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Adult acne: What you need to know and how to tackle it 

With constant mask-wearing and hormones on an overdrive, Adult Acne is a problem most Indian women are dealing with today. Just when you thought that pimples and acne only belong to early teens, you are smothered with breakouts in your late 30s and early 40s. It’s not as uncommon as you think – Adult Acne is, unfortunately, real and quite troublesome if you don’t treat it right.

“Acne in adulthood can ruin confidence and can have a major impact on self-worth – we are after all, a mirror of our own health,” explains Angela Taylor, Global Expert at Dermalogica. Knowing what is causing this upheaval and tackling it right is the key to keeping your skin fuss-free and happy as you age. “Adult acne is something that we have been hearing about a lot of lately. Initially people used to think that acne was a teenage problem, but it isn’t. You do not grow out of acne like you grow out of your teenage years. If you have acne prone skin there are chances that it may remain. The most important thing for you to find out when you have adult acne is why you have it,” explains Dr. Mikki Singh, a well-known dermatologist at Bodycraft Clinic, Bangalore. 

ALSO READ: All you need to know about Maskne – the new kind of acne on the block

All you need to know about Adult Acne

What really causes breakouts?

There are multiple reasons for it. Here are a few:

  1. Clogged pores: The reason is simple, your pores hold your sebaceous glands that secrete sebum. And that sebu keeps your skin protected. And if the pore gets clogged by dirt and grime, you get a pimple. 
  2. Hormonal fluctuations: Your hormones can cause breakouts, it’s all interlinked, your menstrual cycle can be a factor. And with hormone-related acne, it can happen during the time you get your period, during or after pregnancy, around your menopause time or when you start or stop using birth control. “Also check for pms-related acne, which could be a sign of estrogen dominance in women. We also must always check for PCOD/PCOS because acne as an adult is always a sign of something imbalanced, be it diet, lifestyle, skincare or stress,” adds Dr. Kiran Lohia of Isyaderm. 
  3. Stress: Stress also causes acne. “Skin concerns can also be emotional. Chronic stress can cause your skin to behave differently,” explains Angela Taylor, Global Beauty Head, Dermalogica. When you’re stressed, your adrenal gland releases cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. So when you have stress, cortisol works overtime and it can cause breakouts. 
  4. Pollution:It’s a well-known fact that pollution can cause acne too – from your environment to UV radiation to just dust and grime. This leads to clogged pores and hence another bout of adult acne. 
  5. Exposure to the sun: UV exposure can increase your risk for skin cancer. It also causes aging and fine lines. Too much exposure to the sun even causes pigmentation in brown skin, inflammation,  fine lines and dark spots. 
  6. Using the wrong products can also cause breakouts. Wrong ingredients and over-exfoliation can cause sensitivity and make your skin more vulnerable to breakouts. 
  7. Your diet: Your diet can play a huge role too. Fried food, chocolates, excessive caffeine, diary consumption, refined foods and sugar are the biggest factors that can cause breakouts if you are not careful. 
  8. Masks: Now, with masks being the new normal, sweat and heat together can create acne breakouts in and around your mouth and cheeks. 

Here are a few ways one can fight adult acne –

Develop a good skincare routine

“A good cleansing routine, a double-cleansing routine can help. Keep your skincare consistent and never use a stripping cleanser” advises Taylor of Dermalogica. A right routine is a matter of practice and knowing your skin type and conditions very well. The basic routine? Use the right cleanser and moisturiser to make sure that your pores are not blocked. Maybe using a good glycolic acid or salicylic acid based cleanser would be ideal. And using a moisturiser or a sunblock that is non-comedogenic” adds Dr. Mikki Singh of Bodycraft Clinic, Bangalore. 

Invest in products that have acne-fighting ingredients

They can be spot treatments (pimple patches) or ones that contain ingredients like Salicylic acid that help fight acne. Salicylic acid unclogs your oily pores and helps exfoliate. Glycolic acid is another gem, it’s an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that controls acne. Alongside this, add in Lactic acid, that is gentler than the others and gives you a clean, exfoliated face to begin with. Benzoyl peroxide is widely used and is popular and known for tackling acne bacteria while exfoliating the pores – but consult a dermatologist for best results because this can be heavy on sensitive skin. Azelaic acid is another interesting ingredient, it treats rosacea by decreasing the swelling and redness of the skin. Topical retinoids, on the other hand, can also help fight acne. 

Exfoliate regularly

Exfoliation is important to consider when you have acne and it’s essential to do so regularly. Use AHAs/BHAs and products with Salicylic acid regularly to  keep your pores clear and happy. “Never over-exfoliate and try to integrate them gently into your routine. Never use them if you are on medication,” advises Taylor of Dermalogica. 

Look for calming ingredients

Acne-prone skin needs good care. So look for soothing ingredients when looking for the right products – colloidal oatmeal, aloe, or centella asiatica are great for calming your skin down. 

Eat well, stay healthy

“Adult onset acne affects over 30% of the population. To deal with it, we have to change our lifestyle. Cut out dairy, gluten, reduce sugar, and avoid highly processed foods,” explains Dr.Lohia of Isyaderm. 

“Apart from this, if the acne still persists, then you must visit your dermatologist. Intrinsic causes of acne are primarily hormonal especially in women, if you have acne which is concentrated more around your jawline, all the more reason to understand that the reason behind it could be hormonal. You have to see a dermatologist and your gynaecologist to figure out if your periods are regular. You may have to take a few hormonal tests and even a scan to rule out PCOD,” adds Dr. Mikki Singh. “The best way to treat PCOD or to keep it under control would be with exercise and have a healthy diet. A good exercise routine and a healthy diet goes a long way in keeping your hormones in check, thereby preventing acne,” she adds. 

Here are 7 products on our radar that are great to combat adult-acne –

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Clarifying Lotion, Rs  2,350

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Clarifying Lotion

It’s liquid exfoliator that is known to tackle oil and shine while making sure skin is mattified. It also helps unclog pores with salicylic acid.

Buy Here

O3+ Beta Hydroxy 5% Acne Wash Cleansing Gel, Rs 2,800

The product contains Beta Hydroxy  in 5 % so it can penetrate into the pores while exfoliating the skin surface. It also helps in fading acne while improving skin texture drastically.

Buy Here

Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Blemish Cleanser Treatment, Rs 2,200

The foaming cleanser is perfect for the women-on-the-go as it helps remove traces of dirt and oil while makes sure skin is clear and even – it makes sure the appearance of blemishes is vastly reduced.

Buy Here

Dermalogica Age Bright Clearing Serum, Rs 4,700

The star product in it’s own right, the brightening and clearing serum is perfect for mature skin because it can clear acne while providing anti-aging benefits. Contains niacin amide and salicylic acid – both used to brighten and to exfoliate while hydrating skin.

Buy Here

COSRX AC Collection Ultimate Spot Cream, Rs 1,690

This one stands tall among spot treatments for its efficacy and strength. It soothes and reduce blemishes while eliminating breakouts.

Buy Here

Dr.Sheths Neem and BHA Spot Clarifying Serum, Rs 750

Perfect for clogged pores and blackheads, the serum comes with 2% Salicylic acid and anti-bacterial Neem oil, both excellent for those battling acne.

Buy Here

The Skin Pantry Face wash Smoothie Charcoal For Acne Prone Skin, Rs 1,350

This unique formulation is a blend of activated charcoal, minerals, apricot, rosemary and tea tree in pure aloe vera base which not only help in cleansing the skin beautifully but help balance the natural oils.

Buy Here

Adult acne: What you need to know and how to tackle it 

Latha Sunadh

Deputy Editor

When she's not trying on a new serum, researching on yet another classic fragrance and sharing lip balms with her 5-year old daughter, Latha Sunadh keeps it reined in with a nice song and a good book. Special skills include obsessing over handmade, home-made and handcrafted luxuries.


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