Which lifestyle changes will help you fight adult acne?


Treatment for adult acne can be expensive and unimpressive. Acne treatments can take two to four months to take effect. But there are steps you can take to fight and prevent adult acne. Read this article to learn which lifestyle changes will help you fight adult acne.

What is adult acne?

Adult acne is the presence of acne after age 25. People often believe that acne only happens to teens though it can occur at any age. We understand that this can feel embarrassing, but many people get adult acne.

If your acne persists, you may make lifestyle changes to fight it or seek treatment from a dermatologist (skin specialist). If you want private professional help with your adult acne, book an appointment with one of our expert dermatologists.

Read our blog to discover what a dermatology appointment is.

What causes adult acne?

Adult acne can occur on your shoulders, neck, chest, upper arms, and back as well as the face. You are more likely to get adult acne if you have a family history of acne.

Four factors that directly contribute to adult acne are:

  • Excess oil production
  • Clogged pores from ‘sticky’ skin cells
  • Inflammation
  • Bacteria

In addition, hormones play a role in acne, both in adults and teens. Though, the hormones involved differ. 

Androgens, such as testosterone, cause teenage acne, whereas adult hormonal acne is usually caused by estrogen and progesterone (especially during pregnancy/ menstrual cycles). This could be why women are more likely to experience adult acne than men. Hormonal conditions such as PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) can also cause adult acne.

You may find that your acne appears further down your face as you age.

Acne triggers in adults

Possible triggers for adult acne include:

  • Certain medications, such as steroids
  • Some cosmetic products
  • Continuous pressure on the affected skin
  • Diet, foods affecting IGF-1 levels or causing inflammation
  • Smoking

Other lifestyle factors can contribute to adult acne, including a lack of sleep and stress. We will discuss how to counter these with lifestyle changes further on.

How to treat adult acne

You may wish to try certain lifestyle changes before seeking medical assistance to fight adult acne. Though if you are still not happy with the health of your skin, you can try some over-the-counter medications or prescribed treatments. 

The best acne treatment for you will depend on how severe your acne is.

Adult acne treatment options include:

  • Topical treatments applied directly to the skin, such as retinoids
  • Oral (swallowed) antibiotics
  • Oral contraceptive pills
  • Isotretinoin capsules
  • Azelaic acid
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Comedone extractor
  • Chemical peels

A commonly recommended at-home treatment is toothpaste. Toothpaste contains antibacterial substances which may be beneficial for acne, though it includes other substances that can dry and irritate the skin.

Lifestyle changes to manage adult acne

Dietary changes to fight acne

There is still more research needed on the subject of diet and acne. While some foods may be better than others for skin health, we cannot say for certain how big a role each food plays in the presence of acne.

Foods to avoid

People often believe that greasy foods cause acne, though this is a myth. Greasy skin, however, may cause acne.

We associate foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed foods and sweets, with acne. A high glycemic index means these foods cause your blood sugar levels to rise quickly.

Evidence suggests that dairy products can cause acne, though we need further research to determine a stronger link. Similarly, whey protein may also lead to acne.

Foods to eat

Foods that reduce inflammation may lessen and prevent acne. These foods include those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, pastured eggs, flaxseeds and nuts. 

Mushrooms, cucumber extract, and green tea have anti-inflammatory properties as well.

You may benefit from supplements, such as fish oil, vitamins D and B, zinc and probiotics, though you might want to discuss taking these with a doctor or dermatologist first.

We recommend drinking plenty of water to fight acne; this is also good for your overall body health.

Skin and face health

There is plenty you can do to promote good skin health and manage acne.

Tips include:

  • Check the ingredients on skincare products
  • Use suncream every day
  • Avoid touching, popping or picking at your spots
  • Lightly exfoliate once or twice a week
  • Wash your face twice a day – no more
  • Try make-up free days
  • Remove all makeup products before going to bed
  • Wash your hands before touching your face
  • Clean the electronics you touch regularly e.g. phone and laptop

Stress management

Higher stress levels increase your cortisol levels which can affect your immune system. This can mean you are more likely to get acne. High cortisol levels can also cause more oil secretion from your sebaceous glands.

By managing stress, you will promote better skin health and lower your risk of acne. Learn how to manage stress in our article: How to manage stress: A quick guide.

Quality sleep

Sleepless nights can trigger acne. Sleep deprivation disrupts your hormones, leading to a chemical imbalance instead of one that usually works to prevent spots. Good quality sleep can also lessen stress, further lowering your risk of spots.

Your body and skin heal while you sleep. When you are sleeping less, your skin has less time to repair overnight.

Another tip is to clean your sheets every one to two weeks to ensure they aren’t collecting bacteria and oils.


Some people avoid exercising as they believe the sweat will worsen their acne. You can still exercise and look after your skin health at the same.

Caring for your skin health while exercising:

  • Remove makeup before exercising
  • Use a towel while working out if you get quite sweaty
  • Clean your face immediately after working out
  • Wash as soon as your can after exercising
  • Put your workout clothes in the wash at least twice a week (depending on use)

Resources for more information

Glycemic index: Everything you need to know

Medical News Today discusses what a glycemic index (GI) is and which are high and low GI foods.

Acne severity and sleep quality

Learn more about the link between sleep and acne.

Does diet matter when it comes to adult acne?

Read Harvard’s health blog to find out more about the link between diet and acne.

The Best Minerals and Vitamins for Acne

Healthline offers a breakdown of the minerals and vitamins to banish acne naturally.

How Stress Can Make Acne Worse

Visit Verywell’s page to discover how stress can worsen acne.

Why choose The Clinic @ 78 for adult acne treatment?

We know that adult acne can affect your confidence and impact your quality of life.

Our expert dermatology team provides advice and treatment for adult acne. We perform thorough assessments to recommend the best treatment options for you. We also offer Morpheus8 treatment to reduce acne scarring.

If you need to speak to a private dermatologist about your adult acne, visit us today. Book a consultation or call us on 01202 767000 for more information.

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