Clear Complexion: How To Treat Male Acne Effectively

Anyone who thinks skincare is just about vanity has clearly never lived with a skin condition. With all the afflictions one can get, when your skin misbehaves, especially on the face, it’s depressing. Acne is one such condition: being told it’s a just a phase or that you will grow out of it doesn’t really help the experience of living with it and, worse, not all of us get to put blemished skin behind us. In fact, adult acne is on the rise and skin eruptions can actually occur throughout life, so if you dodged being a spotty teenager, only to become a spotty adult without any spotty peers to keep you company, you have our full sympathy.

Pockmarks, pick marks or acne scars – blemishes with a concave shape that can look like holes or indentations in the skin. They occur when the deeper layers of the skin become damaged by acne

Of course, we don’t need to tell you not to pick it because it only makes it worse, the urge to meddle is too strong – and so begins a vicious cycle. What’s the solution? Well, there are better options than leaving the house in a balaclava, but first, we asked Dr Murad, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare, to explain what acne is and why we get it.

What Is Acne?

“Acne is the name for a skin condition which happens when your hair follicles become plugged with oil (due to glands producing too much sebum) and dead skin cells,” explains Dr Murad, “this combination clogs the pore and forms a plug in the follicle. This causes whiteheads, blackheads or pimples, and usually appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders.

The eccentric but exceptionally knowledgeable Dr Murad, one of the world’s foremost skincare and acne experts

“Acne comes in various forms, from blackheads to cystic acne. Here are some of the primary variations: blackheads are dark blocked pores, typically on your back and T-zone area (nose, chin and forehead); whiteheads are small, hard bumps with a white centre; pustules are spots with visible pus – these may be on your face, chest or back. If you feel and see hard, painful lumps under the skin then you may have cysts or cystic acne.”

Hormones play a huge part and the on-set in teenagers is linked to increases in testosterone, but as hormones fluctuate through life it can occur later. If you’ve ever dabbled with steroids, it’s a common side effect. Dr Murad says: “most people assume that blemishes only occur within their teenage years. Yet due to stress, hormonal changes, diet and environmental factors, blemishes are becoming more frequent later in life. Teenagers tend to have breakouts on the forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin, while adults tend to have breakouts around the mouth, chin, and jaw line. Often, hormonal fluctuations mixed with stress are the cause of adult acne, as well as exposure to pollution and the use of new medications.”

What Is The Best Way Of Treating Men’s Acne?

Prescription medications are the traditional course of treatment but they can have harsh side effects and prove less effective over time. One of the key ingredients to look out for is salicylic acid, a powerful exfoliator, along with non-comedogenic (non pore blocking) moisturisers and sun screens that won’t exacerbate the problem. Dr Murad recommends: “men tend to have a more oily skin type as they have more sebaceous glands, making them prone to clogged pores and even expanded pores, making them more visible. To help combat this, I’d recommend using a clarifying cleanser to help control oil production. Those with breakouts may want to choose a stronger, antibacterial cleanser that contains salicylic acid to deep-clean skin and clear clogged pores.”

The Best Acne Treatments For Men

Zitsticka Killa Kit

Prevention is always better than a cure. These discreet patches can treat angry lumps and bumps and neutralise the offending bacteria with micro dart technology before it comes to a, ahem, head. They sting a bit – but at least you know they’re working.

£27 for 8 patches; Cult Beauty

Dr Dennis Gross DRx SpotLite Blemish Reducer

The SpotLite Blemish Reducer is a compact device that targets individual spots using a ray of blue LED light to penetrate the epidermis and zap the spot-causing bacteria, followed by a ray of red LED light to minimise redness and inflammation – and it fits in your pocket.

£58; Space.NK


Another blue light handheld device, this time from Foreo, which treats acne using a sonic pulse to blast away the bacteria. Shop around for the best deal.

£129; Net-a-Porter

Murad Outsmart Blemish Clarifying Treatment

A lightweight gel that clears spots and refines pores. On initial use it may bring out more spots but then skin should improve rapidly.

£29.75 for 50ml; FeelUnique

Dermalogica Age Bright Spot Fader

Scarring is an another unwanted side effect of acne, making the skin look blemished even when the spots have gone. This works to clear breakouts and also to help reduce the marks left behind.

£37.50 for 15ml; Fragrance Direct

Vichy Normaderm Phytosolution Double Correction Daily Care Moisturiser

Dehydrated, over stripped skin can encourage excess sebum production so keep the skin hydrated. Vichy’s Double Correction Daily Care reduces break outs, mops up excess oil and tightens pores.

£18 for 50ml; FeelUnique

The Inkey List Salicyclic Acid Cleanser

A gentle cleanser at a nice price that controls excess oil using a zinc compound without drying out the skin. Helps to make pores smaller and clear breakouts faster in the process.

£10.99 for 150ml; Cult Beauty

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion has a cult following for it’s magical abilities to dispense with angry spots overnight using an effective combination of salicylic acid and calamine. Converts know never to shake the bottle – keep the calamine (pink stuff) at the bottom.

£16 for 29ml; Urban Outfitters

Murad Clarifying Body Spray

Perfect for bacne – acne on the upper back – this antibacterial spray contains salicylic acid and lemon grass oil and comes with a 360-degree nozzle to help you treat awkward and larger areas like the chest and neck.

£35 for 130ml; John Lewis

Skinceuticals Clarifying Clay Masque

A once-a-week treat for breakout prone skin, this face mask is easy to apply and take off, draws out impurities, cleans up excess oil and makes the skin look clearer and feel softer.

£60 for 67g; SkinCeuticals

Jessica Punter

Jessica Punter is a freelance journalist and stylist specialising in men's grooming and style. She has over 15 years experience in consumer magazines, having held the positions of Grooming Editor at British GQ and FHM. She also writes for MR PORTER, MATCHESFASHION, FashionBeans, British Airways and wellness magazine, BALANCE.