Adult Acne

In the system of acne classification by age group, adult acne is the most complex and heterogeneous group. Not only can five of the six clinical acne type cause acne in adults, but a clear distinction must be drawn between new cases of adult acne and cases in which teenage acne has persisted into adulthood.

Definition of Adult Acne

Adult acne is defined as the occurrence of acne in a person who is over the age of nineteen. Adult acne encompasses cases of acne attributable to five of the six clinical types of acne - the only clinical acne type which is not responsible for acne in adults is infantile acne. However, within the broad group of adult acne sufferers, there are two distinct sub-groups of patients, each of which share similar characteristics.

New Cases of Acne in Adults

New cases of adult acne, in which acne develops in a patient who has not previously had acne or whose adolescent acne resolved completely, are generally attributable to one of the clinical types of acne which has an 'external cause'. New cases of adult acne may be examples of drug-induced acne (medical rather than recreational drugs!), cosmetic-induced acne, occupational acne or acne caused by occlusion and may develop at any age during adulthood. The type and distribution of spots in each of these types of acne is explained in the section on the clinical types of acne. It is usually apparent to adult patients from the distribution of the acne spots that they have not developed the common adolescent type of acne, but it may require consultation with a doctor for the link to the causative agent to be identified. New cases of adolescent acne in adults are extremely rare and tend to be associated with a chromosome or endocrine disorder which causes delayed puberty and occur in patients in their twenties. The acne treatment regime is different for each of the clinical types of acne and it is therefore advisable for all new cases of adult acne to be seen by a doctor, in order to ensure the correct diagnosis of the clinical type of acne is made, the causative agent for the acne is identified and an appropriate acne treatment is started.

Acne which Persistents into Adulthood

Whilst new cases of adult acne are relatively rare, it is quite common for people to develop adolescent acne in their teenage years and for the acne to persist into adulthood. Acne is a chronic condition, which means that it may persist for a number of years, regardless of whether or not appropriate acne treatment is administered. Various medical studies carried out in the UK indicate that between 5% and 10% of all adolescent acne sufferers have acne which persists into adulthood. Adolescent acne is itself almost universal, affecting 90% of young people in the pre-teen and teenage age group, which suggests that somewhere between 4 and 9 out of every 100 people will have adolescent acne which persists into adulthood. Adult acne attributable to persistent adolescent type acne demonstrates the characteristic features of adolescent in terms of both the type and distribution of acne spots, and may range in severity from the mildest to the most severe form of the condition. The features which distinguish cases of 'adolescent' adult acne from adolescent acne in teenagers is the significantly longer period of time for which adult acne lasts and, in many cases, a poor response to conventional acne treatments. Adult acne is both a common and vexatious problem, which causes anxieties for both adult acne sufferers and doctors. The perceived wisdom is that adult acne should be treated by a doctor, or preferably a dermatologist, who is able to offer professional guidance and prescribe the most effective acne medication. The reality is that many adult acne sufferers have been treated by a doctor or dermatologist for a number of years without the condition resolving. In such circumstances, many adult acne sufferers are understandably willing to try almost any form of acne treatment, from conventional acne medication to the wildest and wackiest forms of alternative acne therapy, in order to rid themselves of acne. The secret of treating adult acne is that there is no secret - many cases of adult acne appear to be genuinely resistant to the full armoury of both medical and alternative acne treatments, resolving only in response to the best acne treatment of all, the passage of time.