If you’re battling breakouts in your non-teenage years, then you’re not alone – studies indicate that up to 55% of 20 – 40 year olds suffer from adult acne. Caused by an overproduction of sebum mixing with skin cells and clogging hair follicles in the skin, there are frustratingly, myriad different triggers to blame. Read on for our breakdown of the different causes of adult acne and the treatments that will hit the spot.
What It Looks Like: Spots around the forehead and between eyebrows
The Cause: Certain foods, often dairy products or sugar
The Solution: Although specific triggers differ from person to person, Dr Dennis Gross, NYC-based dermatologist and founder of Dr Dennis Gross Skincare, recommends LED light-therapy – “it kills acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation to improve skin clarity. Results are often seen after just one treatment.” Look for products that contain salicylic acid too, which gently reduces inflammation and has a mild antibacterial effect, like Eve Lom’s bestselling Dynaspot.
What It Looks Like: Whiteheads and blackheads clustered in the T-zone
The Cause: Pollution and dirt building up to clog pores
The Solution: According to Dr Gary Goldfaden dermatologist and founder of Goldfaden MD, “exfoliation is the best way to ensure clean skin”. Try a gentle physical exfoliator like Goldfaden MD’s Doctor’s Scrub, which contains ultra-fine polishing crystals; or, if you prefer chemical exfoliation, Dr Dennis Gross’ bestselling Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel contains five potent yet non-irritating acids to sweep away pore-clogging debris.
What It Looks Like: Closed comedones and cystic acne on the chin, neck and back
The Cause: Fluctuations in your hormonal cycle – specifically, an increase in male hormones like testosterone
The Solution: Speak to your GP about hormonal birth control – oral contraceptives can be used to regulate the hormones that cause acne. Equally, Eve Lom’s Rescue Mask contains kaolin clay to pull out deep-seated impurities, while also calming stressed-out skin – perfect for treating breakouts at that time of the month.
What It Looks Like: Spots around the cheeks and mouth
The Cause: When stress levels are high, the body releases the hormones cortisol and testosterone, which can cause acne
The Solution: “Stress affects your oil chemistry – more sebum is secreted when you are stressed, which can plug up your oil glands,” says Dr Dennis Gross. With that in mind, switch to an oil-free moisturiser such as Dr Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion, and look for spot treatments with sulphur, which will “control the oil that feeds the bacteria” – we recommend Malin + Goetz 10% Sulfur Paste.
What It Looks Like: Red or blotchy skin prone to rashes and breakouts
The Cause: Harsh products which dry out the skin and cause it to over-produce sebum, as well as causing inflammation
The Solution: Strip back your routine and seek out skincare designed for sensitive skin. Dr Dennis Gross advises looking for products containing “bisabolol, an active ingredient derived from chamomile extract that helps soothe redness and reduce inflammation”. This sensitive skin saviour can be found in the ultra-soothing Ren Clean Skincare Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream. Pair with a gentle yet effective spot treatment like Sunday Riley’s U.F.O, which combines pore-clearing salicylic acid with a hydrating oil base.