For many, the word “acne” often calls to mind the image of an awkward, pimply-faced teen with braces (that’s certainly how acne sufferers are portrayed on TV, anyway). And while breakouts are indeed most common during adolescence—up to 80% percent of teens report having some degree of blemishes—the reality is that acne can persist well into adulthood.I Unlike teen breakouts, which tend to result from the biological changes that occur during puberty, adult acne is often triggered by lifestyle factors, like your level of stress and even how much you sleep. It can also be exceedingly frustrating—especially if you’d assumed that you’d enjoy clear skin once you hit 20.
Thankfully, managing adult acne isn’t too tricky, at least once you’ve figured out the underlying triggers. To help, we’ve put together a deep dive into this topic. You’ll learn various adult acne causes, what it looks like, and how to manage it. We’ve also included eight essential tips to help you manage your breakouts more effectively. Keep reading for our guide to identifying and addressing adult acne.
What Is Adult Acne?
Adult acne, also known as postadolescent acne, refers to any breakouts that occur after a person has completed puberty (usually around age 25). For those who first develop acne in adulthood, it’s also known as adult-onset acne. This type of acne often subsides after the third decade of life but can persist well into a person’s 50s or later. It usually presents on the lower half of the face, including the jawline, around the mouth, and your lower cheeks. Adult cystic acne—that is, inflammatory acne—is the most common type of adult acne, though less severe blemishes (such as blackheads and whiteheads) may also occur.
What Causes Adult Acne?
Like all acne, adult breakouts result from clogged pores that contain dead skin cells, sebum, and other impurities. However, these pimples and blemishes have several unique characteristics that distinguish them from adolescent acne. Most notably, adult acne is significantly more common in women than it is in men. Research indicates that between 12% and 22% of women suffer from adult blemishes, compared to just 3% of men.II In women, it is commonly triggered by hormonal imbalances and may be more severe in the week leading up to a woman’s period. Pregnancy, menopause, and the use of oral contraceptives (i.e., birth control pills) can also lead to or worsen adult blemishes in women.
Other common adult acne triggers include stress, sleep deprivation, and certain lifestyle factors (such as smoking or wearing makeup). Genetics may also play a role.
How To Manage Adult Acne: Our 8 Tips
Effective adult acne treatment requires identifying and eliminating the underlying cause (for example, if your breakouts are related to stress, they’re unlikely to go away until you get your stress under control). However, maintaining a proper skincare routine and following healthy skin habits can also help minimize your breakouts and keep your skin looking its best. Continue reading to discover our tips for managing adult acne.
Choose a Cleanser Suited To Your Skin Type
Because all acne ultimately stems from clogged pores, keeping the skin free of excess oil, dirt, and pore-clogging debris is an important first step in managing your breakouts. With that said, it’s essential to choose a facial cleanser that’s suited to your unique skin type. Pick one that’s too harsh, and it could irritate or over-dry your skin. Too mild, and it may not clean your skin adequately.
If you have combination skin (that is, skin with both oily and dry areas), start your routine off with Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash. This highly-foaming formula with calendula extract and glycerin helps remove impurities without over-drying the skin. It provides a gentle yet effective clean for a refreshed feel. For skin prone to redness and irritation, reach for Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Cleanser instead. Our purifying cleanser for problem skin is made with Cannabis sativa seed oil and removes impurities to leave skin comfortably clean.
Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser
When oil control is your primary concern, try Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser. This exfoliating cleanser deep cleans and helps minimize the appearance of enlarged pores for fresh, healthy-looking skin. It’s another option that is recommended for all skin types and gentle enough for daily use.
When you’re actively breaking out, swap out your mild daily cleanser for a face wash designed specifically to help address acne, like Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment. This effective formula with salicylic acid helps purify pores to reduce the appearance of blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of blemishes. It also helps prevent new breakouts from forming, leaving skin looking visibly clearer.
Don’t Skip Toner
We recommend everyone use a toner after cleansing, but it can be particularly beneficial for those with adult acne. Toner helps remove any impurities lingering on your face after cleansing while also preparing your skin for the rest of your skincare routine.
After washing your face, pat your skin dry (gently) with a clean, dry towel. Then, use a cotton round to sweep on a mild toner. We recommend Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion. This Kiehl’s classic, first developed in 1964, helps balance oily areas, like the T-zone. The refreshing formula with menthol and camphor also helps soothe the skin after cleansing or shaving.
Avoid Over-Drying Your Skin
When using topical acne treatments, moisturizing is key. It’s also important not to overuse products with potent acne-fighting ingredients as this can dehydrate your skin. While this may seem like a good thing if you have oily skin, overdrying your skin can actually make your breakouts worse. When your skin loses its natural protective lipids, it goes into repair mode and produces excess oil to make up for the skin’s lack of natural moisture. Ultimately, this increased sebum production can result in oily-looking skin, clogged pores, and widespread breakouts. Keeping your skin well-hydrated, therefore, is essential if you’re prone to adult acne.
Adding a non-comedogenic face oil, such as Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate Face Oil, to your daily skincare routine can help keep your skin balanced. This unique formula (made with naturally-derived ingredients*) helps hydrate and strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier. With regular use, it helps reduce discomfort and visibly diminishes skin redness to promote a calmer, more balanced appearance.
Alternatively, address adult acne and wrinkles simultaneously with Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum. This ultra-hydrating serum helps stimulate your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid (a molecule closely involved with maintaining skin’s hydration and elasticity). When used daily, the lightweight formula helps smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and diminishes dullness for smoother, plumper-looking skin.
*We consider ingredients to be naturally-derived if they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source.
Invest In An Effective Spot Treatment
Blue Herbal Spot Treatment
If you struggle with acne, a potent spot treatment is a must-have in your skincare arsenal. For adult acne, we recommend Blue Herbal Spot Treatment, which is formulated with 1.5% salicylic acid, ginger root essential oil and zinc. The effective formula helps reduce the appearance of a wide range of blemishes, including blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Apply a thin layer of the targeted treatment to stubborn breakouts one to three times daily as needed for clearer, more comfortable skin.
Try a Gel Moisturizer
As we mentioned earlier, keeping your skin well-hydrated is essential if you struggle with adult acne. Still, finding the right moisturizer for acne-prone skin can be a challenge, particularly if you’re also prone to oiliness.
Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream
Try our Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream for lasting hydration without a heavy or greasy feel. This moisturizer for oily skin instantly cools the skin and absorbs quickly. Its weightless formula conditions the skin with 24-hour hydration and helps control shine.
Sunscreen Is a Non-Negotiable
While sunscreen doesn’t typically contain acne-fighting ingredients (and is therefore not designed to address the appearance and severity of your adult blemishes), it can help reduce the risk of developing post-blemish marks. Additionally, many topical adult acne treatments can make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s damaging rays, so keeping your skin protected at all times is vital if you want to avoid painful sunburns and sun-induced skin damage.
If you’re going to spend any time outside, supplement your oil-free moisturizer with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to help protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays. For those with acne-prone skin, we recommend mineral sunscreen, like Super Fluid Daily UV Mineral Defense. This fast-absorbing facial sunscreen is non-comedogenic, non-irritating, and boasts antioxidant protection in addition to a UV rating of 50+. Apply a generous amount to your face and neck at least 15 minutes before going outside, and be sure to follow other sun protection measures (like avoiding direct sunlight at midday).
Tackle Post-Blemish Marks
It’s important to know what to do if post-acne marks do make an appearance. Wearing sunscreen can help prevent them, but nothing is 100% foolproof. For any dark spots or discolorations that stick around after a breakout, turn to Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector. This face serum visibly reduces a broad spectrum of dark spots including those caused by acne, UV exposure, and age. It has a formula with buffered salicylic acid and is even gentle enough for sensitive skin.
Unwind With a Cleansing Mask
Don’t overlook the benefits of a regular at-home facial. The right face mask can help the appearance of skin concerns like adult acne. Additionally, giving yourself a pampering facial once or twice per week may help you relax. This is important because stress, as we mentioned earlier, has been linked to causing adult acne.
Pamper your blemish-prone skin with a detoxifying mask, like Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask. Our award-winning face mask with Amazonian white clay helps draw out pore-clogging impurities, like excess oil, dirt, and sweat. In doing so, it visibly minimizes pores and significantly reduces your skin’s surface oil production in just one use. The deep-cleansing formula is suitable for all skin types and can be used weekly to help purify the skin and promote a more refined appearance.