Adult acne is a frustrating, emotionally debilitating condition, and it’s becoming increasingly common in our always-on world. We rounded up a group of 10 women who suffer from adult acne to trial the latest products, treatments and theories.
1. CHOOSE PRODUCTS CONTAINING SALICYLIC ACID
While acne-fighting products containing ingredients like glycolic acid and lactic acid (both alphahydroxy acids, or AHAs), were well-received by our testers, products containing the betahydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid, came out on top.
AHAs and BHAs are chemical exfoliants that loosen the substance that holds skin cells together, thus removing dead skin cells and making the skin look brighter and tighter.
While glycolic acid has a peeling effect, salicylic acid has more of an anti-inflammatory effect. It’s the star ingredient in the best-selling Proactiv+ range (which got the thumbs-up from our testers).
You can pick up a 30-day Complete Facial Kit (€34.99) from proactiv.ie — and it comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
2. ALWAYS HAVE A TUBE OF BENZOYL PEROXIDE IN YOUR ARSENAL
Benzoyl peroxide is an old-school, low-cost acne treatment that is still recommended far and wide by dermatologists and skincare experts.
It’s bactericidal — meaning it kills bacteria —and it reduces inflammation too. Even better, it works fast — overnight in mild cases — but you’ll have to tolerate a few days of itchy, flaky skin as the skin rebalances itself. You can pick up Acnecide Benzoyl Peroxide (€12.75) in most pharmacies. This is a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency product that every acne sufferer should have at their disposal.
3. DON’T OVERLOOK KITCHEN CURE-ALLS
Apple cider vinegar is a low-cost, all-natural DIY treatment that helps to dry out white heads (it doesn’t work so well on cystic acne, however).
Make sure the ACV you use is unpasteurised and has ‘the mother’ in it, and dilute with water before dabbing on to the problem area with cotton wool. Actress Scarlett Johansson swears by it: “If your skin is problematic or you’re having a lot of breakouts, it’s really healing,” she says. “It’s a little bit stinky, but if you’re not sleeping over at your boyfriend’s, it’s really effective.”
4. USE A MINERAL MAKE-UP WHEN YOU DON’T NEED FULL COVERAGE
Adult acne sufferers often use full-coverage foundation, even when they don’t have a breakout. Help your skin heal by using a mineral makeup when you have less blemishes than usual. Mineral makeup is non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t plug pores or allow for the germination of bacteria — and it provides much more coverage than you might expect from a powder. Our testers were impressed by the dewy yet matte finish of two mineral foundations, both of them Irish brands: Fuschia Mineral Foundation (€28.50 for 5g, fuschia.ie) and Anneco Beauty Loose Powder Mineral Foundation (€25.95 for 12.5g, annecobeauty.com).
5. RUN FOR COVER
There are break-outs and then there are break-outs.... When you need to bring out the big guns, Vichy’s Dermablend 3D Correction Foundation (€28.99) is the go-to product. The unique formulation gives full-coverage but with a lightweight finish. Plus, it stays matte for 16 hours. Better still, the non-comedogenic, paraben-free formulation contains SPF 25. It’s also surprisingly effective on dark circles.
6. AVOID THE TEMPTATION TO OVER-TREAT
Acne sufferers tend to over-wash their skin and over-apply products afterwards — Sudocrem face mask, anyone? This jeopardises the skin’s precious acid mantle and the skin overproduces sebum to compensate. The result? Acne gets worse instead of better.
Dr Christie Kidd, the dermatologist who helped get rid of Kendall Jenner’s acne, is an advocate of letting your skin do its thing. “I often find patients are using far too many products, which makes their skin worse,” she says. “Keeping it simple and effective is far better for acne.”
She also advises against scrubs, rotating brushes and washclothes. “You want to treat it very delicately and just wash really well with your hands.”
7. DON’T WRITE OFF PLANT-BASED FACIAL OILS
Facial oils are a contentious issue when it comes to adult acne. Most dermatologists recommend that only oil-free products are used as part of a daily regime, yet a new wave of thinking says that plant-based oils can have a paradoxical effect on oily skin — and many of our testers agreed.
The Absolute Cleansing Face Oil (€22.95) by Irish company Kinvara contains a powerhouse of delicious-smelling plant oils that soothe and brighten skin without affecting the all-important acid mantle. Their 24-hr Rosehip Face Serum (€32.95) is another star product for lightening post-breakout marks.
8. CONSIDER ELIMINATING DAIRY FROM YOUR DIET
The dairy-acne connection is another contentious issue, yet countless former adult acne sufferers contend that giving up dairy products is the ultimate panacea for spot-prone skin — especially the cystic kind. If you’re at your wit’s end, the dairy elimination diet is definitely worth exploring.
A whooping 88pc of members of acne.org members say it worked for them, while three of our testers saw a difference simply by swapping lattes for Americanos and cutting out ice cream and milkshakes.
9. TALK TO A DERMATOLOGIST
Dermatologists often prescribe Retin-A to adult acne sufferers as a first line of defence treatment. It’s a tretinoin cream that accelerates skin turnover, thus preventing pores from becoming blocked. Users can expect flaky skin for the first week of use.
However, one of the more pleasant side-effects is that it also helps to diminish fine lines — and it’s the only topical anti-ageing drug approved by the FDA. Retin-A is extremely potent and comes with plenty of contraindications — it shouldn’t be used by pregnant women and it needs to be combined with high sun protection. If you’ve already been prescribed Retin-A by a dermatologist, it’s handy to know that it can be bought OTC as ‘Retirides’ in Spain.
10. TRY THE SKINCEUTICALS RANGE
The most frustrating aspect of adult acne is having to contend with break-outs and fine lines all at the same time. Thankfully the scientists at SkinCeuticals have formulated a top-tier range that targets both concerns simultaneously. The Blemish + Age Cleansing Gel (€41) is chock-full of exfoliating acids, while the Blemish + Age Defense Serum (€88) lightens hyperpigmentation and evens out skin tone. It’s certainly not cheap, but it’s most definitely effective.
11. MANAGE STRESS
Stress doesn’t cause acne per se, but it can certainly exacerbate a break-out. Stress hormones like cortisol can increase oil production in the skin so introduce some relaxation outlets like yoga to your lifestyle to help.
12. PUT CLEARSKIN INTO YOUR LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Clearskin in Sandyford (clearskin.ie) offers a wide range of targeted skin treatments at prices that don’t require a credit-union loan. Their 5-in-1 is a savior if you’re at the very beginning or end of an acne breakout cycle. Each pack includes deep cleanse, LED light therapy and hydration mask. Customers then choose from medical microdermabrasion (give this one a pass if you’re mid-break-out), chemical skin peel, oxygen facial, vitamin infusion, ultrasound infusion, pigmentation mask or extractions. It costs just €125.
13. TRY VBEAM PERFECTA
Sometimes the red/purple marks left from acne breakouts can be particularly persistent. The Vbeam Perfecta is a relatively painless laser treatment that lightens these lesions (it can also be used on spider veins and rosacea too).
It’s one of the many treatments offered at Venus Medical in Dundrum, where clinical director Dr Peter Prendergast also provides acne sufferers with an extensive dietary programme including vitamins and supplements. Check out venusmedical.ie
14. ADD A TONER TO YOUR SKINCARE REGIME
Most chemical acne products are too harsh for sensitive skin. In this case, consider using a simple witch hazel or rose water toner after washing. The former has a mild astringent quality; the latter balances skin PH. Both tighten and tone. Our testers also loved the Juliette Armand Elements 08 Clarifying Lotion. Skin feels squeaky-clean afterwards — and it helps to calm congestion before an outbreak can take hold. It’s €45 from specialist beauty salons and skinboosters.ie.
15. ADD ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS TO YOUR DIET
Scientists have only recently started to explore the role of chronic inflammation in health disorders. They’re also beginning to realise that when the body is inflamed, acne breakouts are much more virulent. If you’re tired all the time or suffering from brain fog, it you have digestive issues and sore, achy limbs, you could have chronic inflammation, which will exacerbate an acne breakout. Try adding some anti-inflammatory foods to your diet.
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