Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/02/2021
No one wants acne. At any age. But if you’re over the age of, say, 20, and still dealing with breakouts, it can feel like you’ve lived a lifetime batting pimples. So, when will it be over?!
Acne doesn’t discriminate by age, or gender. You don’t outgrow it just because you get another year older. Instead, it must be effectively treated.
TL;DR: Acne doesn’t go away just because you hit another birthday. As a matter of fact, many women have it well into their 40s and even fifties. Getting rid of acne at any age is a matter of finding the right treatment and being consistent with it.
Acne involves the interplay of several important factors: hormones, oil or sebum production, bacteria (particularly the Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, bacterium), inflammation, and dead skin cells.
Often, something in your life can trigger a change in one of these factors (such as your period affecting your hormones), causing a breakout.
There are many causes of acne regardless of your age, and triggers may include certain medications, hormonal cycles or imbalances, stress, obesity, cosmetics, sleep problems, excessive skin washing, endocrine diseases, smoking, diet and more.
Acne in adult women is pretty common. As a matter of fact, it’s estimated that 76% of adults with acne are women with an average age of about thirty-five.
Among all age groups, acne is more common in women in men, and it can persist well into your fifties.
Generally, adult women with acne have “persistent acne,” or acne that has never really gone away.
If you had acne as a teenager and still have it as an adult, you have what’s called persistent acne.
This accounts for as much as 85 percent of acne cases in adult women. Late-onset acne, or acne that develops only in adult women, is less common.
Adult women with acne don’t necessarily get the same types of pimples as men or younger women.
In fact, women with adult acne seem to have mixed acne with lesions on the face, trunk, and jawline.
There is likely a genetic factor in why you’re still struggling with acne. But it could also be due to hormonal fluctuations.
As many as 85 percent of adult women report their acne gets worse before their period, and it’s suggested that premenstrual breakouts are more common in women over the age of thirty.
Tracking your breakouts, along with your period, can provide better insight into whether this is a triggering factor for your acne.
If you’re nearing menopausal age, the hormonal changes of this life stage could be contributing to your acne too.
As women reach perimenopause, or the beginning stages of menopause generally beginning in your 40s, they are more increasingly more likely to be treated for acne, according to the authors of one scientific paper.
Aside from these hormonal factors, your acne could be blamed on stress, a lack of sleep, poor diet, or smoking.
So take a hard look at your overall health and see if there are areas that could need fine-tuning.
Finally, to nip acne in the bud at any age, talk to a dermatologist or healthcare provider about treatments that can help.
Sure, you can walk into any drug store and be overwhelmed with the number of anti-acne products, but if you’ve been dealing with acne for a long time with no relief, it may be time to look elsewhere. As a matter of fact, the products you’re using could be playing a role in your persistent breakouts.
Some solutions a healthcare provider can help you with include:
Oral contraceptives: The pill isn’t only for preventing pregnancy. If your acne is caused or aggravated by hormonal fluctuations, oral contraceptives can help. By regulating your hormonal cycle, the pill can help control breakouts.
Retinoids: Both oral and topical retinoids can aid in the treatment of adult female acne. These medications control the sloughing of dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores. Different kinds of retinoids are prescribed for different acne severity. For instance, oral isotretinoin is generally only prescribed for the most severe acne.
When you are choosing over-the-counter products for home care, be sure to select those made for acne-prone skin or those marked non-comedogenic, that won’t contribute to blocking your pores.
And when you’re cleaning your face, don’t overdo it! Scrubbing or otherwise over-washing can make your skin more susceptible to breakouts and inflammation.
Whether you’re 15 or 35, acne can strike. And no matter your age, it can be the bane of your existence.
But you’re older and wiser now, right?
Taking steps to properly treat your acne while maintaining your overall health can help keep breakouts under control.
A healthcare professional or dermatology practitioner can prescribe medications to ease this process, but their effectiveness will depend on your consistency and self-care.