Annette R. Smith profile image

Adult Acne: 7 Causes That May Surprise You

Acne is traditionally a teenage problem, but adults can also get breakouts. Here are seven causes of adult acne that may surprise you, with tips to prevent breakouts.

Acne: Not Just for Teens

Did you think your breakout woes were over when you became an adult? That you left your pimples behind with your learner's permit and first crush? Think again.

While acne traditionally plagues teenagers, it can also affect adults. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 50 percent of women in their 20s have acne. Nearly 25 percent of middle-aged women also struggle with it. Men get acne too, but to a lesser degree.

Interestingly, adults can get acne even if they didn't have a problem during their teen years. While the pimples may look the same, adult acne is different from the high school type.

Adults get acne along the jawline or lower part of the face, while teens usually break out on the forehead or upper half of the face. Teenage acne usually involves surface blemishes, but adult acne goes deeper to form cysts under the skin.

What causes adult skin to break out in pimples? There are many culprits, from diet and stress to hormone changes and more. Here are seven adult acne causes that may surprise you, and a few simple tips to prevent breakouts.

Mobile phones are bad for your complexion.
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Mobile phones are bad for your complexion.

1. Cell Phones

Cellular phones are an amazing invention, but they are bad for your complexion. They are great tools for staying in touch with the people in your life, but they can wreak havoc on your skin.

Cell phones encounter numerous bacteria on every surface they sit. When you talk on the phone, you put that bacteria close to your mouth, where moisture and warmth create the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. This causes breakouts on your chin and around your mouth.

If you constantly use your phone to talk to other people, you may unintentionally rub it against your face. The steady friction can lead to a type of adult acne called acne mechanica.

Skin Care Tip: Clean your cell phone with an alcohol wipe or hand sanitizer at least once a day to kill acne-causing bacteria. And don't allow your phone to touch your face when you talk on it.

2. Facial Hair Removers

Using facial hair removers is a trade-off: you exchange unwanted facial hair for unwanted skin bumps and rashes. Hair removal can irritate your skin whether you pluck, wax, shave or use depilatories. As your skin reddens and swells, skin cells and bacteria can enter the pores and cause acne.

The topical products used before and after hair removal can also clog pores and encourage adult acne. Skin bumps that itch are not true acne but hair follicle irritations; they can cause a transient rash that looks like acne.

Skin Care Tip: Apply a one-percent hydrocortisone cream before and after you remove facial hair. Use topical products that are labeled "non-comedogenic" to keep your skin pores open.

3. Hair Styling Products

Hair styling products are a common cause of adult acne. There is even a name for this type of skin breakouts: pomade acne.

As styling product oils trickle from your hair to your forehead, they can clog skin pores and trap acne-causing bacteria. The clogged pores then become inflamed and cause redness or pimples along the hairline.

Skin Care Tip: Apply styling products with your fingertips and keep them away from your hairline. Wipe your skin with a facial cleanser after styling your hair. Reconsider your decision to wear bangs, which makes pomade acne worse.

Improper makeup removal can cause acne.
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Improper makeup removal can cause acne.
Source: Free Digital Photos

4. Makeup Removers

Your makeup can mix with your skin's natural oils to clog pores and cause acne. This is known as acne cosmetica. Unfortunately, your makeup removal may only add to the problem.

Most women don't clean their skin as well as they should. Many of them wear mineral makeup, and they think a swipe with a towelette will do the job at the end of the day.

But hours of makeup, oil and dirt buildup pose a triple threat to skin pores. Without a good cleansing, bacteria gets trapped in the pores and later erupts as acne.

Skin Care Tip: Wash your face gently but thoroughly each night, and use only non-comedogenic cleansers.

Too many skin care products can cause acne.
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Too many skin care products can cause acne.
Source: duron123 / Free Digital Photos

5. Skin Care Products

How many new skin care products do you try each year? Switching products before they have a chance to work can irritate your skin by continually introducing new ingredients and preservatives.

Even products designed to fight adult acne can cause breakouts, especially if you overlap them. If your astringent, cleanser and face cream all have acne-fighting ingredients, using them together can irritate your skin and cause further rashes.

Skin Care Tip: Use only one or two skin care products at a time, and give them at least six weeks to work. Not only will you save your skin, but you'll also save money and bathroom cabinet space.

6. Sunscreen Products

Did you know that your sunscreen can give you acne? Sunscreens contain two kinds of ingredients: chemical agents that guard against ultraviolet (UV) rays and physical agents that create a sun shield.

Physical sunscreens, such as zinc oxide, can cause your skin to sweat underneath them. This can clog your skin pores and cause acne breakouts.

Skin Care Tip: Choose sunscreens with chemicals rather than physical agents. Gel formulas are best; they are less likely to clog your pores than oils and lotions.

Vacations can wreak havoc on your skin.
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Vacations can wreak havoc on your skin.
Source: photostock / Free Digital Photos

7. Vacations and Travel

Does your skin break out when you return home from a vacation? Travel can stress your skin with climate differences, weather changes and more. Anything from dry air and humidity to the mineral levels in drinking water can trigger adult acne.

Travel often alters your normal your skin care regimen. Products that work in one climate may affect your skin differently in another climate. Additionally, hotel soaps can irritate your skin and make it prone to breakouts.

Skin Care Tip: Since you can't change the weather, climate or water where you visit, consider drinking bottled water and washing your face with it. An all-in-one skin care product is also a good idea to combat adult acne when you're traveling.

Your Turn

What is your best tip for adult acne? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your social networks.

Reference Sources

Medical Disclaimer

The information presented in this article is not intended as medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment by a qualified medical professional.


© 2012 Annette R. Smith Last updated on October 10, 2013

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Comments 22 comments

paxwill profile image

paxwill 2 years ago from France

Good tips, so many simple things that people probably overlook.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

Hello, paxwill. It's a pleasure to meet you! Thank you for reading about adult acne and taking a moment to share a comment. Happy hubbing!


 
teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago Level 8 Commenter

Great advice and so interesting to know about the causes of adult acne. Vacation is supposed to be a stress reliever, but I can see how it would cause a breakout.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 2 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

very interesting and useful tips. i nver knew these things contribute to acne. i could really use an extra tip for taking care of my skin. thanks!


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

Thank you, teaches12345. Beach vacations always do a number on my skin; it's the humidity changes, I think. I'm glad you found some interesting and helpful information here.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

Hello, unknown spy. So many things can affect our skin condition, from diet and hormones to these more surprising causes. I'm happy to share these tips and glad to meet you on HubPages!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 23 months ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

Some good information here. I didn't know sunscreen could cause acne but something about whatever is put in these products. But I will be more aware now that I have this information available.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 23 months ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

It's a pleasure to meet you, Alecia. Thank you for reading about these surprising causes of adult acne. So glad I could share some useful information.


iguidenetwork profile image

iguidenetwork 23 months ago from Austin, TX Level 2 Commenter

Vacations? That's quite unlikely. Actually, all of them. Good thing I am a guy, I don't use makeup, so that decreases my chances of getting acne. Thanks for the useful information. :)


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 23 months ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

Hi, iguidenetwork. You're blessed that way! Actually, even as a woman, I wear very little makeup ... and my skin thanks me for it. Thank you for your interest and your comment.


Kimberly Vaughn profile image

Kimberly Vaughn 22 months ago from Midwest

Interesting hub! I think I get more acne when I rest my face on my hands. It seems like everytime I rest my face on my hands, I break out. If I don't let myself do this, I seem to have clearer skin.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 22 months ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

Hi, Kimberly. Thanks for sharing! Makeup is the culprit for me, though it irritates my eyes much more than my skin. So I go without it as often as possible.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 21 months ago Level 6 Commenter

Another reason I don't like cell phones! Thanks for adding to the list.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 21 months ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

You're welcome, Kathleen! Thanks for stopping by.


tattuwurn 21 months ago

That's why I notice that my jawline, or around my chin, have more pimples instead of on the forehead and cheeks.

Thanks for the little tips. I'll find and use non-comedogenic cleansers from now on. Voted up and useful.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 21 months ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

You're welcome, tattuwurn. So glad my tips have been helpful. Thank you for giving my article a thumbs up. Enjoy your weekend!


1st Class Travelr profile image

1st Class Travelr 20 months ago from Jackson, MS

These are very true reasons for having acne. I even told a few people about the hair products and cell phones, but guess no one listens to me. LOL! GREAT ARTICLE Annette


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 20 months ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

Hi, 1st Class Travelr. It's nice to meet you! I'm glad you found my article, and I appreciate your encouraging comment.


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 20 months ago from Mexico Level 1 Commenter

I must say that I suffer from occasional acne even though I am 34 years old, which is why I found your hub an interesting read. Nevertheless, I think none of these triggers are responsible in my case. I have seen a good relation between the outbursts and my menstrual cycle, so I have come to the conclusion it is due, in a big percent, to hormonal factors.

Some people also say it has to do with the character and it affects cranky people or people who get easily angry.


Annette R. Smith profile image

Annette R. Smith 20 months ago from San Antonio, Texas Hub Author

Hi, Claudia. I think hormone fluctuations play a big role in adult acne cases, even in midlife. Crankiness is a factor I hadn't considered! Thank you for reading my article and sharing your input.


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