Ah, to finally be a grown woman. You’re confident, you’re finding stable footing in your career, and you can stay up late and eat whatever you want for dinner. Best yet? You finally get to kiss teenage zits goodbye, until…record scratch: You’re greeted with open arms by adult-onset acne. (Oh, and taxes.)
The worst part is that it’s not the same as being a pimply teenager—adult acne involves things like diet, lifestyle factors, as well as hormones, which means it’s much more complicated to quash. As a personal sufferer (not to sound dramatic), I’ve tried everything from light therapy to upping my collagen intake—and nowadays, I swear by eating a dairy-free diet. But, it’s day-by-day and I’m still figuring out the end-all, be-all cure to keep it away for good.
In the name of research, I tapped a slew of wellness pros, such as nutritionists, dermatologists, and Ayurvedic experts, who all come from different schools of thought, to provide a 360-approach on fighting those unwelcome spots on your beautifully grown up face.
Keep reading for insider tips on the best ways to fight adult acne, once and for all.
Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist
“LED light therapy is great for hormonal acne because it helps heal breakouts while making the skin stronger.”
Gina Sam, MD, MPH, gut health expert
“A major cause of [adult acne] is stress, and I recommend yoga and meditation to reduce stress levels, and exercise to get the endorphins pumping. Foods high in sugar and fat also have a negative effect on our skin, as well as a variety of individual dietary triggers,” she says. “These intolerances are different for everyone. Personally, I’ve found that peanuts can be a trigger for acne, and many patients also struggle with breakouts from gluten- and wheat-based foods, white rice, and other foods with a high glycemic index.”
Bhushan Deodhar, CEO of the Ayurvedic brand Shankara
“According to Ayurveda, acne is a combination of excess heat (pitta) and toxins (ama) in the body. This includes emotional heat and toxins usually generated by disappointment, anger, resentment, and other stresses that have not been processed or ‘digested’ properly. Excess heat can also affect hormones. To support the skin while bringing back internal balance, I’d suggest naturally antibacterial and sebum-balancing treatment products as well as using a cleanser that is pH balanced to keep bacteria away.”
Stacy Goldberg, Savorfull nutritionist, MPH, RN, BSN
“Managing stress helps my acne, so I practice regular yoga and Pilates to help keep my mind and skin calm. I also go for regular facials to help prevent and manage breakouts,” she says. “Getting collagen peptides through your diet can also help maintain healthy skin. I limit my consumption of dairy and sugar as I see a clear connection to my skin and breakouts—there’s some evidence that suggests that diets containing high glycemic loads (AKA more sugar) may lead to acne.”
Anit Hora, Founder of Mullein & Sparrow
“To address adult acne, I believe in taking an Ayurvedic approach. In other words, you should address not only the surface issue, but also simultaneously treat any internal aggravating factors. Using facial cleansers and toners appropriate to your skin type can only go so far since the root cause almost always lays beneath the surface,” she tells me. “Eating a clean diet, by limiting dairy, alcohol, foods with high glycemic indexes, and the like, as well as taking hormone-balancing herbs such as Vitex (AKA chasteberry) can go a very long way in treating this issue.”
Kristina Goldenberg, MD, dermatologist at Goldenberg Dermatology in NYC
“Adult acne in women is often hormonal and must be treated according to severity. For mild acne, I recommend a retinoid cream, antibiotic lotion, and a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid,” she says. “For moderate or severe acne, I add oral medications to treat acne from the outside and inside simultaneously. It’s important to remember that consistency is key and nothing works overnight.”