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What is the best way to treat acne in men?

Man suffering from acne-min

Despite marketing tactics out there, you’d be hard pressed to know that acne treatment for men and women are no different. 

No one likes acne. As a teenager, it is frustrating and embarrassing. As an adult male, it is just as exasperating. 

Acne is the condition that occurs when hair follicles or your skin pores get clogged with dead cells or oils from your skin, resulting in pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, swelling, redness, and sometimes pain1

Many patients assume that acne treatment for men is different, considering the differences in our hormone levels and skin types2, among many others. 

However, acne treatment for men is no different – regardless of gender, the key to effectively treating acne is finding out the cause(s) of the acne. 

First, let’s take a look at some of the common causes of acne in men.

What are the common acne triggers in adult males?

So, acne in men can have several causes. We will talk about direct and indirect factors below:

The direct causes of acne in adult men are:

  • Pores being clogged by dead cells
  • Overproduction of oil in the skin
  • Bacteria
  • Inflammation

The indirect causes of acne in men are: 

  • Stress- It can wreak havoc on your skin
  • Hormones- When your hormonal levels are all out of whack it sometimes manifests on your skin.
  • Diet- What you eat can trigger excess oil production or cause your body to produce inflammation.
  • Makeup- Sometimes no matter how thorough your removal technique, makeup can still clog your pores.
  • Skincare products - Certain products may not be right for your skin.
  • Hair products - Some may contain irritating chemicals.
  • Medication - Certain medications may exacerbate acne (anabolic steroids, lithium, and corticosteroids). 

What can I do to minimize acne breakouts?

You can be proactive in the fight against acne. There are some steps you can take to keep acne breakouts at bay3:

Pay attention to your skincare products

Use products that are non-comedogenic. These products will not contribute to clogged pores.

Avoid the foods that you have noticed trigger your acne breakouts

Research shows that dairy products and high glycemic-index foods often cause acne breakouts.

Change your hair and skin products

Choose products that are water-based rather than oil-based.\

Wash your face with a gentle skin cleanser

Never use harsh soaps. What you use on the rest of your body is not suitable for your face. Use warm water and never scrub your face with a rough washcloth. Do NOT scrub your face as this will cause further irritation and inflammation.

Use a moisturizer that is suitable for your skin type

It is important to keep your skin hydrated since some of the treatments that we will discuss below often have a drying effect on the skin.

Try to keep your hands away from your face

It is often very tempting to touch, pick and pop acne. However, doing so can add bacteria and further infect your skin, exacerbating your acne. 

Try to reduce your stress

While no one can live a totally stress-free life, I encourage you to manage your stress levels. I’ve found that meditating and adding other relaxation practices to your daily routine helps. Don’t underestimate the impact stress levels have on your skin –  you may very well see the payoff!

Use a towel for your face only once

Towels can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

Watch your sun exposure

UV rays can cause redness and inflammation, especially if your skin is already sensitive due to the treatments that you are using. It is also a good idea to use sunscreen to give your skin some extra protection.

Eat a healthy diet

Ensure your diet is rich in fruits and vegetables – they can help bolster the health of your skin.

Add exercise to your daily routine

Exercise boosts blood flow to the skin. Just remember to wash your face after! 

How is acne treated in men? 

Acne treatment for men may require some trial and error until you find the treatment that works best for your skin type.

Most of the time, your first move would be to see what is available over the counter. There are several non-prescription creams, lotions, gels, and pads to choose from. These products usually contain one or more of the active ingredients:

Glycolic acid

Acne breakouts can be kept at bay if the dead skin cells are removed. This way pores are less likely to get clogged. Glycolic acid is used as a safe skin peel.

Benzoyl peroxide

This active ingredient in treatments kills bacteria that can invade follicles and cause infection.

Salicylic acid

Works similarly to glycolic acid. It can unclog or clear your pores. However, since it is a milder treatment, its effects are temporary and recommended for daily use.

Of course, if you try these products and have mediocre success, it is best you visit a dermatologist, who will most likely prescribe these medications: 


These are vitamin A derivatives. They are used to unclog your pores and they stay that way for longer periods of time.


Either orally or applied topically can help eliminate the bacteria causing the acne.


These are anti-inflammatory medications that are injected into the inflamed area to reduce severe eruptions.

Supplements like Zinc and Vitamin A

While these supplements may improve your acne situation, if taken in excessive amounts, they can cause health issues. Too much zinc can cause anemia, and too much vitamin A can cause a host of problems like hair loss and even liver toxicity. As such, they should be taken under the care of your physician.


So, as you can see there are several options for acne treatment for men. If this is your struggle, there are solutions, talk to your doctor today. 


  1. Fox L, Csongradi C, Aucamp M, du Plessis J, Gerber M. Molecules. 2016 Aug 13;21(8):1063. doi: 10.3390/molecules21081063. PMID: 27529209
  2. McCarty M. Dermatol Clin. 2016 Apr;34(2):203-6. doi: 10.1016/j.det.2015.11.007. PMID: 27015780
  3. Whiting DA. West J Med. 1979 Dec;131(6):551-7. PMID: 161830

This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 24/01/21

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