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Common Causes of Adult Acne and How to Treat It

By SL Aesthetic Clinic
Common Causes of Adult Acne and How to Treat It

Acne. It’s the dread of teenagers everywhere and something few adults would miss from their younger days. Yet, like a rude visitor from the past, acne can make an appearance when you least expect it.

Adult acne is caused by the same things that cause teen acne: excess skin oil, bacterial infections, and changes in hormone levels. External stressors like the environment and demanding workload can worsen adult acne.

In this article, you will learn about the common causes of adult acne and what are the available adult acne treatment in Singapore. Plus, you learn how to prevent adult acne from flaring up.

Causes of Adult Acne

Acne is a skin condition that develops when the sebaceous glands produce more oil than usual. The excess oil mixes with dead skin cells and clogs pores, leading to blackheads, whiteheads and pimples, and eventually causing acne.

Hyperkeratinisation is another possible cause of adult acne, which occurs when the follicle cells become cohesive and do not shed normally onto the skin, resulting in micro-comedone and acne lesions.

The cause of acne in adults tends to be multi-factorial, with factors including:

  • Stress (emotional & physical)
  • Immune system
  • Changes in hormone levels
  • Infections from bacteria, fungus or yeast
  • Medicinal side effects
  • Diet
  • Undiagnosed medical conditions

Stress (Emotional & Physical)

Stress creates biological changes in the body that can prompt various adult acne triggers. When you are experiencing emotional and physical stress, your adrenal glands will produce more of the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to increased sebum production, making your acne worse.

 Immune System 

Did you know that the reaction between your immune system and the bacteria on your skin can also cause adult acne? This occurs when the bacteria triggers the structural cell, known as fibroblast, to transform into fat cells that secrete anti-microbial substances with proteins that can cause inflammation.

Changes in Hormone Levels

Fluctuating or excessive changes in hormone levels can cause your body to produce excess oil that clogs your pores. The oil then interacts with bacteria, leading to acne. Instances of breakout from hormonal changes include pregnancy and menopause.

Infections from Bacteria, Fungus, or Yeast

Bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes can cause acne to develop once it builds up in the skin. Once it accumulates under the skin, you will have difficulty removing the bacteria from your skin because they cannot be removed simply by washing your face.

Medicinal Side Effects

Medications that affect hormones, like steroids, antidepressants and birth control pills, can sometimes cause acne. For birth control pills, the formulation can determine if it causes acne in someone. Some people even use birth control pills to treat adult acne.


Some studies indicate that consuming certain foods, including carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, bagels and chips, can worsen acne. Excessive intake of sugary foods like white flour products and dairy can also cause acne.

Undiagnosed Medical Conditions  

Certain health and skin conditions may resemble acne or lead to acne breakouts, such as rosacea, keratosis pilaris, perioral dermatities, Cushing syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It is advisable to check with a medical professional for a proper diagnosis if you suspect an underlying medical condition.

Adult Acne vs Teen Acne 

Teen acne is primarily caused by hormonal changes during puberty, which eventually stabilises after puberty. This is because teenagers have quicker skin cell turnover rate and more resilient skin than adults.

On the other hand, adult acne can make itself felt for a long period, through decades of adulthood. This is partly due to ageing as the skin cell turnover rate slows down. Adult acne is also more common among women due to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and menstruation.

Treating Adult Acne

Adult acne treatment is often more frustrating than it is for teenagers because adults have more responsibilities, less time to take care of themselves, and more worries about their skin.

If you are looking for a way to treat your acne problem, several options are available, depending on your acne’s severity and what works best for you. Potential adult acne treatments in Singapore include home remedies and medical treatment.

Home Remedies

Treating adult acne at home is one of the first steps to reduce excess sebum production and restore your skin to its former glory. Some of the home remedies may include:

  • Over-The-Counter Topicals contain resorcinol, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and azelaic acid that treat mild acne.
  • Natural Home Remedies like aloe vera, green tea extract, tea tree oil, and probiotics can help soothe inflammation and reduce acne.

Medical Treatment

Given that home remedies tend to be milder in nature, it may not be effective at treating your adult acne. In that case, consider the following medical treatments:

  • Chemical Peel – A simple yet effective therapy that can target various factors that contribute to adult acne formation. It involves applying a peeling agent in varying concentrations onto the affected area for a controlled amount of time.
  • Laser Therapy – A proven option in the armoury of adult acne treatments, laser therapy targets the skin’s deeper layers to induce its natural healing process. It can be used in combination with other therapies to enhance the overall result.
  • Cortisone Injection – A steroid injection administered by a doctor for occasional use to treat lesions from acne, like cysts and nodules. It quickly reduces swelling and heals lesions, thus preventing scarring.

Preventing Adult Acne

There are many everyday steps you can take to prevent adult acne from happening. These include:

  • Being diligent about your skincare routine.
  • Using proven anti-acne products.
  • Seeking proper professional medical advice.
  • Avoiding use of products that contain comodogenic oils.
  • Avoiding squeezing or popping your pimples.
  • Washing your face with warm water and a suitable cleanser.
  • Practising good personal hygiene.
  • Avoiding excessive sun exposure.
  • De-stressing by exercising regularly.
  • Avoiding sugary and dairy products.
  • Drinking enough water.

Final Thoughts

Adult acne can affect the quality of your life and be a source of stress, on top of work and family commitments. If you have persistent breakouts, you might have chronic or cystic acne. A qualified medical professional can provide proper diagnosis, guidance and acne treatment in Singapore, based on your unique skin condition and needs. Here at SL Aesthetic Clinic, we’re happy to address any questions or concerns you have. Contact us today to book a consultation.

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