What are the causes of adult acne?

What are the causes of adult acne?
What are the causes of adult acne?

One of the most infuriating myths about acne-prone skin is that it is exclusive to teenagers. Far from being a teenage problem spots affect adults of any age, and can become even more emotionally devastating the older you get as it can be viewed as a result of bad skincare practice. Yes, it is true that spots are made worse by bad habits, but if you have adult acne the chances are you’ve already addressed your skincare regime and any bad habits you picked up as a teen. The key to getting a clearer understanding of your spots is finding out what exactly is causing your adult acne…


Have you noticed your blemishes worsening around the time of your period, or during pregnancy, or menopause? Hormones could be playing a greater role in your skin dilemmas than you’d think.

Fluctuating hormone levels can lead to an imbalance in hormones such as cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone, which can result in breakouts. Many women find that when they start using birth control pills they are not only addressing fluctuating hormones, but also their acne-prone skin. The unfortunate result of fluctuating hormones is that we produce excess sebum, skin cells that are shed accumulate and become sticky, and we produce an increased number of P. acnes, a bacterium which causes spots.  

The link between hormones and acne-prone skin is what has led to many people accrediting their imperfections to ‘stress.’ The relationship between stress and breakouts is actually a result of hormones being produced by our body in response to the stress we feel. These hormones, such as cortisol, stimulate oil glands, which leads to excess sebum production, clogged pores, and eventually blemishes. 


Your family history could be playing a role in your persistent pimples

Some studies have suggested that those with siblings and parents who suffered from acne-prone skin are more likely to be susceptible to problem skin themselves. This predisposition to blemishes is not a unanimously accepted view; some conflicting studies argue that genetics may play no part, or a very small one in your imperfections. These argue that because acne-prone skin is caused by so many factors it is impossible to tell the extent genetics play.

It has been suggested that genetics influence sebum production, how sensitive you skin is to hormones, and your inflammatory response to bacteria. If this is the case you could say that some people are more predisposed than others to have excess sebum production, an adverse reaction to hormone imbalance, and a weaker response to bacteria. These are all contributing factors to acne-prone skin.


Diet alone is not the cause of adult acne. Some studies however, draw parallels between the food we are eating and an increase in acne. These studies would suggest that rather than causing adult acne, our diet could be contributing to it. It is worth scrutinising your diet to see if something you are eating isn’t agreeing with your skin and could be exacerbating your acne.

There is an argument to suggest that what we eat could be affecting sebum production. There is also a belief that it is specifically saturated fats which could be thickening sebum to a waxy consistency, making it more likely to block pores and cause breakouts.

More and more women are finding that dairy affects their skin adversely. This could be because of the hormones which are present in dairy foods, but also because of the link between our gut, immune system, and acne-prone skin. The gut encompasses a huge part of our immune system, when we introduce foods that compromise this system, symptoms such as spots, rashes, and sinus problems could occur.

Whilst the list of things that could be causing your acne-prone skin is frustratingly long, it might be worth considering that a change in diet or addressing a hormone imbalance could benefit your skin. If you believe your skin is more susceptible to imperfections due to genetics it is important to look into a skincare regime that offers prevention as well as treatment. By understanding more about your acne-prone skin it will become easier to treat and prevent.


This article is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before altering your diet, changing your exercise regime or starting any new course of conduct.