The bane of adult acne and what to do about it

Hello from myself and also from the giant red spot that seems to have taken up permanent residence on my chin.

It’s the kind that really lingers around, as unwelcome as the girlfriend of your flatmate who always seems to be on your couch when you get home from work makes weird-smelling stews.

Is there anything quite so dispiriting as acne when you are long past your hormone-ravaged, desperate-to-be cool teenage self? Hardly.

Along with an appropriate skincare regime, remember to do things like cleaning your brushes and taking your makeup off at night. Credit:Shutterstock

And yet with factors such as the environment, stress and, yes, hormones – not to mention menstruation, pregnancy and menopause (really, is there no end to the valiant suffering of women?) – it’s a common problem.

According to Dr Natasha Cook of Darlinghurst Dermatology, around one in three women (and some men) will suffer from adult acne. In a large part it's down to your genetics and hormones. But there are things you can do to stabilise, calm and prevent breakouts.

This includes looking at your diet.

"[In] the old days we thought diet was not relevant. We now understand it is implicated. The key to an acne-friendly diet is insulin stability. Insulin instability basically creates hormone instability which then ultimately act out on your skin," says Dr Cook.

Eating to stabilise insulin is basically a low-sugar and low-carb diet with lots of anti-inflammatory vegetables like kale and broccoli, and good fats like avocado and olive oil.

Other beneficial things – which we probably all know to do but don't always find the time, or inclination for – are getting a full night's sleep (if you're lucky!), adding in yoga and meditation and generally aiming for that elusive work/life balance.

Avoid using a harsh cleanser or scrub which can strip out the good oils in skin and compromise the skin barrier (opt for something gentle like Antipodes Juliet Skin Brightening Cleanser or Avene Cleanance Cleansing Gel ). The Anti-Aging Blemish Control: Time Release Blemish Cleanser from Murad is another one to try too.

Look for cleansers with salicylic acid, which as Katy Bacon, Murad education director says is key in helping to clear out pores which can get clogged and lead to breakouts.

Salicylic acid, says Bacon, "treats, heals and prevents acne without over-drying or irritating skin, which can cause more acne breakouts. Another factor with acne is Inflammation which is always involved when you have a breakout, causing swelling and redness. Searching for ingredients that are going to calm, de-clog and fight bacteria is key."

Also: clean your makeup brushes, pillowcases and mobile phone screen regularly and try very hard not to squeeze and pick your spots (which can lead to scarring).

Dr Cook says a big skincare myth is that you should not moisturise acne-prone skin.

"Big mistake," she says. "[You] need [a moisturiser] that integrates perfectly into the skin and that does not congest. This will calm acne-inflamed skin, strengthen the barrier and the hydrated skin environment helps the exfoliation enzymes work better leading to less congestion and less breakouts."

Look out for moisturisers with B3 (anti-inflammatory niacinamide) such as the PM Facial Moisturising Lotion from cult skincare brand CeraVe which has recently launched in Australia (the whole range is super gentle, and affordable, with fragrance-free, paraben-free, allergy-tested and non-comedogenic formulations).

And then apply a spot treatment lotion.

Dr Cook has a heavy hitting Concentrated Spot Destroyer which has BHA (salicylic acid) mixed with AHA (mainly lactic acid) in a roller ball delivery system which helps to speed up recovery from breakouts and remove dead skin cells (to stop them happening in the first place).

You could also try the Verso Blemish Fix which has niacinamide, turmeric and portulaca, helping to minimise active breakouts and reduce inflammation.

Meanwhile La Roche Posay is launching its "Effaclar Spotscan" technology this month: an online acne diagnosis tool, co-developed with dermatologists, that helps recommend treatment plans.

Dr JoAnn See, dermatologist at Central Sydney Dermatology and co-chair of All About Acne says the tool is helpful in recommending appropriate treatment but leaves treatment decisions for medical experts. Something she sees as crucial.

"The best thing you can do to treat your acne is to talk to your healthcare professional. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to acne. Different treatments act via different mechanisms," she says.

"Therefore, treatment will need to be selected according to your acne type and individual circumstances. Your doctor knows the best treatments available for acne. They can select from products that unblock pores, control oil production, reduce bacteria or regulate hormone levels. Their choice will depend on the severity of your acne, potential for scarring, the emotional impact acne is having on your life and your medical history."

So back to my malingering spot. Will it ever go for good? Dr See says treating acne takes time and patience.

Also a lot of hanging in there. As Katy Bacon puts it of pesky adult acne, "depending on your cause or severity, skin can improve or worsen depending on that-time-of-the-month or stress levels; however, once these hormonal factors have corrected then its normal to see the condition improve. Until then, its important to look after your skin to help keep it hydrated, clean and clear to reduce the risk of inflammatory pigmentation and scarring caused by picking and squeezing.

So, yes. Eventually, if I stick to the above routines, my unwelcome guest will get the hint. No passive aggressive note left in the kitchen necessary.


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      Nano Gold Energising Eye Serum

      If you need to fake a good night’s sleep – i.e. most of us – an eye serum that is hydrating and has pep in the form of antioxidants is worth looking into. I’ve been using Chantecaille Nano Gold Energising Eye Serum ($320, Mecca) for a few months. It comes in a very useful, and chic, slim gold pen with a roller tip so it’s easy to apply and melts into the skin. I use it before an under-eye concealer and it adds a welcome dewiness. It uses plant stem cells and botanicals like raspberry, as well as anti-wrinkle hexapeptide which is kind of like non-botox botox and peptidic complex to help drain fluid around the eyes (for de-puffing). I know, it's super exxy. But, in my opinion, your eyes, or more specifically your eye bags, are really worth spending money on.

      Skin Deep, our weekly beauty column, is not sponsored. All product recommendations are genuine endorsements.

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