Here’s 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Male Acne

Acne can leave lifelong scars, both physical and emotional. However, it’s something that most guys assume is behind them once they hit their twenties.


Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 2nd Dec 2021.

Here’s 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Male Acne

For some men, acne is like a bad credit rating — no matter what they do, it won’t go away, and it keeps on humiliating them. And like that of a bad credit rating, the cause of acne may not be apparent. Stress, diet, too little sleep — all have been implicated. But dermatologists at times can’t identify the reason for certain patients.

However, the result — the inflamed spots on the face and maybe the back too — are plain for all to see. At least our credit ratings aren’t stamped on our faces.

Adult acne may not be as severe as that experienced by adolescents, but it can be bad enough to give men high school flashbacks and send them scrambling for treatment. Fortunately, acne treatment is better than ever for teens and adults. Why allow your self-worth to suffer when you can fight back?

The gross anatomy of a zit

The skin on your face, no matter how smooth it seems to the human eye, is made up of millions of follicles, each carrying a small, nearly undetectable hair. These follicles secrete…something. Sebum, for example, is a fatty material that enters the follicles. Sweat glands produce water, which rises out of them as well. The skin’s natural oil does as well.

Your skin will seem smooth and clean as long as this substance runs out of the follicles. However, the material might get trapped at times. The backup causes a whitehead if it gets lodged under the skin’s surface. If the substance penetrates the top layer of skin and comes into touch with oxygen, it will become black and become a blackhead. (Shaving too near the skin may cause folliculitis, a kind of hair follicle infection that isn’t acne but maybe just as unpleasant.)

When trapped material builds up, pressure builds up, straining the follicular walls. This might let germs proliferate in the plugged follicle, also known as a comedo or, more often, a comedone. If the follicular wall ruptures, your immune system will deploy cells to combat the bacteria and other foreign things in the comedo. The surrounding skin gets red and irritated as a result of the struggle. You could even see a tiny amount of pus containing dead bacteria and immune cells.

While acne in males isn’t necessarily dangerous, it may be aggravating – and it’s surprisingly frequent. Acne affects 17 million individuals in the United States, with males accounting for 25% of those involved. Acne is impacting an increasing number of individuals after puberty. According to a 1999 research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the median age of acne sufferers has increased by over 23%, from 20.5 to more than 26.5 years.

What causes acne in men?

The sebaceous glands, which begin generating large amounts of sebum throughout puberty and continue to do so throughout life, are the source of acne. But why does sebum continue to produce acne in males who have outgrown their adolescent hormone surges?

Acne treatment

The primary acne treatment uses a range of skin cleansers that exfoliate, or remove dead skin cells, to keep follicles open.

Many over-the-counter medications include peroxide or glycolic acids, which aid in the prevention of clog formation. Exfoliating the skin also aids in the removal of dead scales.

Many non-prescription gels, creams, lotions, pads, and other acne solutions that help exfoliate and cleanse the skin include two standard components, according to Harmon.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide kills germs that might enter follicles and cause infection
  • Salicylic acid, like glycolic acid, aids in the unclogging of pores but only gives temporary relief unless applied daily.

If these items don’t work, a dermatologist might recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Antibiotics help bacteria be controlled when taken orally or applied onto the skin.
  • Vitamin A derivatives, Retinoids, often known as vitamin A, help unclog pores and keep them cleared.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications A doctor may inject corticosteroids directly into an inflammatory cyst or abscess to relieve severe eruptions.

One word of caution: certain acne-fighting supplements might potentially trigger additional issues. Taking too much zinc to treat acne might induce anaemia. It may lead to a decrease in your white blood cell count, which may lead to infection. Too much vitamin A in the form of Accutane may cause plenty of issues, ranging from liver damage to hair loss. These products should be used sparingly, if at all, and ideally under the guidance of a doctor.

Adult acne and anabolic steroids

One well-known cause of acne in males is anabolic steroids, which athletes and bodybuilders use to develop muscle growth. According to studies, roughly a third of men who take steroids develop acne, and approximately half of those who do get a severe variant known as cystic acne.

“I can tell some patients are taking anabolic steroids based on the kind of acne they have,” says Jeffrey Dover, MD, a dermatologist at SkinCare Physicians of Chestnut Hill in Massachusetts. “Acne is most often seen on the back and chest, although it may appear anywhere. To treat them, you must first convince them that they are using performance-enhancing drugs. It’s tough to cure since it’s so resistant to conventional treatments.”

When a guy quits using steroids, the acne fades typically over time.

Acne-like problems

Men may also get folliculitis, an acne-like condition. This is often caused by tiny nicks created by shaving too tightly. Bacteria invade the follicles, resulting in infection.

One way to identify a follicular pimple from acne is that you can frequently see the hair shaft in the core of the lesion with a follicular pimple. Sometimes the pimples contain pus, and they may crust over or become encircled by a red, irritated region. Although the infection may itch or be irritating, it is typically not painful. On the other hand, deep folliculitis affects the whole hair follicle and may result in huge, painful, pus-filled pimples that may leave scars, according to him.

Folliculitis is more frequent among Hispanics and African-Americans since their hair curls up beneath the skin and creates an infection pocket. Switching to an electric shaver is the best treatment.

An electric shaver does not provide as tight a shave as a blade, but it produces less irritation and inflammation around the hair follicle. 

Because it causes tiny pimples and redness over the nose and cheeks, another kind of face inflammation known as rosacea is sometimes mistaken for acne. It’s called “acne rosacea" because it affects the follicles but isn’t caused by sebum or oil. Although the reason is unknown, some doctors suspect that Demodex folliculorum, a common mite that lives in follicles and is seen in significantly higher numbers in persons with rosacea, is to blame. The treatment for rosacea is different from the treatment for acne vulgaris.

Dermatologists argue that acne and rosacea treatments have improved in recent decades and are continuing to improve. Harmon sees a brighter future for men’s skin: “In ten years, we’ll have new topicals and oral agents, as well as further advances involving the use of oral vitamin A derivatives," he adds.

Sources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/men/features/acne-treatments-men 
  2. Cunliffe W. et al., Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1999; vol 41: pp 577-588. Christopher B. Harmon, MD, Total Skin and Beauty Dermatology Center, Birmingham, Ala. Jeffrey Dover, MD, SkinCare Physicians of Chestnut Hill, Chestnut Hill, Mass. David Rahimi, MD, Los Angeles. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “What is Acne?”

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