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Published: January 10, 2023

Acne is a part of adolescence that we all hope to leave in the past. But unfortunately, while it’s most commonly diagnosed in teens, it can still frequently occur during adulthood — even in men.

Whether you are an adult male who has been dealing with consistent acne for years or facing it for the first time, you’ll be relieved to learn there is plenty you can do to manage frustrating breakouts. We suggest keeping it simple—it really only takes a few effective products to get your acne under control and properly care for your skin.

Essentially, as an adult with acne-prone skin, it is important to implement a healthy and consistent skincare routine. This article will go through the causes, the best acne treatments, and the most efficient ways to prevent breakouts as a male. 

"Since there will most often be a combination of excess sebum as well as surface irritation, look for a fusion of purifying, exfoliating and soothing formulas to keep men's skin in prime condition."

Christine Lee, Board Certified Esthetician and

[ comfort zone ] Master Educator

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What Causes Men's Acne

Before we jump into treatment options, we first need to understand what causes acne in men. Studies have shown that males and females deal with acne in almost equal amounts during their adolescent years. However, women are more prone to experience acne as adults. This is because women have fluctuating hormones that can cause breakouts at any age.

While data shows that facial acne affects women more frequently than men, it doesn’t mean adult males are exempt. Acne in adult males may be the result of fluctuating testosterone levels, which can result in oily skin and lead to breakouts. The onset of acne can even happen from lifestyle choices such as diet and stress. However, it’s not just because of hormones — male acne can occur for a number of reasons from facial hair to harsh skin products or even family genetics.

Facial Hair

Having facial hair can cause acne to develop or worsen. This is because it catches bacteria, food, and dirt, leading to possible breakouts. Proper washing and grooming can significantly help prevent this from occurring. Men with beards or mustaches also have more oil that collects at the hair follicles, called sebum, which risks clogging the pores and causing acne.

Male acne may also occur from poor hygiene (like not cleansing and exfoliating under the beard). Without a proper skincare routine, dead skin cells may clog hair follicles, causing painful and itchy ingrown hairs. This doesn’t mean you need to stay clean-shaven. Simply use clean gentle cleansers and creams to take care of your facial hair to help prevent an acne outbreak.

Harsh Skin Products

Sometimes breakouts are caused by the cleansers, oils, or creams you use on your face. The key to fighting acne is to go gentle on your skin. Remember to keep your skincare routine simple. It is important to stay clear of using rough washcloths or products with harsh ingredients to treat breakouts. Scrubbing your face or using too many products can result in irritated skin and worse breakouts. Use organic products, avoid parabens, and go fragrance-free if possible. 

Family Genetics

Acne is not always a result of your skincare products, facial hair, or even lifestyle choices. Sometimes it is family genetics that causes oily skin and hormonal imbalances.

In a 2018 study, 70% of adult male patients declared a family history of acne. While you aren’t able to control your family genetics, you can control hygiene, product choices, and diet. No matter the cause, acne can be managed effectively. 

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How to Prevent Acne

Now that you have an understanding of where your acne may be coming from, let’s discuss ways to manage it. Treating acne starts by implementing a consistent skincare routine.

Make sure to use a mild face wash and exfoliate frequently to prevent clogged pores. Using cleansers or moisturizers with hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, and retinoids can all work to keep your skin clear. Remember, treating acne is not an overnight solution. It may take several months before you see changes in your skin. Be patient and stick with your medication plan.

Treating Men's Acne

Whether you are dealing with mild, moderate, or severe acne, there are a number of effective ways to manage it all. But with so many options, it may be overwhelming to make a choice. In order to properly treat existing acne, it is important to use products that are gentle, safe, and effective. We are going to provide you with different types of over-the-counter acne treatments and what situations they are best used for.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide works to prevent acne by peeling away the skin to get rid of bacteria, oils, and dead skin cells. It can be found in creams, face washes, body washes, and gels. Because the facial skin is sensitive, it may be best to start with a low concentration. This helps to avoid any irritation or redness that may occur. Meanwhile, chest and back acne can be treated with higher concentrations.

Benzoyl peroxide works well for inflammatory acne, as well as cysts. This is because it acts deep beneath the skin’s surface. In order for benzoyl peroxide to be successful, you will need to use it continuously for one month. This allows it to get rid of the bacteria that is causing the breakouts. While benzoyl peroxide is considered a safe ingredient, it is important to note that it may lead to dry skin and redness.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is one of the most commonly used ingredients in acne treatments. It is known for exfoliating the skin and helping with clogged pores. It can be found in cleansers, scrubs, gels, and creams. When applied to the face, salicylic acid should be used in low concentrations to avoid irritation and redness. In order to be effective, salicylic acid needs to be used every day. If use discontinues, the pores may clog and acne may return. Salicylic acid is not only great for removing whiteheads and blackheads, but it can also improve the tone and texture of your skin by correcting blemishes. 

Spot Treatment

For those experiencing singular pimples rather than cystic acne, it may be best to use a spot treatment. Spot treatments are made with active ingredients that start working immediately once applied to a blemish. These products are usually lightweight and absorb quickly into the skin to kill the bacteria-causing pimples. You can find spot treatments in the form of patches, creams, and even devices.

What if None of This Works?

Sometimes acne is so severe that over-the-counter medications won’t work. If this is the case, it could be signs of an underlying health issue or an environmental factor. You might need to see a dermatologist to get it under control. A dermatologist may suggest an antibiotic, retinoids, or even a medication that needs to be injected depending on the severity of your acne.

While your morning routine is heavily focused on protection, your nighttime skincare routine should be focused on repair and renewal. 

Treat Acne with a Simple Skincare Routine 

Whether you have been fighting acne since your teens or are experiencing it for the first time, there are ways to manage it. Acne in men can occur for various reasons, but there are different steps you can take to treat it — no matter the cause. This includes adding gentle and effective skincare products to a consistent AM and PM routine. While these products may prevent acne, they also help nourish and protect the skin as you age.

Remember, it is never too late to implement a simple skincare routine, and [ comfort zone ] has everything you need to get started. 

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