The Beauty Encyclopedia: How To Deal With An Adult Acne Outbreak (in five steps or less!)

I’ve been watching a little – ok, a lot – of My Kitchen Rules lately. I know, I know. It’s awful trash television and I am 100% hooked on it. I am a woman of simple tastes and MKr has literally everything I want in a television show: strident cashed up bogans, kitchen disasters, ghastly interior decorating, and people mispronouncing ‘confit’.

My favourite team in the competition is, without compare, the twins Helena and Vikki. They’re fun, enthusiastic, and know how to rock a killer bold matte lip (ladies, if you ever find this article while doing a vanity search: I’m dying to know what you’ve been wearing. Email me!). One of things I’ve noticed is that as the comp rolls on, the twin’s otherwise glowing twenty-something skin is showing all the signs of adult acne. I’m not dissing them, god no. Between the stress of competition, camera-strength make-up, long hours, thinking up snarky on-camera ripostes, it’s a wonder that not everyone on the show is rockin’ the spots from day one. They’re still spunky mega-babes though, and that’s a stone cold fact.

But, as you do, I was watching the show and noted a spot or two and thought to myself, man, I know how that feels. And then I sealed my fate by thinking, I’m so glad I haven’t had an adult acne outbreak in a year or so. Boom. The contract was sealed. I’d angered the complexion gods. Three days later I woke up looking as spotty as a teenage boy.

In my case it was because The Chap and I had opted to spend a few nights having a mini-break in a nice hotel. Maybe it was the water, maybe it was the cessation of hardcore stress hormones, maybe it was the hotel’s laundry soap, maybe it was just bad luck. The cause isn’t particularly important. Either way I had – still have – a face full of spots, and the prospect of a few weeks of patient skin management before I can welcome back my normal glowing and smooth complexion.

Ah, adult acne. It’s a real shit of a thing, isn’t it?

If you’ve also woken up and discovered that you’re a confident, babelicious Grown Ass Adult with the complexion of a hormonal teenager: you’re not alone. And it’s not the end of the world, even if your cheeks say otherwise. I want to share with you my five top tips for how to deal with an adult acne outbreak.

swatchgirl.com - The Beauty Encyclopedia: How To Deal With An Adult Acne Outbreak (in five steps or less!)

The Beauty Encyclopedia: How To Deal With An Adult Acne Outbreak (in five steps or less!)

What causes otherwise crystal clear adult skin to work itself into a fit of pimply panic? After much careful research I’ve narrowed it down to these key causes:

  • Hormones.
  • Stress.
  • Gypsy curses.
  • Jupiter in the fifth house.
  • Entropy inherent in an uncaring universe.

Seriously, sometimes there’s just no rhyme or reason why your skin decides to go loco. If you can specifically narrow it down to a particular cause, that’s excellent! If you can’t work out the culprit, however, don’t stress about it: sometimes skin is just really, really weird.

How To Deal With An Adult Acne Outbreak (in five steps or less)

  1. Fight the urge to pick. Serious pal, get those hands away from your pimples. You have my permission to remove any big surface whiteheads that are ready to burst, but don’t try and force pimples with your sheer brute strength unless you’re really into bleeding and scarring. If you have an absolute whopper that you absolutely 100% must poke at right this very second gently wipe over the spot with a clean tissue: if it bursts, clean it up and apply a dab of antibacterial spot treatment, and if it doesn’t burst then leave it alone.
  2. Say no to product overload. Now is not the time to panic and use a million different skincare products and book a dozen facials. Be steel-willed and stick to your normal skincare (plus a dab of your pimple zapping treatment of choice). Do not – repeat, do not – use scrubby exfoliants on your spots. It’ll only make ’em worse, trust me. Use a mild AHA cleanser to keep your complexion clear without upsetting your spots. An addendum to this No Product Overload rule applies if your skin is having an acne reaction to some new skincare: send that shizz sailing into the bin and go back to using something that you know your skin likes.
  3. Think about the little things. Have you changed your pillowcases lately? Are you sleeping on satin pillow cases (for real, ditch the satin pillows: they might be nice for your hair, but they’re a hot sweaty nightmare for your skin). Have you changed your laundry detergent or fabric softener? Is there traces of body lotion on your hands when you apply your facial moisturiser? Are you spending a lot of time with your cheek smooshed right on the screen of your nice big smartphone? Sometimes the most innocuous things will send your skin into a full blown hissy fit, so put your Sherlock hat on and do a little detective work.
  4. Stick to your regular makeup. This is an extension of point two, which is to say no to product overload. Don’t throw your skin into further upheaval by changing your foundation or going wild with heavy powders in an effort to hide any blemishes. Dab some full coverage cream concealer where you need it – I’m a big fan of MAC Studio Finish concealer – and blend it out by gently tapping it smooth with your fingertip. Concealer = good. Uber cake face = not so good.
  5. DON’T PANIC. Again, in case you missed it: DON’T PANIC. Your skin will stop throwing a tantrum soon, and your spots will fade, your cheeks will be smooth, and you will be a righteous babe with perfect skin once more. Be calm, be a rock, don’t pick. I believe in you, my spotty sisters and brothers. DON’T PANIC.

And there you have it! How to deal with an adult acne outbreak in five steps or less, as tried and tested by my face and its occasional regression into spotty teenager mode. If you’ve got any tips of your own for defeating the pimply menace, share ’em below!

I’ve written about my adventures with adult acne before: On Adult Acne: A Confession.

There are 2 comments

  1. redambition

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    Timely post, my skin is in the throes of a hissyfit from HELL (probably courtesy of the extra job stress I have at the moment, but it’s hard to be sure), so this is a great reminder to steptheeffaway from picking and piling on different products. I can’t use an AHA daily or I’ll end up hurting my speshul snoeflayke skin, but I might bump up my weekly AHA exfoliation to twice a week instead.

    Here’s to clear skin in the near future! ;o)

  2. Rachel

    Lots of love on this post! I hate how much of temperamental bitch skin can be. I may not have conquered the no picking yet (if they feel like my face is about to explode out of sheer pain and pressure, I can’t stay away!), but I’ve definitely settled into a skincare routine free of panicked treatment options. What do you recommend in the mild AHA category? I’ve yet to find an AHA option that doesn’t make my skin recoil in agony, although it’s pretty happy to use a BHA lotion on a regular basis.

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