The Difference Between Adult Acne and Teen Acne

Woman washing her face
Woman washing her face. Image Source / Getty Images

If you suffer from acne as an adult, you may wonder how different your adult acne is from teen acne. It turns out, there's quite a difference, from what causes the acne, to the products that treat it.

What Causes Acne in Teens and Adults

Hormones cause acne in both teens and adults. One in five women between the ages of 25 and 40 has adult acne and about 40 percent of teens will battle pimples in his or her lifetime.

Adult acne is very different from teen acne. Instead of getting pimples on your forehead and cheeks, people with adult acne tend to break out on their chin and around the mouth. The good news is that after menopause, your persistent that-time-of-the-month acne should disappear.

Teen acne usually kicks off with puberty when the sebaceous glands start producing. It seems to affect boys more than girls and because so much of the young population is affected, modern acne products are designed to treat—you got it—teen acne.

What's the big deal, you may wonder? Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid products are the two best ways to treat acne, period. And if blocked pores are what cause acne, what does it matter if the blocked pores are on a 13-year-old or a 30-year-old?

Turns out, it does matter.

Why Acne Treatments Differ from Adults and Teens

A 13-year-old teen's skin is very different from a 30-year-old adult's skin.

As teenagers, our skin is relatively thick. As we age, our skin thins out and becomes more sensitive to products. Those over-the-counter acne products with 10% benzoyl peroxide or 2% salicylic acid are perfect for the 13-year-old, but they are much too harsh for the 30-year-old.

Acne products are typically formulated for teenagers because a larger percentage of teens suffer from acne than the percentage of adults who do.

So if you're an adult, you're better off watching those labels. Stick to benzoyl peroxide products in the 3% range and salicylic acid gels, pads and cleansers in the .5% range. Tea tree oil also works well for those of you into natural products. We recommend Evan Healy Tea Tree Gel Cleanser.

Try various products and use what is right for your skin. This may mean what works for your friend doesn't always work for you. Go with your gut. Try something and as long as it works, keep using it. Stop when it stops working.

Spot Treatments That Work

Some people swear by Nelsons: Pure & Clear Acne Treatment Gel to spot treat blemishes. Dab it on pimples and let it dry so that it forms a sort of band-aid over the pimple, protecting it from makeup that might apply over it. 

Other women swear by shots they get from their dermatologist. While topical creams may take days to take effect, a shot into the pimple can solve your issue right away.

How to Keep Breakouts at Bay

With adult acne, it's important to continue to use products even after your breakouts subside because they keep more breakouts at bay. It's also important to use products that won't break you out. Sunscreen is a must, but it can be hard to find a sunscreen for acne-sufferers, so check out Elta MD UV Clear.