The biggest mistake you're making when dealing with adult acne

The Biggest Mistake You’re Making When Dealing With Adult Acne

Plus, the best ingredients for banishing breakouts

Beauty Crew Beauty Editor / October 08 2019

Ah, the joys of seeing a blemish appear on your face, just when you thought you were doing everything right, from your thorough skin care routine to maintaining a healthy lifestyle with good food choices and lots of exercise. Being on the receiving end of adult acne can be a headache - not to mention, debilitating for your self-esteem. But it’s not a lost cause. 

Equipping yourself with the right knowledge and products can help improve the severity of adult acne and increase your likelihood of reaching clear skin again. With so many unknowns attached to this tricky topic, we decided it would be worth picking the brains of Dr Phillip Tong, Consultant Dermatologist of St Vincent's Hospital and Deputy Co-Chair of Research at The Skin Hospital, for his best advice.

What are the causes of adult acne? 

"The potential causes are often cosmetics, stress, [hormonal changes] and a family history of acne,” says Dr Tong. “Also, dermatologists are the best people to diagnose an underlying medical conditions as well as side effects to certain medications, which acne can be a sign of as well."  

What are the symptoms of adult acne?

Adult acne is a really common skin condition. "There is a broad range of symptoms including the classic red inflamed pustule (pimple) or nodule," says Dr Tong. "These are often tender to touch and can occur anywhere on the face. In women, it is often over the chin and jawline." Fact: Cystic acne can also be a form of adult acne, and happens when a pore is clogged with dead skin cells and becomes infected. 

What’s the biggest mistake people tend to make when they have adult acne?  

The most logical way to deal with adult acne is by scrubbing away the dead skin cell build-up, right? Incorrect. Dr Tong says, , "harsh [exfoliators] and cleansers can cause skin dryness, which leads to dead skin clogging up pores and results in inflammatory acne.” He also warns against using make-shift cleansing wipes. “Please avoid baby wipes as these can cause allergies and cosmetic sensitivity in some patients." 

What skin care ingredients can target adult acne? 

There are two ingredients that work wonders on acneic skin. "Salicylic acid and azelaic acid can gently lift dead skin that can block pores, but [they] also regulate the population of Cutibacterium acnes (aka Propionibacterium acnes)," explains Dr Tong. "Topical retinoids such as retinol (and similar vitamin A ingredients) can help target oily skin," he adds. 

What are some skin care must-dos for those with adult acne?

To manage your adult acne, consider a skin care routine that features the following: "For patients [that] have acne and also dry skin, a cleansing oil may be a good alternative for those who wear heavy eye makeup," says Dr. Tong. "This should be followed by a gentle cleanser and light moisturiser afterwards. Also, look for products that explain that they are ‘non-comedogenic’, [and incorporate] a topical retinoid to regulate the oil production in patients with adult onset acne."

Adult acne products to try

While there isn’t always a hard and fast way to get rid of your blemishes altogether (if they’re hormone-related, you can’t do much to stop them completely), there are plenty of skin care products that can help reduce a build-up of sebum and treat acne-prone skin. Here are three we recommend:

Bioderma Sebium Mat Control: Designed to be used for oily *and* sensitive skin, this product features salicylic acid to control sebum production in oil glands, and vitamin B6 and zinc to mattify your complexion. Best of all, the texture is really silky (like a lightweight lotion), and can be used as a makeup primer before foundation.  

Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Masque: The combination of botanical ingredients, hyaluronic acid and a calming dipeptide work to soothe acne skin by cooling it down, as well as reducing redness and discomfort. 

Ultraceuticals Ultra Clear Spot Treatment: Apply this acne treatment over any breakouts (where the skin is still intact - don’t pop the pimple!) to calm flare-ups. The formula contains mandelic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid) and salicylic acid (a beta hydroxy acid) to de-clog pores, kaolin clay to mop up excess oil, and vitamin E phosphate to soothe inflamed acne skin. 

Bioderma Sebium Mat Control

Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Masque

Ultraceuticals Ultra Clear Spot Treatment

If you're someone that suffers from adult acne and have old acne scars, try this nourishing oil that can help fade hyperpigmentation. 

What's your best advice when it comes to keeping your adult acne under control? Tell us in the comments below. 

Main image credit: Getty

Iantha is BEAUTYcrew's Beauty Editor, and has been part of the team since the site launched in 2016. Besides pinky-nude nail polish and wispy false lashes, she has a healthy obsession with face masks and skin care ingredients. Her previous work can be found in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Women's Health, and SHOP Til You Drop.