So you made it through your teenage years and maybe had few problems with acne other than the occasional zit. You thought you got lucky and dodged acne! Then a decade or so later and out of nowhere, you are experiencing breakouts and have no idea what is causing them. Sound about right?
Being a makeup artist, this is one of the biggest concerns I hear from clients. They want to make sure I am going to be able to cover up their breakouts. It seems to happen over and over where brides and their bridesmaids will tell me they never had acne growing up and now all of a sudden they have adult acne! I can relate because it reminds me of ME! I remember being in my late 20s and having this very issue. I was 27 to be exact. I had just had my first baby and it was that year when all of our friends were getting married. We had what felt like a wedding every weekend!
I was hormonal, stressed, drinking a ton of caffeine, not eating healthy and consuming alcohol at all those weddings and showers on the weekends. Ugh, my face was a mess! I blamed it on the hormones but looking back it probably wasn’t only the hormones. It was a mix of all of the above but I didn’t know that then. Fast forward to now…brides tell me they are having this very same issue and have no idea why. As we talk, they tell me they have 10 weddings this year, trying to plan their own wedding, buying a house and oh yea…a pandemic! No wonder their face is breaking out. That’s a lot going on!
Adult Acne. What Is It?
Adult acne is similar to adolescent acne, just occurring in adults. The main causes are the same. They include excess oil production, pores becoming clogged, bacteria, and inflammation.
Here’s how it will show up on your face:
T-zone acne – this is where you usually get acne from things like hormones, alcohol, caffeine, and stress.
Cheek acne – typically this comes from bacteria you are unknowingly putting on your skin from things like cell phones, dirty pillows, masks, or just touching your face too much.
Chin and jawline acne – while hormones play a part here too, you’ll find what you eat makes a big difference. Things like candida, too much processed sugar, and starchy foods show up here.
So what can you do about it? Read on to learn the dos and don’ts of adult acne.
The Don’ts Of Adult Acne
If you are suffering from adult acne. Avoiding these things can help clear it up and prevent new breakouts from occurring. While it may not be reasonable to avoid all these things all the time, if you have a big event coming up and you really want clear skin, here’s what you need to cut out:
- Greasy foods – not only can this add to your jawline/chin acne, if you’re someone who touches their skin often it’s not good for your cheek acne either.
- Alcohol – I enjoy a glass of wine as much as anyone but if you’re having acne issues – cut it out at least until your face clears up.
- Too much caffeine – this one is hard I know, especially if you are super busy planning a big event but the less caffeine you can drink, the better.
- Drying out your skin – taking care of your skin is super important right now. More on this in my “Dos” section.
- Harsh exfoliators and/or foaming cleansers (especially if you have dry skin) – this may seem like the right thing to do but drying out your skin can have the opposite effect on acne.
The Dos Of Adult Acne
Now that you know what to avoid to prevent breakouts. Let’s talk about what you should be doing to keep your skin fresh and acne free. Here are some things that will help:
- Drink water – and plenty of it! Hydrated skin starts from the inside out.
- Clean up your diet – there’s no doubt that what you eat shows up in your skin. Eat a diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole foods and I promise you’ll see a difference.
- Pay attention to your hormones and what time of the month it is. You’ll see a pattern when you are more likely to break out. Different hormones during your cycle can increase progesterone and sebum which are known to cause acne. Make sure you are taking extra good care of your skin during these times.
Which leads me to my number one most important tip – keep consistent with your skincare routine! Skincare is a top priority if you want to avoid breakouts. Apply moisturizer daily…I promise this will not cause more breakouts! If you have oily skin, just make sure to use a water based moisturizer like Tatcha The Water Cream or Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream . Oil free sunscreens, products with alpha hydroxy acids, and weekly exfoliations are a must too.
Topical treatments with acne fighting ingredients can be great to treat or prevent breakouts too. One of the best explanations I’ve seen about the ingredients is from Self:
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy-acid (BHA), a kind of chemical exfoliant. It works by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells. Salicylic acid is also particularly helpful when treating acne because it’s oil-soluble, which allows it to work its unclogging magic deeper in your oily pores than other chemical exfoliants. Find it in: A ton of over-the-counter cleansers, spot treatments, and masks. For most people, it’s gentle enough to use on your whole face—possibly even daily..
Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), another type of chemical exfoliant. Pay attention to the concentration of glycolic acid in a given product as this will clue you in to how strong it will be. As the concentration gets higher, the product will be more powerful, but also more sensitizing. So if you’re a beginner, start at the lower end of the spectrum. Find it in: Cleansers, serums, and peels.
Lactic acid is yet another chemical exfoliant, an AHA. But lactic acid is known to be gentler than other types of chemical exfoliants, so it’s a good place to start if you’re new to exfoliating treatments. Find it in: Lactic acid is often paired with other acids in serums, toners, and peels.
Polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), which includes gluconolactone and lactobionic acid, are another class of chemical exfoliants and are generally considered to be the most gentle. If you have very dry or sensitive skin, or you’ve had bad reactions to other chemical exfoliants in the past, you should consider using a PHA. Find it in: Lots of exfoliating peels, masks, and creams.
Benzoyl peroxide works by actually killing the acne bacteria while exfoliating the pores at the same time. It’s not as gentle as the chemical exfoliants, so be careful when using it and make sure to moisturize. Find it in: Many lotions and spot treatments, often paired with a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid.
Sulfur doesn’t have as much research behind it for acne as some of the other options on this list, but it is often a recommended treatment for acne-like bumps related to rosacea.
Find it in: Mainly spot treatments and face masks.
Azelaic acid is another rosacea/acne crossover medication that’s great at clearing the bumps sometimes seen in rosacea as well as pimples. Find it in: Azelaic acid is available in a few prescription forms, but it’s also present in over-the-counter products at lower concentrations.
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives, including retinol, retinal (retinaldehyde), and retinoic acid. They come in over-the-counter options and stronger prescription versions. The biggest downside is they’re harsh and can sometimes be too much for sensitive skin, especially when you’re first starting to use them. That’s why it’s important to use them just a few days a week at first, to always moisturize effectively, and to be extremely diligent about wearing sunscreen when using a retinoid. Find it in: Retinol is available in many over-the-counter products, and that’s generally the best place to start.
Does your acne tend to break out in the winter months due to dry or dehydrated skin? That happens often. Read my previous blog to learn how to Keep Your Skin Glowing All Winter Long!
Disclosure: I only recommend products I use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that are no additional cost to you, but I may earn a small commission.