We spend our teenage years being told our breakouts would clear when we reached adulthood. Then we move past puberty and guess what? Those pimples are still there.
If you're in your 20s and you're still dealing with breakouts, it sounds like you have what's known as adult acne.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne affects up to 15 percent of women - and that number continues to rise.
So if you thought you were the only one battling blackheads, pustules, and nodules, you can relax. It's a lot more common than you think.
Knowing what's causing your acne and how to treat it can clear up your skin and prevent breakouts from cropping up in the first place. Keep reading to uncover the real reason behind your zits and how to get rid of them for good.
There are several reasons why you might be dealing with acne breakouts as an adult. Let's take a look at the most common ones.
Hormonal changes could be behind those pesky pimples - especially if they're occurring around your chin and jawline. These changes and fluctuations usually happen before the menstrual cycle. As your period approaches, your estrogen levels dip, causing an increase in your skin's oil production. As a result, you're more prone to excess oil, clogged pores, and angry, red pimples.
You may also experience cystic acne, a form of severe acne.
Cystic acne comprises of cysts, which are basically pockets of pus that form deep in the skin. They’re notoriously difficult to treat because they’re so deep, and are more likely to cause scarring when popped.
Hormonal acne usually occurs around the time of your period, when you start or stop using birth control pills, during or after pregnancy, and during menopause.
Chronic stress is a well-known contributor of adult onset acne.
When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release the stress hormone known as cortisol, which causes a spike in sebum. When your oil glands produce more oil, they can clog pores, leading to blackheads and whiteheads.
Recent research also indicates that it’s produced locally in the hair follicles and various types of skin cells. So this may be another factor behind your blemishes.
If you have oily skin, you should be using skincare products labeled "non-comedogenic" and "oil-free," as these are less likely to clog your pores.
And if you naturally have dry skin but you're experiencing breakouts, it could be that you're using a cleanser that's too harsh. Some cleansers contain ingredients that strip the skin of oil, causing it to compensate by making more oil, and, hello pimples!
Dermatologists don't fully understand why people experience this skin condition through adulthood. But they do believe it's a combination of stress, hormones, diet (such as a sensitivity to dairy products), and the wrong skincare routine.
"Where you’re a teenager, your hormones are naturally fluctuating and you can’t control it," explains Jordana Mattioli, a medical esthetician in New York City. "But when you’re an adult your hormones are fluctuating because of things like inflammation and stress."
When it comes to the aesthetic and pattern of acne, there is a difference between adult and teenage acne.
According to Doris Day, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, "In teens, it's usually on the forehead and cheeks, while in adults it tends to be mostly on the lower face, along the jawline and neck."
And while teens tend to see a mix of blackheads, whiteheads, and lesions, adults experience acne in the form of big angry bumps, aka, cysts.
So what exactly are your acne treatment options? Here are some tips for finally combatting adult acne.
Salicylic acid is the number one ingredient to look out for when it comes to treating adult acne - or any type of acne for that matter. Benzoyl peroxide is another, but that's usually way too harsh for most skin types.
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy-acid (BHA), that works by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells. It's also an effective acne treatment because it's oil-soluble, meaning it penetrates deeper into your pores.
Retinoids and glycolic acid are other fantastic ingredients that slough away dead skin cells and decongest pores for a clear and smooth complexion.
Regardless of your skin type, dermatologists recommend following a solid daily skincare routine to keep your complexion in check. You don't need to spend a fortune on products to get results. You just need a few basic products that contain acne-fighting ingredients to clear up and clarify your skin.
We recommend trying Truly's CBD Jelly Bundle - featuring an anti-blemish body cleanser, facial cleanser, facial serum, and toning solution. Made with high-performing acne-banishing ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, retinol, and vitamin C, it also contains hydrating, soothing ingredients like aloe, rose, and tea tree to reduce inflammation and redness from acne flareups. For best results, use these products as part of your daily beauty routine - and stay consistent!
"Once women hit their mid 20s, many start buying anti-aging products, but the majority are too rich for their skin type," says Mattioli. "They’re designed for mature skin that doesn’t produce as much oil as it used to."
Use lightweight moisturizers, nourishing serums, and zinc-formulated sunscreen instead.
Adult acne is becoming more and more common. Luckily, you don't have to put up with it forever. Provided that you drop some of your bad habits, chill out more with wellness apps, and invest in some effective skincare products, you can and you will achieve clear, blemish-free skin.
If you've tried the above tips and you're still experiencing adult acne, book an appointment with your dermatologist. You may need stronger topical treatments or have an underlying condition that needs treating. Either way, make sure you get it checked out!