Let's Talk About: (Adult) Acne

Acne. Pimples. Zits. Spots. Blemishes. However you say it, it's not fun. But it's something we need to talk about. For me, acne was a big, frustrating part of my twenties. I expected acne as a teen but definitely not as I inched into my thirties. And something else surprised me too...my skin changed in my twenties. Suddenly the super strength drugstore zit zapper that I could use in my teens left behind dryness, flakiness...and acne. And as "anti-aging" started to creep into my vocabulary, I began to wonder how all this oil robbing would fare with wrinkles. Pimples and wrinkles in the same sentence? Yes. Welcome to adult acne.


To be honest, my multi-decade struggle with acne is probably where my love of trying new beauty products began in the first place. Because when you have acne, you will try ANYTHING that may make your skin look nicer. I can't tell you how many (thousands) of dollars I've spent over the years searching for the holy grail product that would just make the spots go away. Which brings me to my first big lesson learned...I wish I would have spent less time running through the skincare aisle and more time at the dermatologist. I don't know why, but I always resisted going to the dermatologist for my acne. For some reason, I felt like I needed to exhaust every over-the-counter option before going to the doc. Turns out, I probably would have saved myself a lot of time and money over the years had I just gone to see the dermatologist more regularly.

That said, I'm happy to report that my skin right now is probably the clearest it's been since I was a kid, and I've learned a heck of a lot along the way. So if you've gone to see a doctor, and if you take everything I say with a grain of salt (because I'm not a doctor), here are a few more tips I've picked up as I've learned to fight the spots.

Lesson #2: Know what makes your skin tick. You wouldn't eat a food over and over that upset your stomach, so why do the same to your skin? Take some time to understand what is in your skincare and how your skin reacts. For me, I've learned that my skin isn't the biggest fan of added fragrance. If I go fragrance-free, my skin stays happy. A few of my favorite treatments for acne are Paula's Choice RESIST BHA 9 and Glossier Super Pure. RESIST BHA 9 is a spot treatment (read: do not try to use it over your entire face) and it has a runny consistency. I usually pump a small amount on the back of my hand and then dab it over the areas of my face that need a little help. Super Pure is a serum and can be used over the entire face.

Lesson #3: Keep things clean. It may seem obvious, but bacteria is your enemy when it comes to acne. We all know to wash our face, but what about all the things that come in contact with our skin? Two of the things that make a big difference for me when it comes to acne are using an unused, clean washcloth every single time I wash my face and using Q-tips to scoop my skincare products out of jars instead of dipping my fingers in the little containers. I literally have a basket with a stack of washcloths near my sink and never use the same one twice before washing it. Just go buy a multipack from Target, and your skin will thank you.

Lesson #4: Resist the urge to overhaul your entire beauty routine all at once. This one is tough. Because when your skin acts up it is sooo hard to be patient. But using multiple new products at once makes it very difficult to understand which ones are working and which ones are not. Take a step back, try a gentle cleanser like Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, and then slowly incorporate more targeted products into your daily routine.

Lesson #5: Don't blame yourself. Probably the hardest rule of them all but also the most important! Acne can flare up as result of a whole lot of things out of your control. Take a deep breath. Be kind to your skin. And, when all else fails, grab some NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer and call it a day. 

This post contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own. I would never suggest a product that I wouldn't want to buy myself :)