Cermskin Teen vs Adult acne Pexels.com/Cottonbro

Teen vs adult acne: What gives?

Yo, squad! We all know that acne is a fact of life for most of us in our teens, just when we're trying to level up our young adult confidence game. But it’s a problem for many adults, too. Seriously? We thought we left the acne drama behind with high school, but nope, it can stick around for the post-grad life too. Can't catch a break, can we? 🙄✨

Teen and adult acne have different causes. Hormones, lifestyle, and environment all play a role. Understanding why acne crashes the party at different life stages can help you pick the right playlist for clear skin. 


CERMSkin Teen acne Image: Pexels.com/Ron Lach

Image: Pexels.com/Ron Lach

What causes teen acne?

Teen breakouts are down to a combo of factors:

Blame the hormone rollercoaster: Both males and females have the same sex hormones, just in different levels. In males, there are more androgens like testosterone; in females, there’s more estrogen and progesterone. 

Through puberty and beyond, sex hormone levels are cranked up to help us become adults, plus they fluctuate up and down. 

Those pesky androgens also hype up your oil glands, so they make more oil than you need. And they affect the type of oil produced. 

Dead skin cells: Your skin sheds its dead cells naturally every month, so new, healthier skin cells can rise to the surface. But all that oil can make the shedding less efficient. Cue dead cell build-up that can block hair follicles and pores. Hey presto, whitehead and blackhead city!

Bacteria: This combination of excess oil and dead skin cells turns your skin into a hot destination for an uninvited guest – acne-causing bacteria (P. acnes). When it crashes the party, it causes infection and inflammation, so you get pus-filled pimples and more severe acne. 

Genetics: If you have a family history of acne, you’re more likely to experience it yourself, sadly. Your genes can influence your skin type, oil production, and how your skin handles hormonal changes.

CERMSkin Typical example of adult acne on jaw and chin. Image: Pexels.com/ Anna Nekrashevich

Typical hormonal acne

Image: Pexels.com/ Anna Nekrashevich

What causes adult acne?

About 25% of men and 50% of women will experience acne at some point in their adult lives. Its causes are a bit more complicated and tricky to treat:

While hormones play a big role, other health, lifestyle and environmental factors should also be considered in the management of acne at any age. 

Hormonal fluctuations: The reason why nearly 50% of adult women will experience acne all comes down to changes in their hormones. This includes their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, perimenopause and taking birth control pills.

While fewer men get hormonal breakouts than women, they’re usually more severe.

A tell-tale sign that it’s hormonal acne: it usually appears on the lower third of the face – chin and jawline. It is painful, appears deep under the skin and doesn’t form a head, so you can’t extract it. 

Stress: Our nervous and endocrine systems are all connected, and affects the health of our body, mind and skin. If we’re continually under chronic stress (overwork, worries, lack of sleep, etc.), this can cause an increase in our levels of the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol, which can stimulate more oil production and acne. It’s important to keep those stress levels in check!

Speaking of endocrine acne: This type isn’t just about hormone imbalances, but involves the whole endocrine system – issues with the thyroid and adrenal glands, and other endocrine players. Insulin, cortisol, and thyroid hormones play a role in skin health and acne development here.

In women, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is considered a form of endocrine acne because it involves hormonal imbalances that affect the endocrine system. It involves high levels of androgens, plus insulin resistance, which can make acne worse by influencing hormone levels and increasing inflammation in the body.

Symptoms include acne, irregular menstrual cycles, excessive hair growth, and ovarian cysts, can all trigger or worsen hormonal acne. 

Other acne triggers

Skincare products: Certain skincare and cosmetic products may contain comedogenic ingredients that can clog pores and contribute to acne. It's crucial to choose non-comedogenic products.

Diet: Your diet might be contributing to your acne woes. While the diet/acne relationship is complicated and varies from person to person, some studies point to dairy and high-glycemic-index foods (like junk food, white bread, baked goods, sugary cereals and drinks) as potential culprits. 

Our environment: Environmental pollution and harsh weather conditions can disrupt your skin's protective barrier, making it more prone to acne.

Medications: Medications such as corticosteroids, lithium, and certain hormonal treatments, can trigger or worsen acne as a side effect.

How to treat different types from acne, from mild to severe

How to treat both teen and adult acne

Clear skin vibes… incoming! 🌟