It's difficult to admit, but guys care about their skin too. But figuring out the right products or treatment for male acne can be challenging--a reality that one savvy company has taken advantage of in the nick of time.

In 2008, the Mentholatum Company in the U.K. launched Oxy, a male acne product line. The obvious question is how is male acne any different to acne affecting women? According to the company, higher levels of testosterone make male skin tougher. Also, guys have larger sebaceous (or oil) glands in their skin making their skin greasier (studies confirm that men do secrete significantly more oil than women). Also, the immune systems in men and women differ, which affects how skin heals.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) reports that about 80 percent of Americans from ages 11 to 30 suffer from acne. It can pop up on your face, back, arms, neck or chest. In many cases the condition will disappear by the time you're 30. If you're one of the unlikely few, however, it can persist into your 40s and 50s.

The condition is usually characterized by plugged pores and lesions we know more commonly as pimples, zits or acne bumps. Testosterone activity on oil glands and hair follicles may be to blame. One study suggested that excess of androgens caused by irregularities in adrenal activity may also contribute to male acne.

Certain conditions can cause male acne to flare once you have it--environmental factors such as pollution or humidity, tight clothing, or chemicals such as oily hair or skin products, and stress.

Treatment for Male Acne

Male acne tends to be more severe. There are treatments that help to control acne, but the only one that seemed to "cure" it was Accutane®, which is no longer being sold due to serious side effects (but you can still buy generic versions of retinoid isotretinoin by prescription only).  Treatments for male acne and acne in general include:

• Proper skin care. Scrubbing your skin harshly or more than twice a day can aggravate acne. Wash with a mild cleanser, and only use an astringent if you have oily skin.

• Topical solutions. Benzoyl peroxide treatments attack skin bacteria that contribute to acne, explains the Cleveland Clinic. Retinoids (such as Retin-A® and Differin®) actually break up lesions or pimples. Salicylic acid helps to slough away dead skin cells. Solutions to treat acne on the back or shoulders are usually a higher concentration.

• Antibiotics. These can come in topical versions or in pill form such as tetracycline. They're often used in combo with the topical solutions mentioned above.

• Steroid injections. Acne cysts can be treated with corticosteroid injections.

• Laser treatment. Photodynamic therapy using a long-pulse, pulsed dye laser and a topical solution called 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) shows promise in treating acne. Research shows that the acid binds to oil glands and makes them more sensitive to the laser light. Improvement can occur within one to two weeks--including a reduction of acne scars.

• Cosmetic procedures. Acne scars may be reduced with chemical peels, dermabrasion, or skin fillers (such as collagen injections).

• Changing clothing. If certain clothes--caps, shirts or bandanas--cause your acne to flare, stop wearing them.

When you have male acne NIAMS advises that you shave with caution. Test manual and electric razors to see which is most comfortable to use, and limit shaving so you lower your risk of nicking any pimples that may be present.



National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, American Academy of Dermatology, Reuters, The Cleveland Clinic, Pharmacy Times, Oxy press release ,

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2005, 53(6): 955-958 
"Elevated 17-hydroxyprogesterone serum values in male patients with acne." 
M. Placzek, B. Arnold, H. Schmidt, S. Gaube, E. Keller, G. Plewig, K. Degitz