Guest Post: How to Get Rid of Adult Acne

I am so excited to introduce Grace Kelly, blogger at! She is a corporate finance lawyer in Dublin, and has been working as a lawyer for almost 8 years. She is also a new (ish!) mum to one year old Pearl, and six year old Shih Tzu called Ming. She blogs as a hobby, for writing practice while doing a diploma in journalism. 

As a lawyer with a hectic work schedule (while juggling many other responsibilities), she has provided insight on a topic many people deal with: stress acne. Grace writes about how she discovered she had adult acne, which was specifically due to her lifestyle. She goes on to explain how she overcame the struggle, and steps to take to do help one do the same. -Navi

Beauty is not in the face;

Disclaimer: Statements on this post should not be taken as medical advice. Anything written here is not intended to diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.  Please consult your own physician or other healthcare professional before making any changes to your lifestyle.

How to Get Rid of Adult Acne

It took a blunt beautician to tell me I had adult acne in my late-twenties.

She was filing my nails but kept staring at my chin. I knew I had a few spots (which I’d covered in heavy duty concealer, and which I attributed to monthly hormone fluctuations) but I didn’t think they were too noticeable.

“That is acne” she said. “At your age, you need to get that seen.”  

A little offended, I smiled and nodded, mentally deciding that I wouldn’t be back to that salon! But that night, for the first time, I took a long hard look at my skin in unflattering light. When stripped of my makeup I realized that the couple of spots I had ignored for months had developed into several angry bulbous pustules. So many in fact, that they were starting to spread up the sides of my face and cheeks.

Adult acne is not just a blemish or two because you didn’t remove your make-up a couple of nights in a row. It’s a chronic skin complaint that can affect anyone, even those of us never blighted by spots in our teens. Much of what’s recommended by beauty journalists to treat ‘acne’ is only suitable for the occasional spot. Adult acne is a different ball game. A dab of salicylic acid or over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide isn’t going to cut it.

While acne (whether a teenage or adult sufferer) isn’t going to kill you, I know from experience that’s it’s damaging to your self-esteem. Waking up to violent red eruptions on your face and having to go to school, college, or work, with them isn’t easy; with some help and some good skincare, it can be beaten.

I’m not a doctor (just a lawyer!) so I can only tell you what worked for me. Tempting as it was that evening to scrub my face until it was red-raw, I resisted. The next day, I kicked off my action plan.


Step 1: See a GP (General Practitioner, a.k.a your primary care physician):

My GP at the time hadn’t much of a bedside manner and he was quick to reach for the prescription pad. He prescribed an antibiotic called Minocin which belongs to a class of drugs called tetracycline antibiotics. They’re supposed to work by stopping the growth of bacteria which is causing the spots.

However, I also demanded a referral to a dermatologist and, for me, that was the turning point. I felt my GP was quick to prescribe antibiotics without doing any further investigation and I wanted to see a specialist to make sure I was receiving the best treatment. 


Step 2: See a dermatologist and look for root causes:

It’s crucial to see a dermatologist as soon as possible. My dermatologist and I discussed my lifestyle and determined that my working 12 to 14 hour days, eating badly (dining al desco every evening means a lot of pizza and Thai food), and drinking too much on the weekends was the likely culprit. My stress levels were through the roof. It was affecting my health and visibly manifesting itself on my face. 

Adult acne can have many causes, and mine happened to be my lifestyle and diet. A dermatologist will be able to assess if it’s due to a lifestyle issue, hormonal triggers, allergies, eczema, etc. and create a treatment plan from there. 

For example, cystic acne, where your face is littered with painful, itchy sores is difficult to treat without the advisement of a doctor; if a cyst bursts (i.e. because you pick at it) the gunk inside can quickly spread the infection to other parts of your face, making the problem more difficult to treat the longer you leave it.


Step 3: Treatment plan:

My dermatologist recommended that I continue the antibiotics prescribed by the GP for the full 8-week course.

I was also prescribed a topical retinoid cream. This was my skin savior! It’s sometimes referred to as vitamin A, retinol, retin-A or tretinoin. If you’re into skincare you’ll know that retinoids are the holy grail for scarring, fine lines and a whole host of other skin complaints. They can be found in a variety of anti-aging products. Prescription grade retinoids, however, are typically used to treat acne (although you still get the wrinkle diminishing effects, which is a lovely bonus)!

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A big caveat here. Prescription grade retinoids are not suitable for pregnant women and you should not use them if there is a chance you could become pregnant. Read about the correlation between isotretinoin and pregnancy – “A Continued Risk for Birth Defects”: here.

You also need to wear sunscreen when using retinoids, even over-the-counter formulations.

I applied the tretinoin gel sparingly, often diluted with a basic moisturizer from Clinique, because it’s exceptionally drying and can cause skin to peel. However, some skin may be able for greater doses and direct application. It’s a case of trial and error, and personal skin type.

Over 10 to 12 weeks, my acne slowly cleared and new spots stopped developing. I’m sure this was a joint effort by the antibiotics, the tretinoin gel, and some lifestyle changes I needed to make (more vegetables, more water, less alcohol…the obvious stuff really).


Step 4: Maintenance:

I am happily acne-free and (not to toot my own horn), I’m often complimented on my skin. It has been quite the turnaround but I still need to be mindful of some ongoing prevention and maintenance. That includes using serious cleansers, and not just using basic make-up wipes – even if I fall in from work at 1 AM.

My dermatologist recommended a foaming glycolic face washIt’s not suitable for very sensitive skin, but it is a deep pore cleanser that clears up mild acne and prevents new spots from developing. I recently gave this recommendation to my sister to pre-empt the beginnings of her acne problem, and it worked wonders. Using it every two or three days is enough for me.

You’ve probably seen Cetaphil in the pharmacy. Its unassuming and clinical packaging might not appeal to you but this is a wonder product. It’s a liquid cleanser, also recommended by my dermatologist, for gentle but effective cleansing. It’s particularly good if you’re dealing with a bout of cystic acne and your face is sore. It can be used on dry cotton balls or as a hot cloth cleanser, and I can vouch for its mascara removing efficacy too.

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Finally, a little retinol can help to keep the acne (and wrinkles!) at bay. You could spend a fortune on retinol products or you can cheat and use this lotion from cult beauty brand The Ordinary. It’s under a tenner yet it contains enough retinoid to be a very effective product. It’s good enough that I’ve abandoned my weekly dollop of tretinoin mixed with moisturizer in favour of it.

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And that, dear readers, is how I got rid of adult acne. An unpleasant three months or so of antibiotics and dry peeling skin but all worth it in the end.


If you have any specific questions feel free to get in touch!

-Grace Kelly

Instagram: @etainlivingdotcom
Twitter: @etainDublin


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12 thoughts on “Guest Post: How to Get Rid of Adult Acne

  1. Mike Alvarez says:

    I’ve had a number of deep pitted acne scars on my face for over 20 years, and I’ve only been using Scar Serum of Dermalmd brand for about a week. The results are incredible. The scars are disappearing and my skin is softer and clearer with a better texture than I’ve seen it in years. I am highly impressed with the results and very happy.


  2. Janine says:

    I am a 35 yo woman who was suffering from adult acne that included some cystic type as well. Tried many expensive acne products and nothing helped. Started using dermalmd blemish serum and a week later developed the neck rash they warn you about and skin was very dry. This lasted about 2-3 weeks and then disappeared. After about a month of using this serum – 6 months total now – my skin has never been so clear. I can happily spend some days without makeup at all. It has really restored so much self-confidence. So happy I stuck through the first uncomfortable weeks. Since the first month, there is no dryness or any uncomfortable feeling at all! Really happy!


  3. Keoshia says:

    These are some great tips. Lucky I have not had a problem with acne. But I do have kids so if they start to have problems these tips will help a lot. Thanks for sharing.


  4. C-Ludik says:

    As adults, we thought the years of teen drama and ugly pimples were behind us. But acne affects people of all ages and goes beyond the early teenage years !! For me, having a good home care regime will be your first step towards clear skin.


  5. Jhilmil says:

    Such a positive post, Love the way we need to love inner self and be happy from within. As far as products are concerned, I have used Cetaphil & found them great!


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