Remember the angst of acne in our teens? Most of us got over it in our college years. Now we’re in our 30s and 40s and here it comes again — what’s that all about! Did you know that acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S.? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 50 million Americans battle with it every year. Adult acne happens more often to women than to men. And the number of women is growing; currently up to 50% will have an acne breakout at some point in their adult lives.*

Gone are the days of hiding from friends during an outbreak. A wide variety of effective treatments is available, from OTC products to special procedures in a dermatologist’s office. Here are a few stats on acne, along with some dos and don’ts to help you identify, understand, and combat acne in your adult years.

Adult acne FAQs

  • Factors associated with the onset of adult acne may include hormonal changes, stress, and diet.
  • Teen acne symptoms — primarily pores getting clogged with bacteria, oil, and skin cells — can also affect adults.
  • Acne can occur in women during life cycles when estrogen levels drop (giving testosterone free reign to increase oil production).
  • While most teens experience acne breakouts on their forehead and cheeks, adult acne tends to affect the lower face and sometimes the neck.
  • Adult acne tends not to affect the chest or back (if it does, changing to looser-fitting clothing that breathes can help alleviate it).

What to do

Contrary to what we may have done as teens, face scrubbing is actually taboo with acne. Treat your skin with great care. Also, be sure to keep your hands away from your face; you don’t want to transfer germs from your hands onto your skin. Here are some other things you can do to help reduce outbreaks:

  • Keep an eye on what you eat. Some research suggests that hormones in dairy products may increase acne breakouts. The same goes for food with a high glycemic index. If you’re not sure how food may affect your skin condition, try keeping a journal about different foods you eat; note whether acne symptoms get worse or better.
  • Put stress in check. Anxiety and stressful situations can trigger the hormone cortisol, which can make skin oilier. If you think stress may be affecting your acne, try these activities to help manage it: breathing exercises, yoga, or talking with a therapist. (QuickTip: Need a therapist or counselor? Teladoc may be able to help, and you never have to leave home or the office for your sessions!)**
  • Talk to a dermatologist. Skin care professionals can work with you to determine which products and procedures are best suited to your condition. Some may include retinoids, which not only treat acne but also help repair sun damage such as facial wrinkles and fine lines. Blue light therapy, which kills bacteria down in the follicle, is also becoming more popular. Teladoc’s licensed dermatologists can help. More about this in a minute.

What not to do

  • Don’t rely on acne treatments that you used as a teenager. As our skin ages, we have to treat it with milder products and techniques to avoid flaking, itching, and oversensitivity.
  • You’ll want to avoid products and equipment that abrade skin because they can aggravate acne or cause damage such as hyperpigmentation, redness, severe dryness, and scarring. These include scrubbing solutions and cleansing tools (especially loofas), and at-home chemical peels.
  • Procedures such as microneedling and dermabrasion can expose the skin to bacteria and lead to infections. You’ll want to steer clear of the in-home version of these types of treatments.

Although acne may come on at the worst time in your adult life, a dermatologist can help determine the cause and develop a treatment plan custom-made for your specific needs. If you’re dealing with adult acne, let Teladoc help.

Our board-certified dermatologists are available by app or web and can respond within about two business days. You can upload five photos of your condition (include a couple close-up shots as well as one or two that show the entire affected area). Teladoc treats not only acne but also conditions as skin infections, moles, rosacea, and psoriasis. You can trust Teladoc Dermatology for fast, confidential help!

Start a consult now


**Mental Health benefit available depending on your plan.

This portion of the Teladoc website occasionally offers health, fitness, and nutritional information and is provided for educational purposes only. You cannot rely on any information provided here as a substitute for or replacement of professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Teladoc cannot assure that the information contained on this site always includes the most recent findings or developments with respect to the particular subject matter covered.

If you ever have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical- or health-related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read on this site. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.

If you are in the United States and think you are having a medical or health emergency, call your healthcare professional, or 911, immediately.