As a teenager, I looked forward to my future with high hopes for clear skin. After all, we’re told that acne is a teenage problem, caused by bad food and oily skin and roiling hormones. At one point in my life I honestly believed that turning 20 would end my acne issues. And then I thought…maybe by age 25 this will be over. OK. Maybe 30. And now here I am at age 33, telling you the sad truth. Adult acne is real. Things usually get better, but if you’ve grown up dealing with breakouts, you’ll occasionally have to deal with them when you’re grown enough to be dealing with stuff like taxes and mortgages and kids.

Photo via Blinging Beauty

Now that I’m an adult, I know exactly what triggers my acne. I’m more likely to get breakouts after periods of eating badly, or spending too much time in the sun. Recently when I had a facial, the aesthetician was able to tell that I sleep on my left side and that I don’t always take off my makeup, “because the blackheads on that side of your face are so deep.” YIKES. Some of my acne issues are clearly my own fault. Other issues are caused by my hormonal cycle, my stress level, and other factors I have less control over. It can be hard to know how to deal with those kinds of acne issues.

Let’s clear this one thing up right here right now — the best way you can deal with adult acne is by tackling it internally by drinking more water, exercising and eating healthier, and finding a dermatologist. More often than not, we deal with skin issues by going to a spa for a facial or buying some over the counter product instead of dealing with things medically, and that’s really the most sensible way to deal with it — click here to find a dermatologist in your city. Personally, I’m taking a varied approach to the issue. Recently I visited a derm for the first time — more on that soon! I eat healthier than I used to, and I drink more water than I used to. I’m trying to deal with my acne internally, but externally I still need some extra help. And so I also still go for facials, AND I use over the counter acne products that include approved ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and salycilic acid to deal with the pimples I get, as I get them. Allow me to tell you about my favorite at-home acne brands!

Mario Badescu — OK so I know I’ve raved on and on (and on) about Mario Badescu, but I LOVE their products. The second I get a zit, I reach for their Drying Lotion or Drying Mask. If I’ve already got a zit that’s erupted, I love the Buffering Lotion. My only issue with MB products is, I haven’t yet tried one that goes on clear and works under makeup. These are products for if you’re at home and want to dry up a blemish overnight. Click here to check out Mario Badescu’s acne products.

Murad — I’m a fan of the brand in general, but Murad actually makes a product to help with the issue. Murad Acne Anti-Aging Acne Treatmenttackles both blemishes and wrinkles, and claims to smooth fine lines and restore suppleness as well. All of this basically means it’ll get rid of your zits without totally depleting your skin of moisture, as acne products can so often do.

Clean and Clear — I may drift away and try other, more expensive products, but if I’ve got a zit and I’m out of town and don’t have my go-to’s, best believe I will buy a tube of Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 from any store I can. Recently when a close friend of mine got like her third pimple ever in life, this is what I told her to buy. Good ol’ Clean and Clear will never do you wrong.

Neutrogena — I’d say that Neutrogena is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to drugstore skincare. Their Oil-Free Acne Wash was THE must-have face wash for my teenage acne days. And still to this day I’ll use it, or the newer Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Power-Foam Wash which has a super long name but works really, really well.

Olay — When I think Olay, I don’t usually think acne — more moisture or cleansing or anti-aging, right? Well yes, but they also make a range of acne fighting products, including the Olay Professional Pro-X Clear Acne Protocol Kit, which is tailor made for adult acne. It’s a three part system involving a cleanser, a clearing treatment, and a renewing lotion. And Pro-X also makes a refining sulfur mask, for those of you who like masks for dealing with acne. (PS: These are my favorite face masks). (PPS: did you know aspirin makes an excellent at home acne mask? It’s basically salycilic acid! Click to learn more via

Et voilà, my go-to, tried and true product faves for dealing with acne as a grown woman. Bellas, how do YOU deal with adult acne?


sonni says:
May 8, 2012, 3:58 pm
Basis sensitive skin soap. 2.5% BP. lemon juice. honey brown sugar. sunscreen. water w/lemon. stay out of the sun. sleeping on my back. exercise. i laugh everday. Cut down on hair product in hair.
TB_BT says:
May 8, 2012, 4:05 pm
Years ago after seeing a Black dermatologist, I started using Visual Changes. I was able to buy it in the dermatologist office, but when I moved away I couldn't find it. Not too long ago, I Googled the brand and found a spa in Omaha that sells all their products. It works well for my face. I've also added Black Soap and Ixora's Jumbo Combo buter to my night regime
Jenifer says:
May 8, 2012, 4:06 pm
Tazarac is a good Rx product. Clears up blemish overnight.
Rita says:
May 8, 2012, 4:08 pm
This was such a great post! I am soon to be 28 and have been struggling with adult acne the last two years or so. For me, it was Mario Badescu that finally got my skin clear; very recently, in the last few months. I am never turning back and I am ever so grateful. Thank you for sharing your skin story with us! xo, Rita
Caroline Jhingory says:
May 8, 2012, 4:11 pm
Just hit 30, and I still get a pimple here and there. Since high school, I've relied on applying baking soda-based toothpaste directly on the pimple with a toothpick. Funny, I heard Dr. Oz just recommend this last week as well. For daily face washing and post-workout I use Clean and Clear in the purple tube;-) Great info Afrobella!
Tiffany kern says:
May 8, 2012, 4:13 pm
Witch Hazel & Aveeno products have thankfully helped me out. Still get the breakouts due to hair oils and hormonal changes, but the majority of the breakouts are much smaller in size and of less impact. Plus I try really hard to not touch my face. That seems to be a very good indicator of when I will have a breakout.
Lisa says:
May 8, 2012, 4:23 pm
I didn't have a problem with acne till I turned 28 and my skin has not let up since. After trying a litany of products the only things that have kept my acne under control are the salicylic and benzoyl peroxide products from Proactiv.
Lataja says:
May 8, 2012, 4:32 pm
Thank you for publishing this article. But don't forget that certain medications also produce acne. I'm soo tired of my acne that I'm ready to go to the extreme microdermabrasion. As a kid the only product that worked for me was retina but since this product is GREAT for anti aging it's hard to come by.
Lisalis says:
May 8, 2012, 4:40 pm
Unfortunately I feel you. After suffering from severe teenage acne and a few years of relief after a prescribed oral medicine with crazy side effects, I had acne into my early 40s. I found relief by using Fran's protocol Day 1 of which is found here: I use the recommended cleanser, exfoliators, moisturizer/treatment plus mineral makeup, Clarisonic and Clinique Even Better. It's worked great for me!
Stesha says:
May 8, 2012, 4:46 pm
I a member of the Grown Folks With Acne struggle. These days I'm trying more natural remedies. Lemon juice to fade scars. Brown Sugar and Honey scrubs. And of course, drinking more water. It's been a couple of weeks and I already see results. Hugs and Mocha, Stesha
LaToya Perry says:
May 8, 2012, 4:49 pm
Great Article! Many people suffer from Acne as young adults and sometimes it really hinders their self confidence. I always said two things some mothers forgot to advise their girls on are 1. Skin care & 2. Credit! lol.. Both require diligence and protection. I love the Murad brand as well and it works. I also advise my clients not to forget that cell phones carry alot of germs! I've probably dropped mine 99 times and have to remember to give it a deep clean. A regular alchohol pad will do. Also make sure you are changing your bedsheets regularly and keeping your makeup brushes or sponges clean!!!
shiningsolace says:
May 8, 2012, 4:54 pm
I used Clinique, Proactive, and the Yes to Tomatoes brands, but now that I'm being more conscious of what I am using and eating, I use an all natural facial regimen. I use Black Onyx's Alikay Naturals skin collection. The African Black Soap got rid of all of my acne marks, and I especially love the Green Tea Chai Face Scrub. It smells so good!
Atarah says:
May 8, 2012, 6:01 pm
I stepped away from Clean & Clear and other over the counter acne creams and started researching. I tackle my acne ( acne scars now ) from the inside out. I stepped away from cow's milk because that seemed to be a big culprit with my acne. I wash my face with sulfur soap, tone my face with a mix of distilled water, witch hazel, tea tree, lavender, and sandalwood essential oils, and moisturize with this neem cream or olive oil depends on if i can find my neem cream. I also started eating better: more fish, more veggies, fruit, nuts, brown rice, and lots and lots of water.
Glenyse says:
May 8, 2012, 6:59 pm
I started using items from the Murad line for cleansing and moisturizing about 4 years ago and have not looked back. My face suffers from monthly, hormonal whiteheads. For cleansing I switch it up between the Clarifying Cleanser and AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser. For moisturizing I primarily use Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 20 | PA++. Almost all of Murad's moisturizers are very lightweight, great for those who live in warmer states. When I need a heavier cream moisturizer, I use Loreal Youth Code SPF 30 Day Cream. To kill acne, whiteheads and soften blackheads, I use Murad's Acne Spot Treatment with Exfoliating Acne Treatment Gel. After workouts, when I am not able to easily get to a shower I carry Sea Breeze and cotton pads. Although I am happy with the results of my using Murad I am looking for alternative skin care products that do not contain parabens. Marie Veronique is a brand I am interested in, has anyone tried it?
MyPeaceOfFood says:
May 8, 2012, 7:59 pm
I have to use prescription meds. Even during pregnancy, the 2 medications that are safe to use I can't live without — I get comedonal acne on my forehead, the little tiny zillion pimples that just make you want to break out the sanding machine, and when I tried going without it twice this time around both times it came back with a vengeance. But I've learned that when NOT with child (!), I don't have to use it every day — which I appreciate, since it does have some ingredients I'm wary of. If you do have to go prescription, one of the benefits is that at least some of the products act as anti-agers also. A definite plus!
Abena says:
May 8, 2012, 8:04 pm
I have been struggled with acne since my teen years. Last year I found a dermatologist that has completely transformed my skin! I am on topical antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide. I use the CeraVe skincare line for cleansing and moisturizing. My face has cleared up so much that my mother thinks I am wearing makeup!
embraceurcrazy says:
May 8, 2012, 8:33 pm
Black soap from africa cleared up my skin. I'm allergic to the ingredients in most acne products. Ive tried murad, dermalogica, everything.I use aveeno moisturizer and a st. Ives scrub when I have a breakout.
Shanelle says:
May 9, 2012, 7:21 am
Rita, what exactly do you use from the Mario Badescu line?
Doctor Cris says:
May 9, 2012, 9:32 am
I love the Murad Clarifying Mask with 4.0% sulfur. I put a dab on a pimple at night, and by the morning, the pimple has dried up. I actually love all of Murad's products.
teachermrw says:
May 9, 2012, 1:50 pm
I have been using the Renée Rouleau product line since July 2009. Overall, it's worked well for me. I also made regular monthly visits to the day spa for facials. But, I actually think I went too often; my skin reacted. So, I now go every other month, and it seems to be having a more positive effect on my skin. I have contemplated visits to the dermatologist, but thought that the facials were enough. So, I'll be sure to pay my local dermatologist a visit. I used the Mario Badescu product line for a short tone prior to discovering the Renée Rouleau product line. It did nothing go my skin. Glad, however, it is working for you. :)
Stephanie says:
May 9, 2012, 2:49 pm
Mario Badescu saved my life! As for wearing under make-up, try the Special Healing Powder. I wear it under or as foundation and I've never been happier. Besides face wash and toner, it's becoming the only product from them that I even NEED to keep my skin looking awesome. Use it at night before bed and in the morning; apply with a makeup brush.
Melody says:
May 9, 2012, 8:30 pm
The Philosophy acne products have really helped out my skin. I got the kit and then bought the all over face treatment when I ran out. I also found that retinols help as well. There was a retinol treatment in the Philosophy kit, and then I used one by Peter Roth, and currently am using a nighttime treatment by DermaDoctor. I've also learned that too much dairy aggravates my skin.
Denise says:
May 10, 2012, 12:18 pm
I really appreciate this posting. I'm in the late 40s club and let me tell you Adult Acne is a best! It's in a whole different category compared to teenage acne. lol I tried to ignore it until I just got fed up with the constant breakouts. I went to see the dermatologist who put me on oral medication for a short period of time (to help calm down what was going on) as well as use prescription strength topical solutions to address my skin. Like others, I've also changed my eating habits, started getting facials, etc. My skin is getting better but it's going to take time and consistency to get it where I want it to be.
Denise says:
May 10, 2012, 12:18 pm
I meant Adult Acne is a beast! :) darn spell checker!
Songine' says:
May 11, 2012, 6:45 pm
Great post! Still dealing with it and I am about to hit 22 soon. Hopefully I won't have it for much longer.
Yvette O-A says:
May 13, 2012, 8:44 am
For the past few months, I've incorporated ground flax seeds into my breakfast (usually a tablespoon or two with oatmeal, yogurt, a smoothie, etc). That has done wonders for my skin, along with drinking more water. Topically, I use St. Ives Green Tea facial scrub nightly. It's not as rough as their Apricot Scrub so it doesn't irritate my skin. I also alternate between that, the oil-cleansing method, and green tea soap from Trader Joe's. So far, so good :)
Shari says:
May 14, 2012, 1:15 pm
Oh this is some topic for me. Ask me, I can tell you! My comment will be long but I have to tell. After many years of experience I can say that it is mostly some hormonal issue. I started using hormonal contraceptive at age 17 and since then dealt with the problem of dry skin. I mean really really dry. And this resulted in getting thicker skin with two main problems: 1. the need of deep moisturizing 2. skin so thick in outer epidermis so the talcum created in some pores could barely get out. This meant mostly good looking skin with occasional pimples. But this one or two pimples once a month could become really atomic big ones. Hurting and looking like somebody slapped me hard. Than the only help was some antibiotic cream prescribed by my doctor. Though I managed to keep that in control I was not able to find the ultimate solution. Only I found something for the body. I had the same problems there. Especially razor burn. Nothing helped but mens after shave cream plus "Laboratoires Garnier Urea Body Lotion" (don`t know if it is available in the US) I tried many Urea stuff but this one helped me best. As I stopped taking hormones just the opposite happened. I got almost mad. After searching so long for moisture my skin know it happened to be overly greasy. Greasy the hair, greasy skin, hands...oh it was so bad. I was used to only wash my hair once a week and now it had to be done everyday! Happily I could deal with that. After spending an amount of money for shampoo I found something for greasy hair/preventing greasing and wash it now only every four days or so. With my face it took me longer. The greasiness led to a hurtful all over akne breakout. My doc prescribing me too aggressive stuff which I stopped using. First I used some mens face cream to which I before could have never uses because of its drying effect. This was not enough. Know I go to this procedure and I am fine as never before: 1. Wash my face with something that`s called "Heilerde" in Germany (There is one created as facial wash, I always let it dry a little before I wash it off) This one takes all grease away and prevents from getting so again 2. Sometimes I use a cleanser but only this one "La Roche Posay Effaclar" with Salicylic Acid (cleans the pores and takes away where redness occured) 3. facial cream of Laboratoires Garnier again (the one against acne, again Salicylic Acid) 4. Some more moisturizing cream around the eyes because this all degreasing stuff can become too much for this area. The first few minutes the skin feels dry but then it comforts. These advices are only for really greasy skin otherwise I think you can damage it following my routine:)
Debra says:
May 15, 2012, 1:39 am
What a great review you got here! I go over your post and the information found is really helpful. Looking forward for your great posts. Thank you! -
Mia says:
May 16, 2012, 1:56 am
I'm another woman who has dealt with this since I was 13 - there are times when it has been so demoralizing! (And, fortunately, most times I haven't let it stop me.) I've been using Murad (facial wash; sulfur spot treatment, once in a while their sulfur mask) and Retin-A for some years now. I take care not to touch my face with unwashed hands; I also make sure to change my pillowcase every three-four days, and I'm careful with my shampoos, conditioners, hand and body lotions - if they cause problems with the skin on my face, no matter how good they are, I stop using them, and give them away. (Or just use the lotions on my legs, and then I'm careful to wash my hands after applying them, so they don't end up on my face.) I clean my cell phone regularly, wash my face twice a day, and change the towel I use to dry my face twice a week (it's a full-size bath towel). Two years ago, a new birth control pill caused painful and widespread breakouts (the worst I had had since my teens), but once I switched to another type, the problem went away almost immediately. One thing I am just now noticing is that milk and sugar seem to cause flare-ups in my skin (I don't know if both do, or just one - I went on an ice cream binge two weeks ago and starting breaking out like crazy. I stopped, and now my skin is clearing up). If this has been the culprit all this time, it will be ironic - because given all the angst I've gone through with my skin, even though I love ice cream, I would have given it up in a minute if I had known. Wow, writing this makes me realize how much of my routine revolves around my skin and acne, or trying to avoid it. I envy those people who seem to not worry at all (the people I see who lay their face down anywhere, like on the backs of bus seats, or who are always touching their face) and have flawless skin!
Mia says:
May 16, 2012, 2:00 am
One more thing - I have the Clarisonic brush. I really like it - it does cleanse thoroughly, but now that I'm using Retin-A, my skin is more delicate, so I use it only once every six/eight weeks (when I first bought it, pre-Retin-A, I used it every day).
Jessica says:
May 19, 2012, 9:52 am
I've been using a brightening cleanser from Apothederm and it's been working wonders on my adult acne.
Cherry says:
May 20, 2012, 11:32 pm
Thank you for this article.. I'm 44 and still getting break outs! My Mom said I had my first pimple at 18 months old!! and I remember as early as 11 yrs old having montly breakouts. I was using Proactive but I was going to try RX Brown Skin (saw a infomercial this morning. I do notice that when I don't eat meat m skin looks alot better. and.... being a pimple picker isn't any help. But with drinking lots of water, Dove Sensitive Skin, no soda and my cocoa butter stick (I know it's kinda heavy for your facr) my I havn't had more than a few white heads.
JPSignatureorganx says:
June 2, 2012, 11:36 am
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September 26, 2012, 12:00 am
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what is a home remedy for acne says:
November 23, 2012, 12:56 pm
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katieC says:
May 29, 2013, 9:47 pm
I found the Citrus Clear Control Wash to be the acne wash that works the best. Its not perfect, but here is my breakdown and it should help you: PROS The product has a really nice tingling feel to it when it's on your face. The bottle is easy to use. It doesn't dry out your face. The scent is good and not overpowering. CONS I get the occasional pimple, and this didn't seem to reduce the frequency at which they occurred.
acne and pimple treatment at home says:
August 2, 2013, 8:41 am
It is not clear what the baseline origin of most kinds of pimples is, but it is generally accepted that blocked skin pores are the main offenders. While you should get 5 minutes of daily sun for the Vitamin D, you should never use tanning as an acne treatment. Pimples, whiteheads and blackheads are forms of acne.
alex says:
May 15, 2014, 3:33 pm
What meds did u use?
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jasmine says:
September 4, 2016, 4:26 pm
My doctor told me NOT to use Proactiv while I was pregnant because of all the chemicals. Unfortunately, in month 2 of my pregnancy, I started to get really bad acne breakouts on my face. I asked two seperate doctors, and they both recommended I use Citrus Clear products instead of Proactiv, because they are natural and they actually DO WORK. I use the Control Line from Citrus Clear - and it is quite strong and it does work! And it does not have all the chemicals that Proactiv has. Good luck!