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
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
- 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
- Antibiotics taken orally or rubbed into the skin help control
- 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
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
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
Such acne usually goes away gradually if the man stops taking the