Is teenage acne the same as adult acne?

Is teenage acne the same as adult acne?

Acne: A Skin Condition For All Ages

Acne is a skin condition that affects most people at some point. It occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells (NHS, Mayo Clinic). Acne is characterised by the formation of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and sometimes painful cysts. While it is often associated with teenagers going through puberty, acne can also affect adults, both men and women, well into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.

Teenage Acne vs. Adult Acne

The key difference between teenage acne and adult acne is in its prevalence and distribution. During puberty, both boys and girls experience an increase in androgens, which are hormones responsible for enlarging the sebaceous glands and stimulating higher sebum production. This hormonal surge often leads to breakouts. The areas commonly affected include the face, chest, and back.

On the other hand, adult acne is often linked to factors such as:

  • Hormonal changes – For example during menstruation or pregnancy.
  • Diet Studies have shown that eating certain foods, including carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bread, bagels and chips, may worsen acne.
  • Stress – While stress doesn't cause acne, it may make pre-existing acne worse.
  • Some medications Examples include drugs containing corticosteroids, testosterone, or lithium.
  • Genetics – According to the NHS, acne runs in families. A person is more likely to have acne if both their parents had it.

Adult acne is typically milder and tends to appear around the jawline, chin, and neck. For many women, acne can persist for decades, with flares common a week before menstruation. Furthermore, in older adults, a sudden onset of severe acne may signal an underlying disease requiring medical attention.

There are several myths surrounding acne and the following factors have been found to have little to no effect on its development:

#1. Chocolate and greasy foods: Contrary to popular belief, consuming chocolate or greasy foods has minimal impact on acne. There is no strong scientific evidence to support a direct link between diet and acne. 

#2. Hygiene: Acne is not caused by poor hygiene. In fact, excessive scrubbing or using harsh soaps and chemicals can irritate the skin and potentially worsen acne. Gentle cleansing is more effective in maintaining healthy skin.

#3. Cosmetics: Using cosmetics does not necessarily exacerbate acne, especially if you opt for oil-free makeup that doesn't clog pores (noncomedogenic), and make sure to remove makeup regularly. Non-oily cosmetics do not interfere with the effectiveness of acne treatments.

Treatment and management

According to the US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the main goals of acne treatment, regardless of age, are to promote the healing of existing lesions, prevent the formation of new ones, and minimise the risk of scarring. 

The treatment of teenage acne versus adult acne can vary due to the underlying causes and physiological differences between these two age groups. 

These differences include:

  • Hormonal factors - Teenage acne is often driven by hormonal changes during puberty. Increased levels of androgens can stimulate the sebaceous glands, leading to excess sebum production and clogged pores. In contrast, adult acne is more commonly linked to fluctuations in hormones related to menstrual cycles, pregnancy, or conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • Severity and type of acne - Teenagers are more likely to experience severe acne, including inflamed papules and pustules. On the other hand, adults often encounter more persistent, low-grade acne, consisting of blackheads and whiteheads, along with occasional inflammatory lesions.
  • Lifestyle and environmental factors - For adults, acne can sometimes be exacerbated by external factors such as stress, diet, and environmental pollutants. Addressing these factors alongside acne treatment may be necessary for effective management.
  • Skin sensitivity - Adult skin tends to be more sensitive and may show signs of aging, which can influence the choice of acne treatment products and the approach to managing breakouts.

For the two age groups, topical medicines are available in various forms, such as gels, lotions, creams, soaps, and pads. It is important to be aware that some may experience side effects like skin irritation, burning, or redness when using topical medications, especially products with high chemical content. For more severe cases, a dermatologist may prescribe oral medications like antibiotics or retinoids. In some cases, hormonal therapy may be recommended for individuals with hormonal acne. 

For a natural approach to addressing acne and managing excess sebum production, consider giving NET/ZERO Acne-Prone and Oily Skin Booster a try. This product is packed with 95%+ natural ingredients and features a breakthrough acne-fighting dendrimer. With an advanced formula, the dendrimer effectively reduces acne by rebalancing the skin’s microbiota, reducing bacterial aggression and inflammation, and decreasing sebum production. Furthermore, the added collagen and snail secretion support cell regeneration, hydration, and skin firmness. The booster is suitable for daily use with the hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic natural essentials NET/ZERO Face Wash, Body Wash and Face and Body Moisturiser

Self-help techniques

Maintaining a consistent skincare routine will go a long way towards managing acne. Cleanse the face twice daily with a gentle cleanser and avoid picking or squeezing pimples to prevent scarring. In addition, keeping hair and hands away from the face, using oil-free and non-comedogenic products, and managing stress levels can contribute to preventing acne breakouts and promoting clearer, healthier skin. These techniques apply to both teenage and adult acne.

These practical self-help techniques can prove beneficial in managing acne:

  • Limit washing: Try to avoid washing affected areas of the skin more than twice a day, as excessive washing can irritate the skin and worsen symptoms.
  • Gentle cleansing: Use a mild soap or cleanser along with lukewarm water to wash the affected area. Avoid very hot or cold water, as it can exacerbate acne.
  • Hands-off approach: Resist the urge to "clean out" blackheads or squeeze spots, as this can spread germs, worsen the condition, and lead to permanent scarring.
  • Choose non-comedogenic products: Opt for makeup, skincare, and sun protection products that are water-based and labeled ‘non-comedogenic’, which means they don’t clog pores. These are less likely to clog pores and contribute to acne.
  • Hydrate with emollient: If dry skin is an issue, use a mild, fragrance-free emollient to keep the skin well-hydrated and healthy.
  • Post-exercise care: While exercise itself may not improve acne, it can boost mood and self-esteem. After exercising, shower promptly to remove sweat, which could otherwise irritate acne-prone skin.
  • Hair care: Maintain clean hair by washing it regularly and try to avoid letting your hair fall across your face, as hair products and oils can contribute to acne development.
  • Shave carefully: Make sure the blade is sharp and soften the hair with soap and water before applying shaving cream. Shave gently and only when necessary to reduce the risk of nicking blemishes.


Acne is a common skin condition that can affect people of all ages. The main difference between teenage acne and adult acne is in its prevalence and distribution. Treatment options differ too, based on age and underlying factors. Alongside your treatment approach, self-help techniques play a vital role in managing acne, including gentle cleansing, choosing non-comedogenic products, and maintaining a consistent skincare routine. 

Although acne cannot be cured, it can be controlled with treatment. And with the right treatment and help, beating acne is a battle you can win.

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