8 Effective Ways to Treat Adult Acne

adult acne
(Photo: iStock)

Pimples don’t always have to bring back embarrassing visions of 8th grade -- sometimes, it’s more like embarrassing visions of last week.

By the time they’ve made it out of your teenage years, most women think they’re in the clear when it comes to acne breakouts. However, some adults continue to get acne well into their 30s, 40s and even 50s. And these skin issues don't just go skin deep. A 2014 study revealed that people who believed they had bad acne took a blow to their well-being that was just as profound as that delivered by living with a chronic disease.

Worst of all, it's women who end up suffering from adult acne more often than men; because it’s not enough for us to have to worry about battling wrinkles, now we have to fend off confidence-plummeting zits, too.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, women get adult acne for one or more of the following reasons:

  • fluctuating hormone levels
  • stress
  • family history
  • hair and skin products
  • medication side effects
  • undiagnosed medical condition

StriVectin-EV Get Even Spot Repair
Aveeno Ulta-calming Foaming Cleanser
Philosophy Clear Days Ahead 2-in-1 Acne Treatment
RoC Retinol Correxion Max Wrinkle Resurfacing System

While acne may be nonexistent or dormant for years, it can surface suddenly with frustrating emotional side effects -- it's not unheard of for women suffering from acne to reschedule social or work events because of how they feel about their appearance. However, with the right remedies and a little bit of patience, you can learn effective ways to control those frustrating acne breakouts and face the world confidently in your own beautiful skin.

Catch it Early

The earlier you treat the spots, the better the odds that they’ll disappear for good. Upon first sight of a zit, apply a product containing salicylic acid and vitamin C twice a day, like StriVectin-EV Get Even Spot Repair.

Lessen the Stress

Doctors recommend aiming to get eight hours of sleep a night to reduce excess cortisol and let your skin regenerate. Also, try and incorporate some sort of stress-reducing activity – like working out – into your schedule each day to enhance endorphins and keep your Zen about you.

Watch What You Eat

Foods like white bread and sugary processed snacks with high glycemic index carbs raise your insulin levels and may lead to more breakouts. In addition to making you feel better overall, eating healthy foods like whole grains, fruits and veggies won’t exacerbate your acne issues. And as always, drinking eight glasses of water a day will help to hydrate and dilute your skin’s secretions, preventing pore congestion.

Cleanse Daily

This might be a no-brainer for most, but it’s important to cleanse away dirt, grime, makeup and pollution at the end of each day using a gentle cleaner that won’t strip your skin of its natural oils, like Aveeno Ulta-calming Foaming Cleanser. Most harsh toners and scrubs will only further irritate the condition.

Treat it Topically

After you’ve cleansed, try spreading a thin layer of lotion with 0.5 to 2 percent salicylic acid onto your face at night before bed. We like Philosophy Clear Days Ahead 2-in-1 Acne Treatment for gentle, once-a-day treatment that you can bump up to twice a day after a few weeks. Another great option is a stronger retinoid cream, which speeds up the shedding of dead skin cells so that they won’t block your pores, thus reducing outbreaks. An added bonus? Retinol targets fine lines and wrinkles to give you an anti-aging boost. An affordable yet effective option is RoC Retinol Correxion Max Wrinkle Resurfacing System.

Let Your Makeup Help


Kill two birds with one stone by choosing makeup that will help your skin stay healthy. Look for cosmetics that include salicylic acid, which can help fight acne all throughout the day. Also, look for products that say “noncomedogenic,” meaning they won’t clog your pores.

Try High-Tech Solutions

many women benefit from light therapy, which uses lasers to treat acne. However, this is quite a pricey route so only reserve this method for after you’ve tried others, to no avail.

Opt for Prescription Meds

Since hormones play such a huge role in adult acne, medications that affect hormones can help you combat the problem. For example, many women rely on birth control pills to keep acne under control, and there are also several effective antibiotics – like Aldactone – used to safely treat outbreaks and prevent future ones. Make an appointment with your dermatologist to discuss the best medicinal option for you and your skin type.