Adult Acne Treatment Made Easy

Adult acne can be triggered by a number of factors, including an influx of hormones, stress, fatigue, medication and genetics. But let’s be honest, we don’t really care what the triggers are. Adult acne is a bitch, and one that we’d all like to get rid of forever.

That said, getting clear skin doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it have to include an expensive skin care regimen. In fact, adult acne treatment is quite simple if you follow these easy steps.

1. Stop Touching Your Face

How many times a day do you touch your face (including resting your chin or cheeks on the back of your hands)? If you’re anything like us, it’s a lot. Now consider how often you handle money, turn a door knob, wipe a snotty nose or butt, hug your child after school, respond to a text message, etc. Bacteria, viruses and allergens are everywhere and they easily transfer from our fingertips onto the skin. And if you’re prone to acne, touching your face can trigger outbreaks. So, stop touching your face.

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Furthermore, don’t pick at blemishes or pop your zits. In most cases, pimples are best left alone. By continuing to touch your skin, the oils from your hands will clog your pores, spreading bacteria and cause further acne break outs.

2. Stay Hydrated

We all know that drinking plenty of water benefits your body in variety of ways, one of which is healthy skin. And while drinking more water is not necessarily the cure to acne problems, it’s a good start towards fighting breakouts.

Our bodies are roughly 70% water, much of which circulates throughout our body in the form of blood, lymph, mucus, etc. These fluids serve two primary purposes:

  • Carry nutrients and vitamins to our organs
  • Flush out toxins and waste products.

As such, skin cells require water to function properly. By not drinking enough water to meet our body’s demands; the toxins, bodily waste and bacteria that should be flushed out of our system with proper hydration becomes trapped within our skin increasing the likelihood of acne. Furthermore, dehydration can cause skin damage, accelerated aging, and an inability to heal properly or scarring.

While you can always add a hydration serum to your skin care regimen, drinking water is key. Hydrated skin equals happy, blemish-free skin. So, we say drink more water!

3. Watch What You Eat

In addition to drinking plenty of water, researchers have long believed that what you eat and drink can affect the clarity of your skin.

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If you’re struggling with adult acne, the first thing worth exploring is how much sugar is in your diet. While eating an occasional cookie probably won’t turn into a pimple, regular consumption of sugar can spike your blood sugar levels, which could easily cause a breakout. If you suspect sugar could be your problem, try cutting out that afternoon soda or evening dessert.

Cow’s milk

A recent study found an association between cow’s milk and acne, specifically low-fat or skim milk. Scientists theorize that cow’s milk spikes blood sugar, which can increase inflammation and lead to pimples. Cow’s milk also increases insulin levels, which encourages the production of skin oils or sebum. Typically, milk purchased from most grocery stores comes from pregnant cows, and thus contains other hormones that can trigger the production of sebum. Dairy cows are often injected with growth hormones that can encourage the overgrowth of skin cells, potentially blocking pores.

A pregnant cow’s hormones mixed with our already hormonal bodies can create quite the playground for acne. Therefore, if you’re having trouble with adult acne, you may want to consider eliminating dairy from your diet or switching to full-fat, organic milk.

4. Wash Your Face

Washing your face seems pretty straightforward, right? Splash some water on your face, rub on a little cleanser, and rinse. However, we’ve found that simply washing your face twice a day isn’t enough. How you wash your face, what products you use, and the temperature of the water can make a huge difference in the treatment of adult acne.

Wash twice a day

For most adults, washing once in the morning and once at night is sufficient, with the exception of after workouts and excessive sweating. Washing your face any more than twice a day to remove germs is not necessary, unless you are prone to skin infections. Over-washing your face can not only lead to dry, irritated skin, but it can actually lead to your skin producing too much oil. Therefore, if you didn’t wear makeup, work up a sweat, or use heavy sunscreen, only wash your face twice a day.

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Always wash your face at night

We already said that you should wash your face twice a day, but washing your face at night is a rule you should never break when it comes to caring for your skin, even if you don’t wear makeup. During the day, we’re exposed to dirt and pollution that build up on the outer layer of our skin. In addition, natural oils and sweat accumulate on the skin during the day that need to be removed. Going to bed before removing all this dirt and gunk is a fast way for your skin to be irritated, inflamed and broken out by morning.

Remove your makeup first

Before washing your face at night though, be sure to remove your makeup first. Your face wash was never meant to be a makeup remover. In fact, most facial cleansers won’t thoroughly remove makeup products that include ingredients that allow your makeup to be “smudgeproof” or “waterproof.” Therefore, before washing your face, be sure to use a gentle makeup removing wipe or coconut oil to remove your makeup.

On that note, you cannot only use a makeup wipe to cleanse your face. Although these wipes do a wonderful job of removing makeup and dirt, they also leave behind a residue. While we do recommend using a makeup removal wipe to remove your makeup, you should always rinse away residue, residual oils and bacteria with a gentle cleanser.

Turn down the heat

If you’re like us, you often “kill two birds with one stone” by washing your face while in the shower. Unfortunately, the steaming hot shower that most of us prefer is horrible for our skin. The extreme heat of a shower can cause dilation of blood vessels and breakage of delicate tissue according to Dr. Joshua Zeichner. The hot water strips healthy natural oils from your skin which causes our skin to dry out faster, and become more itchy and flaky over time. Either wash your face before taking a shower, or turn down the temperature (lukewarm) before putting your face in the water.

Use a clean towel every time

Rather than reuse the same washcloth over and over again, invest in a cheap set of basic white (or whatever color you choose) white washcloths to avoid spreading more bacteria and mold to your face.

On a similar note, don’t reuse the same towel to dry your face over and over again, especially if you’ve just used it dry your body. This too will spread bacteria from your body to your face. Yuck!

Exfoliate 1 or 2 times a Week Max

Exfoliating helps to remove dead cells that accumulate on the surface of the skin to improve your skin’s natural glow, however, over-scrubbing can lead to microscopic tears in the outer skin layer leading to inflammation and irritation. Therefore, don’t exfoliate more than once or twice a week to avoid further cause for acne.

5. Regularly Change Your Pillowcase

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Even when you wash your face before bed, bacteria from your saliva, dirt and oils from your hair are easily transferred to your face and eyes as you toss and turn during the night. When your pillowcase isn’t washed or changed regularly, a build-up of dirt and oil from the environment as well as your skin and hair touching the pillow is transferred back to your skin, which can clog pores and cause an outbreak. Therefore, it’s necessary to wash your pillow cases even more frequently than you might wash your sheets. In fact, we suggest changing out your pillow cases every day to avoid acne breakouts.

6. Look for Acne-Fighting Ingredients

There are plenty of over-the-counter acne products to choose from, but figuring out what product to use for your specific set of circumstances amongst the overwhelming number of options can be a challenge.

Benzoil peroxide

Benzoil peroxide kills bacteria, removes excess oil, and exfoliates dead skin cells, and it is widely known to be the most effective over-the-counter ingredient for treating acne. You can typically find benzoil peroxide in strengths ranging from 2.5% up to 10% in acne-fighting facial cleansers, lotions, creams, gels and spot treatments.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is an effective and powerful exfoliant that helps keep pores clear by exfoliating inside the hair follicle. You’ll typically see 2% salicylic acid listed as one of the active ingredients in many acne treatments.


Sulfur is known to decrease excess oil and inflammation, and help exfoliate dead skin cells. Not only is it great for adults suffering with acne, but can also be used to treat rosacea and eczema. Unfortunately, sulfur smells like rotten eggs, so it’s often paired with other ingredients.

Tea-tree Oil

Tea-tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that naturally help calm acne in much the same way as benzoil peroxide. While much more natural, it can be too harsh for people with sensitive skin.

Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide is a mineral, best known for its use in diaper creams. However, when it is combined with other powerful acne fighting ingredients such as sulfur, it can a very effective adult acne treatment. Not only does zinc oxide help calm inflammation; it also helps soothe redness, decrease the size of breakouts (including pimples and cystic acne), and dry out oil production.

While you can purchase specific acne-related products with zinc oxide, you can also use diaper rash cream if you have it available.

7. Sanitize Your Phone

As a general rule of thumb, you should regularly wash anything that comes into contact with your face, including your hands, your hair and your phone. We wouldn’t willingly wipe our face on a toilet seat, gas pump or grocery cart, but we do just that with our phones and then put it up to our face. YUCK! Unlike our hands, we can’t simply wash away all those germs and bacteria from our phone. However, Phone Soap allows you to sanitize your phone.

Phone Soap 3.0 uses dual UV-C lamps to produce a very specific wavelength of light to kill disease-causing bacteria. After a 5 minute sanitation cycle, you can feel confident knowing that your phone is completely germ free. PhoneSoap 3.0 even kills “SuperBugs” that have developed resistance to the chemicals and antibiotics that used to be effective.

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Use Phone Soap during the day or charge your phone overnight while using the the universal charging port for any iPhone or Android device as part of your adult acne treatment.

If any of these approaches don’t work, you may want to check in with your dermatologist. Some forms of acne, such as cystic acne, are incredibly difficult to treat and can take months to resolve.

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For more natural ways to treat adult acne, check out 4 Simple Ingredients to Fight Acne.

Photo Credits: Ashley Sisk and Sara Luke Creative

Sources: US Library of National Medicine, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, SELF and Everyday Health




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Ashley Sisk
Ashley Sisk
Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids and Kitty Paw. She’s a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time trying to get through elementary school with her daughter, chasing her firefighter loving little boy, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.