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Hormonal Male Acne

By J.M. Andrews ; Updated July 18, 2017

Teenagers aren't the only ones who get zits--acne can plague adult men in their 20s, 30s and even older. Hormones appear to be the primary culprit in adult male acne, which can be tough to treat. However, the American Academy of Dermatology boasts that dermatologists can clear almost any case of acne, even in an adult male, with the treatments now available.


Acne has its roots in the male hormones known as androgens. When androgens, which include the hormone testosterone, overstimulate the skin's sebaceous glands, those glands can produce too much of the oil known as sebum. Extra sebum can clog your hair follicles and pores, allowing bacteria to take up residence.


Teenagers from both sexes commonly get acne because their hormones fluctuate as they enter and proceed through puberty. Androgen levels tend to settle down by the time you're in your early 20s, but if they rise or fluctuate later, you can get acne again. Acne may be more common in adults than you think: half of all adult women and 25 percent of men get acne, and it's almost always driven by hormones, according to the Acne Resource Center. Hormones from significant stress can trigger an acne outbreak. In addition, some researchers believe a diet high in simple carbohydrates can trigger acne by raising levels of the hormone insulin, although the American Academy of Dermatology discounts such a link.


If you're an adult male with acne, you may need a combination of treatments to begin to clear your complexion. If you decide to try an over-the-counter product, use one that contains the ingredients sodium sulfacetamide and sulfur. Prescription drugs effective in male hormonal acne include oral antibiotics, which fight bacterial infection, and isotretinoin, a powerful drug that can clear the most stubborn acne. Isotretinoin, however, can cause some serious side effects, and dermatologists often reserve it for their most severe acne cases.


Physical procedures that help to clear acne in teens, such as laser treatments and blue LED light therapy, haven't been studied in adults and may not work effectively. However, your dermatologist can clear particularly bad acne lesions quickly by injecting them with a solution containing a corticosteroid. This kills the inflammation and reduces the chance that the pimple will leave a scar.


Wash your face once or twice a day with a gentle cleanser, and never scrub, since that irritates skin and can cause more breakouts. Protect your face from the sun, especially if your dermatologist prescribes a medication that makes you more sun-sensitive. And don't pop or squeeze your pimples--that risks infection.

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