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Who Gets Acne?

The short answer to the question 'Who gets acne?' is: nearly everyone sooner or later. But the breakdown of who and when is interesting and helpful.

Acne is a condition in which a skin pore becomes clogged as a result of excess dead skin cells and sebum, a natural skin oil, being unable to exit the follicle. That can lead to bacterial growth, rupture of the follicle wall and other circumstances that promote acne. Hormones called androgens are thought to be a major driver of the increase in sebum production.

Since it is during our teen years that hormone levels increase dramatically, it's not surprising that acne shows up most prominently during this period. Acne typically develops in girls around age 11 and 13 in boys, reflecting the average age at which the two genders start puberty.

Once it develops, the incidence and severity is greater for males. Boys produce considerably more androgen hormones than females, and so they tend to develop more (and more severe) acne. Around 40% of teen acne is severe enough to warrant treatment by a dermatologist.

But the scales tip later in life.

Young or even mature adults can get acne, women more often than men. Nearly 85% of the population of the U.S. between age 12 and 24 develop some form of acne. Males and females tend to suffer about equally during the period, but women have a higher incidence after that time.

One quarter of these people have acne on other parts of the body besides the face - most commonly the back and neck areas. 40% of acne sufferers seek medical attention because of the severity of their breakouts.

There are studies that suggest that the monthly hormonal cycle of women has an effect on the occurrence of acne. Nearly 44% of women between the ages of 20-32 experience premenstrual related acne. The odds are even higher for women aged 33 and older. This is according to one of the largest studies of the menstrual cycle's effect on acne.

But acne can occur at any age.

Babies often get small whiteheads. It may take 3-6 weeks for baby acne to disappear, which it generally does, spontaneously. Acne can appear in those over 50 and even later in life. Often it is correlated with taking certain drugs, such as lithium, corticosteroids or phenobarbital. It's not just a teen's disease and it can have many causes.

Acne affects all races, too. Though more prevalent among Caucasians, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others all get acne from time to time. Treatments are essentially the same for everyone.


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