I’ve struggled off and on with acne since my teenage years, and I can tell you that the solution isn’t quick or easy. Any website, blog post, or product touting that they have the absolute cure for your skin condition isn’t telling the truth.
Because the real truth is that it’s complicated.
I’m no expert, but I’ve done a ton of personal research and for most women who suffer with adult acne, the root cause is hormonal. The was particularly true for me because I saw it ramp up during my first pregnancy and explode in the days immediately following my child’s birth. I haven’t necessarily seen any consistent patterns on a monthly basis (ie, premenstrual breakouts and such) but I saw enough correlation between my complexion and periods of pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing transitions to know that there was a hormonal component.
Since finally realizing that the solution to the problem was more complex than simply finding the right face wash, for the past three years I’ve been on a mission to figure out how to eliminate my adult acne. I’ve tried everything from the oil cleansing method (disastrous), to dietary changes and supplements (helpful), to essential oils (no comment), to working with a naturopathic dermatologist for over a year (also helpful).
As you wage your own war on adult acne, I thought I’d share what I learned. Hopefully you’ll find a solution that works for you, too! (Amazon links are affiliate links.)
Stabilize Blood Sugar – Here’s the quick version from a non-medical person. When your blood sugars spike, your body releases insulin. The release of insulin also triggers the release of other hormones in response, which may cause acne. Many people have found relief from acne by adopting a blood-sugar-stabilizing diet. For me this meant no sugar, no fruit, no bread, and no pasta. It sounds harder than it was – I was so desperate to fix my skin that it wasn’t even painful to stay on track.
Eliminate Dairy – There is some evidence that dairy may cause acne in some people and need to be avoided. My naturopathic dermatologist had me do the following test to determine if this was the case for me:
- Completely cut out dairy for 2 weeks.
- After two weeks, eat 3 servings of dairy per day for 3 consecutive days.
- If I noticed a pronounced difference in my skin, it meant I needed to eliminate dairy as an acne trigger.
Thankfully, dairy was not my issue. Bring on the cheese!
Dietary Supplement – My naturopath recommended this supplement to help metabolize excess hormones. I was absolutely amazed at the difference. But when I ran out, yours truly (always looking for ways to save money) opted to try a cheaper brand even though she expressly recommended against it. Mistake made, lesson learned. Get the good stuff. The cheap stuff doesn’t work the same.
Exercise – I’ve found that when I exercise, things clear up. I’m assuming this is because my body is better able to metabolize either sugar or hormones, but I’m not a medical expert. Clearly.
Clarisonic – I resisted getting a clarisonic for years, but once I got one I couldn’t imagine washing my face any other way. There are many different models of the clarisonic, but I find the basic Mia does the trick. You can also buy replacement heads that are specifically for acne-prone skin, along with clarisonic acne wash. They definitely work well, but if I’m being totally honest now I just use Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (the same stuff I used when I was a teenager) in conjunction with my clarisonic. It’s effective yet creamy and non-drying.
If you choose an acne wash, products with salicylic acid tend to work great. But skip products with benzoyl peroxide – they bleach your clothes and towels.
Toner – I’ve kind of always figured that a toner was an extra unnecessary step. I found that using one consistently day and night has really helped my skin. I’ve been really happy with this one and apply it with basic cotton squares.
Moisturizer – Don’t skip the moisturizer because you’re afraid it will make you break out. In fact, if you’ve been choosing ones for “oily” skin, consider switching to products for dry or normal skin. Often dry skin can be disguised as oily since it over-produces oil in order to combat what is actually dryness. I love this one, which also has sunscreen.
Sunscreen – This isn’t necessarily an acne tip, but just all-around good sense. You need to protect your skin from the sun! On normal days, I just use my moisturizer. But on days when I’m planning to be in full sun, this one works great under makeup and I haven’t found that it causes me to break out.
In full disclosure, after a 3-year fight that brought improved – but never completely clear – skin, I threw up my hands and did go on medication. But I’m continuing with the regimens above – because even medication is not magical. It works in conjunction with all the other things that you do to improve your skin.
Though it looks harsh and awful, acne-prone skin actually needs gentle care; these are the mild solutions that have worked for me. So here’s my advice to you: Try what you can, but don’t buy into the lie that there’s a quick and easy solution that will work miracles across the board. And often, the solution is much more simple and gentle than you’re led to believe.
I know you can see improved skin, but it’s just about finding the combination that works best for you!
Have you struggled with adult acne? What have you found to help?