How to combat your adult acne breakouts

How to combat your adult acne breakouts

How to combat your adult acne Image by: Getty Images


How to combat your adult acne breakouts

Not all acne suffers are teenagers. Here's how to deal with a breakout like an adult.

Unfortunately, the world of angry red skin and pimples doesn’t just go away once you’re an adult. Instead, many of us find that our faces still suffer from occasional or persistent pimples despite our advancing ages. Though we reach for our makeup bags when breaking out to cover up what’s happening on the surface, it’s also important to treat your breakouts with the right ingredients and products to help prevent more flare-ups from happening. To help, we tapped a few pros to walk us through the right way to treat adult acne.

First, why am I still breaking out?

The culprit is often the same one that made your skin miserable as a teen: hormones. But there are plenty of internal causes that can make you break out. “Your skin is a reflection of what’s happening internally, says Kristina Breckon, Consonant Skincare’s lead regimen coach. “Allergies, illness, stress and even some food sensitivities can all lead to inflammation or hormonal imbalance and cause acne.” Expect more changes in your skin if you’re a new Mom, pregnant or breastfeeding too where hormonal changes are peaking.

There’s also a chance that you’re causing the problem yourself with your current skin-care regimen. “Using the wrong products for your skin type or being too aggressive with cleansing and exfoliating can lead to dryness, clogged pores and blemishes,” says Breckon.

So how do I treat blemishes?

“My number one piece of advice is to take it slow and don’t overwhelm your skin,” says Breckon. “People tend to panic when they start to see acne and attack their skin with harsh products that completely dry out and irritate.” She recommends four key skin-care treatments to keep in mind when dealing with problematic skin: exfoliate gently, hydrate, soothe and repair.

Gentle Exfoliation

Not over exfoliating means keeping your usage to one or two times a week—no more. Whether you use a chemical exfoliant (with acids like glycolic or fruit enzymes) or a physical exfoliant (a scrub or microfiber cloth), they key is to not overdo it, no matter how soft you think your skin feels. Excessive exfoliation can lead to red or irritated skin and dryness, which in turn, can cause breakouts.


You might think that the last thing your blemished skin needs is more moisture, but many people who suffer from breakouts have dry skin in desperate need of hydration. When your skin is dry, your oil glands work overtime to compensate, which can cause breakouts. The key is to add hydration, without adding extra oil. Look for oil-free creams, serums and mists to help keep your skin balanced.


HydrExtreme is a light, non-greasy serum that offers a ton of hydration. $72,


Make sure to pick ingredients that are non-comedogenic (it won’t clog your pores) and stay away from irritating ingredients. Shannon O’Brien, the president of Abundance Naturally, recommends opting for tea tree oil as a safe and active ingredient for treating pimples. “Tea tree oil is just as effective as benzol peroxide but has fewer side effects like redness and irritation when combating propionibacterium acnes [the bacteria that produces pimples].” Other anti-inflammatory ingredients that will help calm include manicouagan clay and niacinamide.


Targeted treatments are the best way to repair your skin during a breakout. “Spot treatments are concentrated with the active ingredient to help kill the bacteria in the pimple and dry it out—without drying out your whole face,” says O’Brien. Use a spot treatment as the last step in your skin-care regime as night and apply directly to the inflamed area. If your spot treatment formula is clear, you can even apply it during the day to help speed up the healing process.

Minimize acne scarring

If your acne scars are minimal discolourations, Breckon recommends looking for products with vitamin E. Exfoliation will help lesson scarring over time as well, and your best tools are patience and consistency. O’Brien suggests looking for topical solutions like rose hip oil and macadamia oil to help build up essential fatty acids in the skin. This helps with cell regeneration. “Those with more prominent scarring may have to go a bit further,” says Breckon. “Talk to your dermatologist and consider laser treatments.”

What not to do

 “Don’t overwash your face,” says O’Brien. “It may seem counter-intuitive, but the excessive impulse to wash your face frequently or vigorously will dry out your skin, which will then overproduce oil to compensate.” Wanting to feel squeaky clean, especially when you feel like oils from your skin might be causing your acne is pretty standard, but looking for a quick fix to dry everything out is going to do more harm in the long run. The other big no no? Picking at your spots. “Don’t panic,” says Breckon. “Stressing about it and picking at your skin will only make it worse.” As much as possible leave extractions to the professionals, and keep your hands away from your face. Picking, pushing and squeezing might give you some satisfaction, but you run the risk of an even bigger infection or more substantial scarring. Just leave it alone.

Last thought

No one will likely care as much about your spots as you do, which means you should give them time to heal without trying to squeeze them out or dry them into oblicion. “We tend to notice ‘imperfections’ on ourselves way more than others do,” says Breckon. “Don’t let it affect your confidence.” Easier said than done, we know, but it’s worth a shot when you’re armed with the right products and techniques to help minimize the next breakout.


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Spot treatments to get rid of your latest pimple fast

This invisible treatment is free from many irritants that can be found in other acne treatments. Tea Tree oil is the star ingredient here, and at a 20% concentration you can expect this spot treatment to work fast.

Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Medicated Gel for Acne, $12,

Spot treatments to get rid of your latest pimple fast

Though the label on this product is mask, it also works great as a spot treatment if you just want to treat the one area. Fruit enzymes gently exfoliate, clay detoxifies and grape seed nourishes.

Consonant Skincare DHE Mask, $45,

Spot treatments to get rid of your latest pimple fast

Jojoba oil, turmeric seed oil and vitamin E combine to treat, soothe and restore skin's luminosity.

Province Apothecary Clear Advanced Spot Treatment, $28,

Spot treatments to get rid of your latest pimple fast

Simply dip a Q-tip into this magical stuff and apply to the spots on your face to watch them minimize overnight. The key? Don't shake the container and leave the sediment at the bottom.

Lierac Sébologie Imperfections Correction Localized Concentrate, $27,

Spot treatments to get rid of your latest pimple fast

This cult-favourite pick uses sulfur to heal blemishes and prevent future breakouts.

Kate Somerville EradiKate, $41,

Spot treatments to get rid of your latest pimple fast

This oil-absorbing formula combats breakouts with just a touch of product.

Mychelle Dermaceuticals Clear Skin Spot Treatment, $19,



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How to combat your adult acne breakouts