Adult Acne: The Complete Low-Down On Managing Breakouts In Your 40s And 50s

We thought pimples went away for good along with our pencil-thin brows and butterfly clips, but we were wrong.
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Mar, 2023
adult acne

You’re not the one who suffers from acne. While many people associate breakouts with those mortifying teenage years, the truth is that people of any age can suffer from acne, and adult acne is much more common acne than people think.  

As acne happens after the age of 25, excess oil production, clogged pores, and bacteria, and inflammation, to name a few of the culprits can cause adult acne. 

Some people may have never had acne before and suddenly have acne triggered by hormonal changes, such as menopause. Alternatively, some people may have had acne as teenagers and managed to keep it under control, only to have it recur in adulthood.

Here’s your complete low-down on managing breakouts in your 40s and 50s because acne shouldn’t have to be a way of life at any age!

What Causes Adult Acne?

What Causes Adult Acne

For many people, there isn’t just one thing that triggers adult acne. Several things can cause acne. Understanding these causes can help you make the most beneficial approach to treating those pesky breakouts.

Here are some causes of adult acne:

• Diet

In some individuals, a diet deficient in nutrients and excessive pro-inflammatory foods, such as dairy products and sugar, may promote acne breakouts.

• Hormones

Unfortunately, menopause can trigger adult acne, thanks to dropping estrogen levels. Some people may also see increased oil production with hormone changes, such as those due to pregnancy

• Medications

Some medications, such as corticosteroids and antidepressants, can also contribute to adult acne. 

• Skincare Or Makeup Products

Inappropriate skincare can lead to irritation or overproduction of sebum, your skin’s natural oil, which can lead to acne outbreaks if you use the wrong products.

• Stress

It’s no secret that stress can trigger inflammatory processes in the body, stimulating oil glands and thus producing oils and acne breakouts. 

As you can see, adult acne might have a variety of underlying reasons that aren’t exclusive. Combine a diet high in sugar with unbalanced hormones and the wrong skincare products, and you could have a severe case of adult acne on your hands.

How to Prevent Acne And Manage Breakouts

Preventing breakouts of acne in adulthood could mean making a few changes in your life. But fear not; they are all things you should already be doing, such as not to wear makeup to bed!

  • If you have oily skin, use non-comedogenic skincare products. These are skincare products which have already proved that they do not to clog pores.
  • Every night remove your makeup before bed with skincare products that are appropriate for your specific skin type.
  • If you’re chronically stressed, it’s worth it to put some steps in place to reduce your stress—trust us, your body and skin will thank you!
  • Are you going through menopause? Check out the available treatment options below.

Now that we’ve looked at preventing adult acne and managing those annoying breakouts. What treatments are available to help them go away?

Best Available Treatments

The following treatments can help breakouts go away and help prevent breakouts from occurring in the future.

Remember, the proper treatment for your acne will depend on the cause of it. So, it’s always worth exploring those underlying factors. They may be causing breakouts so you can nail down the most effective treatment options!

Treatment Option #1: Retinoids


Tretinoin is the most effective form of retinol. That’s only available via a prescription, which has been the gold standard for treating adult acne for a good reason.

Retinoids are anti-inflammatory and increase cellular turnover, which can help acne go away faster than it usually would, and the anti-aging benefits aren’t a bad bonus!

If you have adult acne that’s been resistant to other changes you’ve been making, including managing your stress, diet, and skincare products, it may be time to follow up with your derm about prescription retinol.

Treatment Option #2: Acids

The name “acids” sounds unnecessarily harsh, but we promise these skincare superstars aren’t as hardcore as they appear. Azelaic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid have all been shown to help improve acne—let’s look at how.

  • Azelaic acid can “significantly reduce” acne lesions and improve acne and is as effective as .05% tretinoin cream with fewer side effects.
  • Glycolic acid, a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), can be used as a peel to treat acne and is generally well-tolerated among different skin types.
  • Salicylic acid, a type of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), comes in different concentrations and may have even fewer side effects than glycolic acid to treat acne. 

Treatment Option #3: Dietary Supplements

We’ve looked at how consuming more fresh foods and reducing dairy and sugar consumption can help improve acne. However, there are also a couple of dietary supplements you might want to consider.

  1. Zinc, an essential mineral, effectively reduces acne when used topically and taken internally as a supplement. 
  2. Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria that exist in your gut, have also been shown to reduce acne when used topically and internally. However, be aware that some strains of probiotics are derived from dairy, which can defeat using them for acne!

You can check with your doctor for bloodwork to determine if you’re deficient in any other nutrients that can influence your adult acne.

Do You Suffer From Adult Acne?

Adult acne affects millions of individuals worldwide. Do you fall into this category? While you’re looking for the best products for your skin type to soothe acne and reduce breakouts, download our free checklist of the ingredients you always want to avoid when purchasing skincare products!


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