Advice for Frustrating Acne at Every Age: Why now?

frustrating acne
by Samantha

While teenagers may be most likely to experience acne, don’t feel like you’re stuck with a teenager’s problem if you’re nearing thirty and still breaking out. Acne is a skin disease found in all stages of life and has very little to do with one’s hygienic tendencies in high school.

While I enjoyed mostly clear skin throughout childhood and high school, I was relieved to find that when I got acne as a young adult, I wasn’t alone. Even though we may hope our acne will end once we’re done high school, thousands of women and men alike experience acne outside of their teen years - you really can experience acne at every age.


baby acne


When I say you can experience acne at every age, I mean every age. Even newborn babies aren’t immune to acne’s clutches!

Baby acne is characterized by whiteheads, or small red or white bumps on the forehead, cheeks, nose, chin and sometimes chest. Baby acne is acne that develops around 2-4 weeks of age, is quite common, mild, and usually harmless.

Babies get a surge of androgen hormones around a month old, which may explain the sudden onset of acne, but it usually goes away on its own after about a month.

Doctors usually recommend just cleansing the skin with tepid water and a gentle soap, while extreme cases may require antibiotics. For obvious reasons, baby acne shouldn’t be treated with any common acne treatments except those recommended by a doctor.


infantile/childhood acne


Infantile acne may either persist from baby acne or develop independently around 3-6 months of age. Infantile acne is more characteristic of typical acne breakouts, with a variation of whiteheads, blackheads, pimples and cysts.

Infantile acne is usually a strong indicator of severe acne in one or both parents in their early years, as well as an indication they may have acne later in life, too.

Like baby acne, it’s best treated with gentle cleansing and, if necessary, intervention under a doctor’s guidance.


teen acne


Acne is almost like a rite of passage for teenagers, with some 80-85% experiencing a form of acne at some point in their lives, although it is most common in males. Acne in this group typically develops around age 11 for females, and age 13 for males (or near time of puberty), when the body experiences new surges in hormones.

Hormonal activities during puberty provide the perfect condition for acne – increased sebum production and hyperkeratinisation. If women begin taking certain birth control pills at this time, they may develop acne for the first time. While there are many variables that can contribute to the occurrence or severity of teen acne, it is most likely that hormones are the key players at work.

Like every other form of acne, there are strong genetic components to the occurrence and severity of teen acne – if our parents or siblings had bad acne, we are more likely to have bad acne.

Products with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide tend to be very effective during this time, but don’t overdo it and don’t skip the moisturizer and SPF, either!

Approximately 1/3rd of teen acne cases persist into adulthood and become chronic, proving that you really can experience acne at every age.


young adult


For most people, acne significantly disappears by the age of 25. Now on my way to 28 and having spoken with countless other women in their 30s and beyond, we know that acne doesn’t just magically end when we’re young.

Both types of adult acne are common among those who suffered from it in adolescence, although females are more likely than males to have acne in early adulthood, and it isn’t unheard of for clear-skinned teenagers to develop acne as adults. See Rachel’s story about how her acne developed suddenly in her early twenties.

Acne in young adulthood is also linked to hormonal changes, particularly starting/stopping the pill. Some women may also experience acne in fluctuations, only during menstruation. Potentially aggravating variables include chronic stress, keeping a poor diet, or poor hygienic habits (like not swapping pillowcases).

Acne cosmetica is also more common during this time, when young people are beginning to use more cosmetic products.

Treatment depends on the underlying causes of the acne, but as with most acne, it is responsive to the same treatments: benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, azelaic acid, green tea, antibiotics, and in severe cases, Accutane.


late adulthood


While acne into late adulthood is less common than adult acne, similar hormonal roots are believed to be the cause, as during the perimenopause stage for women, estrogen levels slowly begin to decline. Stress may also be an important contributing factor for late adulthood acne, as many people are beginning to stress over careers, family life, finances, and other important life events.

Acne that persists into adulthood could also be the result of declining skin cell turnover. The dead skin accumulates on the skin and then clogs our pores along with our sebum. If you take this, and then add in variable hormonal changes, you’ve got yourself a recipe for acne.

Women who experienced hormonal acne in young adulthood may or may not experience perimenopausal acne, but acne can still breakout in adulthood in people who never experienced it in adolescence.

Late adult acne shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if it is persistent and damaging psychologically or physically. It can also result from Cushing’s syndrome or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), so if you have any other overlapping symptoms it might be best to see your doctor to run some tests.

While acne can persist well into our late adult years, some people have it stick with them even until their senior years.


senior years


Acne in seniors is rare, but it happens. There’s a difference between acne that persists into senior years, and acne that develops only in the senior years, as senior acne may not really be acne at all, but some other skin issue.

When true acne vulgaris does develop in the elderly, it is more concerning and should be evaluated by a health care professional. Usually acne in the elderly is a sign of internal disturbance, which could be the first signs of a disease, or the result of taking hormone replacement therapy or hormone drugs to treat cancer.

Regardless of the fact that we can develop acne at every age, acne at certain life stages may be more cause for concern than in others.


it´s all in our genetics


Genetics really do play a large part in acne formation. Some people just have skin that is more sensitive to changes in hormones, or inflammation, or other acne-aggravating factors. And while many of us will be fortunate enough to achieve acne-free skin eventually, some of us just won’t be so lucky.  


So, the question of “when will my acne stop?” really has a different answer for each person. There are many variables to consider, and no two cases will be the exact same. Despite this, there are also promising treatments for acne at every age and you definitely don’t need to feel hopeless.




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