Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 4/24/2021
Adult acne is a bummer, and whether you missed the initial adolescent suffering or never got off that miserable bus ride, there’s a lot to hate about what acne does to your self confidence at any age.
Point being: you’re here right now because you want to get rid of it. We’re here to help. But before we can get your complexion cleaned up, we’re going to need to explore what’s going on beneath the surface.
Let’s start this battle by learning about the enemy. Acne isn’t just an eyesore: it’s also a bacterial infection that affects your pores. The infection results from an imbalance in your skin’s normal functions.
Four pieces are involved: oil production, dead cell disposal, hydration, and bacteria management.
Acne can take on many forms: white and blackheads, or papules, or cysts and other types. But importantly, they’re all variations of the same problem.
Zits occur when dead cells don’t leave your pores efficiently. When that happens, your sebaceous gland produces sebum (oil) to help lubricate their departure.
Unfortunately if too much oil builds up, and things get clogged, then the sebum provides an environment for bacteria, and the dead cells provide food. The result is pimples.
You’re probably wondering why you, why now. Well, the answer to that is actually not very easy. Imbalances can come from a lot of issues. You can be dehydrated, stressed, or getting too much sun. In your teen years it might have been hormones—it might still be as an adult.
Diagnosing the cause is actually of inherent importance to finding the solution, so this is a great time for a healthcare professional to get involved. They can help you diagnose the root cause, which will help point you in the direction of the best treatment.
Adult acne is not that much different to treat than teen acne—your issues might just be different. Also important? The kind of acne you’re dealing with.
Mild acne might just require some lifestyle changes, whereas more serious acne might require some prescriptions and the aid of a dermatologist.
But there are a few types of treatment that you’ll likely want to consider (or be asked to employ) to make your pimples peace out. Here are a few ways to treat acne:
If it’s a simple oil cleanup, you don’t need to worry about wildlife—just get the oil volume reduced. Tools like blotting papers, astringents like witch hazel, or masks will be your best friends. Products like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid might get a nod from your healthcare professional if you’re in need of bigger guns.
It might sound counterintuitive to add moisture if your main concern is oily skin, but dry skin can cause just as many problems (and even put that oil production into overtime). As such, keeping your skin moist and hydrated is of great importance.
Aloe vera products are a good start, but you might want to look for products with something called hyaluronic acid, which has been shown to help your skin retain moisture in various studies.
You can get rid of those dried cells that are too dead for moisturizers to help, while you’re at it. Scrubbing might be a good idea, but a better idea might be a chemical exfoliant like glycolic, lactic and malic acids — also known alpha-hydroxy acids.
Oh, and they’ve also been shown to promote collagen synthesis, in case you care about wrinkles. There are some mild side effects you might experience though, so talk to a healthcare professional before you start using chemical exfoliants.
Are you suffering from the ill effects of a high glycemic diet, poor hydration or general stress? If so, these things may be responsible for your acne—and they can further lead to diabetes, hypertension, or worse.
Point being: you might want to take a look at what you’re putting into your body to diagnose what’s coming out of it.
Though they suggest correlations, studies are far from showing diet is directly related to acne issues, but regardless, upping the water and decreasing the sugar are going to have great general benefits for your health.
And if your stress might have a hand in this, hey, talk to a therapist. It’s the only way you’re going to get the tools to fight face blemishes.
Acne is never easy to deal with, and as miserable as it might have been in school, dealing with it as an adult can make you feel as helpless as a kid waiting to get picked for PE dodgeball.
Luckily, acne isn’t going to steal your lunch money after hitting you with a ball. In fact, with the help of a healthcare provider, it’s something you can gang up on, and beat.
So get the conversation started, and find the treatment that’s right for you. Feeling self conscious is an ageless feeling, but taking charge? That’s adulting done right.