Adult Acne: What’s New and What Works?

Can we talk about Adult Acne for a minute? I’ve found myself totally caught off guard by it. I feel a little like when a friend who’s going to have a baby soon, asks me for breastfeeding advice, and among other things I tell her that nursing is curl-your-toes painful for a few weeks, and she nods like she’s taking it in. But then she calls me when the baby is 2 weeks old and the nipple scabs are forming and she can’t figure out why no one told her that nursing hurts like the devil.

I know I was warned about acne-for-grownups, but I guess I didn’t believe it? Or thought it was like a one week sort of thing? For most of my 20’s and 30’s I might get a breakout the week before my period, but usually it was no big deal. These days, it’s like a daily thing. Turns out it’s a longer phase than I anticipated. So lately, I’ve turned my attention to actively combatting it.

Things I’m using right now:

1) Rika Light Therapy Facial Massager. Each night, I use the blue light (which supposedly kills bacteria) for about 10 minutes, then I use the red light (which supposedly promotes healing) for about 10 minutes. Does it work? The jury is still out, but I do feel like I’ve seen improvement. My skin’s not flawless, but there have been less breakouts, no “deep” acne, and more even skin tone while using the Rika.

Honestly, I don’t know how much data there is to even back light therapy up. The reason I tried it is that Mindy Kaling recommended a light-therapy-bacteria-killing tool in her book. But when I looked it up, it gets mediocre reviews and has a fairly high price. So I tried the Rika wand instead — which had a $20 off coupon, so it ended up being half the price of Mindy’s recommendation. And I figured it was worth a try.

2) The light therapy instructions say to apply a serum or oil before you begin, which makes sense. You’re basically using the wand to slowly massage your face, and using an oil helps. I’ve been using Bio-Oil. I can’t even remember how I ended up with the Bio-Oil. I think it was maybe in a welcome back at a conference? The reviews on it are vast — over 5000 on Amazon.

3) I’ve been a Clarisonic user since my Colorado days. I still use it daily in the shower. I remember it making a huge difference when I first started using it. Does it still make a difference? I honestly don’t know, it’s basically habit at this point and I haven’t thought to question it.

4) During the day, I wear Mom’s Stuff Protective Day Face Balm. I love this stuff so much. It doesn’t have added sunblock, but the ingredients are apparently naturally sun blocking. If I was really going to be in the sun, I’d add sunblock just in case.

Things I want to try:

5) I briefly mentioned adult acne in a Friday link list, and a reader commented:
Differin has been wonderful for treating my adult acne AND I’m definitely seeing improvements in wrinkles and hyperpigmentation with it too after a year of daily of use. It is prescription strength vitamin A cream that is very similar to Retin A except it does not have the same flaky/sensitivity side effects. It was made available over the counter relatively recently and is affordable. (You can get it in the skin care aisle at nearly any drugstore or Target.) I saw pretty immediate results in breakouts but the wrinkle softening effects took months to kick in. I was a Retin A user for years but my skin became intolerant of it so I thought I’d give Differin a try. It’s become a daily holy grail product for me!

I’ve been dying to try it ever since I read her ringing endorsement. Have you tried it?

6) Lastly, I haven’t gone to the dermatologist yet. But I’m thinking about it. Recently, we tried an online dermatology appointment for my daughter, and I might try it for myself as well. Basically you upload photos of your skin and describe the problem, and a doctor takes a look and calls in prescriptions to your preferred pharmacy. It’s super convenient and totally makes sense if you have a fairly ordinary skin problem.

Your turn. How’s your skin these days? Have you tried anything — medicine, food, cleanser, DIY toner, tools — that gave you a big improvement skin-wise? Any favorites you’d recommend? Please chime in.

P.S. — Homemade natural facials.

100 thoughts on “Adult Acne: What’s New and What Works?”

  1. I had acne for years and years. I refused to go on accutane for years because I was worried it would make me depressed (I have a history of depression). I tried antibiotics pills and creams (so many, too many to name), epiduo, spironalactone, retin-a (which made my skin the worst it has ever been), and even more types of medicines that I can’t remember. My skin wasn’t horrible, but nothing worked in improving it.

    Finally when I was just SO SICK of having acne and I went for the accutane….and it changed my life! I’ve been off of it for a year and a half and my skin looks like a NORMAL PERSONS SKIN! Seriously, I doubted that would ever happen. I also didn’t have any bad side effects other than dry lips (and I understand this isn’t the case for everyone).

    I wish I had done it sooner- my skin is amazing Also, as it turns out, there isn’t a sound data behind the accutane-depression link.

    The weird thing is that skin products really do seem to work – and not – work on different people! Like, I loved accutane and HATED retin-a but some folks see retin-a as a gift from god. That’s the frustrating thing about Rx skin products.

    1. I don’t know the data, but I do know two people (both former roommates, so close acquaintances) who experienced a sudden plunge into severe depression while on Accutane, and whose lives were never the same again. In both cases, it was suicidal-level depression, and never got 100% under control. In one case, it meant dropping out of college and taking 3 or 4 extra years to get back on track, and continuing to have a lifelong tendency toward substance abuse for self-medication; in the other, the depression was still quite debilitating 20 years later. So, anecdotes or not, I wouldn’t be thrilled if a child of mine wanted to try it; I just can’t get my head around a treatment for a condition like acne being worth risking a side-effect so very, very serious.

      1. I used accutane in college and it was amazing. I cannot recall and noteworthy side effects. My sister also used it with no ill effect. I also highly recommend if troubled with acne. I wish I had tried it years earlier.

        1. That’s great and I’m glad it worked for you. But even if only 1 in 10 or 1 in a 100 experience the kind of life-shattering complications my friends did, I think that’s too many.

      2. Katie spillner

        I went on Accutane at 17, and within months was hospitalized for depression and intense suicidal thoughts. This was 17 years ago, and Accutane did not come with that warning. It took awhile for the doctors to pull me off that drug to see if it had any effect. Luckily, I was able to recover and the suicidal desire went away quickly after getting off Accutane.

    2. I had an extremely positive experience with Accutane. I only regret not using it sooner. I struggled for years because of my skin; it held me back in serious ways. I recommend it for those that feel like they have tried everything and are defeated by their skin.

  2. So, I’ve kind of been in denial. My youngest was born almost 3 yrs ago and I feel like that post-baby break-out never really stopped. I thought maybe after I stopped nursing, but that was over a yr ago and in some ways it’s worse. I rarely wear make-up – though now I’m regularly doing the spot concealer and some powder to blend – so I never really had a solid skin routine – the less I did, the better (rather than that cycle of drying cleansers and thick lotions). Now I feel like I’m playing catch-up while also contemplating action re the lines and loss of elasticity – it’s overwhelming, esp with concerns about ingredients and the inherent trial-and-error – who wants to spend $40+ on a tiny bottle of maybe? I finally went to a dermatologist last week and spironolactone was suggested – it’s also used as a blood pressure medication. It’s hormone related and that’s what the acne is – but I’m super hesitant to take a medication. The dermatologist did say that adult acne can last thru menopause (!!!) I’ve been doing oil cleansing, a green tea scrub sometimes, and a clay mask occasionally. I think I may try a diet change and seriously up my water intake before I try medication. Oh – I also tried a sulfur ointment – it worked on some of the deep cystic acne, but not always.

    1. I had terrible -by which I mean boil like – acne with my first pregnancy, having never had particularly bad acne, even as a teen. (Pimples, yes, but never a face full and these were on my shoulders and back too. So much for a pregnancy glow!) The only thing that kicked them was a course of antibiotics, a couple of months after my son was born. Nothing external did anything at all. There must have been some underlying infectious cause because I never had the problem with my next two. Hope you find what works for you. It’s no fun feeling so pimply in all those baby photos😩

  3. I never stopped getting acne. Salicylic acid face pads have been on my counter for the last twenty years. It’s worse without them, but still not great.

    My husband has been pushing retinol on me (like, this stuff), and while I can’t speak to the anti-wrinkle stuff it does seem to help my acne. I didn’t think putting goop on my face would fight zits, but I do get fewer when I use it, and the zits I have already heal very quickly. Plus the morning version has sunscreen (since retinol apparently makes you susceptible to sunburn?), which I almost never bother to wear otherwise, so that seems like a plus.

  4. I don’t know if I have “adult acne” (I’m 23) but I definitely never had it as a young teenager, then it hit me hard when I started trying birth control and never got much better until recently (thanks, paraguard!!!) For years I tried and tried the acne.org regimen, which definitely has its merits, especially if you need a basic acne skincare routine, but recently I started to feel like the benzoyl peroxide all over my face every single night was aging me prematurely, and it wasn’t working perfectly anyway. I decided to try The Ordinary retinoid, replacing the BP with it, and shockingly have had very, very few new spots since starting about a month ago. I used to wake up every day with a new cyst, now it’s rare. Such a huge turnaround overnight! Try their squalene (mixed with your moisturizer at night) and nicinamide+zinc too

    1. I had acne on my 20s and since I wanted to take the pill, i was prescribed Diane 35. My skin was soooo much better. It has some side effects but way less than Accutane, worth asking your doctor

  5. I use AFA products and have for over 20 years. I’m almost 49. I get breakouts usually in my hairline after I get my hair done. I use the cleanser every day with just my hands on my face (no tool), I put on the moisturizer EVERY day under my makeup. Sometimes I’ll use argan oil if I feel really dry. I use the AFA gel if I get a breakout and it is usually gone in a few days. I get it through my dermatologist. I have very sensitive skin so it’s the only thing I use because it works. I like a few of Jose Maran’s products too. I use the oil, the concealer for redness, some highlighter she has for a little glow, and the pump sunscreen. I prefer Skinceuticals sunscreen because it is a makeup and sunscreen!

  6. I have had breakouts my whole life. I’m now 59 and have a pimple right now! I have used Retin A for 30 years. I do think that it helps and friends often say my skin looks great, much younger than my years. In my 30’s a dermatologist recommended Acutane. I wish I had never taken it. It made my lips so dry I was miserable. I live in Colorado and you know how dry it is here. But far worse my hair fell out and has never been the same. After much reading after the fact I learned Acutane should only be used by those with severe acne. Please don’t do that to yourself, your skin looks pretty good to me in all your photos.
    I have read a lot about treating acne over the years and while it sounds strange using a face oil actually helps. It tricks the skin into thinking it has enough oil. I use argan oil day and night. Many oils clog pores, but argan oil doesn’t. When it comes to diet dairy is one of the biggest offenders. Try skipping dairy and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Also taking probiotics as well as eating probiotics helps. So much that effects us begins in the gut. Good luck, I know how you feel!

    1. I need to chime in to echo how important diet and gut health are!! I’ve been tracking my diet along with my cycle and breakouts for over a year now, and every time I consume dairy and/or sugar and carbs, two days later: acne. I was really good about sticking to a fruit and veggie based diet back when I was single, and people would tell me how beautiful my skin was. Seriously! I’d never had that kind of compliment in my life! It’s harder now, with kids, to be in control of my diet (and not get lazy and binge on comfort foods), but I really notice how it affects my skin.

  7. I use Arcona clarity aftershave pads. They are for men and I LOVE them. I can feel a pimple starting and wipe this on my face and it stops it in its tracks. I can’t recommend this product enough. My daughter also has acne (subclinical). Arcona has done wonders for her skin as well.

  8. Have you heard the new podcast Forever35? It’s two female writer friends talking about “the things we do to take care of ourselves” but skincare comes up a lot! Not specifically acne related, but I’ve been enjoying listening to other people’s routines and learning about new products!

  9. I second the thought that Accutane should only be taken by those with really serious acne. I say this as someone who has taken it and was really helped by it. The side effects are terrible – dry does not begin to describe how your skin and especially your lips will feel. And while Accutane helped me when I was in my twenties, now I’m in my forties, and I have still have acne, although it is much milder. So its not a cure-all; at least not forever.

    Differin is very good. If you are going to try retinoids don’t bother with the cosmetic preparations – go straight for Differin or Retin A. Just be sure to incorporate them slowly, increasing your frequency of use over time.

    Gentle cleansing is really best. You should reconsider the Clarisonic. I swear by a double cleanse – cleansing oil, followed by a gentle foaming cleanser.

    Also, incorporating a chemical exfoliant (together with the Differin) really helped me get my regular breakouts under control. Whether you go with an AHA or a BHA (salicylic acid) will depend on your skin type and the type of pimples/bumps that you have.

    One site that I found really helpful in understanding my acne and coming up with a treatment plan that was effective for my skin was Simple Skincare Science. There is not a bunch of new activity there now, and some of the more recent posts are a bit off-topic, but there are some historical posts that are really informative about the different acne treatments that are available and how they work.
    Good luck, it can be so frustrating dealing with skin issues but if you stick to it you should be able to find a routine that works for you.

    1. Can I ask what cleansing oil and foaming cleanser you recommend?

      We seem to have similar stories. As a teen I used antiobiotics and retin-A. I used Accutane around age 19 and it made a HUGE difference.

      I am in my 40s now and tried just tried just about everything, including a clarisonic.

      I use Cetaphil cleanser because that is what a dermatologist recommended years ago, but maybe I need a new cleanser?

  10. I’ve been getting adult acne too! I’m 31. Lately I’ve been using a charcoal cleanser and a toner made of water and raw apple cider vinegar and it has helped so much!

  11. I would recommend Caroline Hirons’ blog. She is a skincare genius and her advice has given me the best skin of my life at 41. She’s been in the beauty industry for years and knows everything and everyone.

    1. I agree 100%! I started reading her blog in my mid-thirties and I’m so happy with my skin now (I’m also 41). It’s a lot to read through initially but so worth it! She’s great.

    2. Yes, I third this! She is an absolute genius – you just have to look at close ups of her own skin to know that she knows what’s what!

    3. Yes!!!! I came to the comments to say the same thing!! Caroline is a amazing!!! Take a look at her cheat sheets on her blog (down the right hand side of the page) and go from there. I promise you, if you do a bit of reading on her blog and take some of her advice (and stick to it) you’re skin will absolutely improve!

      1. also, forgot to mention…quit the clarisonic. They’re too harsh on your skin. and you should definitely not be using it daily!!! Once to twice a week at most if you insist on using it. Good luck!

  12. Definitely try Differin. It is not a huge investment. I have used it for many years. It used to be only by prescription so it is great that you can by over the counter now.

  13. I really like curology. It’s a telemedicine site, similar to the one your daughter tried, except it’s also a compounding pharmacy so they compound your prescription and ship it to your door! So convenient and totally custom. You can upload new pics or ask questions as often as you want. I’ve been really happy with the results- my prescription is both anti-aging and anti-acne. I tried Clarisonic and it made me break out more- I think the bacteria was living on the brush, yuck.

  14. I never had worse skin than I did when I used Clarisonic — once i stopped, and started doing much gentler cleansing (I use the “ultrabland” from LUSH, which is basically a lux oil cleanser) my skin became clear. My desert island products are witch hazel toner, a vitamin c cleanser, and the ultrabland. My skin on clarisonic was red and irritated and prone to bad breakouts — really the worst.

    I also read recently that Spearmint tea really really helps with hormonal acne — two cups per day. It captures excess androgens, I think. Worth a try!

    1. I love ultrabland! I’d highly recommend that and Black Chicken Remedies ‘Cleanse My Face’ Cleanser! Both are amazing!!! Oh and Emma Hardie ‘Moringa Cleansing Balm’. They all make my face feel amazing :)

  15. The Korean skincare line by CosRX has done amazing things for my adult acne and blackheads. I have super clear skin now. The have AHA and BHA but aren’t drying at all. The timers and face wash are great. They also have little pimple partches that are clear. You can put one on before bed and the pimple is nearly gone in the morning.

  16. Chiming in to say, while I don’t have adult acne, I have seen a marked improvement to my aging skin since I jumped on the K-beauty bandwagon 6 months ago. It might be worth looking through the Peach & Lily and Sokoglam sites to see what they recommend.

  17. The Clarisonic was terrible for my skin! I’m finding that for me, less is usually more. I only wash my face at night with a really gentle cleanser like Burt’s Bees oil cleanser. Then I put on Honest Company sensitive baby lotion mixed with a couple of drops of Radha rosehip seed oil. Sometimes I still have crazy flare ups though. I cut out dairy for 4 months about a year and half ago to get out of a particularly bad cycle of acne.

  18. Differin yes! I think it’s really helped reduce my breakouts and congested pores. I also rub a drop of a homemade oil mix (rosehip and jojoba) into my face in the morning and I think that has also helped.

  19. I’ve had it for most of my 30s, along with rosacea. For the acne, I got a prescription for spironolactone, which is the only thing that worked to prevent my hormonal acne. There are issues with it, though, so you have to (of course) talk to your dr about it. I’m off it now and just use a prescription sulfacetamide/sulfur cream specifically for acne and rosacea. It’s great!

    1. Spironolactone was recommended to me by the dermatologist, so I’m curious what sort of issues you had with it. I’ve read about possible side effects, etc but if you don’t mind, I would love to hear from someone who actually tried it.

    2. Spirinolactone here, too! Was prescribed 50mg and it helped tremendously, but 100mg takes away any hormonal acne. Also, I’ve been following a gentler routine which I think helps. And witch hazel 4 eva!

      I haven’t had any side efffects, but it does concern me (esp when I started taking double). I know there’s numerous warnings, specifically with potassium levels and possible pregnancy. My derma would only write rx 3 months at a time, so she suggested my OB do it to “make sure” I wasn’t pregnant. (I think it was just a way to get more appts/insurance money, but whatever.)

  20. I can so relate to what feels to me like a regression into teenage face. Suddenly, I’m searching for good coverup to mask the zits all over again. One thing that helped me was tallow. Yup– beef fat. Sounds weird, but it works! Totally evens out the skin tone and oil production like a dream. I found a local butcher that sells grass-fed, hormone-free beef tallow (rendered suet), and played around with it, mixing in a bit of organic olive oil, and some essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties (lavender, frankincense, copaiba, helichrysum to name a few). My husband has used tallow to treat his extremely dry skin/eczema, I’ve used it for those dreaded outbreaks, and my daughter’s combination skin has never been so healthy. (And if you don’t want to make your own, the California-based company Gold Clover makes a brilliant line of tallow products!)

  21. Korean skin care is the way to go! I’ve had huge improvements in my skin…and I feel like I tried everything before. Peach and lily will give you custom recommendations if you email them. I do 10 steps in the morning and night, which sounds insane…but I’m no longer doing facials and wasting money on products that may or may not help.

  22. Chemical exfoliants are amazing when it comes to controlling acne. I use the BHA from Paula’s choice. Her website (cosmeticscop.com?) has a ton of information on skincare. I really like her skincare line, but her product reviews are also great.

      1. Using Paula’s choice BHA with a moisturizer over it at night has eradicated adult cystic acne for me. Start by using it every other night if you’re worried about drying.

  23. I did six months of Accutane when I was 36 years old. That was six years ago. My skin felt dry (but really wasn’t) and itchy. So I remember using lots of lotion. It wasn’t necessarily a pleasant feeling but the results were well worth it. I did not experience any feelings of depression. When I look back at pictures I wish I wouldn’t have waited and done it in my 20s. I will soon have three teenage boys and won’t hesitate to do it for them.

  24. I’ve been through lots of treatments (accurate in my 20’s, Retin-A and antibiotics in my 30’s, chemical peels in my late 30’s and 40’s). Honestly, they’ve all worked. My best advice is follow your dermatologist advice and see how that goes. I asked mine for the least invasive options and she recommended Vitamin B6. It certainly helped. I did chemical peels for 10 years and they were amazing! People routinely say I look 10 years younger than I am. Worth the money. Good luck.

  25. At 50, when menopause arrived, I began breaking out in patches of what looked like acne but was actually rosacea. The two afflictions are often mistaken for each other, but rosacea can indicate auto-immune system involvement. The acne-treatment samples given by the Dr. made the situation much worse (especially the retin-A) until I realized what was really going on (thanks, Google).

    Here’s what worked, and there’s pretty solid anecdotal evidence for these products clearing up regular ol’ acne:

    1.MSM supplements. A dietary form of sulfur, often taken for joints and connective tissue. Sulfur has a natural antibiotic/anti-inflammatory effect. Zero side-effects for me.

    2.Sulfur-based ointment, found on Amazon, super cheap and just a tiny bit stinky. Made in Mexico. Makes you a little bit peely, but hey, no big deal.

  26. I recommend the Paula’s Choice products. I had adult acne from age 22 to about age 45 when it began to taper off (I think for me it was definitely hormonal). Anyway, I was always afraid to try products on my skin because if I just looked at it funny it would break out, but a couple of years ago I bought many products from the Paula’s Choice line and my skin is 100% better. Their website does a great job of explaining what you should use and why, and in what order. I wish I had discovered it years ago.

    I also like Drunk Elephant products and May Lindstrom products (which are very pricey), but my skin likes Paula’s Choice the best. I do also recommend Caroline Hirons’ blog cheat-sheets. They are so helpful.

    1. I also highly recommend Paula’s Choice. I’ve been using her products for almost 15 years–they completely changed my skin. Both hormones and skin sensitivities made me breakout starting at age 10 through my early 30s. I found that once I start using Paula’s Choice products that didn’t irritate my skin, the hormones didn’t impact me as much. Anything that irritates or breaks down your skin makes it more prone to breaking out–allergies, sensitivities, or even manual exfoliants like scrubs or the Clarisonic.

      I like that her products are developed by dermatologists using the latest research and use non-irritating ingredients. Even her standard benzoyl peroxide creams are formulated so much better than drugstore brands–my highly sensitive daughter can use the PC ones, but not anything from the drugstore. And, they work so much better–a lot of times just over night. For maintaining my skin, I swear by the Earth Sourced Natural cleanser and toner and the 2% BHA liquid. The BHA liquid is like a miracle–it makes my skin soft, clear, and glowing. I get compliments all the time about my skin now, which amazes me since I struggled for so long with persistent acne.

      Note about Paula’s Choice–they’ve added SO MANY products in the last 5 years or so–it’s almost overwhelming figuring out what you need. It wasn’t always that way and surprising to me since Paula preached that you don’t need that much for your skin to look good–just a gentle cleanser, toner (to restore ph from cleansing), and exfoliant that’s appropriate for your skin type. Moisturizers and spot acne treatments as needed, and ALWAYS sunblock.

      1. I also use Paulas Choice with great success.
        As Michelle wrote, a gentle cleaner is key, followed by a toner. Or, if you wait like an hour until your skin has balanced it’s ph, you can go without toner. Follow with a AHA or a BHA liquid (BHA might be better for acne) and for daytime always with a sunscreen, as the acid naturally thins your skin (like any other peeling would).

  27. No acne but black and white heads galore. Love Differin, been doing it for three months and it’s made a huge difference

    1. I am definitely going to check out Differin! I have the worst skin of my life at 43.

      A cheap bar of sulfur soap ($3) from Rite-Aid helped. I’m not using it this winter because it’s drying. It doesn’t smell good, either. But if you don’t have a lot of money to spend you could try it and maybe use it 2-3 times a week if everyday is too strong.

      I also know that dairy (my favorite food group) completely aggravates my acne. My skin isn’t perfect when I cut dairy out of my diet, but it is visibly better.

  28. I’m 43 and I’ve had acne my whole life, it is a constant battle that involves lots of thought and a little luck! Here’s what I’m doing right now:

    Proactiv cleanser in the morning, micellar water at night, low sugar (causes breakouts on my face), no dairy (causes pimples in my hairline and behind my ears – but I also don’t digest it well), Clinique acne solutions foundation. I’m having good success with this at the moment – but I have not added any anti aging products to my routine. Changing any little thing can throw off the balance and so it always makes me nervous!

    It’s a delicate balancing act, I tried a different foundation recently and my skin really reacted to it. I find sunscreen breaks me out too so I’m a pro at avoiding the sun.
    Also, I took Accutane twice when I was in my late teens. Really difficult side effects and my acne came back a couple of years later so IMHO not worth it – for me anyways. Plus a little scary to be taking something so toxic that your hair falls out.

  29. I recently read that acne can sometimes be caused by your skin being too dry-BECAUSE of all the skin-drying anti-zit products you’re using. So I’ve taken a super moisturizing approach lately and it’s incredible how little I’ve been breaking out! (And I recently had a baby which normally means crazy breaking out for me.) My friend recommended a product called Beepothacary Rejuvenae Facial Cream (from a small company in Ohio but you can buy online), and it is seriously the best face product I’ve ever used.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard this too and think it is true! My skin was bad in my thirties, and I think now that it was because I put only drying products on it and was afraid to moisturize. I read recently that when you do this your skin produces more of its own oils and thus you get more breakouts, etc.

  30. I’m 36 and have had acne for 20 years. (Ugh, I never got to experience adulthood WITHOUT acne.) Last year I splurged and tried Nerd Skincare. It’s super gentle and it did take a few months to see full results, but my deep cystic acne has been greatly reduced. Beauty through science! That was the selling point for me.

    I still get hormonal breakouts but overall Nerd is the only thing that’s made a real difference, and that’s including lots of powerful products. (My dermatologist had me on Differin as a teen and it’s super drying and harsh.) I also use witch hazel and Mario Badescu Anti-Acne serum twice daily and Clinique All Over Clearing treatment when I need to spot treat.

  31. In light of what you wrote in a different post. Starting a Keto’ish diet about 6 months ago to combat my type 2 diabetes has had a huge impact on my skin. And I’ve always had issues. No more deep pimples, no more monthly breakouts and an amazing decrease in redness (I was diagnosed with rosacae). So maybe the low carb/high fat is the trick?

    1. A keto diet had the opposite affect on my skin! Made my hormonal fluctuations (acne, mood, bloating, etc.) far worse, even after months of eating keto.

      I’m doing 40/30/30 now, and I’m back to normal. Most importantly, NO ACNE for the first time ever in my 32 years of life!

    2. Echoing sentiments about diet working for me. I’m 34 and had adult acne of varying degrees of severity since college. Last year I had did an elimination diet, and have found that when I stay on a low sugar/low carb diet, acne stays away. I’m not sure of what all can cause acne, but was glad to have found a solution that worked for me!

  32. Epiduo changed my life. Im 33 and have struggled with acne my whole adult life. I started using Epiduo last may and have had one, maybe 2 comodones since. Also AHAa/bHA pads. I use Trish mcevoy daily exfoliating beta hydroxy pads. Kinda pricey, but I cut them in half. The Ordinary priducts wreaked havoc on my skin, which was disappointing.
    Differin also helped me for a while. I echo the importance of regular, gentle cleansing. I love fresh soy cleanser and exuviance triple microdermabrasion exfoliant. Charcoal masks help, and I use a glycolic acid toner by Mario badescu. Good luck!! I hope this regimen works for me for a long time. It’s so hard to find what works!!

  33. I’ve struggled with Acne since I was in 8th grade. I’m now 33. It was so bad at one point that I went on Accutane, twice! And my acne would always creep back, although not as severe. I’ve owned every OTC ointment and purchased every type of gel or ointment my doctor prescribed. The biggest change for my skin was diet and gut health. I Read a book called, “It Starts with Food,” Written Melissa Hartwig – game changer. My skin is best when I’m on the “Whole30.” Not a single blemish. So, no dairy, grains, junk, etc. Just real food. Of course, that is difficult to do all the time. But some other things that help me keep my skin clear are live probiotics (garden of life – raw). For a cleanser, I keep it very simple. I use Dr. Bonners – Lavender (diluted with a little water). I also never thought I’d be one to put OIL on my face, but I love them. I switch back and forth between FATCO face oil, and Rosehip seed oil I get at whole foods. It took me two years to find a regimen that worked for me. On the occasion that I decide eating A LOT of real ice cream or some delicious pizza is worth it, I know that I will get a blemish or two, sometimes more. Rosehip seed oil seems to help treating them over night, but on the occasion that it doesn’t, I keep a reserve of Aczone on hand (prescribed by my dermatologist). This works to dry blemishes up quickly when they do occur. Hope some of these tips help!

  34. I’m 45, still break out. It is unfair that I have to worry about crows feet AND pimples at the same time. Not cool.

    I am super excited about Differin, because I remember using it successfully years ago when it was prescription only, but then my dermatologist retired and the next guy had me on another cream and eventually I forgot all about it.

  35. Ah, hormonal acne. Ugh.

    I feel like a bit of an expert by this stage of my life, after years and years of painful acne. My one experience with a dermatologist was not a good one and she blew off my thoughts (one of which was asking if this may be a sign that I have PCOS) and tossed me some samples and called it a day.

    Turns out, after forming a great relationship with a compassionate naturopathic doctor who listens and had me fully tested (including a month long saliva test), that yes I do have PCOS, and that knowledge is powerful in the fight against adult acne.

    A few things which have helped me:

    1. Oil free face moisturizer from Trader Joe’s. Yes you read that right! :) After YEARS of searching for a moisturizer which works and won’t clog my pores, I hit the jackpot with a great product which also costs very little.

    2. Manuka honey. You can also find this at Trader Joe’s. :D I add a dab to my moisturizer both morning and evening and this really soothes and fights acne, along with just being plain great for my skin.

    3. Tea tree oil. It seems that nothing bad can live in the presence of this oil. My skin can tolerate me adding a drop to my moisturizing routine at least every other day; sometimes I spot treat with tea tree oil as well. It knocks my acne out very well. It is best to apply this well before you leave the house so that the strong scent can dissipate. Again, I buy this at Trader Joe’s.

    4. Mario Badescu products. Their Healing Lotion, Silver Powder, Buffering Lotion and Healing Cream are my favorites. Nordstrom.com sells these products with free shipping. Score. Sometimes Amazon prime carries Mario Badescu as well.

    5. As a facial cleanser I have found The Honest Company’s Shampoo and Body Wash, Sweet Orange Vanilla to be the best for me (they have a lavender one but lavender products make me break out); Costco has the best deal on this. Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel works well too but is more expensive.

    6. Baking Soda for gentle exfoliation about once or twice a week.

    7. Water . . . Using the fun Plant Nanny app to remind me to stay hydrated has been very helpful. :)

    8. Some helpful PCOS aiding supplements: Pure Encapsulations brand Inositol, DIM Detox and Liver-G.I. Detox, Ovablend Dietary Supplement by Vitanica, Fish Oil, Vitamin D drops, Chlorophyl (I like the drops you can add to water which also contain peppermint oil), blackstrap molasses in almond milk – this one is just plain yummy as well.

    9. My doctor also recommends body dry brushing. This can be very relaxing or invigorating so test this mid day to see which it does for you.

    Stay strong all of my fellow acne fighters. Great post, Gabby!

  36. I had great skin through high-school and persistent acne during my 20’s. Several years ago, I radically changed my eating and lifestyle habits and I feel that my skin is the nicest it’s been since I was 17 (I’m 37). Here’s my little tidbit:

    1) Get rid of processed foods. All of them. Really.
    2) Drink fresh veggie juice daily (beets are great for the skin).
    3) Eat probiotic rich foods (i.e. kimchee, sauerkraut) and take a good probiotic supplement.
    4) Research and implement a heavy metal detox.
    5) Take Essential Fatty Acid supplements (EFAs). Evening Primrose is great for hormones and Borage is amazing for the skin.
    6)Keep on with the light therapy. I use a near infared sauna several times per week. It’s great for detoxing and killing pathogens.
    7)Use natural oils as cleaners and moisturizers. My favorites are coconut oil for cleansing and beef tallow (yes, it’s beef fat) for moisture. Also, consuming good fats helps the skin immensely.

    I hope you find the answers your looking for!

  37. I promise this is not a sales plug. *Beautycounter* It’s amazing and it’s a movement that I am 100% behind. I am writing this from the most genuine place. I’ll try to make this short but I am more than willing to have a bigger conversation with anyone who wants to know more.
    **First, the European Union has banned 1400 known toxic ingredients from their personal care products. The United States has banned only 30. What that means is that we are covering ourselves with known carcinogenic, endocrine and reproductive disrupters etc. Beautercounter has banned 1500 of these toxic ingredients from their products. They have extremely high standards.
    **It also means that the skin care lines that we are used to (and sometimes even prescribed) are full of things that are not only harmful but causing our skin to rebel…Synthetic oils, petrolatum, retinol (which studies show damages DNA and speeds up the growth of tumors.
    **I promise that Beautycounter has something great for your skin needs including some amazing Charcoal based masks, cleansers, and facial oils (heaven!) that help with adult acne. When you use real ingredients and natural oils its amazing how your skin responds by not creating more oil that causes the acne.
    Not only that but Beautycounter is an amazing B-Corp right up there with Patagonia, Whole Foods, & Seventh Generation that care as much about the planet and people as they do about their profit. They want to change regulation so that all of our products are safe for ourselves and our families. Until then there is Beautycounter.
    Please let me know if you’d like to know more. I truly want all of us and our families to be aware of what we are exposing ourselves to in our products. I also think that the Beautycounter products are amazing. They really are the best of both worlds and your skin will love you for it.
    beautycounter.com/angelabeard1
    angela1beautycounter@gmail.com (if you’d like to email me for more information)

    1. Im glad you chimes in Angela! I almost didn’t find your comment!!

      I’m a consultant for BC in Canada.

      I love this blog and I am still amazed to see how much work has to be done when it comes to safety standards and the cosmetic industry.

      I can’t reiterate how important it is to teach people about the ingredients that are in their products and WHY they are in their products. Most people are still using Retinol. We should not be allowed to still use it.

      When things are under regulated, it gets out of control, and our safety is compromised.

      It’s amazing to see how different Canada and the US are in their regulations – and how FAR ahead the EU is when it comes to safety standards in or cosmetics!

      Here’s to Safer Beauty and Education!!
      Chelsey Conrad ( from Canada!)

      1. Chelsey,
        Glad to meet you! I love the Beautycounter community and I equally love the Design Mom community.
        Gabby, if you are reading this I want to take a moment and thank you for this blog. It is one of my favorites and I think you are such an amazing woman. You and your blog (and reader comments) make me more educated, enlightened, empowered, and brave. That’s the honest truth. You’ve made me feel brave enough to speak my mind when I have something to say–here in the comments and in my daily life. You do it all the time with really brave, insightful, and thought provoking posts and in turn you’ve made me do the same. There was a time when I would not have chimed in about Beautycounter and the important things we are doing because I would have been too timid. So, thank you! Thank you for helping me (and others I’m sure) find my FEMALE voice and use it. You are an inspiration and have helped to shape me into a braver, smarter, more confident woman.
        Chelsey, cheers to safer beauty and making great changes in regulation!

  38. I had pretty severe cystic acne after having babies and tried everything under the sun, but accutane was the only thing that cleared up my skin. I know it should only be used in severe cases, but if you ever get to that point, I would seriously consider it. It changed my life. I never left my house without makeup before and always re-applied my makeup if I was leaving the house in the afternoon or evening. I was so self-conscious about my acne and it makes me sad to see myself in pictures pre-accutane because I can see how unhappy and uncomfortable I was with being photographed. Adult acne totally sucks!

    I’m totally going to Target to grab some Differin for my tiny breakouts around period time.

  39. I used Differin years ago and it worked. Perhaps it is worth a try.

    A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested Norwex body cloths for my face. I figured I did not have much to lose, gave them a try, and I am converted! I have not had breakouts to control ever since! It is also a bonus that the cloth removes make-up, so it has also simplified my skin care routine.

  40. I suffered severe acne after nursing my son. I tried everything, including the dermatologist. Nothing helped. I probably made it worse by trying new things every month. Then I had a facial and the woman’s advice was CHEAP and cleared my skin within one month. My face cleanser was 1/2 Apple-cider vinegar and 1/2 water in a spray bottle. Spray on a wet washcloth then clean your face (watch your eyes). Then NO moisturizer. I thought she was crazy. Your face will seems dry at first but then will create its own moister. I did this for several months then added a daily moisturizer. She also recommended to change the pillow cases often. Now that my hormones are normal I am able to use a regular facial regime.

  41. I don’t sell this, and was super skeptical to try it, but I am now a lifelong fan of Rodan and Fields Unblemish acne regimine. I originally bought it for my teenage son (who ended up needing the God-send Accutane, even thought I resisted it), but I am hooked. I have ALWAYS had large pores and fought acne (although not cystic), and this is AMAZING. So, so good. I may look at Differin, but I’m scared to stop using my Rodan and Fields. It WORKS.

  42. Adult acne has been under control for almost 3 years, with a few flare ups, but nothing dramatic. One thing I’d like to make note of is if your acne is on your chin and/or around your mouth, it could be perioral dermatitis, and you’ll have to deal with it differently than regular acne. Harsh/drying products and *physical* exfoliants make it worse, so it’s worth investigating with a dermatologist. (It’s very common with women starting in their mid-30s). So I had perioral dermatitis as well as cystic acne. It was hard to get under control, but antibiotics for the cystic acne helped. Once I achieved a healthy “baseline, ” I’ve found the following products great for maintaining my skin: Cerave face wash, cerave moisturizer (day has SPF), retinol serum (night), exfoliating pads (every other AM – I use FAB beauty, but any *gentle* chemical exfoliator will work), a vitamin A serum (day – every 2 or 3 days), and Acnevir adult acne gel (suddenly very expensive, I’m worried they’ve stopped making it, it has saved my life on my chin and nose). For pimple flare ups, or as soon as I feel a possible cystic pimple, I use Burts Bees tea tree oil 4 or 5 times a day (whenever I remember to) and it usually does the trick. For winter I also use Dr. Jart’s ceramide cream, on parts of my face that might be dry (the key for me for dealing with the perioral dermatitis is to keep my chin well moisturized and protected. urious about the korean pimple pads… if anyone has used them.

  43. I’ve tried everything mentioned (accutane 3x, which worked every time but the acne just moved around my face and to my back!, spironolactone, retin-A, differin), all of it worked to varying degrees, but when I started doing fertility treatments I had to stop using ANYTHING, and I’m still getting trouble acne all along my chin line. Surprisingly the thing I’ve been doing lately that’s helping? Plain old Neosporin. I apply a thick gob at night to any trouble spots, and about 75% of the time they disappear without ever breaking through the surface. If they do break through, I gently relieve pressure with a sterilized pin, and slather on more Neosporin.

  44. I had really bad hormonal adult acne on my chin and nose and went to dermatologist, but since I’m still breastfeeding, they couldn’t really help me. On a whim, I started using benzoyl peroxide (neutrogena one but probably any would work) and it literally has transformed my skin. It’s been three or four months now without a single breakout and my husband has had success with it on his rosacea too. I feel like an ad (definitely not) but I had to comment since it’s been such an accessible solution that worked for me. I should note, I now use every other day as it can be drying and haven’t had issues with this approach.

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