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Adult acne?! What fresh hell is this?!

There is a common misconception that acne only affects teenagers. In actual fact, alongside ageing, it's probably the most common skin problem my clients come to me for help with. As someone who suffers with adult acne myself, it's definitely a subject I feel very passionately about and have a personal connection with.

The first thing most of my clients say is "But I'm in my 20s/30s surely I shouldn't be getting acne at this age? What's wrong with my skin?!"

I feel you!! You would assume that by the time you reach your mid 20's your skin 'should' of settled down by now! However, there is a difference between teenage acne and adult acne so the aim of this blog is help you understand why your skin may be breaking out and the things you can do help control it.


Ok, so lets start off with what adult acne actually is and how to recognise it. Acne can occur at any point in our lives and is primarily triggered by hormones. The biggest contributing factor to adult acne is chronic stress, women are twice as likely to suffer from chronic stress and anxiety than men. This is thought to be due to the additional responsibilities and pressures on women to maintain a healthy work/life balance in the modern age.

Did you know that stress causes a hormonal imbalance?! When we are stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol sends our sebaceous glands (oil producing glands) in to overdrive and it slows down cell turnover, this creates the perfect conditions for acne breakouts.

Other factors that are linked to acne are

  • Polluted environment - UV rays can stimulate oil production and aggravate breakouts. People who work in conditions of high heat & humidity can also find their skin breaks out more.

  • Lifestyle habits - smoking, excess alcohol and the wrong skincare routine can affect the skin.

  • Diet - diets containing high amounts of sugar and refined foods can trigger a higher production of oil in the skin leading to breakouts and blackheads. It has also been widely reported that dairy can contribute to acne breakouts.

The causes of teenage acne and adult acne are different, therefore we need to approach and treat both conditions in a slightly different way. Checkout this table below which explains the differences!



When it comes to treating skin problems, my first point of call is to try and identify the causes and aim to solve these first and foremost. As we have just talked about, acne is the visible symptom of perhaps a deeper underlying problem.


If you feel stress is the most likely cause of your acne, I would recommend looking at ways to reduce this by incorporating some self care in to your daily routine. Self care is so important for our mental wellbeing and comes in lots of different forms. You could try some of the following

  • Limit social media scrolling

  • Do your favourite exercise class

  • Go for a walk in nature

  • Read a book

  • Put on your favourite song and dance like nobodies watching!

  • Have a bath and do your skin care routine

  • Switch your phone off an hour before bed and switch it back on the following morning


Of course there are lots of other things you can do, but the point is to set time aside just for YOU. No work, no kids, no husband/wife. Just you doing something you enjoy.


As someone who suffers with adult acne, I know first hand how it can affect your confidence, which can lead to increased stress levels which, as we now know, stress can increase your breakouts! Argh! Its like one big vicious circle! So while we are working on solving the underlying causes, how can we visibly reduce the appearance of acne so we feel more confidant in our own skin.


Its important we understand the right ingredients in our skincare products as sometimes, using the wrong product can exacerbate the problem rather than fix it.

Every bodies skin is different, and what works for one may not work for another so its very important to get professional advise on a skincare routine designed especially for you.

Quite often, when we suffer with a breakout, the first thing we think is to use the strongest acid based product we can find to blast it and kill it. This is actually the wrong approach. Acne can quite often present itself as being very red and inflamed. Using a product that is very strong can aggravate the skin and cause even more sensitivity.

Its very important to get the right balance of calming, anti inflammatory ingredients combined with ingredients to control excess oil production and anti bacterial.

Good ingredients to look out for are

  • Niacinamide

  • Horse chestnut extract

  • Salicylic acid

  • Tea tree oil

  • Green tea

  • Oat extract

amongst many others.


Ingredients to avoid are

  • Coconut oil

  • Lanolin

  • Cocoa butter

  • Fragrance

  • Isopropyl myristate

Dermalogica have developed an entire range of products designed specifically to treat adult acne. Watch the video below to understand the difference between the Active Clearing line and their teen line Clear Start.


There are some in salon skin treatments that can be very effective when used in conjunction with a home care regimen. Chemical peels have been proven to be extremely effective at clearing acne breakouts. At the salon, I offer the Dermalogica Pro Power Peel and I have seen some brilliant results with this treatment. You can find more information about Pro Power Peel on my previous blog 'New Face, Who Dis?' please feel free to have a read of that one!


In addition to Pro Power Peel, I highly recommend the LED light therapy treatment. This harnesses the power of different wavelengths of led light (first developed by NASA for astronauts to heal wounds faster while in space!) to help heal the skin and increase cell generation. It is non invasive and can be combined with any aesthetic skin treatment to enhance results or it can be enjoyed as stand alone treatment. To treat acne, we use blue led light which kills acne causing bacteria while calming and healing the skin.

As a Dermalogica Expert, I have received extensive training in treating acne and how to prescribe the best possible skin care routine. If you would like any advice on your skin or are not sure which products to use, please get in touch and I can arrange a complimentary Face Mapping and produce a personalised skincare plan especially for you!

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