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Dear Adult Acne, Why Me?!

Adult acne is the WORST, to be frank. It’s also different from puberty acne, and is even more stubborn. Teenage skin heals faster and regenerates at a higher rate, but as an adult, the process is slower. Our collagen levels are also decreasing, and your skin produces about one percent less collagen each year. This is also the time in your life when skin cell turnover slows down. Skin cell turnover is the process of creating new skin cells to replace existing ones. During cell turnover, the body rids itself of dead skin cells to allow the body to grow new healthy skin cells. Since our cell turnover slows down as we age, the dead skin cells sit on top of our epidermis longer than before and trigger acne. This increases bacteria and the clogging and obstructing of your pores with dead skin, and more acne-flare ups. If you’re dealing with acne as an adult, you’re not alone, and it isn’t your fault.

From hormones, stress, genetics, diet, medications, hair/makeup products, and your actual skincare regime can all be factors with this frustrating condition.

Haircare & Makeup

Not all products are created equal. Fragrances in your products, “longwear” makeup, primers, setting-sprays, and more all have the ability to clog your pores. When selecting makeup, look for words like oil-free, non-comedogenic, or non-acnegenic. These terms mean the products won’t clog pores or stimulate excess oil production. Always thoroughly remove any makeup from your face as soon as possible, and remember to clean your makeup brushes regularly! They can easily harbor bacteria. If you have noticed acne on or under your chin, and or on your neck, this may have to do with the hair care products you are using. When an option, plant-based is always best for your health and skin.


We know it’s probably the last thing you want to hear, but consuming a high level of sugar or refined carbohydrates can lead to adult acne. This is due to the effects refined carbohydrates have on our body’s insulin levels and blood sugar. Refined carbohydrates are absorbed quickly into our bloodstream which can quickly raise our blood sugar levels. As blood sugars rise, insulin levels also rise to help remove the sugars from the bloodstream and into your cells. Insulin makes androgen hormones more active. This contributes to acne growth by causing skin cells to grow more rapidly and by encouraging sebum oil production that can ultimately clog pores and result in acne. As if that weren’t enough, a diet that is high in dairy can also contribute to acne flare-ups. Anti-inflammatory options like wild fish, nuts, and fresh fruits, and sticking with organic, hormone-free meat and dairy can help with flare-ups.


They play a key role in whether you develop acne, so if your immediate relatives have struggled with acne, the odds are that you will as well, even as an adult. But this doesn’t mean that it can’t be treated!


For as much as we all talk about self-care and wellness, as a society, we’re still more stressed-out than ever. Which might be giving us a lot of pimples. Research shows a relationship between acne and stress. When we experience stress, the level of acne-causing hormones called androgens increases, stimulating oil glands and hair follicles that contribute to acne. Working less, sleeping more, and adding meditation (or even therapy) to your weekly routine can significantly help adult acne strugglers. It won’t matter how many $50 creams you buy, your skin won’t be healthy if you’re not taking care of your mental well being.


Acne is caused when your sebum (oil) glands in your skin become clogged with bacteria. Androgens, which are primarily male hormones, exist in all genders and cause your sebum pores to enlarge and become more active, increasing oil production, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. During puberty, hormone surges in all genders cause sebum glands to become overactive, causing acne. Once you pass through puberty, your hormones level off, but women continue to experience fluctuations with their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause, which is why adult women are more prone to acne. Circumstances such as starting, stopping, or changing a birth control pill or IUD can also cause or worsen acne, and can even occur months after this change.

Skincare Regimen

It is recommended to only wash your face twice a day, using a mild facial cleanser. Otherwise the skin could dry out, which causes excess production of oil to compensate for the dryness. It is also good to avoid scrubbing too hard as washing your face vigorously can irritate the skin and make acne worse. Patting your face dry instead of rubbing, and applying a pH balancing toner immediately afterwards can help keep your sebum oils in check. Try switching to clean face makeup products, one simpler shampoo, conditioner, and laundry detergent formulas that don’t contain sulfates or fragrances. Simplifying your skincare routine can also be beneficial. Sure, applying an intense spot treatment to your entire face may be effective, but it will also leave your skin incredibly inflamed. More is not always better, especially with acne. Higher concentrations of ingredients like benzoyl peroxide have been shown in studies to be no better, but certainly more irritating, than lower concentrations. It also may seem like a good idea to start buying anti-aging products in your 20s, but the majority of these products are too rich for your skin type, they’re designed for mature skin that doesn’t produce as much oil as it used to. Using a lightweight moisturizer that won’t clog your pores and has collagen regenerating abilities will be a much friendlier option!

An Underlying Medical Condition

In a small percentage of people, acne could be caused by an undiagnosed medical condition. In women, a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) often underlies chronic or difficult-to-control acne. Symptoms include: abnormal menstruation, absence of menstruation, heavy menstruation, irregular menstruation, short and light menstruation, spotting, overweight or weight gain, infertility, acne, depression, loss of scalp hair, oily skin, or unwanted hair on face and chest.


Some additional things to try:

  • As tempting as it is to try to be your own esthetician in your bathroom, you have to fight every single urge to squeeze! Acne in adult women tends to be angry, underground pimples. They are inflamed and cannot be easily opened by picking or squeezing. It leads to more harm than good, a disrupted skin barrier, inflammation, and potential scarring.
  • Exfoliation helps get rid of dead skin that would otherwise sit on the top layer of the epidermis. By exfoliating 2-3 times a week, you will help your skin remove old dead skin cells and grow new skin, and this, in turn, will help prevent breakouts. Our Microdermabrasion Scrub is a great acne-fighting option
  • Tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, and white willow bark are antibacterial that help calm inflammation and balance your skins pH (which is essential for excess or lack of sebum production!) We have the perfect combo of all 3 of these ingredients, try our Tea Tree Toner
  • Although it may seem counterintuitive to add moisture to oily skin, dry skin actually triggers the production of more sebum and you may end up with a greasy-looking face and more breakouts. Hyaluronic acid is a great option as it boosts moisture retention and prevents and diminishes fine lines. Our Hydra Serum which contains hyaluronic acid, pantothenic acid, and niacinamide will leave your skin hydrated and reduce redness.
  • Change your pillowcase often. Oil from your hair and face ends up being absorbed into the fabric and then you lay on it again, night after night — depositing more oil onto the pillowcase and then back onto your skin. If possible, wash your pillow! (or get a new one if you haven’t in a while) Even though your pillowcase acts as a layer of protection, your pillow can still absorb years and years of oil.  A pillowcase protector is also an option if you cannot wash your pillow often.

Regardless of everything mentioned, treating acne in your adult life requires patience and consistency. Committing to your new skincare plan, and sticking with it, is the key to success.

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