Adolescent Acne vs. Adult Acne

Acne on someone's face Adolescent Acne vs. Adult Acne

Millions of people around the world are struggling with acne -- adolescents and adults alike. But there are a few key differences between adolescent and adult acne. Here's what you need to know.

What Is the Difference Between Adolescent and Adult Acne?

What Causes Adolescent Acne?

In the vast majority of cases, adolescent acne can be attributed to an increase in androgens -- testosterone and androstenedione -- in the body during puberty. As teens enter puberty, their bodies produce more of these hormones than they did in childhood. Unfortunately, these sex hormones can contribute to an increase in oil on the skin and can clog pores more easily. Another key factor in the development of adolescent acne is genetics. Some studies have revealed that having at least one first-degree relative with acne may increase the likelihood of acne for future generations. That means that unfortunately, genetics often does play a role in how severe adolescent acne is. There's one other contributing factor that we need to talk about when it comes to adolescent acne: food. While no food is responsible for causing acne, it's possible that foods with a high glycemic load (high in sugar and carbohydrates) may contribute to making acne more severe in adolescents. These foods may contribute to higher oil production in the skin, which may result in more frequent or more severe breakouts.

What Causes Adult Acne?

Adult acne, while still frustrating, is a little bit different than adolescent acne. Thought adults typically have more stable hormone balances, hormonal imbalances can certainly contribute to adult acne in some instances. For those who menstruate, fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can contribute to acne flare ups. In fact, almost 70% of women have reported acne flare ups right before their menstrual cycle starts. In addition, pregnancy can make acne worse due to all of the hormonal fluctuations happening. Of course, hormones aren't the only cause of adult acne. Certain health conditions can also contribute to adult acne. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common example of an underlying health condition that can cause acne. This condition leads to increased testosterone levels, which can cause irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism, and adult acne. Some medications may also be responsible for the onset of adult acne. Common medications that may contribute to adult acne include steroids, lithium, and phenobarbital. If you are seeing acne as a side effect with these medications, talk to your doctor and dermatologist.

How Can You Treat Adolescent and Adult Acne?

Fortunately, the treatment methods for adolescent and adults acne are largely the same. Topical treatments like benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, and salicylic acid are all helpful tools for acne treatment in adults and teens alike. In addition, birth control for acne may be an option for women and girls suffering from acne as a result of hormonal imbalances. Topical retinoids and antibiotics are also commonly used for acne medication in adults and adolescents.


Learning how to get rid of acne, whether you're an adult or a teenager, can be tough. If you're eager to find the best acne treatment plan that works for you, set up your consultation with SE Dermatology Specialists today.

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