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When Will I Grow Out of Acne?

Studies Show That About Half of the People Who Have Acne as Teenagers Will Outgrow It by Their 20s

By: Dan Kern, Acne.org Founder & CSO
Last updated: March 23, 2021

The Essential Information

Studies estimate that as many as 85% of people between 12- and 25-years old experience acne.

On average, acne begins to improve after the age of 15, and it affects fewer people with age, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

However, studies show that by their 20s, 50.9% of women and 42.5% of men continue to experience acne breakouts. These numbers continue to decline with age, and only 26% of women and 12% of men report acne by their 40s.

My Experience: I've spent the last 20+ years researching acne and meeting people who are struggling with acne. The majority of the men who I have met naturally outgrow acne after high school, and usually, at the latest, after college. However, many women who I have met continue to experience acne as adults, or even start to experience it for the first time in their mid-to-late 20s. There are many exceptions, but that has been my general experience.

The Science

Growing out of acne depends largely on hormones.

The main hormones that lead to acne are called androgens, which are male hormones that are present in both males and females. Androgens are produced at higher levels during puberty. Higher levels of androgens lead to increased production of skin oil, clogged pores, and eventually pimples.

When people reach adulthood, androgen levels typically stabilize, and acne becomes less common.1-3

In some cases, acne continues into adulthood,4 and this may be because hormone levels stay elevated in some people when they reach adulthood.2

The Statistics: How Likely Is Acne Beyond Adolescence?

The following studies provide statistics on how acne is less common with age. If you're pressed for time, you can just look at the graphs and the table at the end of this article.

You'll see that women are more likely than men to suffer from acne during adulthood and that adults with darker skin types might be more prone to adult acne than those of lighter skin types.

But most importantly, overall, you'll see clearly that acne declines steadily with age. 

2008 survey: Males and females report declines in acne with age

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology

A 2008 research study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed how acne becomes less common with age, for both females and males. The study relied on surveys taken by 540 female and 473 male participants to estimate how prevalent acne is according to age. The results were split into five different age groups and reported as follows:5

- Teenagers: 66.8% of females and 68.5% of males experienced acne

- People in their 20s: 50.9% of females and 42.5% of males experienced acne

- People in their 30s: 32.5% of females and 20.1% of males experienced acne

- People in their 40s: 26.3% of females and 12% of males experienced acne

- People in their 50s and older: 15.3% of females and 7.3% of males experienced acne

This data is graphed below for comparison:

Percentage of people with acne in each age group

Many of the participants also reported that the severity of their acne reduced during adulthood. This was the case for 53.3% of the female and 63% of the male participants. Although this study showed a gradual decline in acne with age for both genders, females were more likely than males to experience acne during adulthood.5 This matches earlier findings published in the British Medical Journal.6

Female photographic studies (2012 and 2011): Acne declines with age in all ethnicities

Two studies examined acne in females of different ages and ethnic groups. These studies relied on photographs of 2895 females between 10 and 70 years old who lived in the United States, England, Japan, and Italy.

Journal of Women's Health

Based on the data from these participants, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Women's Health reported that acne became less prevalent with age. The following statistics were included in this study, which defined "clinical acne" as five or more pimples:7

- 45% of women in their 20s had clinical acne

- 26% of women in their 30s had clinical acne

- 12% of women in their 40s had clinical acne

This data is graphed below for comparison:

Clinical acne in women

Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology

The other study that investigated the photographic data from 2895 females was published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in 2011. In this study, the participants were evaluated with respect to their ethnicity and their age. This study found that females with darker skin types were affected by acne more, and the prevalence of acne decreased with age for all five ethnic groups that were included in the study.8

The results of the study are shown in the graph below:

Occurrence of acne in women of different ethnicities

Although these two studies only included females, which is a limitation, the data is reliable because the researchers drew their conclusions from physical evidence, rather than just relying on surveys.

Large study of doctor-assessed acne in China (2012): Acne declines gradually after teen years

A group of researchers in China performed another reliable study of how widespread acne is in different age groups. In this study, dermatologists selected six cities in different parts of China and visited citizens in their homes to examine them for acne. A total of 17,345 citizens between the ages of 1 and 99 years old participated in the study.9

Acta Dermato-Venereologica

The study was published in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica in 2012. Of the 17,345 males and females examined in the study, 1,399 people were found to have acne. The dermatologists graded acne on a scale of I-IV, where I means mild acne and IV corresponds to severe acne. In each age group, they found the following:

- 1-9 years old: 0% of participants had acne

- 10-14 years old: 8.4% of males and 12.6% of females had acne

- 15-19 years old: 41.3% of males and 33.7% of females had acne

- 20-24 years old: 40.0% of males and 30.1% of females had acne

- 25-29 years old: 21.2% of males and 12% of females had acne

- 30-34 years old: 6.4% of males and 9.6% of females had acne

- 35-39 years old: 3.2% of males and 4.6% of females had acne

- 40-44 years old: 1.1% of males and 1.5% of females had acne

- 45-49 years old: 1.2% of males and 0.9% of females had acne

- 50-54 years old: 0.7% of males and 0% of females had acne

- 55-59 years old: 0.4% of males and 0.1% of females had acne

- over 60 years old: 0% of participants had acne

The researchers noted that 46.8% of 19-year-olds in the study had acne, making this the most acne-prone age. After this age, acne declined gradually.9 

The results of the study are summarized in the graph below:

Percentage of People with Acne in Each Age Group

2016 international database study: Acne declines after the age of 15 worldwide

Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics

A 2016 study published in the journal Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics showed that the decline in acne with age happens worldwide. This study relied on the 2010 Global Burden of Disease database, which included data collected from studies on acne from all over the world between 1990 and 2010. This study found that males and females in more economically developed countries like the United States are more likely to have acne than people in developing (poorer) countries, but females worldwide are more likely to have acne than males. This study also showed that, on average, the prevalence of acne peaked at the age of 15 in both genders and decreased with age thereafter.10

The rate of acne in economically developed and less-developed countries that was determined from this study is shown in the graph below:

Acne over a lifespan

For comparison, the table below provides summaries of the methods and results reported in the five studies discussed above:

Study Results on How Adult Acne Diminishes with Age

Conclusion

Several studies have been able to show that people are less likely to have acne as they age, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Although 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 25 experience acne, for most people it improves after the age of 15, and it becomes less common with age. Only about 26% of women and 12% of men continue to experience acne in their 40s.

References:

  1. Bhate, K. & Williams, H. C. Epidemiology of acne vulgaris. Br J Dermatol 168, 474-485 (2013). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23210645
  2. Lynn, D. D., Umari, T., Dunnick, C. A. & Dellavalle, R. P. The epidemiology of acne vulgaris in late adolescence. Adolesc Health Med Ther 7-13 (2016). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26955297
  3. Heng, A. H. S. & Chew, F. T. Systematic review of the epidemiology of acne vulgaris. Sci Rep 10, 5754 (2020). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32238884/
  4. Williams, C. & Layton, A. M. Persistent acne in women: Implications for the patient and for therapy. Am J Clin Dermatol 7, 281-290 (2006). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17007539
  5. Collier, C. N. et al. The prevalence of acne in adults 20 years and older. J Am Acad Dermatol 58, 56-59 (2008). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17945383
  6. Cunliffe, W. J. & Gould, D. J. Prevalence of facial acne vulgaris in late adolescence and in adults. Br Med J 1, 1109‐1110 (1979). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1598727/
  7. Perkins, A. C., Maglione, J., Hillebrand, G. G., Miyamoto, K. & Kimball, A. B. Acne vulgaris in women: Prevalence across the life span. J Womens Health (Larchmt) 21, 223-230 (2012). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22171979
  8. Perkins, A. C., Cheng, C. E., Hillebrand, G. G., Miyamoto, K. & Kimball, A. B. Comparison of the epidemiology of acne vulgaris among Caucasian, Asian, Continental Indian and African American women. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 25, 1054-1060 (2011). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21108671
  9. Shen, Y., Wang, T., Zhou, C. et al. Prevalence of acne vulgaris in Chinese adolescents and adults: a community-based study of 17,345 subjects in six cities. Acta Derm Venereol 92, 40‐44 (2012). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21710106/
  10. Lynn, D., Umari, T., Dunnick, C. & Dellavalle, R. The epidemiology of acne vulgaris in late adolescence. Adolesc Health 2016, 13-25 (2016). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4769025/

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