3 Steps for Fighting Adult Acne

Photo by shironosov via iStock.

With autumn approaching, we might find ourselves nostalgic for the school days of the past. Some memories may not be as pleasant as others, however—such as the acne we sported as teenagers. Even past our teen years, many of us continue to struggle with acne well into our 30s, 40s, and beyond. But there are ways to fight it: Here’s three rules for effectively targeting, treating, and preventing future acne outbreaks.

Adult Acne Should Not Be Treated Like Teen Acne

Differing from the acne of our earlier years, adult acne is usually seen on the lower part of the face and not associated with oily skin. Many over-the-counter topical acne medications are best suited for very oily skin with large pores. When used as an adult, these medications can dry out the skin and emphasize other skin issues such as fine lines and wrinkles. Use products that are designed to improve breakouts, while slowing down the signs of aging. Age-defying and acne-improving ingredients to look for include retinols, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid.

Use a Combination Approach

Addressing acne from multiple approaches is likely your best bet to finally achieving a clear complexion. Acne is a skin condition that is a culmination of issues such as clogged pores, bacterial overgrowth, and hormone fluctuations. In addition to proper topical products, oral medications that help reduce the effects of changing hormone levels can be helpful. Spironolactone is an oral medication that some women find useful to reduce the effects of hormones on the skin to stop the development of painful cysts around the mouth and jawline which are the hallmark of adult-onset acne.  Spironolactone is a mediation that requires a prescription and monitoring from your dermatologist.

Don’t Shy Away from Professional Help

You may have noticed that the pimples and cysts that you are now struggling with are far deeper and more inflamed than what you faced as a teenager. In-office treatments are able to reduce the inflammation of acne while helping other issues such as sun damage and discoloration. Laser and light treatments can target and kill the bacteria that causes acne and reduce redness. Other acne-fighting treatments include chemical peels and microdermabrasion which help to reduce breakouts and improve discoloration at the same time. Working with an expert who understands adult acne can be immensely beneficial.

Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi is Founder and Director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the George Washington Medical Center.

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Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi is a board-certified dermatologist and co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Surgery.