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Male Acne

Specifics of Male Acne

By: Dan Kern, Acne.org Founder & CSO
Last updated: April 26, 2020

The Essential Information

During adolescence, males tend to have much higher levels of androgens, which are male hormones that result in thicker skin, more skin oil production, and ultimately more severe cases of acne as a whole--both on the face and body--when compared with females. Once adulthood arrives, things shift. If we look at adults over 25 years old, we see that about 1/4 of men still experience acne compared with about 1/2 of women.

Shaving: Anything that physically irritates the skin can lead to more acne. For this reason, men should take care when shaving to avoid irritation.

Bodybuilding/Bulking up: Any time men, or women for that matter, increase calories, the body can respond with a parallel increase in hormones, which can theoretically lead to more acne. When bulking up, make sure you are extra diligent with your anti-acne regimen.

Anabolic steroids: More testosterone leads to more acne. This is established science, and is why we reliably see an increase in acne severity both on the face and body when taking anabolic steroids

Face masks: Here we are back to physical irritation. Face masks, helmets, or anything that rubs against the skin, particularly when you are also sweaty, can lead to more acne in that area. Limit irritation when you can, and when you can't, be diligent with your anti-acne regimen in that area and be sure to apply 10% glycolic acid to any area you irritate as insurance against a breakout.

Body and neck acne: Males tend to experience more acne on the back and the back of the neck.

The Science

After puberty, androgens (male hormones) are about 10 times higher in males than in females. Due to this increase in male hormones, a man's skin becomes about 25-30% thicker than his female counterpart. Male skin also produces more than twice as much sebum (skin oil) and thus more severe cases of acne on average. Let's take a look at some more considerations when it comes to acne in males.

Shaving

Shaving

Shaving with the wrong razor or with the wrong shaving cream/gel can cause irritation and perpetuate a case of acne. Be sure to visit the Acne.org Guide to Shaving to be sure you are reducing irritation when shaving.

Bodybuilding/Bulking Up

Bodybuilding/Bulking Up

When men, or women for that matter, increase their calories, the body responds by increasing androgen (male hormone) production. This is why people often notice that their acne can flare up when they are gaining weight. If you are bulking up and increasing your calories, this may make it a bit harder to get and stay clear. It is most likely not your protein powder or bodybuilding supplement that is causing your acne. Instead, it is more often simply an increase in calories. Be extra diligent with your acne treatment regimen while bulking.

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic Steroids

Taking anabolic steroids in order to increase muscle can make acne much harder to treat and can cause acne to flare on the body as well. In some circumstances, anabolic steroids can cause fast-onset and very severe cases of acne that are hard to treat.

Facemasks

Face-masks

Physical irritation of the skin aggravates acne. Anything that rubs, scratches, or comes into prolonged contact with the skin can make acne worse. Sweat combined with physical irritation can make matters worse. Since men sweat more than twice as much as women, this can exacerbate the risk caused by a facemask. Women wear facemasks when playing sports as well, but men on average wear more facemasks than women. If you wear a facemask, you will notice that your acne is most likely more severe in the area where your facemask meets your skin. Make sure to be extra diligent with your acne treatment regimen in this area and also learn about the power of glycolic acid to prevent irritation.

Body and Neck Acne

Body and Neck Acne

Males experience more incidence and more severe cases of acne on the back, chest, and back of the neck. Check out the body acne and neck acne pages of acne.org for information and treatment options.

Adult Male Acne

Adult Male Acne

Finally, some good news. Men experience about half as much adult acne as women. While male acne tends to be more severe during puberty, it normally subsides in early adulthood. This is not always the case, however, and about 25% of adult men experience adult acne at some point. Adult male acne is treated the same as pubescent male acne.

Sun Protection

Sun Protection

Males, in general, are less sun savvy than females. While up to 20 minutes per day of unprotected sun exposure for people with the lightest skin and 2 hours of unprotected sun exposure for people with the darkest skin may actually be beneficial for acne, getting a sunburn is damaging to the skin and can bite back with acne in the two weeks following exposure. Be sure to educate yourself on sunscreen and acne.

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