What You Need to Know About Adult Acne and 6 Ways to Treat It

13 min read
What You Need to Know About Adult Acne and 6 Ways to Treat It

Adult acne is a common problem, but it can be treated. If you’re looking for information on how to deal with adult acne, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll talk about the causes of adult acne, treatment options, and how to prevent breakouts.

We’ll also share some tips on how to take care of your skin if you struggle with acne. So whether you’re just starting to see signs of adult acne or you’ve been dealing with it for a while, read on for advice and solutions!

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Adult acne is a problem

If you’re like me, you thought that adult acne was a thing of your teenage years – something that you’d grow out of. But for many adults, acne is a reality well into adulthood. So what can be done about it?

Maybe it is the chocolate‘s fault?

Perhaps the cleansing routine has fallen below standard alongside all the other ‘me time’ luxuries? Or my Aldi brand facial cleanser is just not cutting the mustard?

All I know is, I’ve had bad acne my whole life…

About Adult Acne

Adult acne tends to develop around the mouth, on the chin and along the jawline and more commonly affects women than men. This is caused by those dreaded hormones!  Most adult acne is in women, who tend to have had bad acne when they were teenages! Gah.

Adult acne is horrifying – but there are ways to treat it – and treat it for good!!!!

If the simple solutions below still aren’t cutting it – you need to call in the big guns – that is – see a Doctor or Dermatologist for specialized medication!

Adult Acne usually falls into one of two categories: ‘persistent acne’ is problem skin that carries through from adolescence into adulthood; ‘late-onset acne’ starts after the age of 25, with people in their 30s and even 40s developing the condition.

No matter how old you are, acne occurs when there is an increase in the production of sebum (an oil that keeps your skin soft and supple) in the skin which, combined with an increase in the number of dead skin cells around skin pores, leads to clogging of the skin follicles. Bacteria then accumulate in the skin follicles, causing inflammation and then to adult acne.

Dietary and hygiene factors can contribute, and some acne is caused by a genetic predisposition where dead skin cells build up inside the pores.

Blackheads and whiteheads are potential pimples that haven’t been attacked by this bacteria yet. But once the bacteria takes hold you can be sure you’ll be sporting a whopper.

Adult acne is cystic, which means it forms lumps under the skin. These cystic pimples can scar badly, so see a GP when they first appear. Soap, topical creams, and lotions won’t be of much assistance here.

Now, let’s try to figure out what could possibly cause all that acne.

1. Do you cleanse properly? Like, Properly Properly?

No, I don’t mean the occasional splash of water on your face. Look closely at your face-cleansing schedule. Are you positive you are cleaning every little trace of makeup off every single night? This is often the main cause of adult acne – I know – this is what I found to be my problem.

Give your skin a really great cleanse, then look at investing in a toner. Toners might seem somewhat ‘Old Fashioned’ – but they are there to really get rid of any last tiny bits of makeup that cleansing might have missed.  If you aren’t into toners, there is another way. Micellar Water.

Micellar Water is also great to use after cleaning to ensure you get every last bit of makeup and oil off your face – plus it is gentle. When it comes to buying Micellar Water, it is all pretty much the same, so just buy the supermarket brands and save some money.

How Can You Tell You Aren’t Cleaning Properly?

  • If you have whiteheads in the crease under your nose – that is oil that is running down the side of your nose and getting trapped in that sensitive skin underneath.
  • You have makeup on your pillow when you wake up in the morning.
  • You wake up with panda eyes.
  • You wake up with white heads in the morning.

Don’t Discount the Humble Washer

Remember when you were a kid and Mum would soap up the washer and wash off most of your skin.  Well there was something in that!  If you use a washer and a GENTLE cleanser, not only does it remove all the makeup but you are also giving your face a good exfoliate! Be gentle – but use it morning and night – and your skin will shine!

You can buy microfibre washers now that is super gentle and only a few bucks each!

Carry Around Makeup Remover Wipes

Do you know that feeling of a full face of makeup after a hot and sweaty night out?  That heavy, clogging feeling?  It sucks.  It literally feels like the makeup is entering your body via your pores.  The same thing happens on a really hot day when the sun hits your foundation. 

Carry around some gentle makeup remover wipes in your handbag – that way you can wipe off a majority of your makeup in the car on the way home (it is also good for giving your under arm’s a bit of a wash on a hot day).

Plus if you are a Mamma Bear, you know just how handy wet wipes are!  Just make sure you use the face wipes on your face, not the bum wipes – they can be a bit harsh!

WOTNOT Facial Wipes - Sensitive / All Skin Types

We love these sensitive wipes from Wotnot. They are Australian, organic, and soft on the skin.

2. Be gentle with your face!

In saying that – don’t over-clean your face.  Use a gentle cleanser – you don’t want to aggravate your skin to the point that it is even more unhappy than it was before.

If you are scrubbing your skin with abrasive cleansers such as soap and over-using the washer, this can just aggravate your acne and make problems worse.  Use a gentle cleanser and although exfoliation is very important, switch to a chemical exfoliant rather than an abrasive one at night.  Chemical exfoliants use ingredients to ‘dissolve’ the dirt and grime in your skin.  They are gentle and very moisturising – although you do need to use them for a while to see any results.

Personally, I’ve been using Glycolic Acid for a few years.  Yes, it takes AGES to see a result, but as someone who has had acne my whole life, Glycolic Acid is just life-changing!  I use it a few nights per week!

3. Also, check your makeup’s expiry dates.

Ditch all your makeup and skincare products that are over six months old. Old products can gather bacteria which will only make adult acne even worse.

Next, invest in a good makeup brush cleaner.  These are the best invention ever.  When you think about it, makeup brushes accumulate old skin cells and have old makeup and oils on them that are just nasty.  Clean your brushes after every single use.  If your brushes are really old, please ditch them.  Even regularly investing in cheaper brushes will be better for your skin than using good quality brushes that are old and might just be exaggerating the issue.

The same thing goes with sponges!

4. Dammit! Stop touching your face!

‘They’ say that the average person touches their face 1200 times per day!

Hands and fingers are disgusting!  They are oily and dirty.  You just think about how many times per day you are touching objects, then touching your face.  You are transferring bacteria, which gets into any open sores (ie picked pimples – we all do it) – and then makes the problem worse.

What to Do About it!

To reduce the chances of spreading that bacteria, try washing your hands more often to that they are as clean as they can be.  Having a small anti-bacterial gel on your work desk or at home where you see it a lot is a good idea too. Having another one in your handbag – is a must-have item!

Liz lemon eye roll 5 | Stay at Home
via giphy

5. Look for the right products for you!

Look for skincare ranges that cater to your age, skin type, skin problems, and sometimes, the weather at the moment.

If you are over 30, investing in good quality skincare that will suit your age and any skin conditions is simply essential and will make a massive difference in the quality and texture of your skin.  Skincare has come a long way now, with quality ingredients that focus on keeping your skin in the best condition it can be.

I found when I started using Alpha-H products about a year ago, that my skin has improved dramatically.  Sadly the cheaper cleaners I bought from the supermarket might have been good when I was younger, but now my skin has a bit of sun damage, larger pores, and those damn blackheads, I really needed something that would kick-start my skin.

I find when investing in good skincare, buy the cleanser first – if you love it, then build up your other products until you have a range that suits you.  But a good basic range of skincare should have:

Anything else you add to this basic regime can be added later.

Handbag Essentials:

These are the must-have items to carry around with you if you are prone to bad skin:

Great skincare lines that really invest time into giving you the best result (and will probably cure your adult acne at the same time) include:


Dermalogica is clinical-grade skincare that focuses on anti-aging, adult acne, treatment of pigmentation from sun damage, and restoring moisture back to the skin.

What I personally use from this brand: Dermalogica Active Moist

The next step when skincare hasn’t made a difference…

If adult acne has not responded to good skin care, a clean diet  (allow them three or four months), see your GP. They can offer a range of prescription drugs that target the main causes of adult acne: hormones, blocked pores, and bacterium infection.

There are other factors that can be the cause of your adult acne such as:

  • Contraceptives
  • Antibiotics
  • Any other medications you may be on that may be interfering with your skin
  • It could be hereditary which means seeing a dermatologist for professional advice
  • Stress
  • Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia (an Adrenal gland disorder)

Your GP may prescribe you an external medication used to treat pore blockages. He may do blood tests to test you for any of the above conditions or to test your hormone levels or may even prescribe you the contraceptive pill which works in some cases to clean up your adult acne.

You can try salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, or the GP may prescribe a peeling agent such as tretinoin. If you don’t see results after three months, see a dermatologist.

6. What Will a Dermatologist Do?

The next step up is seeing a skin professional – a Dermatologist.  As no two people are the same, and different treatments work for different people, your dermatologist may subscribe to one or a combination of the following treatment options.


Microdermabrasion is pretty widely available now, not just in a Dermatologists office.  It involves a ‘vacuum like’ device that ‘sandblasts’ your skin, and collects the dead skin cells that are ‘airbrushed’ off.  It isn’t painful, but it isn’t exactly pleasant either.  There isn’t any downtime and you may be pink for a couple of hours afterwards.  Usually, microdermabrasion involves having a series of them done a few weeks apart for the best result.

800 | Stay at Home

Chemical Peels

Yes, chemical peels sound scary, but they can really go a long way in helping people with adult acne.  There are a few ways that chemical peels are done, and they are not just good for acne, but a whole range of other skin problems that can be contributing to the problem.

Light chemical peels are usually done via a laser (called IPL) where the light is applied with a wand over your skin.  You may feel little ‘flashes’ of heat, but it isn’t uncomfortable.  IPL is usually used for mild cases of adult acne, mild acne scarring, and pigmentation problems.

If you have moderate to major acne, the next step up in chemical peels is usually something along the lines of Photodynamic Therapy, which involves ‘staining’ the affected part of the skin, and then ‘blasting’ it with light, thus destroying the cells that are causing the problem.  This is more expensive and more painful, however, it does offer excellent results.

Medical Grade Skincare

There is excellent skincare, then there is medical-grade skincare which is only available through dermatologists and plastic surgeons.  These products are expensive, and usually, contain a higher grade of ingredients that are extremely potent and need to be used under medical supervision.  Medical Grade Skincare includes brands such as:

  • SkinMedica
  • SkinCeuticals
  • NeoCutis
  • Obagi
  • iS Clinical
  • Epionce


The most powerful medication for the treatment of acne is Accutane (formerly Roaccutane). A course is usually taken over a 3 – 6 month period. Females will be tested for pregnancy before undertaking this medication as it can cause birth defects. Accutane is a very concentrated form of Vitamin A and it works by shutting down your skin’s natural ability to produce oils.  It has an 80% success rate, but it is hard-core!

As a person who has been on Roaccutane twice for extreme acne, I can tell you that this medication is no walk in the park.  It dries your skin out to the point that your nose and eyes can ‘crack’ and ‘bleed’.  However, it works like a charm.

It is full-on and has a long list of side effects.  It is certainly a drug that you shouldn’t go into lightly.

I hope this has helped you with your adult acne problems.

I still get the odd blackhead and pimple that I can’t help but squeeze, but in the end, using a combination of all of the above has really helped my adult acne, and I hope it can help yours, too!

If you’re like me, you thought that adult acne was a thing of your teenage years – something that you’d grow out of. But for many adults, acne is a reality well into adulthood. So what can be done about it?

What to Do About Adult Acne | Stay At Home Mum
Jody Allen
About Author

Jody Allen

Jody Allen is the founder of Stay at Home Mum. Jody is a five-time published author with Penguin Random House and is the current Suzuki Queensland Amb...Read Moreassador. Read Less

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