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Sudden Adult Acne

author image David B. Ryan
David B. Ryan has been a professional writer since 1989. His work includes various books, articles for "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.
Sudden Adult Acne
Sudden outbreaks of adult acne are an important health sign. Photo Credit BakiBG/iStock/Getty Images

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that the cause of acne "remains a mystery." Research proves that oil, bacteria, inflammation and clogged pores are linked to the condition, but the exact interworking between the elements is still uncertain. Sudden adult acne may take years to reduce, but there are effective treatments for the condition.


Sudden outbreaks of adult acne may appear as pimples or whiteheads, but these may actually be symptoms of other, more serious, diseases, such as shingle (herpes zoster) blisters, bleeding moles or red scaly spots linked to skin cancer or scaling related to seborrheic dermatitis. Before self-treating a sudden outbreak, consult a specialist to ensure that the condition is not a symptom of a more serious problem.

Internal Causes

The causes of teen acne are routinely isolated to the production of excessive skin oil. As the skin ages in later years, however, it dries and the amount of oil is reduced. Hormonal changes are cited by the Mayo Clinic as a reason that women may experience adult acne during menopause. Dermatologists examine an acne outbreak to determine its origin. The AAD states that "inflammation determines what type of acne appears." Low levels of inflammation isolates a problem with pores close to the surface, while more inflamed acne sores filled with pus provide clues that the acne is created by a deeper pore problem. Each type of acne requires specific treatments.

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External Causes

External causes may also be responsible for sudden acne outbreaks in adults. New cosmetics may aggravate minor skin problems, creating the appearance of a sudden acne problem. Testing new products on a small test area (for example the inside of the arm or covered area of the chest) for several days prior to use will forecast any reaction related to cosmetic products or perfumes. All cosmetics and sunscreens clog pores, and the AAD recommends applying only oil-free products labeled "non-acnegenic" and "non-comedognenic" to avoid acne outbreaks.

Types of Treatment

Adult acne located on the skin's surface and classified as a minor outbreak is treated with topical antibotics and over-the-counter medications that include salicylic and lactic acid, resorcinol, sulfur and benzoyl peroxide to dry the skin and slough off dead cells. More involved acne that includes infections deep under the skin must be treated with oral antibiotics, in addition to topical applications to dry oil from the skin and reduce the bacteria level that creates inflammation, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Additional Outbreaks

The AAD reports that skin growths are common as the body ages, and outbreaks of adult acne may recur as skin conditions continue to change. Early treatment is recommended by the Mayo Clinic to avoid scarring and further inflammation.

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