The guide to acne in men: causes, treatment, and prevention

Learn how to build an effective skincare routine to treat and prevent acne.

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Men's Acne Guide
We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

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Hey guys, my name is Zack. I’m a Curology dermatology provider, and I have been a physician assistant for over 11 years. My major skin issues have always been oily skin and body acne breakouts, so I have done a lot of careful research on men’s skincare to keep these issues under control. 

From a medical standpoint, we know that acne breakouts can be different when it comes to men vs. women, and I am here to help shed some light on why! Men naturally have higher levels of testosterone in their bodies, and testosterone can play a big role in acne breakouts. 

Types of Acne

That said, acne is multifactorial, so there are other reasons too. Understanding the type of acne you have can help you figure out an effective treatment—what works for hormonal acne may not work for clogged pores, for example. 

Skincare products for men are becoming increasingly available, but not all products are created equally. Some actually contain ingredients that may make breakouts worse! Before we can talk about products to treat and prevent acne, let’s set the story straight when it comes to breakouts in males and get you on the road to better skin. 

Common causes of acne in men

1. Testosterone

We know that testosterone levels can influence our skin, meaning both men and women can experience hormonal acne. One of the most common times we run into acne issues with men is during puberty, when testosterone levels start to increase. We also know that lowering testosterone levels may reduce oiliness and help acne in both women and men. 

 Reducing testosterone can have unwanted consequences in males, including reduced sex drive, sexual problems, a decrease in muscle mass, and mood changes. Long story short, men typically can’t do much about testosterone levels, and men with higher levels tend to have oilier skin and experience more breakouts. For this reason, it is important for men to understand what works (and what doesn’t work) to help target and reduce breakouts.  

2. Working out 

Sweating is another factor that may contribute to breakouts. After working out, it’s ideal to change out of your sweaty clothes and shower to keep your skin clear. The sweat, moisture, and friction from clothing and gym equipment can lead to breakouts.  I suggest that you avoid touching your face while working out and also wash your hands once you complete your workout.

Increased muscle mass and working out can be associated with higher testosterone levels. We also know that bodybuilders who use testosterone or any type of anabolic steroids that increase testosterone levels are at increased risk for developing acne.  

3. Diet

Simple carbohydrates (foods with a high glycemic index/sugary foods) spike your blood sugar, causing your body to produce insulin. Insulin causes inflammation in the skin and may trigger acne. So generally, avoiding high-glycemic foods may decrease the risk of breakouts

At Curology we like to let our patients know that pre and post-workout supplements/shakes can impact your skin too! These products may contain a high sugar content and/or whey protein, ing to acne breakouts in some people. We often recommend that our patients with stubborn breakouts temporarily discontinue these supplements to see if their skin improves.

Common causes of acne in men infographic

Skincare products for men

There are many skincare products marketed toward men now —like body wash, cleansers, moisturizers, shaving creams—but some of the most popular brands contain pore-clogging ingredients like coconut oil and sodium laureth sulfate. These ingredients can trigger new breakouts or make existing breakouts worse! So, here are some products that we have found to be non-clogging.

Cleansers

Moisturizers

Sunscreen

Shaving cream

Body wash

Man cleansing with Curology in bathroom

When does acne go away for men?

Many people think that acne breakouts resolve after they go through puberty, but that is not always the case. Treating acne is often an ongoing process with gradual improvement until the tendency to breakout has passed.  This time period varies from person to person because everyone’s skincare journey is unique.  Some may experience breakouts for a few months, while others have them on and off for years. Using the tips and products I discussed above will hopefully help, though! 

Prescription medications for acne

Topical prescription medications for acne are considered effective, first-line treatment in the medical community. These prescription-grade products need to be prescribed by a licensed medical provider such as a physician, Physician, physician assistant (PA) or nurse practitioner (NP) and you can’t find them over the counter.  If your breakouts continue to persist with topical medications, you may be treated with oral antibiotics for several months.  If this is something that interests you, talk to your Curology medical provider or see a local health care professional.  

One of the easiest way to get prescription skincare is with Curology. Just take a quick skin quiz and snap a few selfies to get paired with a dermatology provider (like me). We’ll take a look at your skin and, if Curology is right for you, send a Custom Formula with a mix of active ingredients chosen for your unique skin directly to your door—for free* (you’ll just cover $4.95 for shipping and handling), and you can try any of our recommended skincare products at no extra cost. 

Male Face

If you ever have any medical questions or questions pertaining to skincare products for men, please do not hesitate to reach out to your Curology medical provider. You can also find more medical tips from providers (like myself) on our TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube accounts. My fellow Curology providers and I are always here to help and we bring a lot of medical knowledge to the table.

• • •

We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).

*Trial is 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Love,

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