Acne in Adult Women

Acne in Adult Women

Though acne is most often seen as affecting teenagers, it is also a scourge for many adult women. Perhaps this is why acne in adult women does not receive adequate attention in dermatology.  It may also be the reason that many women can feel disappointed, embarrassed, and somewhat lost when they do have acne.  We understand this extremely well.

Acne in Adult Women

In our practice, we recognize that acne in adult women is a very common problem.  In fact, of the patients we see for acne at the Acne Institute of Omaha/Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands, nearly 1/3 of them are adult women suffering from acne.  For this reason, we wanted to release this article highlighting the scrutiny that we give to this condition in our practice and express that we believe added attention to it is necessary in the field of dermatology.

Scientific Understanding

The scientific understanding of acne has come a long way in recent decades.  The best dermatologists know that the centerpiece of acne is the pore, scientifically called the pilosebaceous unit, and they also intimately understand the reason for this.  Most humans have nearly 20,000 pores on their face.  Pores are widespread elsewhere in the skin, but in the case of acne we are most interested in the ones on the scalp, face, neck, chest, back, and arms.  That’s because those locations are the most common areas we develop acne (and are also the areas most visible to others).


The condition itself involves malfunction of the pore, which can include plugging pores (comedones), bacterial infection, too much oil production, and inflammation.  In most cases, a combination of these factors takes place, resulting in the inflamed spots of acne.  We are also seeing some cases of adult acne that is seemingly triggered by testosterone hormone therapy. The spots of acne are papules and pustules; in more harsh terms, these spots may be called pimples, zits, etc…  We know that both hormones and genetics contribute to acne.  Diet, stress, and other environmental agents may have a lesser role but are also factors.  The interplay between all of these is especially complex in adult women.

Adult female acne is often chronic (long-lasting), but the good news is that there are many different acne treatments available.  In our approach to the clinical care of adult female acne at the Acne Institute of Omaha, we want to work with each patient individually to identify the best action plan.  Our individualized and scientific approach involves utilizing crafted schematic treatment plans for each patient in addition to our acne photographic treatment tracking.  This enables us to provide our patients with the best dermatology care for their acne.  Short of being seen for clinical consultation, there are several points of general advice we would like to share about what you may do on your own to help treat acne.

Acne in Adult Women tips

  • Makeup:

We advise avoiding thicker, heavier makeup.  Powder bases are best for some women, as they are even less likely to plug the pores.  Always look for products that are labeled as non-comedogenic (less likely to clog pores). Some experimentation with different product lines may be good to see what works best for your skin.

  • Cleansing

Gentle cleaning of the face twice daily and other acne-prone areas once daily is usually best.  We like gentle cleansers, such as Dove bar soap and Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser.

  • Diet

Though there is no definitive evidence that diet has a role in most cases of adult female acne, we find that some patients will improve with minimizing fried foods as well as minimizing excessive consumption of milk (especially skim milk).  Put another way, a generally well-balanced diet may help prevent acne for some individuals.

  • Hair Care Products

Be mindful that some of these products may make your acne worse.  Depending on what they are made of, they may plug the pores.  Most often these are substances that are styling products like hair gel.

  • Skin Care Products

Oil-based moisturizers and other similar products applied to the skin tend to plug the pores more easily, resulting in more acne.  Generally, the heavier (thicker, greasier) a product is, the more likely it is to do this.  These types of products are best avoided. Instead, seek out oil-free options.

  • Sunlight

Though some of our patients report that their acne gets better with sun, we always recommend against intentional sun/UV exposure (tanning beds) for this.  Aside from the inherent dangers such as skin cancer and sun damage (increased wrinkling, spotting, etc…) UV light can also darken up some acne spots as they heal leaving brown spots that take much longer to disappear.

  • General Skin Care

Always avoid anything harsh on your skin, such as picking and popping acne spots.  Abrasive cleansers and cleaning devices generally make acne worse by increasing inflammation.  Avoid these too.

Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands Omaha & Council Bluffs

Remember, those who have adult acne do not suffer alone. It is a very common problem.  The Acne Institute of Omaha at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands is here to help.  We have a team of clinical staff, advanced practice providers, and physicians working together to provide the best care for improvements regarding acne as well as most hair, skin, and nail needs of our patients.  Also remember that making any condition better and keeping the complexion in the best possible shape is always a work in progress.  We feel confident that between our working with you, in addition to your own efforts, we can determine the best possible way to control your acne.

Schedule a consultation today to receive professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.