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Why Do I Still Have Acne as an Adult?

When you passed through puberty, you thought you were done with growing pains, new hair growth, and other awkward rites of passage, but here you are decades later still battling with acne

At Lakeview Dermatology in Lake Worth, Texas, Dr. Matthew Mittelbronn understands the frustration of acne at any age and wants to help you clear it up so you can face the world with confidence. Here’s what you need to know.

Acne 101

Your skin remains supple and healthy via tiny openings called pores and when they get clogged, you get acne. 

The main pore-clogging culprits are excess skin cells and an oily substance called sebum. Your oil glands secrete sebum to keep your skin moist. But when sebum gets trapped in your pores and tiny hair follicles, the sites become inflamed and filled with pus. 

Whether you get a single pimple or a face full of zits, breakouts are always unwelcome. Though most people think of acne as a teenager’s plight, up to 85% of women and 15% of men suffer from acne breakouts well into adulthood. Here’s why.

The many causes of acne

Clogged pores and subsequent acne breakouts stem from multiple causes and conditions. Adolescents and teens tend to suffer frequently because they fall into nearly all of the top categories of acne causes, but adults are susceptible to all the possible causes as well.

Hormone fluctuations

Puberty is notorious for its hormonal rollercoaster ride, but adulthood has a few dips and twists of its own — especially for women. Your hormones fluctuate at various times throughout your life, but dramatic changes can occur especially during:

Acne caused by hormones often forms nodules and cysts deeper than most pimples and they can be quite painful. 


Physical and emotional stress can lead to acne. If you’ve been battling illness, not sleeping well, dehydrated, or have uncontrolled chronic medical conditions, your immune system is likely overworked, which makes it harder to fend off acne infections. 

Emotional stress can trigger biological changes as well. Anxiety, peer or professional pressure, and fear can stimulate the hormone cortisol, causing imbalances that affect your skin and lead to acne.

Environmental factors

Whatever’s in the air around you ends up on and in your skin. So if you live or work in a place that’s polluted, smoggy, smokey, dirty, or filled with chemicals and skin irritants, you can get acne.

The weather can also contribute to acne. Extreme heat and humidity amps up oil production, and extreme cold dehydrates your skin and triggers more oil production. 

If your skin is prone to inflammatory responses like acne and rosacea, the stress from extreme weather can make acne and other skin conditions flare up.

Things you touch

Anything that irritates your skin can lead to an acne breakout. This includes not only chemical irritants like perfumes, soaps, and lotions, but also certain fabrics and even razors.


Anytime you work up a good sweat, you risk an acne breakout. That’s because heat, friction, and sweat are the acne trifecta. When sweat hangs out on your skin, bacteria thrive and bacteria are one of the main culprits in clogged pores. If you workout in a public gym, you’re dealing with other people’s sweat and bacteria as well.


While the jury’s still out on whether foods can cause acne, some acne sufferers notice an improvement when they avoid certain ingredients, such as dairy products, white flour, sugar, and fried foods.


Certain medications can make you more prone to acne. If you take a corticosteroid, epilepsy treatment, or some birth control pills, it may be making your acne worse. Talk with your prescribing physician to find out if a change of medication may help.

Getting rid of adult acne

All the same common sense tips that you followed as a teenager apply to adult acne as well:

If none of these calm or eliminate your breakouts, we can help by evaluating your acne and type, and help determine if there are any triggers that can be avoided or adjusted.  You may need an antibiotic or other prescription medication to help keep your acne under control.

If you have scarring and discoloration, you may also be a good candidate for a chemical peel, intense pulsed light (IPL), or other laser treatment. 

To learn more about adult acne and the treatments we offer, contact us by phone or online today to schedule a visit with Dr Mittelbronn and his staff at Lakeview Dermatology to discuss how we can help you look and feel your best.

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