Just when you thought you could leave acne behind as a teenage problem, it comes back in your adult years. Really?! What a lot of people don’t realize is that adult acne is a thing.2 But, there are good products and resources available to help you manage it. Let’s take a look at what adult acne is, how it can affect you and ideas to help you clear your skin.

What is acne?

In adults over 25, acne is a common skin condition that dermatologists treat.2 It can appear for the first time in adulthood or carry over from adolescence.2 Adult acne usually appears on your face, often in the u-shaped area along your chin and jawline.5 Studies show stress and hormone levels can lead to breakouts.2 Other factors include family history, medication side effects, certain medical conditions and use of tobacco products.2,5 Interestingly, a link was observed between adult acne cases during the pandemic when stress was high and mask-wearing was a common preventive health measure.1

What does acne look like?

We use the term “acne” generally, but it actually refers to a few different types of blemishes. Whiteheads are a type of closed-pore acne that form when dead skin cells and oil plug the opening of a pore. If dead skin cells and oil build up inside your pores, you can develop a type of open-pore acne called blackheads. Pimples happen when dead skin cells, oil and bacteria trapped inside your pores become inflamed, sometimes filling with pus. Painful acne nodules or cysts occur when dead skin cells, oil and bacteria cause inflammation deep into your skin.3 

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When adult acne gets under your skin

Acne breakouts aren’t much fun. Inflamed skin can itch and be painful or sensitive to the touch.2 It can impact how you feel about your quality of life. Some people may feel frustrated, anxious or even depressed by the visual condition of their skin.3 It can weigh on your self-esteem and make you uncomfortable in, or withdraw from, social situations.3 Maybe you decline an opportunity at work or turn down an invitation for a date. If your skin’s appearance is making you feel anxious, sad or withdrawn, mental health support can help you with treatment for your body and mind so you feel your best.

Tips for treating adult acne

The good news is that there are a lot of ways to treat adult acne. A good place to start is with some small changes to your skin care routine:

  • Use the right skin care products to target different types and causes of acne. Typically, the labels on them will say “alcohol-free,” “non-comedogenic,” “non-acnegenic,” “oil-free” or “won’t clog pores.”4
  • Use acne treatment on all acne-prone skin, not just on blemishes.4
  • Gently wash your face with a non-abrasive cleanser up to twice daily and after sweating, but use a light touch. Scrubbing acne can irritate it or make it worse.4
  • Don’t touch, pick or pop your acne.4

Be sure to give your new routine several weeks’ time to see if it’s clearing up your acne. If so, keep it up! And if it’s not, you might consider seeing a doctor for a dermatology consult. A dermatologist may include medications in your treatment plan and can also recommend treatments and procedures to help with stubborn acne.

Online dermatologist treatment for acne

At Teladoc Health, we’ve made skin care more accessible so that you don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. With a virtual consultation, you’ll upload and share images along with a description of your symptoms. A U.S. board-certified dermatologist will review them and return a customized treatment plan. Your online doctor will even arrange for any prescriptions if needed so that you can start your treatment sooner. We’re here to help you get started today!

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Published July 24, 2023


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