Despite being the most common skin problem in the US, there are a ton of misconceptions when it comes to acne. Additionally, it is challenging to find the best acne treatments for men. 

When you take some time to educate yourself, you'll realize that acne care is not that complex. Read on and discover the right acne products for you.

What Is Acne?

Many men struggle with controlling acne. This common skin problem is an inflammatory condition affecting the hair follicles. Acne can present itself in nearly any area of the skin, however, it is most common on the face and back.

  1. Non-inflamed acne - This type of acne consists blackheads, milia, and other raised bumps on the skin that create an uneven texture
  2. Inflamed acne comes with a red swollen appearance, such as pimples

Acne varies in severity, ranging from mild and intermittent blemishes to chronic severe breakouts.

Why Do Men Get Acne?

Although there are a variety of factors that can lead to acne breakouts, the overriding factor is genetics. Some people are simply more prone to developing acne at various stages in life. Here are the top reasons why men get acne:

  1. Overactive Sebaceous Glands - The skin contains numerous sebaceous glands that produce the sebum needed to lubricate the skin. Breakouts are more likely to occur when oil glands produce more sebum than is necessary for optimal function. The excess sebum stays in the pore and creates the blockage that leads to the formation of acne.
  2. Abnormal Shedding of Skin Cells - Desquamation is the body's natural exfoliation process. During desquamation, the epidermis continually sheds its dead skin cells in an effort to renew the top layer of skin. People who are prone to acne often have an overactive desquamation response. This condition means that more dead skin cells are produced than is typical. Because of this overproduction, the cells do not shed properly and they then cause blockages in the follicle.
  3. The Proliferation of Bacteria - Acne is also caused when the bacteria referred to as Propionibacteria acnes (P. acnes) grow too quickly. This excess bacteria produces a fatty acid waste product that leads to the formation of acne. Even the most diligent cleansing routine will not wash away the excess P. acnes.
  4. Overly Thick or Creamy Products - Using skincare or hair products that are overly thick or creamy can lead to a higher incidence of clogged pores. This is why it is important to use non-comedogenic products. Even hair products can seep from your hair onto your skin and clog pores.

Men Acne vs. Ingrown Hairs

Many people make the mistake of confusing pimples with ingrown hairs. Although they both originate in the hair follicle, ingrown hairs are not the result of a blockage in the pore. If you are experience bumps that resemble pimples in the area that you shave, the blemish is most likely an ingrown hair rather than true acne.

The sharp edge of a razor will often pierce the skin and make it easier for the ingrown hair to develop. Men are most likely to experience ingrown hairs in the beard area of the face. Using a quality shaving cream and avoiding shaving too close can help to reduce the odds that you develop acne or post shaving dark spots.

How to Get Rid of Men's Acne

Just like women, men should take care of their skin as well. These recommendations can be followed by anyone, and it should be understood that skincare does not differ just because you're a man or a women.

  1. Cleansing Your Skin - Washing the skin daily with a water-soluble cleanser is the best line of defense against acne breakouts. A gentle foaming cleanser will remove impurities and encourage clear skin. It is important to use a clean and dry towel after rinsing so that you do not introduce new bacteria to the skin. FYI - a drugstore facial cleanser is just as effective as their expensive counterparts.
  2. Regularly Exfoliating - A chemical exfoliant such as salicylic acid can work to reduce inflammation while simultaneously sloughing off dead skin from the surface of the skin and from inside the pores. The best time for men to exfoliate the skin is immediately after shaving. This will unclog pores and even out the skin tone.
  3. Use Spot Treatments - The gold standard in acne care is a topical treatment containing benzoyl peroxide. These treatments are available in a myriad of forms and strengths, making it easy to find the perfect product for your individual skin care needs.
  4. Hair Care - Although it may not seem related, it is important to properly wash your hair and choose your products wisely if eliminating acne is a goal. Greasy hair transfers impurities to the skin. This is why it is important to wash your hair regularly so that dirty hair does not lead to breakouts. Heavy or thick products such as pomade can also rub off onto the skin and exacerbate the situation.
  5. Sunscreen Removal - Clearly, the regular use of sunscreen is vital to any skincare routine. However, it is important to wash off sunscreen after you come indoors so that it does not sit on the face and clog pores. Take care to wash your face more often if you work outside or sweat a lot throughout the day.

3 Best Acne Treatments for Men

These over the counter solutions are a great first step at getting your acne under control. Men can use these with confidence as they are fragrance free.

1. Paula's Choice  2% BHA Liquid (Pimples and Blackheads)

Paula's Choice  2% BHA Liquid (Pimples and Blackheads)

Best for: blackheads and pimples

This leave-on exfoliant is one of the most popular products men's acne products on the market. Formulated specifically for use on acne-prone skin and enlarged pores, the gentle and non-abrasive will not irritate your skin. The active ingredient beta hydroxy acid (BHA) works to unclog hair follicles and reduce the appearance of large pores. As a result, the skin is left radiant with an improved tone. This product is non-irritating and fragrance-free, making it a good choice for all types of skin. The inflammation-reducing salicylic acid properties are ideal for acne sufferers. The exfoliant is most effective when used twice per day.

How to use: After cleansing, apply a quarter sized amount to a cotton pad and gently swipe your entire face. Do not wash off. Use 1-2x per day.

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2. Acne.org 8 oz. Treatment (Pimples)

Acne.org 8 oz. Treatment (Pimples)

Best for: stubborn pimples

The topical treatment boasts the ideal balance of benzoyl peroxide engineered to remove excess dirt and sebum. By killing these impurities, pores become unclogged and the skin clears up. With a formulation of 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, users minimize the risk that skin will become irritated or too dry. When it comes to benzoyl peroxide, sometimes less is more. Research has indicated that products containing ten percent of the ingredient might be too harsh for some skin types. The gel-based solution absorbs quickly when applied to the skin and will not clump.

How to use: After cleansing and exfoliating, apply pea sized amount to each inflamed acne lesion. Do not wash off. FYI - Benzoyl peroxide WILL stain clothes and towels. 

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3. Earth's Care 10% Sulfur Acne Spot Treatment (Pimples)

Earth's Care 10% Sulfur Acne Spot Treatment (Pimples)

Best for: spot treating an occasional pimple

The unique natural ingredients of this affordable topical treatment work hard to eliminate breakouts. The allergy-tested product is free of parabens, artificial colors, and fragrances. The all-natural formula will not clog pores, and is one of the best acne treatments for men. The active ingredient is a ten percent solution of sulfur, working to stop blemishes in their tracks. The fast-acting treatment promotes healing of the skin right on the spot.

How to use: After cleansing and exfoliating, apply pea sized amount to each inflamed acne lesion. Do not wash off.

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Professional Acne Treatments for Men

If the various over the counter treatments are not working to deliver the results that you want, here are three professional protocols to consider:

  1. Topical Retinoids - As a derivative of vitamin A, topical retinoids are a proven treatment in the battle against acne. Retinoid medications are especially effective at treating comedonal acne such as blackheads and whiteheads. Retinoids work by encouraging the production of new skin cells. This increased production then pushes the dead skin cells out of the pores, clearing them in the process. The three retinoid drugs, tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene, are only available through prescription because of their strength. The products are available in a variety of forms such as gels, creams, or liquids.
  2. Chemical Peels - One of the most popular spa treatments is not just for women. Chemical peels exfoliate the skin using a mixture of either alpha or beta hydroxy acid. By stripping away old skin cells, the surface of the skin is left fresher with fewer blemishes. This rapid form of exfoliation is usually done in a series of treatments. Chemical peels are also available in a variety of strengths, making them highly customizable to your specific acne treatment needs.
  3. Isoretinoin - Most commonly known as Accutane, this powerful prescription drug should be a last resort and not the first line of treatment. This systemic drug is a retinoid and is taken orally. The drug shrinks the oil-producing sebaceous glands, decreasing the amount of excess oil that the skin produces. Accutane is the most powerful way to treat acne. However, because of the side effects commonly associated with this drug, it should not be taken without the proper precautions. Patients using Isotretinoin need to be under the close supervision of a physician.

Why Do Men in Their 40s, 50s, and 60s Still Get Acne?

Acne is not a problem limited to teenagers. Although teens are the age group most at risk of developing acne, it is not uncommon for the condition to persist well into adulthood. Knowing what is causing your specific case of adult acne can help you to devise the most effective treatment plan. Possible causes of adult acne are improper shaving techniques that lead to ingrown hairs, not properly washing the skin each day and night to rid it of impurities and oil, and poor genetics. A trained dermatologist can help to ascertain the root of the issue and then prescribe a treatment protocol. 

Summary: 3 Best Acne Treatments for Men

FAQ

How do guys get rid of acne?

The best line of defense against acne is a diligent and regular skincare routine. Your daily routine should include a thorough cleansing using quality products, an exfoliation process, and spot treatments. Combining all of these elements on a daily basis will help you to achieve maximum results in the fastest amount of time. If acne is ruining your self confidence, you should speak with a trained skincare professional.

At what age does acne go away for guys?

Although acne is most common during the teenage years, it can often linger well into adulthood. Sometimes the acne problem will never go away, even after puberty is long gone. Other times, the acne will clear up after the teen years but then re-emerge later in life. The unpredictability of acne is why it is so important to practice a diligent and consistent skin care routine regardless of age or susceptibility to breakouts.

Do men and women need to use different skin care products?

No. The active ingredients are the same regardless of what gender the product is targeting. The only things that are markedly different between specific men and women products are the fragrances and dyes that might distinguish the types of treatments. Because you should avoid these additional fillers anyway, men and women can use any kind of skincare product.

How long does it take for acne to go away for guys?

There are no overnight cures for acne. When starting a new treatment protocol, you should allow for at least four to six weeks of consistent usage to gauge its effectiveness. According to the AAD, it may take up to three months to see visible improvement. It is important to keep using the products as a preventative measure even after the skin has cleared.

The Bottom Line

All men will suffer from acne at some point in their life. Fortunately, there are many acne products available for men to use. The best routine for getting rid of acne includes daily cleansing and exfoliating with a 2% BHA exfoliant. Remember - there is no difference between products marketed towards men or women. Generally, the only difference is the fragrance they contain - and you should ultimately avoid those products anyways.