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Acne health centre

Acne treatments for men

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Teenage boys aren't the only ones to get acne. It's not unusual for men to experience acne long after their school days.

It may be the case that the acne which started in the teenage years has lingered into adulthood, or some men get acne for the first time as an adult.

How common is acne in men?

The figures vary but a study at the University of Alabama found that 42.5% of men in their 20s had occasional acne, 20% of 30-somethings did, dropping to 12% of men in their 40s.

Acne for some men can be more of a persistent problem.

"Acne is more common than we realise in adults, especially in these days of go-go-go lifestyles," says Dr Sweta Rai of the British Association of Dermatologists.

"I've seen cases of acne in my clinics in men in their late 20s and 30s and even in their 40s. It's more common in males during adolescence, however this reverses during adulthood where 12% of men versus 25% of women suffer with adult acne. Above the age of 40 both men and women have a 5% likelihood of having acne."

What causes acne?

There are plenty of myths about what causes acne. Eating burgers, chips and chocolate all the time isn't a great health choice, but it won't give you acne. Neither is acne down to bad personal hygiene.

Acne is caused by a number of factors including genetic predisposition and hormones.

"Acne has a multifactorial process," says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson.

"It's a disorder of the pilosebaceous unit of the skin, which is composed of an oil-producing gland, hair follicle and hair. Under the influence of hormones, the size and activity of the oil producing glands increases. In addition, skin cells become 'sticky' blocking pores and bacteria known as 'Propionobacteria acnes' start to multiply. This combination of factors results in the formation of acne," explains Dr Mahto.

"Stress and hectic lifestyles which contribute to stress can also be exacerbating factors in acne," says Dr Rai. "Young men who body build and are on supplements, which may contain steroids, should get their supplements checked out by their dermatologist as this may also contribute to their developing acne."

How to treat male acne

The good news is there are plenty of treatment options for acne.

"The treatment of acne can be topical: the use of face washes containing benzoyl peroxide/ salicylic acid in combination with topical retinoids such as adapalene. Oral retinoids are commonly used along with oral antibiotics for inflammatory acne," says Dr Rai.

She adds: "The gold standard for treating scarring or severe acne is, however, isotretinoin orally. However, it may cause mood disturbances, therefore taking this during stressful periods in one's life such as starting a new job or during important exams may not be the best time to begin this as a new treatment."

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