October 6, 2020 Published by

Of all the skin issues that plague beauty consumers, none is more universal than acne. A frustrating skin situation that most consumers face at one point or another, acne has been a prime target for beauty businesses and brands for decades, and with good reason: nearly every consumer has, has had, or will have an a need for acne products. Whether she’s combating the occasional flare-up or struggling with cystic outbreaks, consumers are all in agreement about acne:  it is not welcome, and maintaining a routine for tackling this tricky foe is critical. To better understand what steps consumers are willing to take, what products they can’t live without, and just how spotting the telltale signs of a blemish makes her feel, we asked over 4,000 beauty consumers to talk to us about everything acne. In Part One of our two part series, we dive into how long acne has been a concern, where she struggles with acne, what products she uses to address this pesky problem, and more.

Acne Is a Universal Complaint

Nearly 100% of consumers say they have experienced acne at some point in their lives, with the majority indicating their first experience started between the ages of 13 – 18 years old (54%), while 35% of consumers report first facing acne at a much younger age—between 9 -12 years old. Most consumers (78%) also report regularly or currently experiencing acne flare-ups, as well, which may be why when asked to rank her biggest skin concerns, it’s no surprise that acne scores the number one position over other very commonly noted skin struggles including dark circles, hyperpigmentation, large pores, fine lines and wrinkles, and even firmer skin.  And even though the worry about acne diminishes with age, acne still ranks as the number one skin concern for all demographics up until the age of 60, when the worry about dark under eye bags slightly edges out acne (17% vs. 12%).

Figure 1: Acne Concern By Age

#1 Skin Issue All 18-29 30 – 39 40 – 49 50 – 59 60+
Acne 47% 66% 52% 39% 22% 12%

Of the types of acne she’s facing, hormonal/menstrual acne leads the pack, with three-quarters of consumers agreeing they face this kind of acne, followed by stress acne (67%), acne caused by oily skin (41%), acne caused by pore-clogging makeup (32%), and cystic acne (24%). When asked to rank the severity of her acne, about half say their acne is mild (49%) and another half moderately bad (47%), but only 4% of consumers rate their acne as severe.  In terms of how often they see flare ups, thirty-seven percent of consumers say their acne is cyclic/shows up monthly (38%); 34% that it’s chronic/persistent; and for a lucky 24%, only an occasional bother.

Figure 2: Frequency of Acne Breakouts By Age

Frequency All 18-29 30 – 39 40 – 49 50 – 59 60+
Regularly/currently 77% 83% 82% 76% 60% 44%
Cleared within past year 8% 9% 7% 7% 7% 9%
I stopped having acne 16% 8% 11% 17% 34% 47%


Who, What, Where

While facial acne is where consumers primarily sees outbreaks, such as the chin (89%), cheeks (71%), forehead (66%), and nose (62%), acne on other areas of the body is also a problem. Forty-one percent of consumers report having acne on their back; 35% on their chest area; 29% on their shoulders; and 21% on their buttocks. Of the kinds of acne flare-ups experienced, whiteheads are the biggest problem (80%), followed by blackheads (76%), papules (54%), pustules (51%), nodules (45%), and cysts (36%).

Figure 3: Location of Acne Breakouts By Age

Location All 18-29 30 – 39 40 – 49 50 – 59 60+
Chin 89% 90% 91% 89% 83% 82%
Cheeks 71% 79% 71% 66% 62% 59%
Forehead 66% 75% 66% 62% 54% 43%
Nose 62% 61% 62% 62% 65% 68%
Back 41% 49% 42% 38% 28% 17%
Chest 35% 42% 37% 31% 23% 13%
Shoulders 29% 36% 32% 23% 19% 10%
Buttocks 22% 25% 22% 21% 16% 8%

Perhaps because consumers suffer most with cyclic acne each month—and are familiar with common signs of an outbreak—about 59% of consumers say they can sometimes predict when they are going to have an outbreak, while 27% say no, they can’t predict acne ever, and 14% saying they can always predict their next flare-up.  Also interesting, consumers are divided on thinking their acne is hereditary.  Sixty-seven percent of consumers don’t know if hereditary patterns are to blame for their acne problems, while 32% each say yes, genes play a role, and no—the fact that their parents or siblings had acne—has nothing to do with their own acne situation.

The Acne Antidote

Ahh…now the fun stuff—what we all do to get rid of pesky pimples? For starters, let’s talk about the number one bad behavior to help clear up blemishes in the short term: picking at or popping pimples. Even though dermatologists advise against it, 94% of all consumers say they always or sometimes pick at their blemishes in an effort to get them to go away more quickly. Other short-term approaches to clearing up acne include applying a topical spot treatment (64%); deep cleaning the skin (61%); trying to hide blemishes with makeup (44%); and using an at-home remedy (29%).

To clear up acne in the long term, consumers turn to many different remedies including washing their face twice a day, drinking more water, avoiding touching their face, and adjusting eating habits. And even though consumers over the age of 40 tend to suffer less with acne, it’s interesting to note that across the board, consumers of all ages are adopting similar behaviors to keep their acne under control, even when it’s not their biggest skin concern.

Figure 4: Long Term Treatment of Acne By Age

Treatment Approach All 18-29 30 – 39 40 – 49 50 – 59 60+
Wash face 2x/day 61% 61% 59% 63% 61% 63%
Drinking water 55% 60% 52% 54% 52% 51%
Follow regular skincare routine 46% 51% 46% 42% 38% 40%
Wash brushes/sponges 37% 35% 40% 36% 31% 24%
Avoid touching face 32% 33% 34% 29% 29% 24%
Wash face immediately after exercising 24% 28% 25% 22% 19% 22%
Adjusted my eating habits 20% 26% 19% 16% 17% 16%