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My Skin Was Fine & Then I Got Bad Acne in My 20s

author image Kathryn Walsh
Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
My Skin Was Fine & Then I Got Bad Acne in My 20s
Woman washing her face Photo Credit gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Even if you made it through your teen years pimple-free, acne can pop up at any time. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, 1 in 5 people between the ages of 25 and 44 experience mild or moderate acne. In many cases, your pimples aren’t caused by any changes in your lifestyle, but while adult acne may be unpredictable, it’s not untreatable.


Shifting hormones may be to blame for your sudden onset of acne. Hormone changes among women in their 20s are often the result of pregnancy or starting or stopping birth control medication. Menstruation can also trigger pimples to form. If your acne coincides with any of those developments, this is likely the cause. Hormones aren’t to blame for all cases of adult acne, however. Your pimples could occur because of a family history with acne. Beginning other types of medication can also cause your face to break out.

Home Treatment

If you have occasional, mild to moderate pimples, you’ll generally be able to clear them up at home. Wash your face with gentle cleanser both in the morning and at night and apply a topical acne ointment to your pimples. These medications typically include ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid or sulfur. If you’re pregnant, consult your doctor before applying any medications. According to the American Pregnancy Association, creams made with benzoyl peroxide are generally safe, but any product that includes salicylic acid is off-limits for pregnant women.

Professional Treatment

When your acne is severe, painful or won’t go away on its own, your doctor can treat it. She may prescribe oral antibiotics or a powerful topical cream with more concentrated or stronger ingredients than the over-the-counter varieties. If you’re pregnant, your choices for prescription treatments are slightly more limited. Many common medications, such as isotretinoin or tretinoin, can cause birth defects and raise your risk of miscarriage. These medications are also unsafe if you’re trying to get pregnant or if you’re breastfeeding.


Once you’ve cleared up your first acne outbreak, taking care of your skin can prevent or reduce further blemishes. Continue washing your face with a gentle cleanser at the start and end of each day. Choose moisturizers, sunscreens and makeup that are labeled noncomedogenic or oil-free. Avoid touching your face and keep your hair pushed back, since the oil from your hair can cause pimples. If pregnancy or a change in birth control are to blame, there may be nothing you can to do prevent acne. Applying a self-tanner may mask the appearance of the pimples.

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