Acne in Men: What You Need to Know

Ah, acne.

You may be all too familiar with it as your constant companion throughout high school. Perhaps you grew out of it as you entered adulthood – only to have it return now. Or perhaps it never left you.

While in adult cases of acne, women are affected more frequently than men1, these red spots and bumps are a very real concern for many, regardless of gender. In fact, as male skin differs from female skin, you may find that you experience worse breakouts than your female friends.

So how can men take better care of their acne-prone skin?

First, we need to understand why you get acne in the first place.

What Causes Acne in Men?

At the root of all acne is a clogged pore, which happens when excess oil mixes with dead skin cells to create a sticky plug. This is the same for males and females.

For men with acne, changes in testosterone levels are often the biggest trigger. Testosterone is a key androgen (male sex hormone) responsible for giving males their traditionally masculine characteristics, such as a deep voice and bigger muscles. The hormone also stimulates the production of sebum, which means an increase in testosterone may lead to excess oil being produced. This in turn leads to clogged pores and breakouts2.

In fact, research has found that acne patients produced higher rates of testosterone in their skin than people without acne3.

Levels of this hormone tend to rise during puberty for boys (and girls), which is why so many teens get acne. While women have testosterone too, men produce more, and factors such as stress, exercise, age, and genes can affect the level of testosterone in your body.

More Factors That Can Lead to Acne in Men

  • Diet
    While the acne-diet connection isn’t yet clear-cut, research has shown that consuming a lot of high-glycemic foods and cow’s milk may contribute to acne.
  • Genetics
    If your parents have acne, you’re more likely to have it too!
  • Steroids
    Taking anabolic steroids or corticosteroid medications can lead to higher testosterone levels and cause acne flare-ups4.
  • Facial Hair
    Rocking a beard or mustache? Check if your facial hair may be trapping bacteria and oil.
  • Sweat
    Sweating, whether from the summer sun or exercise, may make acne worse.
  • Stress
    When you’re emotionally stressed, your body makes extra hormones that can cause breakouts5.
  • The Wrong Skincare Products
    Using products that are too harsh on your skin or that contain pore-clogging ingredients may be the culprit.
  • Greasy Hair Products
    Similar to skincare products, if you use hair care products that are too oily, they can get onto your face and clog up your pores– leading to acne.

9 Things to Do for Clear, Healthy Skin

  1. Identify your skin type.

Knowing your skin type will help you better care for your skin. Your skin may be dry and flaky, oily and shiny, or a combination of both. It could also be oily but dehydrated, or even sensitive. Check out this easy guide to determining your skin type to start!

  1. Go for acne-friendly skincare products.

Take extra care when buying new skincare products. Check the labels to make sure they are non-comedogenic (meaning they won’t clog pores) and look through the ingredients list for potential irritants, such as fragrances.

Designed for acne-prone and sensitive skin, you can rest assured that the Clearly Basics line is 100% non-comedogenic and kind to skin.

  1. Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser.

Give your skin a thorough cleanse without overstripping it of its natural oils and irritating it. Choose from So Fresh (for all skin types) or Balancing Cleanser (for oily skin), and remember to wash your face with lukewarm – not hot – water.

  1. Use retinol.

Retinol is the gold standard when it comes to clearing acne-causing clogged pores. Clear Out is our revolutionary retinol-powered lotion. Apply it once every night to flush out the clogs and make skin less acne-prone.

  1. Moisturize – yes, even when you have oily skin.

Use a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer such as the Matte Hydrator. As a hyaluronic acid serum, it can keep your skin nourished so that it won’t become so dry it compensates by producing even more pore-clogging oil.

  1. Remember your sunscreen.

No skincare routine is complete without sunscreen. Go for a lightweight, broad-spectrum one with at least SPF 35+ and a PA+++ rating.

  1. Take extra care when shaving.

Always use a clean razor and shave in the direction of hair growth. You can also moisturize before and after you shave to help minimize irritation. Use the antioxidant-rich Protective Moisturizer to calm redness, reduce skin sensitivity, and strengthen your skin barrier.

  1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Living healthy overall can help improve your skin. Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, eat well, and schedule plenty of time to rest and de-stress.

  1. Mind the sweat when exercising.

To prevent the heat and sweat from making acne worse, use a towel to gently pat sweat off during your workout and wash your face after. Add in a shower if possible and change into clean clothes.

Have questions about what Clearly Basics can do for your skin?

We’re here to help! Get in touch with us via Messenger chat or Instagram DM (@clearlybasics).


  1. Emil A. Tanghetti et al., 2014: Understanding the Burden of Adult Female Acne
  1. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, 2019: Can Testosterone Trigger Acne?
  1. Evgenia Makrantonaki et al., 2011: An update on the role of the sebaceous gland in the pathogenesis of acne
  1. Cleveland Clinic, 2018: When Should Men See a Dermatologist for Adult Acne?
  1. Young Men's Health, 2019: Acne

Disclaimer: This article should not be interpreted as personal medical advice. For medical-related matters, please consult your dermatologist.

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See what others have to say about Clearly Basics.

Based on 26 reviews
Skin Type: Normal
Comments: Any ideas on how to get rid of brown skin damage
Skin defence

Marks of sun damage are still there they haven't faded much after using twice a day for 60 days. . I will continue until product is finished. I'm a bit disappointed

Skin Type: Combination

I am so happy that I stumbled upon clearly basics on instagram. I was skeptical at first but decided to give it a try and bought clear out clarifying lotion. It's been 2 months and my skin has improved a lot. I can see significant reduction in pores and acne.

Skin Type: Combination

After years of medication and products, I decided to try clearly basics. In just 6 weeks my skin has calmed and I am now able to treat scarring.

So glad to have found these products!

Finding products that helped to control my acne without irritating my sensitive skin has always been a huge challenge. The clearly basics products have been my saviour, I can't recommend them enough ☺️

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Excellent and actually works

I am so incredibly impressed with the TLC for pore minimising - it 💯 works and has transformed my skin.

I’m in my 50’s and always had hormonal flare ups with larger pores as I age - this is a game changer and have just reordered my 3rd bottle !


not bad but I thought the formula has changed since what it was previously (i had it maybe 2 years ago) and I found it less effective now

Skin Type: Combination
This is the stuff.

So, long time sufferer of acne. Started when I was 12 and I'm 28 now still battling it. I've tried all kinds of different things to try and get it under control and besides birth control, nothing has helped long term. I never want to take birth control ever again and I just happened upon this brand and decided well, why not try? To my amazement, it has helped more than anything else I've tried, I'd say it has improved my skin to the level it was at when I took BC. Of course I still get pimples every now and then, and tiny flare ups during PMS but my skin is nowhere near as bad as it used to be. I highly recommend this company. To those who are considering trying this out, be aware that during the first week or so your skin will go through a purge and your acne will appear to get worse at first. Stick with it! Once that phase is over is when your skin will begin improving. I do need to use it every night for it to be fully effective, but even when I do forget, the pimples don't get too out of control. I just can't say enough good things about this product. It has helped my confidence improve immensely and I definitely recommend trying it to those who have skin as finicky as mine.

Skin Type: Sensitive / Dry
The only moisturiser I trust

I am super sensitive and this is the only moisturiser that I trust honestly incredible.

Skin Type: Combination

I use this product and with the clear out and it has really helped my hormonal acne.

Skin Type: Sensitive / Dry
Here one day, gone the next!

After success with Clearly Basics for my acne scars, I stocked up with all of the active acne products to prepare myself for how angry my acne would get when going off hormonal birth control. I have tried and failed twice as my acne comes back so bad that I just start taking it again. This time I have been using clearly basics without fail every day (lighten up and clear out). I have had 3 pimples start to form and I use ‘Stop Spot’ and the next day instead of a much redder, much angrier pimple with a big white head - the pimple is gone! I have been very happy with this product. I’m one month down (typically when acne gets the worst) - let’s do this!

I love that these products are gentle on my daughter skin.

This skin care routine is the o lay one that has helped clear up my daughters skin.

My daughters skin is really starting to look better!

Skin Type: Oily
So far so good

Bought this for my daughter that has struggled with acne for years. She has seen improvement and less frequent breakouts.

Best moisturizer I have found!

Lighten Up Redness Rescue Cream
Veronica Ilenya Ranieri
Skin Type: Sensitive / Dry

Has changed my skin from acne pro to almost perfect 😍😍

Skin Type: Combination
Obsessed !!

Obsessed with this cleanser!! It left me feeling fresh and prevented break outs. It is incredible . Loved this product so much

My skin feels so soft after using this moisturiser!

My skin feels so soft after using this moisturiser!

Skin Type: Combination
Fresh and clean!

My face is filled with energy and feels so fresh and clean!

Skin Type: Normal
excellent item!

have been using this for years! so good for my skin :)

So Fresh pH Balancing Cleanser
Carmelinda Di Manno
Skin Type: Combination
Fresh Feeling

My skin feels so clean and still hydrated when I use this cleanser. It’s balancing and refreshing. My skin has responded really well to it and at times my skin can be sensitive. I highly recommend this product to anyone with relatively oily t-zone area

Skin Type: Combination
Very happy!

Love the texture, the minty scent and the lather.
I wish the bottles were a bit bigger HOWEVER they are just small enough to fly with.

Skin Type: Normal
Comments: The only thing I now need to use to keep my skin clear.
The holy grail for clearing hormonal acne.

This is the only product that I have needed to keep my skin clear since discovering it about 2 years ago, after suddenly developing cystic hormonal acne at the age of 25. I now only need to use it every second night, so it's incredibly affordable. It has also never irritated my sensitive skin and it has faded previous acne marks to truly clear my skin. After years of trying expensive supplements/products/harsh prescription creams, Clear Out was the only thing that gave me long-lasting results.

Skin Type: Oily
Clearly Basics is the only product that has helped my Adult Acne

I have always struggled with dehydrated acne prone skin. Every month like clockwork I would get a new breakout on my chin or cheek area. These included large cystic acne that by the time they came to a head would take me months to clear. With new breakouts each month this created more & more spots before the first could heal leaving more hyper pigmentation spots that never have time to clear. Clearly basics changed all that for me. It gave my skin a chance to heal and reduced the number of breakouts each month. When I do get a new breakout it resolves itself quickly with less scarring and redness. Now that the acne is under control the products are helping to eliminate the remaining hyper pigmentation spots left from years of acne. I have not been using the product for long but I will continuing relying on this product and look forward to the day I can happily look in the mirror at a smooth clear & even complexion some day soon.

Skin Type: Combination
Comments: Product consistency in terms of smoothness/coarseness/stickiness/ is sometimes a miss, don't believe it affects the result provided.
Great Combo

Have seen great improvements by using these 2 items concurrently, hard to fault and wil continue purchasing.

Individual results may vary

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