How can I get rid of my adult acne???
That’s a question I’ve been asking since I started getting acne in my 30s.
I’d never struggled with acne before so I had no clue what adult acne treatment I should look for or where to even start. But one thing is for sure, living with acne has been stressful, depressing, and a battle that I am tired of fighting.
Long gone are the days of perfectly clear skin I once had in my youth and if you are reading this, I’m sure you can relate.
I recently posted a video to my Instagram story asking for advice on the best acne treatment products for adults. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was down the rabbit hole filling my brain with tons of research on skincare products, adult acne, and how to kick its ass to the curb once and for all.
Acne By The Numbers
Did you know that most people, about 95% of them, will experience acne symptoms at some point in their life?!?
That means if there are 100 people in the room, 5 of them will always be pimple and breakout free. First of all, how did they get so lucky? And second of all, what do I have to do to be one of them?! UGHH!
So again, if you’re reading this, you and I obviously are not one of the lucky few who will never experience acne symptoms. But maybe you’re semi lucky like I was, and barely began experiencing acne as an adult.
If you were not, you should still stick with me because this info is NEED TO KNOW for anyone suffering from adult acne.
According to the folks over at Mario Badescu Skin Care, one of my favorite skincare lines, the number of adults experiencing acne symptoms is growing fast and it is particularly high for women.
While only 25% of adult men suffer from acne, a whopping 50% of adult women will experience acne with 14% of those women experiencing acne well into their 40s.
I mean, is that just unfair or what! Geeze!
But there is hope. Adult acne is quite manageable and it begins with understanding your own skin and using that knowledge to give it what it needs and wants.
So you are in the right place because I am about to drop some major knowledge on you that will get you on the right foot to becoming adult acne free. Let’s dive in!
What Causes Adult Acne?
Your skin is constantly renewing itself and when your new skin comes in, your old skin cells need to be removed through cleansing and exfoliating. If this does not happen, your old skin cells will team up with the bacteria and oil on your face and begin to turn on you.
Acne symptoms then begin to appear on your face. This happens when your pores, also called hair follicles, become clogged with your old skin cells, oil that’s already in the pores, and any bacteria that has made its way on to your face.
This is why cleansing and exfoliating your face is so important. But more on that later.
First, let’s expose some adult acne myths.
MYTH #1 -Your diet has nothing to do with acne.
LIES!! Although it was once thought that diet did not contribute to acne, studies are now showing that there actually is a connection between your diet and your adult acne. If your diet is high in sugars, dairy, and unhealthy fats, you are more likely to have acne.
MYTH #2 -Acne is a teenager problem.
If you’re reading this you already know that is not true.
MYTH #3 -Toothpaste will heal your zit overnight.
Spare yourself of the spearmint dots all over your face because this is simply not true.
Toothpaste can and will dry up your pimple but because it is not made for the skin on your face, it can cause more damage than good. Toothpaste may cause irritation to your face which would mean you just traded one skin problem for another. Don’t do it!
MYTH #4 -Sunlight will improve your acne
On the contrary my dear, the sun can actually make your acne worse. Always wear a facial sunscreen like Neutrogena’s UltraSheer Liquid Sunscreen before exposing your skin to the sun.
MYTH #5 -Popping your pimples will make them go away.
Nooooooooo! It’s quite the opposite. When you pop your pimple you are causing trauma to your skin. This can lead to more inflammation, infection, and worst of all…acne scarring.
Please resist the urge to pop your zit and use a spot treatment like Proactive’s Emergency Blemish Relief instead.
Now that we got the myths out of the way, let’s get down to the truth about what can cause acne in adults.
There are many factors that contribute to acne but right now we’re going to talk about the 3 main ones which are genetics, hormones, stress, and anxiety.
Acne happens mostly because of genetics and hormones. If your parents struggled with acne, unfortunately, you are in for it too. Thanks a lot, mom!
And as if we needed another reason to hate our hormones, they are actually a BIG factor in what causes adult acne.
Hormonal acne. This explains why women suffer from acne more than men do. It’s a total drag.
HERE’S THE LOW DOWN…
As we move through our monthly cycle our hormone levels are rising and falling. As we get closer to our time of the month, our skin glands produce more of a substance called sebum.
Sebum is basically an oil that keeps our skin from drying out. More sebum equals more oil on the skin which commonly leads to a breakout.
So if you see a sudden breakout get ready because your period is most likely on its way.
Anxiety doesn’t directly cause acne per se. However, the stressed caused by anxious thoughts and behaviors can be an underlying cause of your adult acne.
When we get stressed, our body responds by increasing hormone levels, which, as I mentioned before, increases the production of sebum in your pores.
MORE SEBUM=MORE OIL=MORE ACNE
The link between times of high stress and acne in adults is high and it is really just a vicious cycle if you think about it.
We stress then we breakout. Then we stress about our breakouts only to have that stress cause more breakouts! UGH!
What Are The Different Types of Acne?
If you want to know how to get rid of your adult acne for good it is also important to figure out what type of acne you have as there are many different kinds and you may have more than one.
- Blackheads- Blackheads are formed when a pore becomes partially clogged by sebum AKA oil. The oil reacts to the air on the surface of the skin and turns black resulting in what we call “blackheads”
- Whiteheads- Whiteheads happen just the same as blackheads except the pore is totally clogged.
- Papules acne- These are pimples that remain under the skin. Papules are inflamed bumps that are hard, red, sensitive, and painful. White pus does not come to the surface with this type of acne.
- Pustule acne- These inflamed bumps do come to the surface of the skin. They show their ugly faces with yellow or white pus-filled bumps that’ll make you want to pop them. But don’t! Popping these pimples will leave you with acne scarring that is even harder to get rid of! Instead, apply a spot treatment like Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion
- Nodules acne-These are a more severe form of acne. Nodules remain under the skin and are usually hard to the touch. This form of acne usually requires a more aggressive form of treatment and it is recommended to see a dermatologist for help with this.
- Cystic Acne- Cysts, another severe form of acne, are inflamed lesions filled with pus. Cysts can linger on your face for months. Seek professional treatment for a plan on getting rid of these.
What Skin Type Do You Have and Why it Matters.
Skin is not one size fits all. There are actually 5 main types of skin: Normal, dry, oily, combination, and sensitive. Understanding which type you have will help decide on a skincare regime that works for you.
Normal Skin Type
A normal skin type is not oily or dry. The pores on normal skin are small and there are few lines or wrinkles. Generally, those with normal skin have even skin tone and occasionally they may have a breakout.
Basically, people with normal skin are LUCKY AF! They are those 5 people in the room who don’t ever have to deal with acne. (eye roll)
Normal skin tip: Not applicable because your skin is basically perfect and I hate you…JK!
Dry Skin Type
Those with dry skin will usually have scaly patches of skin or flaking on their face. Their skin will often feel tight and they will suffer from irritation on the regular. Early onset of wrinkles is also a common characteristic of dry skin.
Dry skin tip: Avoid harsh cleansers and use a cream-based moisturizer like CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion.
Oily Skin Type
People with an oily skin type are often shiny all of the time, not just in the T zones, but all over. Because of the excess oil on the face, this skin type is prone to breakouts.
Oily skin tip: Use a gentle exfoliator that contains salicylic acid like Biore Pore Unclogging Scrub.
Combination Skin Type
This skin type is the most common skin type of them all. Combination skin is when there are two or more skin types present on the face. Generally, the combination is that of oily and dry or dry and normal.
Combo skin tip: Stick to products with all-natural ingredients and be sure to use an exfoliator like TULA Exfoliating Treatment Mask 2-3 times a week.
Sensitive Skin Type
This skin type is probably the worst type to have and could mean there is a deeper skin issue happening. Those with sensitive skin show characteristics of all skin types; dry, oily, and combination.
Sensitive skin is easily inflamed and therefore shows lots of redness and irritation.
Sensitive skin tip: Avoid harsh chemical-based skincare products and treatments. Also, check with your dermatologist for any underlying skin conditions like rosacea or skin allergies.
How to Create a Skincare Routine
Now that you know your skin type, what is causing your acne, and what type of acne you have, the next step is to decide on a skincare regimen that works best for you.
Your skin is your largest organ and it is also your biggest barrier of protection from infections and other harmful elements. Keeping a consistent skincare regime will help your skin barrier stay strong, healthy, and beautiful.
I cannot stress to you enough how much consistency is a must! Your skin loves consistent care so once you begin your skincare regime be sure to stay on track with it daily.
You should be caring for your skin at least twice a day, morning and night. And please NEVER go to bed with makeup on!
Consistency Tip: Write out your skincare routine on your bathroom mirror with dry erase markers. This way you see it every day and you won’t forget.
Choose your skincare products based on the regime down below. Depending on the severity of acne on your face, you will need acne-fighting ingredients in more than one of your skincare products.
However, because these ingredients will dry out the skin, you will need to experiment with all of the products in your routine and go from there.
Here’s a simple skincare routine for you to follow for each day of the week. Be sure to alter based on your preference, but following this routine will suffice for all skin types.
Best Acne Treatment Products For Adults
When it comes to cleansers, look for products that contain at least one of these acne-fighting ingredients: Salicylic Acid, Benzoyl Peroxide, or Glycolic Acid. These ingredients deeply penetrate pores removing dead skin cells, makeup, excess oils, and bacteria; all things that cause acne and irritation on the skin.
Here are a few budget-friendly cleanser options (because I’m always looking for the best deals!) for you to choose from:
I’ve used this one personally. I like that it is non-comedogenic (doesn’t clog the pores) and oil-free. It’s also moisture-rich so it doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight and dry after washing it. The acne-fighting ingredient in this product is salicylic acid.
Another one of my favorites! The cleanser is actually apart of a 4 step acne treatment system but can be used on its own as well. I like this product for its natural ingredients, sage, and olive leaf extract, and it’s alpha & beta hydroxy acids. It’s gentle on the skin but also does a great job cleaning it. I also love the smell.
The acne-fighting ingredient in this product is also salicylic acid but the 4 step acne treatment system also contains benzoyl peroxide within its acne treatment serum. Save 40% on the acne treatment system here!
This is a product that DOES NOT contain any of the acne-fighting ingredients I mentioned above, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway. This natural healing soap has gotten rave reviews for not only clearing acne and the nasty scars it leaves behind, but also eczema, dry skin, dandruff, and even psoriasis! Plus they offer a 60 day 100% money-back guarantee so it’s definitely worth the try!
Toners are like a backup army of cleansers for your skin. They come in right after the cleanser and pick up any dirt and oil that stayed behind. They also aid in moisturizing and rebalancing the ph level of the skin after washing. So in my opinion, a toner is crucial to your skincare regime. Here are some of my favorites…
Witch hazel is a great ingredient in the fight against adult acne symptoms. It acts as a natural astringent that shrinks your pores, soothes your skin, and reduces inflammation. The vitamin C contained in rose water strengthens skin cells, increases collagen production, and fades scarring. The Mario Badescu Skin Care line is amazing with many options to choose from!
Another witch hazel and rose water toner that is all the rage. I plan on trying this toner next!
I love this one for its all-natural ingredients, witch hazel, rose water, sage, and tea tree. Also for its convenient spray applicator.
When it comes to choosing a moisturizer for your skin type, it will not be one size fits all. However, moisturizing is a vital part of a proper skincare regime and should not be skipped. Look for moisturizers that are oil-free and non-comedogenic. Bonus points if your moisturizer contains SPF.
SIDE NOTE: Non-comedogenic is just a fancy word meaning it won’t clog pores. You should also look for this fancy word on your makeup products and pretty much any product you apply to your face.
I love love love this one! Did I mention I love this one?? But seriously, this moisturizer gives your skin the hydration it needs while targeting excess oil and minimizing pores. My favorite part though, it leaves the skin with a matte finish (anti-shine) AND can be used as a primer base for your makeup! No SPF in this one so make sure to check out the next section and grab some too!
This lightweight moisturizer is especially good for those with acne-prone sensitive skin. It’s also very affordable and can be found at your local drugstore. No SPF included.
This moisturizer helps to decrease inflammation which is common in acne-prone skin. SPF is included in the formula and it is also affordable starting at just $12.
Those with acne-prone skin tend to shy away from using sunscreen because many of them contain ingredients that clog the pores and create even more pimples. But it’s a real catch 22 because too much sun on the skin can ALSO cause more pimples, not to mention sun damage. So it’s very important that you do not skip this step.
A good rule of thumb to follow: Your face needs at least 30 SPF so if your moisturizer has less than that be sure to add a facial sunscreen as well. Here are a few SPF products that your skin will thank you for…
When researching facial sunscreens, I found a common complaint about using sunscreen with makeup. Some reviews said the sunscreen under the makeup made it harder for it to stick and even made the skin too shiny.
That helped me narrow down my search for the best sunscreens out there and in doing so I found Neutrogena UltraSheer Liquid Sunscreen and ordered it right away. It’s so lightweight and feels like it’s barely there. I also give myself a 15-minute window before applying my makeup and I didn’t have any problems.
This sunscreen has everything you need plus lactic acid that exfoliates your pores and hyaluronic acid that adds moisture to your skin. It’s a little on the high-end price wise but it is a bang for your buck and a top-rated brand by dermatologists.
I thought this one was worth mentioning because it is a powder sunscreen rather than a liquid. It can be used alone or as a setting powder over your makeup. It contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, ingredients do not seep into the pores and will block UV rays naturally.
You should be using a face mask at least twice a week. Not only is it good for your skin but it’s also a great way to add some self-care to your life.
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Face masks add an extra boost of deep cleaning to the skin leaving your skin bright, smooth, and beautiful! There are many options when it comes to choosing a face mask and it’s fun to sample a few and find what you love the best.
Masks are either cream, clay, or gel based. Cream face masks are great for normal and dry skin. Clay face masks are great for normal and oily skin while gel face masks are great for dry and sensitive skin.
This mask boasts itself as the world’s most powerful facial masks and for good reason too! Many reviews on the product state that this mask cleared acne breakouts practically overnight! I have already ordered mine and I cannot wait to try it! ***This product comes in a powder form that is meant to be mixed with apple cider vinegar so don’t forget to get that as well!
This is a dual-action mask and it’s the mask I’ve been using for the past few months. It deep cleans the pores whiling DETOXING and EXFOLIATING! It’s definitely a staple acne treatment product for me.
Another popular adult acne treatment product that kept popping up was this Yes to Tomatoes brand mud mask. Don’t let the name fool you, this is a charcoal mud mask, not a mask made of tomatoes! LOL!
Exfoliating your skin is extremely important for all skin types, acne-prone or not. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells from your face and leaves behind healthy, glowing skin.
For us acne-prone people, the process of exfoliation helps to clear clogged pores that lead to acne breakouts and it also helps to fade the scars that acne has left behind.
You should exfoliate your skin at least twice a week but no more than four times a week as that can be damaging (drying) to your skin. Using a facial cleansing brush along with these exfoliators can give you an extra boost of cleansing.
I like to recommend this exfoliating scrub because it is designed for sensitive skin. Anytime you exfoliate, you may experience a little redness on your skin. If you have sensitive skin, to begin with, or want a little less redness, this extra gentle scrub is for you.
With its tiny exfoliating granules, this product offers a deep but gentle exfoliation on the skin. It also helps reduces fine lines and wrinkles so it’s great for anti-aging too!
I just picked up this product a few days ago. This scrub deep cleans pores while exfoliating the skin. It also contains the acne-fighting ingredient salicylic acid to help control breakouts. It has a minty smell and a cooling effect when washed off.
These are always good to have in your skincare regime. Spot treatments for acne are different from other acne products because they are meant for treating pimples individually rather than the entire face at once.
A spot treatment will deliver acne-fighting ingredients directly to the pimple and can quickly zap them away, sometimes overnight.
Spot treatments, however, only work on surface level blemishes. They will not treat deeper acne problems like cystic acne or nodular acne.
This product was recommended to me by so many people and I bought it right away. Tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. It reduces redness and inflammation of the pimple and shrinks it fast. It also kills any bacteria that may be causing your breakout.
But be careful, tea tree oil is one of the strongest essential oils out there. This product should only be used as a spot treatment. For more info on how to use tea tree oil, check out this video:
I love this product! I’ve been using this spot treatment for my acne for a while now and it has never failed me. It delivers a dose of benzoyl peroxide straight to the pimple while deep cleaning the pore and absorbing any excess oil on the skin. Works like a charm.
I’ve been eying this spot treatment for a while and I plan on buying it soon. It’s special because it contains salicylic acid and calamine lotion that drys up pimples fast, virtually overnight. I am excited to give it a try!
Final thoughts on getting rid of adult acne
Winning the battle against acne starts with knowledge. Knowing what your skin type is and what types of acne you have is a good place to start. From there choose a skincare regime that works for you and stay consistent with it!
In the beginning, you will be in a trial and error phase. You will try an acne treatment product and see if it works for you. If it does great, if it doesn’t, don’t give up! Move on to the next acne treatment product and keep trying.
I know from personal experience, adult acne can be a huge blow to your self-esteem. Heck, I stopped leaving my house when my acne was at it’s worst!
But please know that with the right skincare regime, acne is very manageable. And if all else fails, see a dermatologist for some extra direction and help!
I hope this article has given you some major insight on how to get rid of adult acne! If you have any more acne-fighting tips, I’d love to hear them!