Adult Acne - What Causes It?

Contrary to popular belief, acne is not a problem just for teens and young adults. It can affect us at any time in our life. And, as adults, women are unfortunately more likely to be affected than men.

But what causes adult acne? The primary causes include:


The primary cause of periodic acne in adult women is fluctuations in hormones, especially testosterone, before your menstrual cycle.

In women, the release of testosterone encourages oil glands to produce more oil which can lead to acne and breakouts.

This fluctuation in hormones can lead to acne in the chin, neck and back area.


Stress has so many negative impacts on our body that it should come as no surprise that stress can cause acne.

When you’re stressed your body acts as if it is in fight or flight mode and releases the stress hormone, cortisol, to counteract and deal with the stress (or perceived danger).

But along with the release of cortisol comes the release of a small amount of the male hormone, testosterone. As mentioned above, this can lead to acne and breakouts.


Cleansing too often will dry out your skin. When your skin is dry, your body may release additional oil to compensate for the dryness. And as excess oil is excreted, breakouts and acne may arise.

Everyone’s skin is different and everyone’s lifestyle (e.g. how much pollution they are exposed to daily) is different so it is impossible to advise what is and is not considered over-cleansing. As a general rule, cleansing more than twice a day would be considered too much. I recommend cleansing once a day if you are out and about, and less if you feel your skin isn’t exposed to pollutants and free radicals as much.

Also, ensure you use a gentle cleanser on your face. Try to avoid drying soap or products which contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). Rather choose products which contain some oil and have a gentle foam.

And when it comes to weekly exfoliation, choose a product that is gentle and non-scrubby on your face such as one that contains fruit seeds. Avoid products containing salts and sugars as these are too aggressive for your face.


Breakouts and acne can be caused by dirt getting into your pores and clogging them. When you’re out and about, especially if you live in a city, your skin is exposed to free radicals, pollution and dirt that cling to your skin and clog your pores.

When pores become clogged your skin is no longer able to breathe thus hindering the natural flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and dirt can get become trapped and no longer be excreted. And this can cause breakouts and acne.

A Sugary Diet

When you eat food that is high in sugar, the insulin levels in your body spike. There is a growing belief that when your insulin rises, it can trigger a rise in the release of hormones which encourage oil-production.

When your body excretes excess oils, your pores can become clogged. And clogged pores can lead to breakouts and acne.