What Men Should Know About Acne

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on March 03, 2021

Just about everyone has some acne as teenagers. Sometimes it lasts much longer than that. Even grown men can have it. But there are treatments, even for severe acne decades after you finished high school.


For most people, changes in hormone levels trigger acne. These hormones create oils that can lead to clogged pores, which sometimes let bacteria grow. Both of these problems cause breakouts.

Men whose fathers had severe acne are more likely to have it, too. Some medications such as lithium, which treats bipolar disorder, and corticosteroids like prednisone can also bring on acne.

The Male Breakout

Men often get acne on the face and back.

Sweating can make it worse. Breakouts on the back often happen in hot weather or after exercising. They're harder to control than the kind on your face. But fewer people see your back.

Some men get shaving bumps that look like acne, but ingrown hairs or shaving mistakes are the real cause.

What You Can Do

Keep your skin clean. Many cleansers are available. In general, avoid products with beads in them, because they can irritate your skin. Wash twice a day.

Your Face

Use a fresh washcloth that's gentle on your skin.

When you shave, use a clean razor every time. You might want to use an over-the-counter product with benzoyl peroxide, retinol, or salicylic acid. Your doctor can prescribe an antibiotic foam that you can mix with your shaving cream to help prevent breakouts.

If shaving bumps are a problem for you, try an electric razor, and don’t shave too closely.

Your Back

When you shower, use a cleansing brush with an extension to wash hard-to-reach areas on your back. A sonic cleansing system with a changeable brush head is another option.

Benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid products can help control acne on your back. You don’t need a prescription for them. But go easy, because these can be drying.

A white, cotton tee-shirt is the best thing to have closest to your skin.

Stubborn Acne

If you’ve tried at-home treatments for 4-8 weeks and your acne won’t go away, it may be time to see a dermatologist.

At your appointment, your dermatologist will check your skin and recommend a treatment plan. You might need a prescription for antibiotics, prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, or a type of drug called retinoids.

If your acne is severe, your dermatologist may consider a drug called isotretinoin. Women who plan to get pregnant must avoid this drug, because it can cause birth defects. But men don't need to take extra precautions to avoid getting their partner pregnant.

There are also high-tech options. One of them is a laser skin treatment, and another is light therapy combined with vacuum therapy. These can be expensive, and your insurance may not cover them, so check first.

Show Sources


Purdy, S. Clinical Evidence, Jan. 5, 2011.

Doris Day, MD, dermatologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City.

Jonette Keri, MD, PhD, associate professor of dermatology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

March of Dimes: "Accutane and other retinoids."

Jennifer A. Stein, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, NYU Langone Medical Center.

American Academy of Dermatology: "Adult Acne: A Fact of Life for Many Women."

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