Treating Acne In Adult Men

Haven't outgrown your teen acne? Or maybe your acne made a comeback (or even a first appearance) in your adult years?

You aren't the only one dealing with this skin problem. Adult acne in men is frustrating, stubborn, but not uncommon. Gentlemen, here are 10 things you must know to successfully treat your adult acne.


Adults Get Acne, Too

Young man washing face in bathroom sink
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Teens aren't the only ones who get acne. Lots of people break out long after the high school years are over.

Many men find the acne they had during their teen years never really goes away and continues right into adulthood. But sometimes acne can appear for the first time post-adolescence.

Acne affects both sexes equally during teenhood, but men tend to have longer-lasting acne than women. And unfortunately, guys are more likely to have more severe acne. The good news is acne can be treated successfully, even in adults.


Know the Causes of Acne

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Acne on face

 DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

In your teens, you might have been told that working at a fast food place, or eating pizza, caused acne. We know so much more about acne development now that many of your old beliefs about what causes pimples might not hold true anymore.

There are a few main factors that are responsible for causing acne: excess oil, a buildup of dead skin cells in the pore, proliferation of acne-causing bacteria, and inflammation.

Why is it important to know what causes acne? Because it will help you treat it right, and get better results from your treatments.


Take Care of Your Skin

Just to be clear—acne isn't caused by a dirty face. But a good skin care routine will definitely help get your acne treatments on track.

If you're not really "into" skin care, don't worry. You don't have to spend a lot of time, and you don't need a lot of products, to care for your skin effectively.

Most men just need a good cleansing morning and night, and a moisturizer if acne treatments are drying out your skin. Easy!


Be Careful When You Shave

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.


 DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Acne can make shaving difficult (and sometimes painful.) Take extra care when shaving. Don't shave the tops of pimples off, if you can help it. And try to shave super carefully over acne blemishes. If your blade razor is irritating your skin, try an electric to see if that helps.

If you have more serious inflammatory acne, or if shaving in itself seems to really irritate your acne, you might want to experiment with a beard trimmer. This will clip the hair short but not completely remove it, and it can help save your skin from irritation (at least until acne starts to clear.)

Sometimes what men think is acne is actually ingrown hairs, folliculitis, or an inflammation of the hair follicle. Guys with curly hair in the beard area are more prone to folliculitis because the hair tends to curl under the skin. Again, leaving the hair a bit longer can help.

Not sure if it's acne or folliculitis? Your healthcare provider can diagnose folliculitis, and prescribe medication if you need it.


Enlarged Pores Can Improve

Lots of men find that large pores are just as annoying as pimples. Large pores, also called follicular prominence by skin docs, are common in those with oily skin.

There really aren't any skin care products that can completely eliminate large pores, but you can help those pores look smaller. Over-the-counter acne products can give you some improvement. Some prescription products, like topical retinoids, are also good for large pores and treat acne at the same time.


You Have Treatment Options

There are many acne treatment options available today, and that's a good thing. There's a treatment out there for everyone.

You might be able to get some improvement with an over-the-counter product if your acne is mild (meaning some light pimples and blackheads). More stubborn acne will respond better to prescription medications.

Isotretinoin might be an option for you, too. You might know this medication by the brand name Accutane. Used properly, this medication can clear up severe cases of acne, even acne that hasn't improved with other treatments.


Body Acne Can Be Treated

Maybe you have acne on places other than your face. Lots of people do. Back and body acne can be treated too.

You can buy body washes made specifically for body breakouts at your local drug store, Target, Wal-mart, etc. The most effective will contain benzoyl peroxide.

If OTC products don't work, prescription medications are needed. Because it can be really hard (and messy) to smear a cream over your own back, an oral acne medication might be prescribed.


See a Dermatologist

Sure, there are plenty of OTC acne products to choose from. But if your acne isn't getting better with them, it's time to move on to stronger treatments.

Even though time spent in the healthcare provider's office may not be your idea of a good time, don't put off making an appointment. Your dermatologist will help you find a treatment that will clear up your skin. The sooner you make that appointment, the sooner you will start seeing results.


Be Patient

Acne treatments take time to work. Don't get discouraged and definitely don't give up too soon. It can take up to three or four months before you really notice a difference in your skin. Stick with a treatment at least that long.

And expect to still get some new pimples, or even a flare-up, during the initial weeks of treatment. This doesn't mean your treatment isn't going to work. Give it some time, but ask your dermatologist if you have any questions.


Don't Let Acne Drag You Down

Although it may be hard to admit, acne can affect your self-confidence. It can make you feel angry, anxious, depressed. Don't be too hard on yourself; you're not being shallow or vain. Lots of people feel this way.

If you feel like acne is affecting your life for the worst, and you can't seem to get past it, talk to your healthcare provider.

There is some good news here—almost every case of acne can be cleared with the right treatment. Get on a treatment plan. Just feeling like you have some control over your skin can immediately give you a boost.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes adult acne in men?

    The hormones that cause acne for teenagers can also cause it in your 20s and 30s. Hormones like testosterone can lead to excess oil and blockage of hair follicles, and bacteria in the pores can cause inflammation.

  • What is the best acne treatment for men of color?

    If you have darker skin, the American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests using products that contain a retinoid and benzoyl peroxide. The retinoid unclogs pores, reduces inflammation, and clears pimples. Benzoyl peroxide gets rid of the bacteria that causes acne. Also, check with your dermatologist about ways to deal with dark spots and scars, which can happen more often when you have darker skin.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Skroza N, Tolino E, Mambrin A. Adult acne versus adolescent acne: A retrospective study of 1,167 patientsJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(1):21–25.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. When should men see a dermatologist for adult acne? Updated November 2, 2018.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 tips for clearing acne in skin of color.