Why do some adults get acne?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

There are a lot of things you’d probably like to relive from your teenage years, but acne (like math homework) probably is not one of them. Yet here you are in your 40s or 50s sneaking down the acne aisle at the drugstore. And you discover you are not alone. Solidarity!

Here’s the deal. Acne can happen to anyone at any age. It comes about when the sebum (an oil-like substance) from glands in your skin can’t get out because the tube leading from the gland to the skin surface is not wide enough, or occluded, or oil production ramps up too much, and becomes infected. Hormone changes are a major cause of ramped up sebum (oil) production. Hormones fluctuate during pregnancy, stress, and menopause. Some women can also get acne when they stop taking hormonal birth control pills. And certain medications have acne as a side effect: lithium, steroids, hormonal therapy, iodides, and seizure medications to name a few. Not to mention, the skin condition rosacea marked by redness and pimples on the face, cheeks, chin, and forehead can flare for the first time in adulthood.

The good news is that the same treatments you used as a teenager will still be effective today.

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

Stress is one major contributor to adult acne. In this video, Ellen Marmur, MD, a dermatologist at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, discusses other causes and treatment options for adult acne.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.