Skip to main content

Older Skin with Acne Breakouts: Causes and Remedies

This post is for all of us who experience acne breakouts at any age even when we think we should be done breaking out when we reach our fifties!!!

So your skin broke out as a teenager and you thought, when I get past the teen years, my acne breakouts will clear. 

Then you thought, once I get out of my twenties, my acne breakouts will stop. 

After that you thought, after I've had my kids and am in my forties, there will be no more breakouts. 

Now you say, I'm in my fifties, I have older skin. why do I still have acne breakouts?😩

It's very frustrating, I know. My skin has always had breakouts. Sometimes it's clear. Sometimes it's not.

Wearing a face mask doesn't help. We need them but...

Face masks are causing so many people with younger skin and older skin to have acne breakouts!

Let's talk about the causes for acne breakout and then we can go over the remedies. I have includes some Amazon Affiliate links in this post to help you find the products I love.

Why does Older Skin still Breakout?

There are a few elements that go into an acne breakout. It all starts with a too much oil, then a clogged pore and bacteria growth.

1. The Sebaceous glands (aka oil glands) in our skin are producing a lot of sebum (aka oil).

2. Dead skin cells are built up in the pore (aka follicle) and on the skin's surface causing a blockage in the pore.

3. Bacteria is growing.

4. There is a pH imbalance in the skin.

5. Cosmetic products have clogged the pores.

6. Some medications have caused the acne.

7. An occlusive garment has caused the pores to clog.

Sebum Production Causes Acne

The sebaceous glands in our skin produce sebum to keep our skin moisturized and maintain a pH balanced film called the acid mantle to prevent bad bacteria, viruses, allergens, pollution and other invaders from penetrating the skin. 

The acid mantle also helps maintain the good bacteria on the skin. The acid mantle is a mix of sebum and sweat with an ideal, slightly acid, skin pH of about 4.6 to 5.5. 

The acne breakout problems begin with the sebaceous glands in the skin producing an excess amount of sebum. 

There are a number of triggers for excess oil production including hormones, family history, environment, pore size, over exfoliation, not moisturizing the skin and using drying skin care products.

Let's look at some factors that cause oily skin.

Certain hormones our bodies produce stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce sebum. The primary hormones that stimulate oil production are testosterone, progesterone, and the stress hormone cortisol. 

These hormone levels fluctuate causing the skin to be too oily at times and not so oily at other times. Certain life events, such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause, cause extreme hormone fluctuations. Then, there are the monthly fluctuation and the stress fluctuations. 

Some of us are constantly bombarded with sebum stimulating hormones!!! No wonder out skin freaks out!

A hormonal breakout usually occurs on the lower cheek area, the chin, and along the jawline.

Pimples, blind pimples, whiteheads and blackheads are all forms of clogged pores that are associated with acne and oily skin. The oil glands keep producing sebum whether the pores are clogged or not. 

Read more about the types of acne blemishes  

Family History
The tendency for oily skin and the number of oil glands a person has is inherited. If your parents have oily skin, you will probably have oily skin.

Heat, humidity, and the sun can cause the sebaceous glands to increase oil production. Warm humid weather also stimulates the sweat glands. Stay in air conditioning whenever you can in the hot summer weather!

Pore size
An enlarged pore tends to produce more oil than a normal sized pore. Large pores can be the result of the sebaceous glands producing a large amount of sebum. They can be hereditary. 

The pores can be stretched open from continuous clogging with oil or comedones. They become more noticeable as we age because our skin starts to lose elasticity and the pores sag and stretch downward.

Over Exfoliation
Exfoliating the skin is a great way to remove dead skin cells, unclog the pores, give our skin a beautiful glow, and help us look younger but, exfoliating the skin too much causes the skin to dehydrate and become irritated. The body senses the skin is too dry and the sebaceous glands are signaled to produce more oil.

Not Using Moisturizer
People with oily skin tend to shy away from moisturizer thinking it will just make their skin more oily. Sebum is meant to act as a moisturizer. A moisturizer's purpose is to form a barrier to seal in the water in our skin not necessarily add water to the skin. 

Skin can be oily but lack water at the same time. This is dehydrated skin. Many times dehydrated skin is caused by over exfoliation, drinking alcohol, being in dry air such as heating and air conditioning, and sun exposure. The body senses the lack of water in the skin and signals for more oil production.

Read more on dehydrated skin

There are many great moisturizers formulated for oily skin that will not make your skin feel more oily. We'll talk more about that later on in this post.

Using Drying Skin Care Products
I know, you want to do anything possible to stop the oily skin, but just like over exfoliating, not moisturizing or using harsh products to try and reduce oily skin will only result in the body defending itself by producing more oil.

Dead Cell Buildup

A buildup of dead skin cells mixes with sebum and creates a sticky film on the skin. This sticky film can trap sebum in the pores.

Our skin is constantly manufacturing new skin cells and sloughing off the old ones. A skin cell's life is about 29 days from its formation until it sloughs off. 

The sloughing process very efficient when we are younger. As we age, the process slows down and the dead cells stick on the skin's surface for a longer amount of time which can create a dry, dull appearance and increase the chance of clogged pores.  

Bacteria Growth

Acne blemishes, including pimples, blind pimples, and blackheads, are referred to as comedones. They are a mix of dead skin cells, bacteria and oil. Pimples and blind pimples are comedones that have inflammation. 

The dead skin cell and sebum sticky film on the skin clogs the pores trapping acne causing bacteria in the pores. The bacteria that causes acne is P. acnes or proprionibacterium acnes. The P. acne bacteria likes all that sebum and can get out of control. The bacteria actually eats the oil. It multiplies and causes inflammation and pimples.  

The acne bacteria itself isn't causing the breakout problem. It is the byproducts that are produced by the bacteria as it digests the oil that cause the breakout. 

The body perceives these byproducts as a foreign object and triggers an immune response attacking the bacteria byproduct by rushing red and white blood cells to remove the offender. This immune response is what creates the inflammation and breakout.  

The comedo will keep getting bigger and more inflamed until it is resolved through extraction or through the internal healing process. 

pH Imbalance

I mentioned the acid mantle and the 4.6-5.5 pH of the skin earlier. The slightly acid pH of the skin helps to maintain healthy skin, fight off invaders and protect our skin from environmental pollution. If the pH is off, it leaves the skin more vulnerable to bacterial infections including P. acnes.

The acid mantle also maintains effective dead cell exfoliation therefore, the chance of dead cell build up and acne breakouts increases when if the acid mantle is disrupted. 

Soaps and detergents that have an alkaline pH can compromise acid mantle from the skin. Using isopropyl alcohol or astringent containing certain harsh alcohols can also disrupt the acid mantle. Over washing the skin with any type of cleanser and over exfoliating will also change the acid mantle. Once disrupted, the acid mantle can take up to 2 weeks to return to normal.

Comedogenic Cosmetic Products

There are cosmetic products that can cause clogged pores resulting in acne. These are products called comedogenic, as opposed to non comedogenic, and can accumulate in the pores, clogging them resulting in an acne breakout. 

This type of acne is called Acne Cosmetica. Many times, hair products, sunscreens and heavy cover up makeups cause this type of breakout. 

Always check product labels for the phases non comedogenic, oil free or won't clog pores. You will be less likely to have a breakout from them.

Stop using the product that you suspect is causing the breakout and gently exfoliate to help unclog the pores and clear the breakout.


There some medications that can cause acne breakouts.
Oral corticosteroids, anabolic steroids, contraceptives, halogens, anti depressants to name a few.

Click here to view a list of acne causing medications 

Occlusive Garments

I have had clients who frequently wear hats and helmets experience acne on their foreheads. The sweat, oil and dead cells along with the pressure from the hat or helmet caused the pores to clog. 

It took time to actually pinpoint the culprit because a hat or helmet isn't the first thing that comes to mind when deciphering a skin problem. These are my client's involved in sports. Once their sport's season ended, so did their acne breakout.

The face masks we are wearing to protect us from Covid can also cause the skin to breakout when they are worn for long periods of time.

Remedies for Older Skin with 
Acne Breakouts 

Now that we have some idea of what causes the skin to have an acne breakout, let's get into some solutions. As an esthetician, I have worked with many clients, both young and older, who have experienced bouts with acne. It can be a real battle. My own skin goes through periods of breaking out. It's so frustrating!

This summer my skin was particularly bad so I switched my skin care product regimen. My skin has improved immensely! One of my clients even commented on how good my skin looks. Of course, I will share what I'm using!

A good skin care regime is important to help control oil, heal the skin, reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, prevent future breakouts and prevent dehydration. 

People with older oily skin feel they need to use anti aging products to help the skin look younger. Many anti aging products are formulated for dry skin since the skin usually tends to get dryer as we age. Using anti aging products formulated for dry skin on oily skin will create a shiny oil slick that will encourage breakouts.

The good news is ingredients, such as salicylic acid, AHA's and retinol, that are used in gentle acne and oil control products, are also used in anti aging products. You will still get anti aging results when you use products formulated for oily skin! 

Read more about AHA's and BHA

It is important to use products that are listed as non comedogenic meaning it's ingredients have been proven to not clogged the pores.  

Now, I'll share my skin care routine and my favorite products for oily skin along with some other remedies that work well for treating oily skin and breakouts. Click on the images for affiliate shopping links. 

My Skin Care Routine for Older Skin with Acne Breakouts

Clean the Skin

Cleansing the skin is a two part procedure using a cleanser then a toner. Cleanse twice a day morning and bedtime.

Step 1: Cleanser
It's important to gently cleanse your skin with a cleanser that will not disrupt the 4.6-5.5 pH acid mantle of the skin. 

Wash in the morning to remove excess oil and sweat that have accumulated overnight. There is no need to scrub your face clean. Simply use your cleanser and rinse. 

Always do a thorough cleansing before bed to remove all makeup, excess oil, sweat and dirt that has accumulated during the day. Apply your cleanser then use a soft wash cloth in a circular motion to remove the cleanser. The wash cloth offers some gentle exfoliation and helps remove makeup more effectively. Rinse well.

Use an eye makeup remover, if necessary. I remove my eye makeup with plain old olive oil. Really. It is very effective at removing makeup and the olive oil works great for softening the lines around my eyes!

You will also be surprised at my favorite facial cleanser. I like the feel of a gel cleanser instead of a milky cleanser. I use Summer's Eve Cleansing Wash for Sensitive Skin. Surprised? It's formulated with a pH of 4.7. 

summers eve cleansing wash for sensitive skin
Summer's Eve Cleansing Wash for Sensitive Skin
This wash is perfect for cleaning the skin without upsetting the acid mantle! It comes in a variety of lightly scented fragrances and even has a dye free, fragrance free option!

Step 2: Toner
Use a toner on a cotton pad to remove any cleanser residue. Most toners contain healing balancing ingredients to treat the skin along with removing cleanser residue. 

The toner I am currently using is Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner. It is cleansing, balancing and exfoliating.

ole henriksen balancing force oil control toner
Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner
I love the smell and refreshing feel of the peppermint and eucalyptus oil it contains. This toner also contains alpha hydroyx acids (glycolic acid and lactic acid) and beta hydroxy acid which is salicylic acid, green tea extract, witch hazel, glycerin, kelp, neem seed oil, and more ingredients that are helpful for oily skin. 

Control the Oil

If you control the amount of oil the sebaceous glands produce, you can control breakouts. Remember, the P. acnes bacteria feed on sebum. If there is less oil, there will be less P. acnes.

Control oil with the Right Products

Moisturizers and masks formulated for oily skin help control oil and keep the skin hydrated. 

In addition to the oil control toner, I use Ole Henriksen Counter Balance Oil Control Hydrator. It helps my skin look clearer, brighter and less oily.
ole henriksen counter balance oil control hydrator
Ole Henriksen Counter Balance Oil Control Hydrator
It contains rose hip oil to help reduce oil production. It also contains alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid and lactic acid) and beta hydroxy acid which is salicylic acid.  Plus, hyaluronic acid, oat kernel flour, peppermint oil and more hydrating, balancing ingredients. 

A clay or charcoal mask is great for absorbing oil and impurities and exfoliating the skin. Use clay masks formulated to oily skin that absorb oil without dehydrating the skin. Use a mask once a week.

YonKa Masque 103 is one of my favorite clay masks. 
yonka masque 103
YonKA Masque 103
This mask contains three types of clay, montmorillonite, bentonite and kaolin along with castor oil, lavender, geranium, rosemary, cypress and thyme to absorb oils without dehydrating the skin. 

Control Oil Stimulation
The sebaceous glands can be stimulated through massage. Those with oily skin should keep the massaging of the face to a minimum.

Control your Stress
Run, jog, walk, hit the gym, dance, sing, do yoga, get a massage, get a facial, do some art, read, spend time with your pets, have dinner out with your sweetheart, have coffee with your daughter (that's my favorite stress reliever!). Do whatever works to reduce your stress level everyday. Less cortisol means less stimulation of the sebaceous glands.

See me for a facial or anti stress head, neck & back massage in Media, Pa.

Get your Beauty Sleep 
Our bodies rejuvenate as we sleep. Skin repairs itself. Stress subsides. Do your best to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to reduce stress and help your skin and body restore, rejuvenate and regenerate. 

Read Tips for better Beauty Sleep

Control Hormones
Sometimes hormones are so out of balance, pre menopausal women need prescription medications, such as birth control pills, to keep the hormones more even. See your doctor if you feel you need medication to level out your hormones.

Exfoliate & Unclog Pores

Removing dead cell build up is the key to clearer, brighter, younger looking skin and unclogging the pores. Be careful not to over exfoliate or the skin will dehydrate and the sebaceous glands will kick into overdrive. 

Use a gentle liquid peel and/or a gel peel that contains salicylic acid which is very effective for unclogging pores. Alpha hydroxy acids are great for removing dead cell build up.

Scrubs that contain grains can scratch and irritate the skin. They can even spread infection when pimples are scrubbed open. 

gommage Yon-ka
Gommage Yon-Ka
My very favorite gentle, non abrasive facial gel peel is Gommage Yon-Ka. Gommage means erase in French. Apply this cooling gel peel, let is set, then massage it off erasing flaky skin. 

Kill Bacteria

Spot Treatment
Use a spot treatment on areas where you are experiencing a breakout. A spot treatment may cause dryness so you don't want to apply it all over your face.

Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is frequently recommended for killing acne causing bacteria. It is very effective. I personally don't use it because I experience redness, swelling, itching and burning from it.
proactiv emergency blemish relief
Proactiv Emergency Blemish Relief 
This is a great spot treatment for healing blemishes that contains benzoyl peroxide. Perfect for those not sensitive to benzoyl peroxide. 

Tea Tree Oil 
Tea Tree Oil is another option I have used as a spot treatment. 

maple holistic tea tree oil
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea Tree Oil has antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties and can help kill bacteria and calm the skin. 

You can also see a dermatologist for treatment with oral or topical antibiotics to kill P. acnes bacteria.

Use Non Comedogenic Makeup

Our makeup products should be treated as skin care products. We put them on our faces over our good skin care products. Foundations, concealers and face powders should be high quality products with healthy ingredients that actually benefit our skin.

I love Too Faced Born This Way Foundation!
too faced born this way foundation
Too Faced Born This Way Foundation
This is a medium to full coverage foundation. I only apply it to areas that need the most redness coverage which is mainly areas in my T zone.

You will need a good concealer.

bareminerials bare pro 16 hour full coverage concealer
Bareminerals Bare Pro 16-hour Full Coverage Concealer 
This is my current favorite full coverage concealing product. It does not irritate or clog pores and gives me nice coverage. 
physicians formula mineral wear loose powder
Physician's Formula Mineral Wear Loose Powder
This powder makes my skin look great and doesn't cause my skin to break out. It also contains an SPF of 16. 

Speaking of SPF, it is very important to use an SPF when using skin care products that contain beta and alpha hydroxy acids, and 
retinol which make the skin more sensitive to the UV radiation from the sun.

My favorite kind of sunscreen for my face is a mineral sunscreen. 
blue lizard sunscreen
 Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen SPF 30+ Sensitive This sunscreen is gentle, scores well with the Environmental Working Group and is reef safe. 


It is essential to eat a healthy diet full of good protein, fruits and veggies that is low in sugar to give the body what it needs to produce healthy skin cells, neutralize free radicals and fight infections. 

I am a vegetarian and I firmly believe my low sugar, high anti oxidant diet helps keep my skin younger looking, and my body strong and healthy. That, plus protecting my skin from the sun's UV rays. 🌞

Click here to read why sugar is bad for the skin

I hope my oily skin care routine helps you minimize your acne breakouts and makes your skin look gorgeous!

       Have a Beautiful Skin Day! 
Licensed Cosmetologist, Esthetician, Makeup Artist

PS: Thanks for using my amazon & direct links💋
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you. That keeps my blog running and supports the care of animals in need!😸


Popular posts from this blog

White Bumps Under Eyes: Milia

Have you noticed that you have little white looking bumps under your eyes? Some people call it chicken skin because the bumps look like plucked chicken skin. 🐔 Most likely those little white bumps are milia. They can feel hard or pearly. These bumps are not acne. Milia can occur when dead skin cells become trapped beneath the outer layer of skin. Keratin becomes trapped and builds up. A small benign cyst can form which is the milia. It's a cyst!?! Don't let that word scare you. They are harmless, but unwanted bumps.  They can occur on any area of the skin that tends to be on the dry side. They cannot be squeezed out like a blackhead or pimple because they have no opening. A layer of skin covers them. A hole must be created in them using a needle, then they can be extracted out. Read more about blackhead, whiteheads and blind pimples This is a common problem for the under-eye area. It is a dry, delicate area of the skin. I see it a lot on my clients. Heavy products

Dermatofibroma on Leg

A Dermatofibroma is an unsightly brown or red bump that is very common on the legs. They are also called Benign Fibrous Histiocytomas and are more common in women than men. They can hurt, itch and become inflamed easily. They are the result of some sort of injury to the skin such as an ingrown hair or a bug bite.  I have tried lots of home remedies on my dermatofibroma. Some help it look better than others but the ugly thing is still there! Read more about dermatofibroma remedies. There is only one way to remove it for It must be surgically excised out. A dermatofibroma goes deep into the skin. It will only grow back if it is cut off of the skin at surface level. The problem with the removal is it leaves a long scar that is about 2 inches or so long. It has to be done that way to be able to sew the skin back together so it is smooth and not puckery. Here is a picture of a scar from the removal of a dermatofibroma. This scar was also treated with a laser to imp


This post is all about dermatofibromas and some remedies to help make them look better and ways hide them. It includes my Amazon Affiliate Links to help you find the products I talk about. Q. I have this brown bump on my leg that won't go away. What can I do about it? A. It could be a dermatofibroma. I see them often on my leg waxing clients. A dermatofibroma is a tan to brown benign raised bump more common in women than men and occur commonly on the legs. The bump feels hard under the skin and can be itchy, tender and easily irritated. A doctor will tell you not to worry about it because it's benign, but it's kind of ugly! Dermatofibromas are also called Benign Fibrous Histiocytomas. They are the result of some sort of injury to the skin such as an ingrown hair or a bug bite.  Be careful when shaving because a dermatofibroma may bleed and become sore if nicked. Don't think you can get rid of it by shaving it off. It will be an awful looking sore and will j