Adieu to adolescence
If adolescence remains a distant memory, why treat your skin as though you’re still a teen — using the same old products and skincare routine? Just as adult skin differs from adolescent complexions, the same is true for acne.
As an adult, your skin is typically drier and more sensitive than teen skin. Also, adult acne tends to be worse, last longer and is prone to discoloration, according to Real Simple.
Top tips for treating acne
1. Go lower-strength. Because adult skin isn’t as tough as a teen’s, try effective active ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, in lower solutions. For instance, instead of 2 percent salicylic acid, choose 1 percent. Rather than selecting a product with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, go with 5 or 2.5 percent.
For mild to moderate acne, adults can use a gentle benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid wash every morning to trim down on the bacteria that causes breakouts, according to Prevention magazine.
Product picks: Dr. Michelle Copeland Advanced Acne Formula, SkinCeuticals Blemish Control Gel, Jan Marini Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% Wash, B. Kamins Medicated Acne Gel 5% benzoyl peroxide.
2. Try an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). AHAs are great exfoliators that slough off dead skin cells, which along with sebum, dirt and bacteria, contribute to acne. To prevent this build-up, invest in an AHA moisturizer. It not only treats acne but also targets wrinkling and discoloration. Particularly, try an over-the-counter glycolic cream or lotion, suggests Prevention.
Product picks: BENEV Glycolic Exfoliating Gel 7.5%, Dr. Michelle Copeland AHA Face Cream.
3. Consider a prescription. If over-the-counter products haven’t been working, your dermatologist can prescribe retinoids, including Retin-A and Differin, which accelerate cell turnover and have been used for decades to treat acne.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), they’re effective for treating blackheads and small bumps under the skin. But retinoids aren’t just valuable for banishing blemishes, as many know, they’re also used to reduce wrinkles and improve the complexion — all big bonuses as our skin ages.
4. Look carefully at labels. Make sure all your beauty products say they’re either oil-free, non-acnegenic or noncomedogenic. Cosmetics without these labels can clog pores and trigger acne.
5. Evaluate existing products. Are your skincare products still working? Take a look through your entire skincare stash (especially if you haven’t updated the routine since your younger days), because your once tried-and-true products might be ineffective. Or worse, they might contribute to your lackluster, blemished skin. Remember, just as your skin type can vary by season, it changes with age, too.
6. Discard the oldies. It’s time for some spring cleaning — for your cosmetics. Has the expiration date come and gone? Does your makeup look dull? Smell funny? Are you still using your foundation and cream eye shadow after six months? Holding on to liquid eye liner and mascara after three months? Then, give those beauty products the boot. Old, expired makeup can clog pores and even initiate an infection.
7. Medication might help. For women who still get blemishes before their menstrual cycle, dermatologists might prescribe oral contraceptives. Besides regulating menstruation, oral contraceptives also "decrease the androgen activity responsible for acne, leading to decreased breakouts," according to the AAD.
The oral retinoid, isotretinoin, better known as Accutane, is another option. In fact, "Patients in their 50s and 60s who develop sporadic acne have been successfully treated with low-dose oral isotretinoin," notes the AAD. However, Accutane is typically prescribed for severe acne.
8. Are you sure it’s acne? Even though your skin might seem to scream that you’ve got acne, various skin conditions can actually mimic breakouts and reddened skin. To confirm your breakouts are indeed acne-related, see a dermatologist before you start treating an entirely different condition.
Dermatologist Robert Polisky, M.D., tells WebMD that acne can look like the following conditions: rosacea (facial redness and sometimes lesions); perioral dermatitis (dry patches around the mouth area); and Acneform eruption (itchy rash).
Treating an acne imposter can actually worsen your skin condition. For instance, topical treatments for acne, like benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, can exacerbate acneform eruption, according to Dr. Polisky.
9. Don’t overdo it. Doing too much to combat acne can actually backfire and encourage blemishes instead. Washing your face more than twice a day, exfoliating too often, scrubbing aggressively or stockpiling too many acne products on your face — all attempts that are excessively drying — can force your skin to generate more oil.
10. Include sunscreen. Many acne treatments increase sensitivity to sunlight and sunburn, so wear sunscreen daily. Also, some people mistakenly believe that the sun improves their acne. Not only does it not help your acne, but it can exacerbate it and lead to premature aging and skin cancer.
Product picks: VivierSkin Daily Moisturizing Shield SPF 30, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock SPF 45, Topix Citrix Antioxidant SunScreen SPF 30.
Learn everything you need to know about acne-fighting skincare in our Complete Acne Handbook.