pores and follicles provide the perfect ground for acne to develop, causing blackheads, whiteheads, and lesions. This said, what triggers an overproduction of sebum and the resulting acne varies from person to person.

In some cases, this can be sorted by simply cleansing or exfoliating your skin on a regular basis. But for many others, unfortunately, the situation is more complex. This is why trying to understand what causes your acne can be so frustrating and emotionally draining. You tried it all and clean your skin regularly and yet it seems that you cannot get rid of these annoying pimples.
Here’s a look at some common triggers of acne breakouts:

What causes adult acne?


1. Hormonal

The hormones that cause acne are fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, which can be menstrual or cyclical (or both).

Hormonal fluctuation as for instance before one’s menstrual cycle is the main cause. It is known that an increase in progesterone can be linked to acne. It increases the production of sebum that it turns can contribute to clogging the pores.

Androgenic hormones like testosterone can also increase sebum production and, therefore, contribute to acne in both males and females.

This said hormones naturally fluctuate at certain points in your life and do not necessarily lead to acne. However, hormone-related acne is most likely to appear:

  • Around the time of your period.
  • During or post-pregnancy.
  • During perimenopause & menopause.
  • At the start or when stoping using hormonal birth control.

2. Stress

Chronic stress play a huge role in various skin issues including acne. It is believed that the hormone cortisol may be responsible for the link.

This is because when you are stressed, your adrenal gland releases cortisol. The issue is if the cortisol level goes up too much, it can create imbalance and cause problems not only to your skin but to your hair, body, and mood.

3. Pollution

Living in a city like London where air pollution is high can also be a cause. Having excess dirt and grime on your skin can increase your chances of getting clogged pores, so adopting a cleansing routine can be helpful.

This said, there is also exposure to UV rays and other chemicals and we still don’t know for sure their link with acne. One thing is for sure is that adult acne is on the rise in polluted cities across the World.

4. Lifestyle

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking good care of your skin can also help keep clear skin. This said this doesn’t mean that people suffering from acne are not having a healthy lifestyle. Some do and yet still have some skin issues.

However, it is recommended to eat healthy, exercise, and not smoke to limit the risk of adult acne.

Let’s take for instance food, we all heard that some people notice that their skin reacts badly after they eat certain foods. In those cases, it might be useful to do a food intolerance test to see what food you can eat or should avoid.

In some cases, adult acne could be a symptom of another health condition. For example, one common hormone-related condition that results in acne is polycystic Ovary Syndrom(PCOS), a condition that causes irregular periods, facial hair, and weight gain.

Additionally, medications can cause acne as a side effect in particular corticosteroids or lithium.

6. Genetics

Another culprit might be genetic i.e. you could be predisposed to having it. It could be related to the size and other characteristics of your pores. However, a dermatologist can help understand your skin type and the right products you should use.

Now, let me tell you about the story of a client that has been suffering from adult acne for years and tried so many treatments without much success.

How can I prevent breakouts?

Unfortunately, acne is not always completely in one’s control. However, there are precautions you can take  to help prevent breakouts:

  • Never go to bed with makeup on as this can create “acne cosmetica“;
  • Choose the right skincare products and look for those containing “non-comedogenic,” “oil-free,” or “won’t clog pores”;
  • Avoid facial and hair products containing oil;
  • Some acne spots are post-inflammatory pigment changes. In that instance, wear sunscreen with SPF 30+ daily to prevent the darkening of these spots;
  • There is some evidence that specific dietary changes may help reduce the risk of acne. For example,  some studies have linked high-glycemic-index foods (those that cause blood sugar levels to rise more quickly) and acne.

This said it’s important to be wary of misinformation about nutrition and skin. The evidence on the relationship between diet and acne is just starting to be studied more thoroughly.


Why the rise in adult Acne?

In truth, the reasons for the rise in adult acne are still unclear. Overall, the inherent causes seem similar to acne in teenagers i.e. hormonal, sebum, pore blockage, and bacterial inflammation.  Additionally, we suspect that it can also be linked with lifestyle as it is predominantly found in westernised societies. Moreover, Adult Acne affects women more than men, and this could in part be related to the ongoing fluctuation in hormones.

The mental health implications of adult acne

Most people associate acne with teenagers, so when it affects you as an adult and struggling to get rid of it can have a detrimental impact on one’s confidence, self-image, and even mental health. Furthermore, adults with acne have been found to be at a much higher risk of severe depression than their teenage counterparts and face additional challenges.

 Adults are much more prone to seek social isolation and further deteriorate their mental health. Of course, there is more to life than some skin issues but we should never underestimate the impact of adult acne on the sufferer. Not uncommonly, some will have spent hundreds if not thousands of pounds on skincare products and salon treatments with minimal or no improvement. Consequently, this adds to the feeling of helplessness and a refusal to accept this condition.

Adult Acne can be challenging. Story of a journey:

A beautiful lady was having adult acne for about 15 years. We started our treatment over 11 months ago. She is herself a medic and tried all existing pharmaceutical medicines for acne including lasers without good enough or long-term results. She was rather left with side effects or downtimes. Since our treatments, she now gets only an odd spot once every other month or no new spots at all. We are currently working on her scarring and pigmentation.

A holistic approach to acne

Being a skin therapist with dermatology studies and a wellness therapist I knew that her acne was not only external. I started with Meder probiotic acne treatment and regularly tested her diet, used some natural supplements to regulate hormones, and remove any kind of candida from the guts. She has responded very well, her cystic acne is gone but the build-up bacteria on the skin did not completely disappear. We then continued with acne mesotherapy treatment – which included special peels, purifying “Toskani-Meso” injections, and LED light therapy.

FINALLY, her acne completely cleared up and there were no more new acne spots.

This did not happen with one treatment. There is no such magic overnight solution. This happened with a holistic approach, with time, knowledge, commitment, and patience.

The Biggest challenge with skin issues is to find out the root cause and treat it without creating damages. it is a journey worth taking.

A bespoke treatment

My BIG LOVE for my job lies in helping people. I walk with each individual during & after the treatment. I strongly believe that a Bespoke Approach is the only way to bring long-lasting results for any health/hair/skin issues rather than just applying a “plaster”.

It has been a life-changing journey for her and brought her more confidence. For me, it brought me pleasure to treat and help her as we walked together on this journey.

I found that adults tend to blame themselves for their acne persisting, thinking that they must be doing something wrong with their diets or their skincare regime. The fact is that acne is in fact treatable at any age and should not be a burden in the lives of many. 

The psychological and social impact of acne in adults is huge and should not be underestimated. When their acne is finally addressed, the effect on their emotional wellbeing is real. 

If you would like to discuss any acne issues or other skin problems, feel free to book a free consultation. Alternatively, you can also book a probiotic treatment for acne or rosacea.