Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

Acne Treatments for Men

Acne in men is on the rise, but acne treatments are better than ever

What causes acne in men?

The cause of acne can be traced to the sebaceous glands, which start releasing generous quantities of sebum during adolescence and continue to do so throughout life. But why does sebum continue to cause acne in men who are well beyond the hormone surges of adolescence?

“I don’t know if we have an answer to that,” says Christopher B. Harmon, MD, of Total Skin and Beauty Dermatology Center in Birmingham, Alabama. “Genetic predisposition is a major factor — more than diet or environment. The kind of skin someone is genetically programmed to have will determine who gets acne and who doesn’t.”

Acne treatment

Basic acne treatment involves keeping follicles open by using a variety of skin cleansers that exfoliate, or remove dead skin cells.

“Over the counter products tend to contain peroxide or glycolic acids, which help prevent plug formation,” Harmon says. “And exfoliating the skin helps peel away those dead scales.”

Harmon tells WebMD that many non-prescription gels, creams, lotions, pads, and other acne products that help exfoliate and cleanse the skin include two familiar ingredients:

  • benzoyl peroxide, which destroys bacteria that can get into follicles and trigger infection
  • salicylic acid, which,like glycolic acid, helps unclog pores, although it provides only temporary relief unless it’s used every day

If these products don’t help, a dermatologist can prescribe several other treatments:

  • Antibiotics taken orally or rubbed into the skin help control bacteria.
  • Vitamin A derivatives, known as retinoids, help unclog pores and keep them unclogged.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications known as corticosteroids can be injected directly into an inflamed cyst or pustule by a doctor to subdue severe eruptions.

One word of caution: Some supplements designed to quell acne can actually cause other problems. “If you take too much zinc to treat acne, it can cause anemia,” says Dr. David Rahimi, a privately practicing dermatologist in Los Angeles. “It can bring your white cell count down and lead to severe infection. Too much vitamin A in the form of Accutane can cause a host of problems from liver toxicity to hair loss — all sorts of problems.” Rahimi says these products should be used moderately, if at all, and preferably under a doctor’s supervision.

Adult acne and anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids, used by athletes and bodybuilders to build muscle mass, are one well-known cause of acne in men. Studies indicate that about one-third of men who use steroids get acne, and about 50% of the men who get it develop a severe form known as cystic acne.

“With some patients, I can tell from the kind of acne they have that they are using anabolic steroids,” says Jeffrey Dover, MD, a dermatologist at Skin Care Physicians of Chestnut Hill in Massachusetts. “The acne usually is on the back and on the chest, but it can be anywhere. Treating them involves getting them to acknowledge that they’re taking these performance-enhancing drugs. It is very difficult to treat because it’s intensely resistant to typical treatments.”

Such acne usually goes away gradually if the man stops taking the steroids.

Today on WebMD

Life Cycle of a Penis
Slideshow
Preacher Curl
Slideshow
 
testosterone molecule
Article
Xray of foot highlighting gout
Slideshow
 
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Slideshow
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
 
Man taking blood pressure
Slideshow
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
Condom Quiz
Quiz
thumbnail_angry_couple_in_bed
Slideshow
 
man running
Quiz
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow