Adult female acne

What is Adult Female Acne?

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that happens when hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, leading to pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Similar to adult and adolescent acne but specific to females, the condition affects women from ages 25 and above in Singapore.

Acne for these women persists intermittently or continuously from teenage years due to a number of factors. Some pregnant women also experience acne, which is likely due to an increase in sebum production caused by higher hormone levels.

Acne can be distressing for women as it also often causes redness and scarring on the skin. However, acne in females is often manageable and treatable by first consulting with a dermatologist and identifying the root causes of the condition. There is a wide variety of treatments available for all levels of adult female acne.

What are the common causes of Adult Female Acne in Singapore?

There are a variety of factors that affect acne. The most common ones for women are:

Hormonal disturbances - Pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, menopause, and oral contraceptives play a role in worsening acne by changing the production of hormones which stimulate oil production in the skin. Hormone disorders such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and endocrine diseases can also cause acne in females.

Stress - Stress has been known to trigger and activate oil glands within the skin.

Diet and lifestyle - For some people, consumption of certain foods such as dairy and lactose can lead to acne problems, as well as lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of sleep.

Some other indirect factors that can cause acne in females include:

Contact with skin and hair products - Irritation from hair and skincare products can plug the hair follicles and pores.

Medication - Certain medications such as corticosteroids and lithium may lead to worsening acne in females.

What are the usual symptoms of Adult Female Acne in Singapore?

Symptoms of adult female vary greatly. They often include:

  • Whiteheads - Plugged hair follicles under the skin that produce white bumps.
  • Blackheads - Plugged follicles that break the surface of the skin and open up, appearing black as the air discolours the sebum.
  • Papules - Lesions that have become inflamed, appearing as pink and tender bumps on the skin.
  • Pustules or Pimples - White or yellow lesions filled with pus, usually red at the base.
  • Nodules - Large and painful hard lesions deep under the surface of the skin.

What are the risk factors for Adult Female Acne?

  • Hormones -  Changes in hormones during the menstrual cycle can increase acne in females above age 25, as well as having hormone disorders such as PCOS. Women with lower levels of estrogen and higher levels of testosterone and androgens (male hormones that increases sebum production) are particularly at risk of adult female acne.
  • Environmental and Lifestyle Factors - Certain lifestyle factors may put you at risk of worsening acne. These include living in areas with high humidity and pollution and eating an unbalanced diet with too much sugar and fat may be a risk factor for acne in females. Continuous exposure to dry air such as air conditioning can also lead to clogged skin pores, causing acne in some women. For some women, wearing certain clothes or wearing clothes that are too tight may cause acne in certain parts of the body. Using certain skin cleansers that irritate the skin may also be a risk factor.
  • Family History - Genetics tend to affect your skin type, and the amount of oil produced by your skin.

What are the treatment options for Adult Female Acne in Singapore?

Consult with a dermatologist and inform them of your medical history and medications you are taking to determine the cause of your adult female acne. Your doctor may prescribe the following treatments:

  • Topical Medication - OTC acne medications or prescription medications for those with moderate to severe acne.
  • Oral Medications - Usually prescribed for severe cases of acne, oral medications for women include antibiotics, birth control pills (contraceptives) to balance hormones, or isotretinoin for those with cystic acne.
  • Medical Treatments - For scarring and severe acne cases, some procedures for acne patients include:
    -- Laser therapy - to reduce inflammation, treat scarring, and target bacteria.
    -- Drainage and Extraction - For large cysts, your doctor may drain and remove the fluids and pus that have built up.
    -- Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion - Exfoliating methods to remove the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) as well as whiteheads and blackheads.
  • Acne Treatments During Pregnancy - Women may break out during pregnancy, but their options are limited because most medications used to treat acne aren’t safe for pregnancy. Topical retinoids are Category C drugs, meaning that studies in animals show adverse effects on the fetus when they are given in large amounts.
    Isotretinoin and tetracycline are also harmful to fetuses. Isotretinoin can cause birth defects, whereas tetracycline may discolour the teeth of the baby. Meanwhile, benzoyl peroxide acne products are safe for pregnancy.


What does a contact allergy look like?
Skin rashes, hives, itchiness, redness, burning, swelling, and tenderness could be symptoms of a contact allergy, especially after coming into contact with a particular substance.
How do you relieve contact allergies?
Applying anti-itch creams and taking anti-itch medications, cold compresses, cool baths, and avoiding the particular substance that causes the allergy can all provide relief for contact allergies.
How long does it take to treat contact allergies?
Upon avoiding the contact allergen, symptoms typically clear up in 2-4 weeks. However, it depends on the individual and treatment plan.
Are contact allergies contagious?
No, contact allergies are not contagious and will not spread to other people.



Dr Uma Alagappan is a MOH accredited consultant dermatologist in private with more than 15 years experience as a medical doctor. She sub-specialises in paediatric dermatology, women’s dermatology and general dermatology. Dr Uma’s interests include chronic eczema, food allergy and immunodermatology. She is also well versed with the use of lasers for treating paediatric and adult patients.
Dr Uma completed her dermatology training in Changi General Hospital and National Skin Centre in 2015. She joined KKH Dermatology Service to subspecialize in paediatric dermatology in 2017. She was awarded the Ministry of Health Manpower Development Plan Award in 2019 to pursue paediatric immunodermatology and allergo-dermatology in the renowned Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts, USA. Upon her return, she spearheaded a number of clinics at KKH including the food allergy eczema clinic for the paediatric eczema patients, immunodermatology clinics and the psychology eczema multi-disciplinary clinics.
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