Adult Acne Solutions: How to Get Clear Skin at Any Age

Emma-Charlotte Bangay

Beauty and Lifestyle Expert

Thought you only had wrinkles and fine lines to fend off? Think again. Adult acne is the mid-life cosmetic crisis of many women, but with these adult acne solutions, you’ll have the clear skin you’ve always dreamed of, whatever your age.

By Emma-Charlotte Bangay


There are a few things I’ve done in my adult life that should have been left in my teens; Braces at the age of 34, pink hair at 27 and acne at 30. The latter, the least fun, it should be noted.

I blame mine on the stress of a relationship breakdown at the time (yep, single and ready to mingle. “Would you like zits with that new girlfriend?”) But Emma Hobson, Education Manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica, assures me I was no doubt not alone. “Getting breakouts in adulthood is more common than many people may think,” she tells me. “Clinical studies indicate that between 40 and 55% of the adult population in the 20-40 age group (median age is approximately 26.5 years or older) are diagnosed with a low grade, persistent acne and oily skin.”

‘Chronic stress’ – which I can totally relate to at the time of my unsightly, confidence-killing outbreaks – is a major cause. “Chronic continual stress increases hormone levels, which can lead to an increase of oil production,” Emma explains. Combine this with workplace stress, household responsibilities, cosmetics with known skin irritants and monthly hormone fluctuations and you have the perfect breeding ground for the formation of adult acne.

Hormones are another major aggravating factor, she adds, resulting in many women breaking out around the time of ovulation, typically a couple weeks before the start of their period. “This is most likely due to the surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) that is seen at this time,” she says. “This hormone can trigger sebaceous gland activity, leading to increased oil production and the perfect environment for an invading bacteria to cause inflammation. Hormonal breakouts are quite common and can be controlled.”

Adult acne is more persistent than teen acne and scarring is more prevalent due to skin losing its ability to repair itself because of ageing. It’s common on the neck and under the jaw as well running along the hairline of the forehead and more randomly dispersed over the face, tending to occur as skin sensitisation (more lesions) rather than blackheads that teens may suffer from.

It should be noted that even if you swept through your teens pimple-free, the scourge of spotty skin may still come and bite you on the, um, face right through to your 40s.

Emma assures me however, that by the early 40’s until menopause, suffers should be in the clear. Now there’s something to look forward to, right?


“To treat acne effectively you need to address each factor to achieve optimal results,” she says. Some tips include reducing your stress levels you can improve your skin, avoiding all comedogenic ingredients like Coal tar red dyes in skin care and cosmetics and Mineral Oil, and steering clear of oil-based moisturisers and cleansers “and any product that leaves a heavy oily residue on the skin surface,” Emma says.

Some lifestyle changes that may help include avoiding heat and humidity as much as possible – which when combined can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil resulting in increased breakouts – avoiding fabric conditioners on towels and pillow cases as they can be comedogenic and leave a ‘film’ on the skin surface, and prevent skin becoming very dehydrated for long periods of time.


Step in-clinic for customised skin treatments that have a professional range specifically tailored anti-bacterial products for adult acne.

Have regular professional exfoliation treatments and try Light Therapy Treatments using ‘blue light’ which targets acne breakouts.

Use non-comedogenic make up. “Many skin care companies have foundations and primers or tinted moisturisers that are treatment products for adult acne AND a makeup combined, and all non-comedogenic,” says Emma.

“Cleansing is such an important step for acne sufferers,” says Emma, who recommends cleansing twice in the morning and twice in the evening. “First, with a cleansing oil as these are terrific at really deep cleansing the skin. Secondly, cleanse with either a facial gel, or ideally if you are oily, clay based cleanser.”

For more information read up on adult acne treatmentsinformation on Light Therapy, and which celebrity suffers from spotty skin in adulthood

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