9 Tips for Treating Adult Acne

If you’re over the age of 18, getting acne breakouts can be baffling. “The biggest mistake people make is thinking that adult acne doesn’t exist. It absolutely does, and it’s on the rise,” says Kavita Mariwalla, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, SUNY at Stony Brook, “Patients come in sort of exasperated. They say, Wasn’t I supposed to outgrow this when I was a teenager? If you’re in your 30’s or 40’s and you get breakouts, you’re not alone. It’s so common.”

If you’re one of the millions of adults who suffer from occasional breakouts, check out Dr. Mariwalla’s tips for treating adult acne:

1. Develop a skincare routine that includes acne treatment.

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“One thing people do is they don’t follow a regimen until they get a breakout, and then they start piling on all kinds of stuff to make the spot go away as soon as possible and they end up doing all kinds of home remedies and on-the-spot treatments and it ends up blowing up their skincare. It makes the skin really dry.”
– Dr. Mariwalla

2. When you do get a breakout, don’t overdo it with the spot treatments.

“For individual spots you can use on-the-spot treatments, but I do caution people: Don’t use it five times a day, because what happens is, your zit goes away but then you have a big dry patch around it. I like some of the creams that are out there. I’m a big fan of the BB creams because they do actually improve acne-prone skin.”
– Dr. Mariwalla

3. Use a cleanser at least once a day, every day.

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“Get into a routine. I think you should use cleanser in the mornings. If you’re prone to breakouts, use a cleanser that has some salicylic acid in it, like a Neutrogena cleanser.”
– Dr. Mariwalla

4. Find the right moisturizer for your skin type.

“If you have oily skin and you need a moisturizer, there’s actually some really nice new moisturizers on the market that help control that. There’s one by Cetaphil, a very well-regarded brand, called Oil Control Moisturizer by Dermacontrol, which really does help keep everything really nice and matte. If you still feel like your skin is really oily, instead of going for moisturizing cream, go for moisturizing gel.”
– Dr. Mariwalla

5. Invest in an acne brush.

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“The bristle motion – you don’t want to scrub your face, but that sort of massaging, washing technique has been shown to improve acne for sure. They also improve general circulation. Clearasonic has some great, inexpensive tools. Oil of Olay makes some that are really great. Even a generic Rite Aid brand that are $29.99 to $39.99 would help.”
– Dr. Mariwalla
6. Take your makeup off before bed.

“I think that when you get older, you have to take your makeup off before you go to bed at night. When you’re young your skin can tolerate it, but by your mid-30’s you have to do something to get that makeup off.”
– Dr. Mariwalla

7. Reevaluate your makeup.

“The makeup you use should depend on your skin type. You definitely want to use makeup that is non-comedogenic. Comedogenic makeup causes acne.”
– Dr. Mariwalla

8. Before using a new product that claims to be oil-free, perform a DIY test to make sure it’s actually oil-free.


“Sometimes a product that claims to be oil-free actually still has oil in it. I tell people to get a good piece of stationery and add a dab of their foundation or the “oil-free moisturizer”, then leave it overnight and come back to it the next day. If you see a ring around that spot when you hold it up to the light, that’s the oil that separated from the makeup, and then you can see if it’s truly oil-free.”
– Dr. Mariwalla

9. Listen to your body.

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“If you know what stressors cause your individual breakouts or you know, okay, around this time of month this starts happening, then during that time period you can use things that are a little stronger and try to do stuff like acne washes or even the benzoyl peroxide cleansing pad.”
– Dr. Mariwalla