What Causes Adult Acne?

Your teenage years may be in the rearview mirror but you suddenly find yourself increasingly experiencing breakouts, especially on the lower part of your face. 

Sound familiar? 

You're hardly alone. 

More than 45% of women between the ages of 21 and 30, 26% of those ages 31 to 40, and 12% of those ages 41 to 50 are estimated to have clinical adult acne ( source). And though it may seem as though it came out of nowhere, there is most definitely a reason for your breakouts. More than likely, hormones are to blame. (Read about the four direct causes of acne.)

While males and females alike experience acne during puberty due to the spike in hormone levels, as we get older, men are generally spared acne's wrath. Women often see an increase in acne symptoms during three distinct periods: 

1) just prior to menstruation as estrogen levels drop 

2) during the first trimester of pregnancy when progesterone levels are elevated and 

3) during early menopause when estrogen levels decline. 

If you don't see yourself clearly fitting into one of these three categories, consider that estrogen levels begin to decline in women around (and even before) age 40. However, there could be other reasons for the onset of adult acne, including:

  • Starting or stopping use of prescriptions, including contraceptives, steroids and thyroid medications, which can affect hormone levels in the body.
  • Consuming moderate-to-high amounts of dairy and/or high-glycemic foods, including white bread, sugar, soda, and processed foods, which elevate insulin levels and cause a hormonal cascade. (Read more about the diet and acne link.)
  • Experiencing elevated levels of stress, which increase cortisol levels and encourage greater production of sebum.
  • Endocrine disorders, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and adrenal hyperplasia.

If you believe a medical condition could be at the root of your acne, it's important to see your physician. If diet or stress are suspected, try modifying your lifestyle for a few weeks to see if conditions improve. If those factors don't seem to be causing your adult acne, however, it's a reasonably safe assumption that hormones are playing a role. Consistently implementing an  acne treatment regimen will improve symptoms and, in many cases, reduce the potential for future acne breakouts. 

The Lexli Acne Guide

Interested in learning more? Download your free copy of the acne guide written by Lexli founder and lead product formulator, Dr. Ahmed Abdullah!

Get your copy!