Why Is Adult Acne on the Rise? It’s Almost like an Epidemic

Acne statistics across countries show that more than ever before, adults in their 20-40s are experiencing acne. Nearly 45% of this population demographic is showing sufferers with persistent cystic acne, blackheads and oily skin. The American Academy of Dermatology also recently published a report of nearly 54% of women over 25 years of age have acne. Let us take a look at why that is the case.

Difference between adult acne and teenage acne

Research conducted by ski specialists shows that adult acne is more of inflammatory and cystic in nature while teenager acne is more of comedones and blackheads. The areas where teenager and adult acne is located are also different; teen acne is primarily around the mouth, chin and jaw. Adults can get acne on the cheeks, chin, forehead and even back, neck and buttocks. Teenagers and adults also have different skin types- teen skin is more resilient and open to acne treatment whereas adult skin is more sensitive and may not withstand harsh products.


Acne in adults and teens also has a genetic connection apart from hormonal factors, stress etc. If a parent has had acne in their adulthood, then the chances of you developing it in adulthood also rise. As per research, if acne runs in both the parent’s families then three out of four kids could inherit it.

What causes acne?

Acne is inflammation of the sebaceous hair follicles. The sebaceous glands produce sebum which is a complex mixture of lipids. Hair on the skin acts as wick to transport sweat, dirt, sebum and other waste to the skin’s surface. In some cases, these hair follicle gets inflamed causing acne. This activity of the sebaceous gland –that of producing sebum – is controlled by many factors including genes, diet, lifestyle, stress, and of course the hormones.

So why is there a rise in acne in adults?

More and more adults are visiting dermatologist offices for their acne issue. The main reason behind this epidemic is the rise in stress. We all lead highly stressful lives these days. This stress could be due to one’s job, lifestyle changes and so on. Household responsibilities combined with workplace pressures are some factors that are leading to it. Acne becomes a vicious cycle as it causes frustration which adds to emotional stress and leads to continuous acne breakouts.

Secondly, our diets are not as healthy as they ought to be. Most of us eat imbalanced foods. Majority of our food also consists of refined stuff like sugar and flour. We eat fewer vegetables and fruits and the ones we do eat are sprayed with chemicals and toxic pesticides. These chemicals can lead to hormonal imbalance that causes acne flare-ups. The soil used for growing produce is not nutritious thanks to unhealthy farming and agricultural practices. All these issues can also factor in for the rise of acne.

Thirdly, many acne sufferers tend to pick at their acne thinking they would be helping the situation. This makes acne worse as the fingernails transmit bacteria to the skin causing further breakouts.

Fourthly, more women in their 20s take oral contraceptives. These pills contain hormones like estrogen and progestin which can cause acne, weight changes, appetite and even mood changes. Sometimes, stopping these pills also increases the acne.

Oftentimes, doctors prescribe steroids like prednisone to counter the acne. Prolonged use of steroids is very detrimental to health and, in some women, can cause more acne breakouts.


As can be seen, acne statistics worldwide show that acne is on the rise in adults and several reasons are behind this. In most cases though, chronic stress is behind the acne. So doctors need to choose right medicines for such patients. Men and women with acne must also read up and be informed about their condition so that they can make an informed choice in these matters. In general, practicing some dietary and lifestyle changes can also help. One can take up stress control tactics like yoga or meditation etc to lower stress.

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