What is Adult Acne?

Treating Adult Acne Can Be Tricky

Many adults suffering from breakouts want to know - just what is adult acne?

If your high school years are long gone but you’re still getting zits, you're probably wondering the exact same thing. Well, there are many different types of adult acne, each with its own trigger.

Before you can cure adult acne you need to know what specific type of acne you have. Once you know the cause of your breakouts, you can get rid of them much easier. Here are the main types of adult acne and their triggers…

Adult Acne
What is adult acne? Well, in terms of a basic definition, adult acne is a sudden onset or a continuation of acne once you reach adulthood. It can be caused by hormone imbalances, stress, pollution or medications. Many women get adult acne due to hormone fluctuations surrounding menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. In fact, studies have shown a direct link between hormone imbalances and women with acne between the ages of 30 and 40.

Cosmetic Acne
This is a less common form of adult acne but should be ruled out nonetheless. It is caused by the use of cosmetics that have irritating, pore-clogging ingredients. These ingredients can include lanolins, isopropyl mysristate, synthetic fragrances, and some pigments. For a complete list of pore clogging ingredients to avoid, check out my page on Ingredients in Makeup.

Acne Conglobata
This is a hereditary acne that is very severe. It often causes major scarring on the face and back.

Acne Detergens
This type of adult acne is the result of using overly-abrasive cleansers on the skin. It's important to remember that unnecessary irritation always makes acne skin worse!

Acne Excoriee
This form of acne is also classified as a psychosomatic disorder. It is typically caused by those who repetitively pick at the skin on their face and/or body, a disorder known as Compulsive Skin Picking or Dermatillomania.

Acne Fulminans
This is an acute and severe form of adult acne which also has accompanying symptoms such as a fever and joint pain. Typically this form of adult acne is found in men. Signs of this form of acne include: sudden onset of acne, inflammatory and ulcerated nodular acne on the chest and back, severe scarring from the acne, a fluctuating fever, painful or sore joints, a loss of appetite or weight, and a high white blood cell count. The cause of this acne is the use of testosterone that is either used legally or illegally to enhance muscle growth. Over the counter treatments don’t work on this form of acne.

Acne Keloidalis
This form of adult acne is typically found in people of African descent. Signs of this form of acne are typically papules or pustules on the neck and surrounding areas.

Acne Mallorca
This is a form of adult acne caused by sunbathing.

Acne Mechanica
This is a form of acne found in adults that wear tight, restricting clothes or straps as a result of mechanical irritation.

Acne Medicamentosa
This form of acne is brought on by medications, such as dilantin, isoniazid, phenytoin, lithium, bromides, iodides, androgens, and corticosteroids. Lithium can worsen the basic form of acne and cause people to have acne even if they have never had it before. Oral contraceptives that have noreaster or norethindrone can also cause or worsen acne. Some over the counter drugs with potassium, iodide, bromide, and chlorine will also cause very small pustules.

Acne Pomade
This is a form of acne that occurs in adults who use pomades or thick oils on their hair every day. The oils move from the hair to the forehead and clogs the pores which causes acne lesions. You should avoid touching your face with oiled hands and limit the use of synthetic oils on your hair to help prevent or treat this form of adult acne.

This is a form of acne caused by those who have constant exposure to hydrocarbons in motor oil and insecticides.

Pitch Acne
This is when acne lesions are caused by coal tars and dandruff tar shampoos.

So as you can see, answer the question "What is Adult Acne?" is actually be more complicated than it seems. But no matter what specific type of adult acne you have, clearing adult acne almost always comes down to the basic strategy of "killing it with kindness".

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Adult Acne Product Picks


Dr. Michelle Copeland - AHA Face Cream

Helps skin look smoother and feel softer. Stimulates cell renewal. Helps reduce the appearance of fine lines. 


Jan Marini Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% Facial Wash  

Reduces the presence of P acne bacteria. Leaves skin feeling clean without stripping or excessive dryness.


Md Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel 2 Step System  

Evens skin tone, minimizing areas of discoloration and enhances skin's radiance and clarity.


Replenix Power of Three Cream

Ideal for those who are concerned with aging, post-procedure healing and blemish-prone skin. Gentle enough for sensitive skin. A rich-emollient texture.