Coping with adult acne breakouts

Jun 21, 2011 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Though some people are fortunate enough that their problem skin goes away with their teenage years, adult acne is certainly not uncommon. In fact, acne affects 50 percent of adult women (and 25 percent of adult men) at some point in their grown-up lives. Find out more about it here.

Woman cleansing her skin

Adult acne causes anxiety

Acne can consist of pimples, as well as deeper cysts and clogged pores (blackheads and whiteheads). Similar to teenage acne, problems with recurring adult acne can lead to social anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. No wonder -- on the fun scale, heading off to work or to a parent-teacher conference with a big zit rates right up there with walking through a restaurant trailing toilet paper or having a "wardrobe malfunction" at the office.

Causes of adult acne

Though the exact causes of acne are unknown, doctors believe that adult acne can be due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • Heredity
  • Hormones
  • Allergies
  • Medications
  • Overproduction by enlarged oil glands
  • Blockage or bacteria in hair follicles
  • Starting/stopping birth control pills
  • Greasy makeup and other skin products

If you're having recurrent bouts with adult acne which are accompanied by irregular menstrual cycles, consult your physician for hormonal blood testing. He or she should be able to determine if polycystic ovaries (PCOS), adrenal hyperplasia or another condition may be causing your acne problems.

Treatment of adult acne

The goal of a treatment regimen is to heal existing acne, avoid new breakouts, prevent acne scars and reduce the embarrassment associated with these spots that won't stop. To treat adult acne and restore healthy skin, you should commit to a daily cleansing routine, weekly exfoliation and monthly professional treatments.

Daily regimen

  • Biore Shine Control Cream Cleanser

  • Cleanse
    Use a medicated cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid twice a day. A good choice is Biore Shine Control Cream Cleanser. Gently wash your face using a circular motion. Cleanse thoroughly but avoid vigorous scrubbing, which may cause inflammation to the skin and increase acne problems. Rinse with cool water and pat dry with a clean towel.
  • Tone
    Follow-up with a toner or astringent, which contains glycolic acid. Avoid toners with a high alcohol content, which will dry your skin. A good toner will help remove surface oils which can trigger more acne flare-ups.
  • Spot treatment
    Use an acne spot treatment containing benzoyl peroxide nightly. Apply directly to existing pimples and cysts to help reduce inflammation and heal acne breakouts.

Woman washing her faceWeekly exfoliation

Once or twice a week, use an exfoliate with alpha-hydroxy acids to clean out your pores. After washing your face, apply a small amount of exfoliating product to clean skin. Massage your face, avoiding sensitive areas around your eyes and mouth. Don't over exfoliate or scrub too hard. Rinse completely with cool water and gently pat your face dry with a clean towel.

Monthly facial

Every month, make a trip to the dermatologist or your local spa for a professional facial. A professional can treat your acne with sulfur and zinc masks, as well as do blackhead extractions and recommend at-home treatments.

If you can't afford a professional facial, use something like  Biore Self-Heating Mask once or two a week for a spa-like treatment. This clay mask warms on contact with water and works to unclog pores, remove dirt and oil, and help prevent the dreaded blemishes.

How diet relates to acne

While it is a myth that chocolate or greasy foods cause acne, sometimes skin problems can be related to what you eat.

First and foremost when trying to treat and prevent adult acne (as well as a variety of other maladies), drink lots of water. Water will help cleanse your skin from the inside out and rid your body of toxins. Drinking eight glasses of water a day will not only help acne, but is also great for your overall health.


      In some people, a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates causes acne to worsen. Refined carbohydrates are foods in which machinery has been utilized to remove high fiber from the grain, which include foods like white rice, white bread and pasta made with white flour.

      Acne fighting vitamins

      Several vitamins and minerals are important in the treatment of acne. For one, Vitamin A deficiency can cause breakouts, so take up to 10,000 IU of Vitamin A daily to help fight recurring acne. (Note: Take only 5,000 IU if pregnant -- and check with your caregiver first.)

      Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps healing and chromium reduces skin infections, while zinc helps tissue repair and helps to prevent acne scarring. Try to eat foods rich in these vitamins and minerals or add a daily vitamin supplement to your diet.

      3 more tips to treat adult acne

       Take a shower right after exercising. Sweat may trap dirt and bacteria in your pores, causing breakouts.

      Wash your pillowcases and towels frequently. The germs and bacteria found lurking in these linens may make your skin's condition more volatile.

      Use oil-free makeup labeled "non-comedogenic." If possible, buy cosmetics that are also free of chemicals and fragrance, which may cause irritations or allergies.

      Don't let it get you down

      Don't be discouraged if initially you see some redness and inflammation after using some acne treatments. But if the problem persists or excess dryness occurs, reduce or eliminate the use of that product. Treating and preventing acne is not an overnight process. However, by establishing and implementing a cleansing routine, you will soon begin to see some improvement!

      More info on acne