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Understanding Adult Acne: Common Causes & Treatments Available

Understanding Adult Acne Common Causes & Treatments Available

Acne is understandably linked with awkward teenage years filled with puberty, angst, and general changes in the body. However, acne can and does affect adults all over the world. It can be frustrating to be in your 40s, or even your 50s, and still have to put up a constant battle against the pimples that suddenly break out all over your face.

To help people understand the causes behind adult acne and the acne treatments in Singapore that are available to them, we’ve put together a little guide that might prove useful.

Causes of Adult Acne

In many ways, the underlying reasons for adult acne are the same as teenage acne. Acne is caused by an overproduction of sebum, clogged pores, or a combination of both.

Excess Sebum Production

Sebum is the oily substance produced by your body’s sebaceous glands. Sebum’s function is to coat, moisturise, and protect your skin. During puberty, sebum production ramps up, leading to teenage acne.

Generally, sebum production reduces as you get older, although this isn’t always the case. Many different factors can lead to an overproduction of sebum in various stages of our lives.

Hormone Changes

Hormone levels have a direct relationship with sebum production and output. Physical or mental stress can alter hormone levels and result in acne breakouts which may require a trip to a dermatologist.

Women may also find that their sebum production is affected by their period as hormone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. Pregnancy and menopause are periods of change in the body where sebum production may also be altered drastically.

Beauty Products

Certain beauty products contain ingredients that may end up clogging up your pores. Hair care products sometimes contain oils which often end up on our face. If you’ve recently changed hair products and find that breakouts have started to occur, it may be advisable to stop using those products altogether.

Skincare and makeup products like moisturisers and powders may help with your appearance in the short term, but can cause long term damage by clogging up your pores, contributing to breakouts, and eventually requiring acne treatments.

Beauty products application can cause breakouts requiring acne treatments

Family History

Sometimes even if you’ve done everything right, you may have lost in the genetic lottery. If acne runs in the family, you may be genetically predisposed to having frequent acne breakouts even in adulthood.

While there’s no cure for this, a good skincare regimen and taking extra precautions to keep your pores clean can go a long way in either preventing acne breakouts from taking place, or reducing their severity.

Side Effects From Medications

Although it’s not one of the common causes of acne, some medications can have side-effects that result in breakouts. Hormone altering pills and steroids are two examples of such medications. In such cases, stopping the medication usually results in the breakouts becoming less frequent.

Learn More: 4 Good Habits For Healthy Skin.


If you come face to face with adult acne, don’t despair. There are a host of acne treatments available at your disposal to help combat breakouts and keep your skin clear and blemish-free.


Topical treatments for acne have been found to be effective against breakouts that range from mild to severe. They are generally safe to use and many work by, either reducing the amount of bacteria on your skin that causes acne, or promoting skin cell turnover and unclogging pores. The most common topical is vitamin A-derived retinoid. Topical products also include antibiotics such as benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients may be found combined into one formulation.

acne treatment cream application

Oral Antibiotics

If your adult acne does not respond to topical treatments, then oral antibiotics can be an alternative option. Common antibiotics are useful in reducing inflammatory lesions (those with pus, or are large and tender). These should be taken for two to three months.

Oral antibiotics can be used in combination with other acne treatments and are effective in slowing or stopping the growth of unwanted bacteria on the skin.

Oral Contraceptives

Certain oral contraceptives work by reducing the amount of testosterone in the body. This is correlated with a drop in sebum production which can result in less oily skin, clearer pores, and fewer acne-related episodes. ​​For women on contraception, many combined oral contraceptive pills are useful for acne, such as formulations containing both ethinylestradiol and cyproterone acetate. These tend to reduce acne flares that occur around menstruation and can also help combat facial oiliness to some extent.

Oral contraceptives can only be prescribed to women who have already started their period, and a consultation with a trained dermatologist in Singapore is recommended before they begin this course of treatment.


Adult acne can be a frustrating experience. Those who have already undergone the difficulties of teenage acne may find themselves overwhelmed at the prospect of having to go through it again. By understanding the similarities and differences between teenage and adult acne, it’s easier to have an insight into what causes adult acne and how the treatments available can help.

If you have questions about adult acne, or if you are looking for a qualified dermatologist, feel free to get in touch with Thomson Specialist Skin Centre via our Contact Us page. Our qualified experts will be on hand to answer your queries and assist you in making an appointment.