A Doctor Explains: Here's What You Need to Know About Acne in Your 40s

gif of 3 different acne products

Graphic by Cristina Cianci

Raise your hand if you can relate: Turning the big, empowering 4-0 is kind of like breathing a sigh of relief. Why? Youthful insecurities often give way to a kind acceptance, and the qualities that once felt like differences are usually the same ones that now feel unique and individual. And even though there will always be more to learn about life, and yourself, for the most part, you probably have a better sense who you are and what you offer. There's a certain calm in that mindset, and a hard-earned confidence that comes with it.

So it's tough when you find that an aspect of adolescence can come back to rock the boat: Like acne. Shouldn't we be past that by now? Ronald Moy, MD, FAAC, of MFC Dermatology in Beverly Hills, point to a number of reasons why acne can flair up in your 40s. "Some of the causes behind experiencing acne in your 40s can be due to high levels of stress, too much sugar intake, hormonal fluctuations, clogged pores from oil-based moisturizers, and bacteria buildup within the skin," explains Moy.

Meet the Expert

One of the leading cosmetic and facial plastic surgeons in Los Angeles, Dr. Ronald Moy is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology, American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, and the American Board of Facial Cosmetic Surgery.

Acne in Your 40s Is More Common Than You Think

Although breakouts are stereotypically part of a teenager's experiences, seeing blemishes pop up as a 40-year-old can be more common than you think. The hormonal component of this shift has to do with the alternating level of androgens in the body, which are responsible for creating excess oil production. Androgens can also prompt skin cells to shed more often, and that can clog hair follicles. If you suspect that androgens are behind your pimples, then it's best to see a doctor. For the other causes, Moy recommends evaluating your lifestyle: Focus on a healthy diet and ensure you're getting enough sleep come evening.

Additionally, "There are definitely a few changes you can make to your lifestyle to help with acne, especially around decreasing your sugar and dairy intake," he continues. "The current theory suggests that sugars can cause an inflammatory response in the skin, and dairy can play a role in influencing acne and even rosacea. Lastly, better sleep improves the repair and the health of the skin, including acne."

Aim to sleep about eight hours per night to achieve optimal skin.

Skincare to Try for Acne In Your 40s

If you're in the midst of a flare-up, Moy suggests putting ice on the area to help with swelling. However, will ice and other home remedies get rid of your problems? Not really, he says. For that, you'll need something stronger.

"You should [look] for ingredients that kill bacteria, such as benzoyl peroxide, and ingredients that unclog pores like [those found in] Differin," he says. "Tazorac or retinoids also work."

That said, we asked Moy to recommend several products to try that treat adult acne. We also included four other items to buy that follow his advice. Because even though we know you're a confident, accomplished 40-something, we also know acne can put a damper on your mood. Keep scrolling for eight skincare products to try to treat acne in your 40s, for every budget.


Differin Acne In Your 40s
Differin Acne Treatment Gel (15 g.) $11

"Differin is now sold over the counter, and it has a retinoid that helps kill the bacteria that causes acne," he says. 


ProactivMD + Complete Duo ProactivMD + Complete Duo
Proactiv ProactivMD + Complete Duo $30

"The benzoyl peroxide in Proactiv products also do well to kill the bacteria that causes acne," he says. "It also treats the acne that's currently flaring up."


Murad Outsmart Acne Clarifying Treatment $44

"The salicylic acid in this gel is what helps clear and prevent adult acne," Moy notes. "Plus, it won't over-dry skin."


Clearasil Daily Clear Acne Treatment Cream Acne In Your 40s
Clearasil Daily Clear Acne Treatment Cream $8

"The 10 percent of benzoyl peroxide in this cream can help clear up pimples fast when used as a spot treatment," he adds. 


Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL Acne In Your 40s
Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Serum $50

This serum is made of 100% natural salicylic acid to clear pores of blemishes and blackheads. 

Indie Lee

Indie Lee Clearing Mask Acne In Your 40s
Indie Lee Clearing Mask $60

Apply this mask once a week for 20 minutes, and its glycolic and salicylic acids will treat acne without drying skin.


Acid Fix AHA BHA Treatment 1 oz/ 30 mL Acne In Your 40s
Omorovicza Acid Fix AHA BHA Treatment $125

The same glycolic and salicylic acids mix with lactic acid for a potent but gentle combination to treat and soothe skin. 

Dr. Dennis Gross

SpotLite(TM) Acne Treatment Device Acne In Your 40s
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare SpotLite Acne Treatment Device $50

Treat acne with this FDA-approved device, which uses LED technology to promote clearer, calmer skin.

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