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The Ultimate Skincare Routine For Adult Acne

The Ultimate Skincare Routine For Adult Acne

Adult acne might feel and look the same as teenage acne but when it comes to nailing an effective, breakout-busting skincare routine, it’s a whole different beast.

As if fine lines, wrinkles and all the other signs of skin aging weren’t enough to contend with, there’s also that crazy little thing called adult acne. Acne ‘should’ be something that you say farewell to as you come to the end of your adolescent years and your hormones settle into adulthood. But that’s not always the case. In fact, adult acne is on the increase and it’s estimated to affect more and more adults as they hit their 50s and older.

What Is Adult Acne?

Acne vlugaris, the proper name for the type of acne we’re dealing with here, is exactly the same at any age. It rears its head when your hair follicles and pores become blocked with excess oil and dead skin cells. Unlike regular teenage acne, however, the adult kind can be split into two different types: persistent acne and late- or adult-onset acne. Persistent acne continues from adolescence, never really giving you a break, whereas late-onset acne is the stuff that appears for the first time later on in life. Just when you thought you’d gotten away with it. Dang!

This all sounds pretty simple, but things get a little more complicated from here on in. How so? Because acne can take on many forms. If the plug bulges out above the surface of your skin it creates a whitehead, for example. If the plug opens up, it oxidizes with the air, turns dark and creates a blackhead. And if bacteria gets involved and infects the blockage? Then it becomes a full blown zit – a papule, pustule, nodule or cyst, if you will.

So, Why Do Some People Get Adult Acne While Others Don’t?

As a rule, acne is genetic, so if you’re predisposed, thanks to your parents, there’s not much you can do about that. What you can do, however, is to understand what’s triggering these breakouts later in life – hint: more often than not, it’s your hormones. During menopause, for example, your hormones are all over the place and if you’re sensitive to these triggers, this creates an imbalance that causes sebum production to go wild and your your skin to completely freak out.

Emotional stress and certain medications can also overstimulate your sebaceous glands, as can pore-blocking or harsh ingredients in your skincare regime.

On that note, here’s how to create a kick-ass skincare routine that cares for your adult skin (aka doesn’t dry it out!) and helps to balance oil production to keep breakouts to a minimum.

The Best Morning Skincare Routine For Adult Acne

1. Gently Cleanse Your Face

For some, a morning cleanse can seem a little OTT when all you’ve done is sleep since your last cleanse. Not so for you. Because your skin is oilier than most you’re going to want to gently remove any sebum that may have built up overnight. Also, your night cream might feel kind of heavy for daywear, so it’s good to start with a clean slate in the AM.

One word of warning: don’t fall into the trap of grabbing the most skin-stripping cleanser you can find. You can just about get away with that when you’re 13 – although it’s never ideal – but when your skin is more mature it’s going to need way more care. Choose something that will help replenish your barrier function, soothe and calm inflammation and cut out any risk of over-cleansing your skin. A product like our Soothing Cleansing Milk is great for morning use.

2. Balance Your Skin With Tea Tree Oil

As you know, we’re massive fans of face serums for targeting skin issues exactly where they’re needed, and when it comes to adult acne, our favorite topical ingredient is tea tree oil.

Unlike other acne-busting favorites like benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil is less drying and irritating on the skin which makes it a great choice for mature skin. But don’t think that means it’s any less effective because its antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties combine to give it true superpowers in the fight against bacteria and acne breakouts.

Try applying our Tea Tree Super Serum+  two or three times a week after cleansing and before moisturizing to help balance and calm your skin. We like to alternate it with Niacinamide (B3) Facial Serum which is another winner for regulating oil and reducing inflammation.

3. Lightly Moisturize

Moisturizing oily, acne-prone skin might seem counterintuitive but it’s actually crucial for keeping your barrier function healthy and keeping sebum under control. If you miss this step, your sebaceous glands will think your skin is dry and thus overcompensate with more oil.

Avoid thick creams that are jam-packed with heavy occlusives like cocoa butter, however – these will block your pores and cause no end of problems. Instead, stick with light gel or lotion formulas that incorporate hydrating ingredients like glycerin, aloe and hyaluronic acid. Our Firming Collagen Day Lotion is great for oily skin, plus it helps tackle the visible signs of aging at the same time. Result.

4. Apply Sunscreen

UV radiation will make acne (and any potential scarring) worse. Not to mention all the other dastardly deeds it gets up to as the sun beats down on your skin on a daily basis.

Wear sunscreen every day, without fail, and always choose a broad-spectrum formula with SPF 30 or above. And if you really can’t bear the thought of applying moisturizer AND sunscreen? Try our SPF 20 Mineral Sunscreen with Vitamin C. It’s packed with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients which are probably just right for your oily skin.

The Best Nighttime Skincare Routine For Adult Acne

1. Remove Makeup & Cleanse Your Face

Before bed is when a more thorough (but still not too full-on) cleanse comes into play. Your evening cleanse is way more important than the morning one because this is when your skin has been subjected to at least 15 hours worth of makeup, sunscreen, dirt, oil and pollution. And if you don’t whisk that away it can, and will, build up on your skin where it will combine with dead skin cells and sit in your pores waiting for the worst to happen.

We recommend our Charcoal Clarifying Cleanser or Tea Tree Super Cleanser+ which both work hard to whisk away debris from the surface of your skin while balancing, detoxifying and refreshing your complexion.

You should also exfoliate once or twice a week to gently boost cellular turnover and minimize any risk of dead skin cells hanging around for too long. Try our Vitamin C Gentle Face Scrub after cleansing.

2. Treat Your Skin With Retinol

Retinol might be the gold standard of aging treatments, but it’s also right up there in the fight against adult acne. A derivative of vitamin A, retinol helps to increase cell turnover. It’s a little bit like exfoliation, although it works in a very different way. Instead of removing dead skin cells at a surface level, retinol goes deeper into the skin and activates certain genes to accelerate cell turnover down below. It’s very clever and a great way to keep dead skin cells moving along so they don’t clog up your pores. This is music to the ears of mature, acne-prone skin – especially when you add in all the other age-defying benefits retinol brings to the table.

Just remember, retinol is very powerful, so start slowly by applying Retinol Facial Serum just once or twice a week to clean, dry skin. Then, as you build tolerance, you can build up to every night.

3. Hydrate & Moisturize

Allow your serum to sink in for a minute or two, then finish with moisturizer. Of course, you can double up with the same product you used in the morning, but you might find your skin needs a little more moisturization at night.

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Our fabulous Retinol Moisturizer is a great product to apply before bed as it combines retinol with hydrating hyaluronic acid, soothing vitamin E and plumping panthenol. If the combination of this and the retinol serum is too much for your skin, however, try our Longevity duo: Rejuvenating Longevity Serum followed by Renewing Longevity Moisturizing Cream. Both of these formulations are incredible for aging skin that gets a little, shall we say, problematic. They harness the powers of bakuchiol, which is nature’s kinder alternative to retinol.

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Georgia Gould

Georgia Gould

Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.