Let’s face it… acne is the worst. That feeling when you are going to a special event in the cutest outfit you bought just for this occasion and couldn’t wait to wear, hair on point, makeup done, and you should feel like a million bucks. But you don’t… because all you can think about is your acne and how you would do anything to make it go away.
Isn’t acne for teenagers? Why does everyone around me seem to have perfect, glowing skin while mine looks like the 3D map of the mountain ranges we used to study in elementary school? These are questions that used to ruminate in my head and I wondered if I’d ever know the right answer.
I’ve been there. Adult acne sucks. You feel so helpless and after you have tried everything dermatologists recommend, read all the blogs, watched all the YouTube videos, you begin to feel hopeless. While adult acne is usually linked to hormone levels in females, there can also be other underlying health issues or triggers that you wouldn’t think about.
While I am no dermatologist, I have spent hours reading about this stuff while trying to heal my own adult acne without medication and have definitely learned a thing or two worth sharing.
If you find yourself here, you are probably searching for solutions to get rid of your blemishes and hope to once again have clear skin. So, after doing countless hours of research over many years, I am about to tell you everything I have learned!
How to Get Rid of Adult Acne
1. Simplify Your Skincare
First things first, you need to make sure you are using the right products for acne prone skin. While I am sure the very first thing you tried when your acne became a problem was changing up products, I would still advise you to examine what you are using before trying anything new. While most people, even sometimes a board certified dermatologist, will suggest harsh creams, like benzoyl peroxide, which ultimately end up ruining you skin barrier and causing more inflammation. Since acne stems from inflammation, less is more when learning how to treat it.
My number one advice for skincare products is to go back to the basics. Stop using every single cream and spot treatment you see girls on Instagram using daily and take a step back. I have learned through my skincare journey that sometimes all of those products and active ingredients combined can actually be the problem and irritate your skin. For instance, I've tried retinol so many times and it just further aggravates my acne. While many claim it is their “holy grail”, for me, it was WAY too strong and the side effects ultimately made my acne worse.
When my acne started getting pretty bad, I scheduled a visit with my nurse practitioner, Clare, at Skin Pharm. I showed her everything I was using and let her give me some advice on what she would recommend for my blemished skin. We went through all of my products and she gave me her honest opinion on them all – keep some, replace some. I ended up buying Skin Pharm’s Papaya face wash and High Beam Brightening Lotion per Clare’s recommendations and they have absolutely made a difference in my skin.
Another company I have fallen in love with during my acne journey is Clearstem Skincare. The Clearity serum is the best acne product I've ever used. Formulated with mandelic acid and vitamin C, it fights acne by dissolving blackheads and eating up the impurities in your skin. The combination of using their Clearity serum and Cell Renew serum has made a huge difference in the overall texture and amount of inflammation in my skin. Plus, I love that they stand against using any toxic or hormone disrupting ingredients in their skin care products.
2. Keep Your Gut in Check
Taking care of your gut is essential for achieving clear, radiant skin, especially when dealing with adult acne. The health of our gut directly impacts the health of our skin, as the two are closely connected. When the gut is out of balance, it can lead to inflammation and hormonal imbalances, which are common triggers for adult acne. By prioritizing gut health through a balanced diet, probiotics, and gut-supporting supplements, you can help reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and support the body's natural detoxification processes. This holistic approach not only addresses the symptoms of adult acne but also works to heal the root cause, promoting long-term skin health and a clear complexion.
Taking a good quality probiotic and making sure you are eating plenty of prebiotic foods are key to keeping your gut in check. For probiotics, I love the company Seed and Just Thrive. For prebiotics, make sure you are eating plenty of whole foods, avoiding things that are processed. A fun way to get more prebiotics in too is with a prebiotic soda, like Poppi or Olipop.
3. Exfoliate Daily
Exfoliating daily is a crucial step in achieving clear, acne-free skin, especially for adults dealing with persistent breakouts. Regular exfoliation helps to remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and impurities that can clog pores and contribute to acne. By sloughing away these surface layers, exfoliation promotes cell turnover, allowing new, healthy skin cells to emerge. This not only prevents the formation of new blemishes but also helps to fade existing acne scars and marks. Additionally, exfoliation enhances the effectiveness of other skincare products, allowing them to penetrate the skin more deeply and deliver their acne-fighting ingredients where they're needed most. However, it's important to choose a gentle exfoliant suitable for daily use to avoid over-exfoliation, which can irritate the skin and exacerbate acne.
Within the past 6 months, I have really discovered the power of exfoliation. I use this Vitamin Scrub by Clearstem 6 nights a week and notice a big difference in reducing clogged pores. For a strong exfoliating facial, I love to use Pregame mask from Clearstem once a week. I also love the Crystal Clear clarifying pads from Skin Pharm. My tip with these is to cut them in half and you get twice the product!
4. Omega 3's
While this isn't something you think of when you think of acne, there are numerous studies to suggest that consuming omega-3 fatty acids is essential for promoting skin health and combating adult acne. Omega-3s possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the inflammation associated with acne breakouts. These healthy fats also play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the skin's barrier function, which is important for preventing bacteria and other irritants from triggering acne. Additionally, omega-3s help to regulate oil production in the skin, which can contribute to a reduction in clogged pores and breakouts. Incorporating sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, into your diet can support overall skin health and contribute to a clearer complexion.
If you are not getting enough omega 3's from your diet, I highly suggest implementing a daily omega-3 supplement into your routine. Of course, quality is important in a supplement, but a great one I love is the Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega supplement.
5. Blue Light Therapy
No matter what types of acne (blackheads, whiteheads, cystic) you may have, blue light therapy is an amazing treatment for adult acne, offering a non-invasive and effective way to heal the skin. This therapy works by targeting the bacteria that contribute to acne breakouts. When the skin is exposed to blue light, it penetrates the pores and activates compounds within the bacteria, leading to the destruction of the bacteria. By reducing the presence of these acne-causing bacteria, blue light therapy can help to minimize inflammation and prevent future breakouts. Additionally, blue light therapy has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, promoting overall skin healing and reducing redness associated with acne. This gentle and painless treatment can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive acne-fighting skincare routine, offering a safe and effective way to achieve clearer, healthier skin.
I truly can't even describe how much blue light has affected my skin! I use this light therapy mask from Amazon anytime my skin feels congested or if I feel any cystic acne brewing. Not only does it heal my active acne way faster than any product would, but I'm also shocked when I wake up to flattened bumps where it stopped the cystic acne from coming to the surface. If you don't want to be near an outlet or want to travel with your blue light, I also like this PMD blue light device. Just remember to use your goggles with this one because it can affect your eyes.
6. Eat Before Consuming Caffeine
When it comes to acne, your morning coffee doesn't often come to mind for being a trigger. However, eating before consuming caffeine in the morning is crucial for maintaining balanced hormone levels and preventing adult acne. When we wake up, our cortisol levels are naturally elevated, and consuming caffeine on an empty stomach can further stimulate cortisol production, leading to potential hormonal imbalances. This can exacerbate acne breakouts as hormonal fluctuations are a common trigger for adult acne. By eating a balanced breakfast before reaching for that cup of coffee, you can help regulate cortisol levels and prevent the potential spike that may contribute to skin issues. Additionally, a nutritious breakfast provides essential nutrients that support overall hormone balance, which is vital for maintaining clear, healthy skin. Prioritizing this simple morning routine can play a significant role in promoting both hormonal health and skin clarity.
7. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is a crucial element in achieving clear, healthy skin, especially for adults dealing with acne. Adequate hydration supports the body's natural detoxification processes, helping to flush out toxins and impurities that can contribute to acne breakouts. Furthermore, proper hydration is essential for maintaining the optimal function of the lymphatic system, which plays a key role in eliminating waste and toxins from the body. When the lymphatic system is functioning effectively, it can help reduce inflammation and support overall skin health. By ensuring that you drink enough water throughout the day, you can promote a clear complexion and support your body's natural ability to eliminate toxins, ultimately contributing to a healthier and more radiant appearance.
8. Check Your Makeup Ingredients
While it seems meticulous to check all the ingredients in your makeup products, you may be surprised to discover that many companies use ingredients that can clog your pores and exacerbate adult acne. The comedogenic scale ranks ingredients based on their likelihood to cause pore blockages, and by being mindful of these ratings, you can make informed choices about the products you apply to your skin. Many popular makeup brands incorporate comedogenic ingredients that can contribute to acne breakouts, making it crucial to opt for non-comedogenic or oil free formulations. By scrutinizing the ingredient lists and choosing makeup products with non-comedogenic ingredients, you can help minimize the risk of pore blockages and reduce the potential for acne flare-ups, ultimately supporting clearer, healthier skin.
What particularly frustrates me is that just because ingredients may be nontoxic and good for you, they may not be good for your skin. Most clean, nontoxic brands use replacement ingredients like coconut oil, so it can seem near impossible to find makeup that crosses both categories. My hack for you to make life easier is to use the Clearstem Poreclogging Ingredients Checker and just copy and paste the ingredients of your products into that box. I've slowly replaced all of my makeup with "approved" ingredients and use this tool before buying anything I'll put on my skin.
9. Avoid Seed Oils
Avoiding seed oils is essential in the journey to clear adult acne, as these oils are known to be highly inflammatory and can exacerbate skin issues. Seed oils, such as soybean, sunflower, and corn oil, contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which, when consumed in excess, can promote inflammation in the body. This inflammation can trigger an immune response, leading to an increase in sebum production and clogged pores, ultimately contributing to the development of acne. By minimizing the intake of seed oils and instead opting for healthier fats like olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil, individuals can help reduce the inflammatory load on their bodies, potentially leading to a decrease in acne breakouts and an overall improvement in skin health.
10. Switch to Noncomedogenic Hair Products
Switching to non-comedogenic hair products is not something to sleep on, especially if you're prone to adult acne, particularly when sleeping with wet hair. Comedogenic hair products, such as conditioners and styling products, can transfer onto your pillowcase when your hair is wet, leading to clogged pores and potential breakouts on the face and neck. By opting for non-comedogenic options, you can minimize the risk of these products clogging your pores and contributing to acne. Making this simple switch in your hair care routine can play a significant role in preventing acne breakouts and supporting overall skin health. It will also help prevent build up around your hair follicles as well.
While I love washing my hair at night and sleeping with it damp, I had no idea that my conditioner could be breaking me out. After doing lots of research, I discovered that most hair products use ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter that easily clog pores in acne-prone skin. I switched to using SEEN products and have noticed a dramatic difference in my breakouts. They also come in both scented and fragrance-free.
11. Boost Your Lymphatic System
While I mentioned staying hydrated as part of a healthy lymphatic system earlier, I wanted to make a few more points that you probably aren't aware of. The lymphatic system plays a vital role in removing waste and toxins from the body, and when it becomes sluggish or congested, it can lead to a buildup of impurities that may manifest as acne on the skin's surface. To ensure that your lymphatic system is operating properly, incorporating practices such as dry brushing, gentle massage, regular exercise, and staying well-hydrated can help stimulate lymphatic flow and promote detoxification. By supporting your lymphatic system, you can help prevent the accumulation of toxins that may contribute to acne, ultimately promoting a clearer and more radiant complexion.
While this all sounds great in theory, it's hard to visualize this mysterious process going on in our body. I've listened to many, many podcasts about the lymphatic system and these few points helped me to actually understand it:
- Your lymphatic system is just like your cardiovascular system but without a heart pumping everything around. You have to physically move or stimulate this system to keep things healthy and moving.
- If your acne is mostly along your jawline and neck or in the parenthesis lines around your mouth (the line from where a mustache would be to your chin), then it's mostly likely due to sluggish lymphatic drainage.
I even noticed that when I started doing daily facial massages, my acne would end up surfacing higher up on my face, further proving the point that it was due to sluggish lymphatic drainage.
How to boost your lymphatic system
Some great ways to boost your lymphatic system are with doing daily facial massages on yourself, rebounding (on a trampoline or just jumping up and down), dry brushing, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, staying hydrated, regularly exercising, and even doing deep belly breaths.
12. Take Care of Your Liver
While this may sound more daunting than buying new skincare, healing and taking care of your liver is not only paramount in addressing adult acne but also maintaining overall skin health. The liver plays a central role in detoxifying the body and eliminating toxins, excess hormones, and waste products that can contribute to acne breakouts. When the liver is overburdened or not functioning optimally, these toxins can build up in the body, potentially leading to skin issues such as acne. The liver is the largest lymph producing organ in the body, so it makes sense why an overburdened liver would lead to bad lymphatic drainage.
By supporting liver health through a balanced diet and minimizing exposure to toxins, you can help ensure that the liver is able to effectively process and eliminate waste, promoting clearer and healthier skin. Incorporating liver-supporting foods and herbs, such as leafy greens, beets, and milk thistle, can also aid in maintaining liver function and may contribute to a reduction in acne flare-ups. Prioritizing liver health as part of your skincare routine can have a profound impact on achieving a radiant, blemish-free complexion.
13. Consider Cycle Synching
Cycle syncing can also be a powerful tool for managing hormonal acne in women. By aligning lifestyle choices with the different phases of the menstrual cycle, women can support their hormonal balance and potentially reduce the occurrence of acne breakouts. For example, during the follicular phase, focusing on lighter, energizing foods and incorporating more vigorous exercise can align with the body's natural increase in energy levels. In the luteal phase, prioritizing stress-reducing activities and consuming foods rich in magnesium and B vitamins can help manage hormonal fluctuations and potential acne flare-ups. Additionally, incorporating self-care practices such as meditation, adequate sleep, and targeted skincare routines can further support hormonal balance and skin health throughout the menstrual cycle. By understanding and adapting to the body's natural rhythms, women can potentially minimize the impact of hormonal acne and promote clearer, healthier skin.
I recently read In the Flo by Alisa Vitti and it breaks down cycle synching wonderfully. I highly suggest reading this book if you are wanting to dive into learning more about this.
14. Be Easy on Yourself and Learn to Enjoy the Journey
In conclusion, it's important to remember that addressing adult acne is a journey, and it's okay to take things one step at a time. While the information shared may seem overwhelming, it's essential to be gentle with yourself and avoid the pressure of trying to implement everything at once. Long-term success in managing acne and achieving healthier skin comes from making sustainable changes. By gradually incorporating one change at a time, whether it's adjusting your skincare routine, making dietary modifications, or adopting stress-reducing practices, you can begin to see a dramatic difference in your skin and overall well-being. Embracing the process and allowing yourself the time to adapt to these changes will not only lead to clearer skin but also a more enjoyable and sustainable journey towards long-term skin health.