Why do I still have acne?

Consultant Dermatologist
06 June 2017

Most of us probably remember acne from our teenage years, and with not much fondness. But for some, the problem can persist into adulthood. This Acne Awareness Month, I explain what acne is, and what you can do to try and manage adult acne.

A woman with acne

What is acne?

Acne is a condition that affects your skin. Hair follicles (the cells around the root of a hair) and sebaceous glands (small glands on the skin) get blocked and inflamed. This causes lesions to form. These tend be spots (whiteheads and blackheads), but in more severe cases may form larger inflamed areas on your skin.

In the long term, acne can lead to scarring and darkened patches of skin. Some people may experience psychological problems, like depression and anxiety, because of the social impact of the appearance of the condition.

Acne in teenagers

Acne affects most people at some point in their lives. Usually people experience it as a teenager or young adult, with around eight in 10 people getting it at some point between ages 11 and 30. During puberty, production of the hormone testosterone leads to greasy skin, which results in the blockage of follicles.

Acne in adults

But acne can also affect people later in life, either appearing for the first time or continuing from before. Acne affects around eight in every 100 adults aged 24 to 35, and around three in 100 between 35 and 44.

We don’t understand in great detail why some people continue to have acne after adolescence; a number of factors might increase your risk. These include having naturally greasy skin, or using certain medications such as corticosteroids, anti-epileptic medicines or lithium. In rare cases, it can be caused by another illness, such as glandular conditions that increase the presence of certain hormones.

There are some myths around the causes of acne. Some say it’s related to hygiene or diet, but this isn’t scientifically demonstrated. There’s also no strong evidence that stress causes acne. It’s not infectious, so you can’t pass it on to someone else.

Treatment for adult acne

If you are experiencing adult acne, make an appointment to see your GP. Or you could contact a dermatologist directly. They will examine the affected areas of your skin, and may ask you some questions.

There are a wide range of treatment options your doctor may prescribe, including skin creams or gels, oral medicines, or even oral contraceptives (if you’re a woman who needs contraception). If you are prescribed medicine, bear in mind that it can take a long time before you see any results. It’s important to stick to the instructions you’ve been given about how to take them.

Tips for looking after yourself

If you have acne, it’s important to look after your skin correctly. Here are some of the most important things to remember.

  • Don’t pick, squeeze or scratch at your skin.
  • Don’t wash the affected area any more than twice a day. Use a mild soap of cleanser along with lukewarm water.
  • Don’t scrub the area vigorously, and avoid abrasive or exfoliating products.
  • Don’t try to clean any blackhead spots you have.
  • Try and keep the area as clear of makeup and cosmetics as you can.
  • If you have dry skin, use an unscented, water-based emollient product.

You don't need to have our health insurance to come to us for dermatology services. So, there's nothing stopping you getting our expert help and support. Book an appointment with us today.

Dr Davide Altamura
Consultant Dermatologist

What would you like us to write about?


Bupa health insurance

Heart icon

Bupa health insurance aims to provide you with the specialist care and support you need, as quickly as possible. Find out how you could benefit.