Struggling With Twenty-Something Acne? 6 Things You May Be Doing Wrong

Adult acne is thee worst. You spent your formative years suffering the indignities of not being able to drive, wearing braces, and having zits. How is it possible that you can now legally buy beer but have blemishes? Or even more egregious, simultaneously have whiteheads and wrinkles? Learn what you’re doing wrong so you can learn how to prevent acne.

The good and bad news is that adult acne is extremely common. Even though it’s tragic, at least you don’t have to suffer alone. Beverly Hills-based Dermatologist Michael Lin, MD explains that “adult acne tends to occur more in late 20s to 30 year old women and is caused by more internal and hormonal factors vs. external factors like hyperactive sebaceous glands and clogged pores.” Hyperactive sebaceous glands are a fancy (and medical) term for overachieving oil glands.

If you’re in your early 20s and being hit by the zit fairy, it may be adolescent acne (it’s just a term...we know you’re not actually an adolescent). This, as Dr. Lin described, is caused more by external factors. A sign that you are experiencing adult acne is the location it occurs. Often zits are concentrated along the chin and jawline. Hey! One bonus of growing up, no more Rudolph zits on the tip of the nose! Just a nice chin strap.

Whichever type is plaguing you, here are six things you may be doing wrong that are adding to your blemish woes.

1. You use the wrong cleanser

Just because you love gardenias and glitter doesn’t mean you need them in your face wash. Search for a gentle, 2% salicylic acid cleanser and use it religiously morning and night.

Retseliney Best Acne Face Wash & Oil Control with 2% Salicylic Acid , $19.99, Amazon.com

2. Your moisturizers and makeup are adding to your acne

After you get your canvas clean, make sure to take the next right step! Check that your products (including SPF, night cream, and foundation) are oil-free and non-acnegenic. Why clog the pores you just cleansed?

EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 for acne-prone complexions , $22, Amazon.com

EltaMD PM Therapy Moisturizer, $23.47, Amazon.com

3. Your shampoo and conditioner are your secret enemies

Remember to rinse that head off! When rich, creamy conditioner remains in your hair it nestles in on your face all day and night, clogging up your pores and causing you zit trauma.

4. You’re not treating existing acne properly

You have a toothpaste home remedy you swear by. You pray to the Acne gods. But really, you just need to follow this little thing called The Consensus Treatment Guidelines for Acne in the Journal of Pediatrics May 2013. The verdict? It recommends using 2.5% benzoyl preoxide to treat acne. Dr. Lin shares that the “ingredient works by killing acne causing bacteria to shrink a breakout, fast.” Fast is good.

Claror Acne Treatment, 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Gel , $24.97, Amazon.com

5. You’re causing your acne

How is that even possible? It’s not your fault...well, if you’re washing your face. If you're not, it sort of is. But that’s okay because now you know to wash your face after every workout. Stash a travel size face wash in your gym bag so you don’t use that heinous body wash in the gym showers. You'll remember to take the makeup off your face every night. Just do it. Oh, and you'll wash your pillow cases often, too. Think of all the hair products, face creams, and sweat that collect on your pillow cases. Ew. Shoot for once a week minimum. And sometimes, even when you do everything right, your acne is genetic. But there are solutions for that, too!

6. You don’t get professional help

And we’re not talking therapy, although having the biggest zit ever often feels like the end of the world. When should you break down and get help? According to Dr. Lin, “if healthy lifestyle adjustments and over-the-counter solutions are not effective in preventing adult acne after a 1-2 month period, seeing a dermatologist is the best next step to get a diagnosis."

The interesting (terrifying?) fact is that some women can experience acne into their 60s. Your hormones cause the problems, so when those hormones relax, facial serenity reigns. Who knew you might one day be grateful for menopause? Annoyingly, most men don’t seem to experience acne past their 40s.

All this information isn't meant to scare you, but to just let you know that blemishes are a normal part of the human experience. Fortunately with these six simple solutions, you should be able to get rid of acne, or at least have some tools to manage it. And remember, stress can cause breakouts. Make it part of your daily beauty routine to relax, take it easy, and remember that you're totally beautiful.

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