Disappointed you didn’t leave blemishes behind in high school — along with math exams and spin the bottle? You’re not alone. In a recent U.K.-based study of nearly 800 people over 24, more than 50 percent of adult women had breakouts. So what’s different about adult acne? For one thing, it tends to pop up primarily along your chin and jaw area instead of in the teenage T-zone. And as women age, blemishes almost always appear before or during the menstrual cycle. Acne is also common during pregnancy and menopause. “It’s a very hormonal form of acne that is often indirectly linked to increased levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol,” says dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki in Toronto. If you already have acne, stress may make it worse. For some, it’s the fluctuation of testosterone and estrogen that can lead to breakouts.
When it comes to tackling adult acne, the dilemma is how to control breakouts and still manage the needs of aging skin. Interestingly enough, many conditions are common to both, says Loulwa Rahbani, training manager for SkinCeuticals. “Impaired shedding of dead skin cells, inflammation and uneven tone are results of either skin aging or acne.” As we age, skin typically becomes more dehydrated, so it’s top priority to choose products that don’t strip your skin and aren’t overly drying. A good topical routine is a must and should combine cleansing and exfoliating to avoid pore congestion and promote cell renewal. The latest products use those same blemish-busting ingredients that work on an oilier (teenage) complexion — like salicylic acid, retinol and benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients are also common in the anti-aging world, combatting issues like hyper-pigmentation and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The key to fighting acne is to find formulations your skin can tolerate, and that might mean a quick trip to the dermatologist.
Five of the best blemish busters
1. Olay Professional Pro-X Clear acne regime, $50. This three-step system uses skin-sloughing salicylic acid in its cleanser, clearing treatment and renewing lotion.
2. Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense treatment, $90. This lightweight serum contains five acids and the highest level of active ingredients possible without a prescription.
3. Bioré Blemish Fighting Ice cleanser, $10. Bioré has perfected the cleansers with this complexion clearer that contains soothing botanical extracts.
4. Neutrogena Rapid Clear Spot Gel for Acne-Prone Skin, $11. Dab on this salicylic acid treatment to clear pores of excess oil and dirt.
5. Avène Triacnéal cream, $31. Infused with thermal spring water, which reduces inflammation, and glycolic acid, this gentle cream calms and renews.