Breaking Through Adult Acne

By Nateisha Scott

How to treat adult acne?

We are conditioned to believe that as soon as we hit adulthood, we grow out of the stresses of being a teenager but low and behold, regardless of being in your 20s or 40s, acne and breakouts are a skin concern that many of us still deal with.

What is adult acne?

At its root adult acne is caused by the same elements that causes teenage acne, excess oil and bacteria. It is the over-production of sebum that blocks the follicle, as well as a blocked surface of dead skin cells. This is then pushed towards the surface of the skin, bulging and creating a blackhead or whitehead.

How is it brought on?

There is no set reason as to why adult acne can occur, acne can be down to genetics, lifestyle, habits or food and can often be a combination of factors. As you experience adult acne it is important to understand how it can be brought on, one factor could be hormones and stress. A fluctuation in hormones, especially around the menstrual cycle, can have an impact on your breakout, often situated around the chin and jaw line, the extra production of oestrogen and testosterone can imbalance your hormone levels resulting in the creation under the skin bumps that are sore to touch. Similarly, stress can be another influential factor that can impact the shift in hormones and the skin. When you are stressed your body produces a hormone called cortisol that is made from the adrenal gland, this is then infused into the body to help the body deal with stress. As this is cycled around the body, it also releases a small amount of testosterone that drives the oil glands to produce more oil resulting in more breakouts.

What causes acne externally?

Other elements outside of your body can cause an acne breakout. Pollution can be a factor as air pollution just adds an additional layer of dirt to the skin hence the importance of double cleansing after any day. In addition, your current skincare routine can also play havoc with your skin. For acne and oily prone skin alone you should be using products that are oil-free, non-comedogenic or water-based. This combined with avoiding rich and heavy textures will reduce the amount of oil getting to the follicles. If you’re over cleansing and rather intensely at that, you can in fact make your acne worse, cleansing too much will dry out the skin which can cause the skin to produce more oil to overcompensate.

How do you treat it?

Like there is more than one way adult acne can be caused, there is more than one way to treat it. Checking the ingredients that you are applying to the skin is important and implementing Salicylic acid, Benzoyl peroxide, Glycolic acid and Retinol into your routine can benefit the drawback of breakouts. Salicylic acid works to exfoliate and unclog pores and is considered to be a gold standard treatment for acne and similarly Benzoyl peroxide exfoliate the pores but also kills the acne bacteria. Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid and targets both acne and fine lines at the same time, by removing the dead skin cells and stimulating collagen.

Although Retinol is highlighted to be used for anti-ageing, it is a very effective treatment for curing acne as it increases cell turnover allowing clogged cells to shed and normalise, revealing fresh and clear cells. Exfoliation is key and is part of your routine that should be done more regularly, removing dead skin cells and allowing for regeneration will help minimise the breakout.

Your hormones can be ruthless and often an adapted routine or strict diet still can fall short of combatting acne. At this stage, we would recommend a topical treatment that should be provided by a doctor.

Your focused Routine?


Whilst your skin is prone to breakouts, keeping your skin clean is vitally important, a gentle cleanser for the morning and then a double cleanse at night works to remove the day’s dirt and build up as well as cleaning the pores.


As a key focus, exfoliating the skin will allow your cells to turnover at a quicker rate, by removing the dead skin cells and smoothing the skin’s texture, regular exfoliation allows for the breakdown of older cells and the renewal of new ones. Supplementing acids into your exfoliating routine like Salycylic acid works wonders in this process.


Opt for a lightweight formula when hydrating the skin, an oil-free formula will help your skin to not absorb the excess oil as well as producing it naturally.