You’re long past the awkward middle school or high school puberty stage — maybe really long past. So why hasn’t your face gotten the memo?
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
“Acne is definitely normal for teenagers — more than 90% of teens get acne. The outliers are the ones who don’t get it in their teenage years,” says dermatologist Alok Vij, MD. “But we’ve definitely seen over the past few decades that people don’t grow out of acne as quickly as they used to.”
For men, acne can sometimes persist into your 20s and 30s. (Sorry, guys!)
But all is not lost! Learn when you should seek help from a dermatologist.
“Acne is primarily a hormone-driven process,” Dr. Vij explains.
“It’s the excess activity of the male hormones, like testosterone, at the level of the hair follicle and the oil gland that leads to excess oil production, blockage of the hair follicles and then inflammation from overgrowth of bacteria in the area,” he says.
This process is still the same in adult acne, it just lasting even longer.
Dr. Vij says there are a few reasons men should seek out help for acne:
“Some people who have had acne feel their experience is just as bad as if they have a chronic medical condition, or in some cases, even cancer. Their quality of life gets that bad. And because acne can be a scarring process, that negative effect on someone’s life can be a lifelong thing.”
Since acne is hormone-related, you can’t treat men who have breakouts the same way you do women. And vice versa.
In women, medications used to stabilize the level of hormones include birth control pills or a medicine called spironolactone, which basically blocks the effect of testosterone at the hair follicle.
“We don’t use those medications in men at all because — while you could put a man on birth control — he wouldn’t be happy about it,” Dr. Vij says.
What is used for men instead? There are three main strategies:
Lastly, Dr. Vij says it’s important to note that there are two common pitfalls that lead to worsened breakouts in men.
“Now, more and more skin care companies are marketing new products specifically for men. Women always, I think, know to look for makeup and facial care products that say ‘noncomedogenic’ or ‘not pore-clogging,’” he says. “Men don’t necessarily look for the same thing. If you’re going to buy a new product, make sure it says it’s noncomedogenic.”