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Adult acne – The unfair reasons why you are having It

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asian woman popping pimple on face

“I am no longer a teenager and I am way past puberty. Why am I still having these red angry pimples on my face?!” 

Acne is a problem typically suffered by adolescents who have not yet reached puberty. Unfortunately, the problem of acne persists for some even into adulthood. It is usually caused by clogged pores, dirt, bacteria or inflammation and it can look nasty – especially those pus-filled ones also known as pustules.

Pustules contain pus due to the infection of the pore cavity when the pores are clogged by oil, dirt and dead skin cells. They usually appear as white bumps surrounded by red, inflamed skin and they can grow quite large.

So yes, adult acne and breakouts are real. Most annoyingly, it makes you look like you haven’t got past puberty – or worse – you haven’t quite got your life together.

illustrations of 5 different types of acne

#1. You’re female, with fluctuating hormones.

Did you know that a PubMed study found that women are more susceptible to acne than men? It’s estimated that 85% of adult females are still suffering from adult acne, while only 15% of adult males still have acne woes. [1]

This is mainly due to fluctuating hormones which can wreak havoc in the body, causing differences in blood circulation, pH imbalances, inflammation and/or an excessive production of oil or sebum.

Hormonal fluctuations in females occur almost constantly – every month during menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, the postpartum period, breastfeeding – and even as we age. We’ve all heard women fuming over getting both pimples and wrinkles at the same time during menopause. That must definitely be NOT fun at all.

#2. You’re stressed easily

stressed woman resting head on table

Stress feels like a trivial thing that everybody deals with, but if you’re the type that stresses easily and constantly, your body can procedure “stress hormones” called cortisol. An increase in cortisol levels can cause an imbalance in the skin, triggering acne breakouts.

These stress hormones are not only produced whenever you’re feeling emotional stress like anxiety or pressure, they are spike when you experience physical stress on your body. Some examples include: extreme weather, exposure to environmental irritants such as bad air, dehydration, lack of sleep etc etc. Thus, it’s really important to take care of your body, and along with it, your skin!

#3. Born this way

Research has shown that although there isn’t a specific gene mutation directly linked to acne, genes explained about 80% of the difference in acne prevalence. The study also showed that having a parent or sibling with acne increases your propensity to acne problems by four times. [2] Doctors have also noted that a strong family history is usually present in acne patients. [3]

Until Gattaca becomes a thing of reality where we can improve the hereditary qualities of the human species, we’ll just have to live with it.

#4. You have to wear thick make-up on a daily basis.

wearing makeup too thick can cause acne

Wearing thick make up without cleansing properly can clog up your pores – sebum secreted by the skin gets blocked in the pores, which almost definitely marks the beginning of acne.

The quality of make up that you use also plays an important role. For example, liquid foundations that are high in silicon can cause clogged pores. If you know that you have acne prone skin, consider switching to non-comedogenic or more natural type of skin and make up products as opposed to oil-based ones.

If you’re having a major acne breakout, do not slap on more make-up in a desperate effort to conceal them! Imagine this cycle: Girl breaks out, girl panics, applies heavy concealing make-up products to conceal red blemishes, girl buys more high coverage products, acne worsens, girl applies more make-up… And this panicked skin care cycle goes on.

Instead, it may be worthwhile to go bare-faced for the time being until your skin clears up. It is a common dermatologist warning that the worst thing you can do to clogged pores is to apply make up on it!

#5. You’re a pimple popper. You just can’t help it.

woman popping pimple without realising that it does her more harm than good

You know that huge ripe zit on your nose that you’ve been waiting impatiently to pop? This is precisely the kind of bad habits that would not help your acne situation, but only exacerbate it.

When you pick and squeeze your pimples, you are actually pushing the infection deeper into your skin, causing more severe swelling and bruising. This will in turn affect and impede your skin’s healing process. In fact, popping your pimples can cause scars and blemishes to linger on for months or even worse, become permanent!

If you’re suffering from breakouts, wash your face with warm water and mild facial soap to ensure that your skin is clean and oil-free. If left alone, your acne would heal by itself over time.

So next time you have an urge to squeeze your pimples, quell it. Trade your oily fingers for a warm compress instead.


[1] I’m a Decade Past Puberty, Why Do I Still Have Acne? Healthline Online. Published August 8, 2018.

[2] Is Acne Genetic? Pathway Genomics. Published March 23, 2018.

[3] Genetics of Acne. News Medical. Published November 16, 2018.

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