Fighting Adult Acne

Adult acne affects around 3% of the UK population over the age of 35 according to the NHS, but most people will suffer from mild acne at some point in their lives. About 95% of people aged 11 to 30 are affected by acne to some extent. Some people who have never had a spot in their life may suddenly develop acne in their 30s and some studies have suggested adult acne is on the rise.

No matter your age or the severity of the acne it can have a multitude of effects on your life.

It can make you feel self-conscious, stressed, frustrated, un-attractive and judged. It can have such a massive impact on your daily mood and in some cases even lead to depression.

I have suffered from acne since I was 13, I always thought it would just go away as I got older… I’m now 26 and it’s still hanging around. I get flare-ups around the time of my period so there is definitely a hormonal link in there, but I also suffer from dermatillomania which only makes my skin worse.

Speaking to a skincare consultant was a massive eye-opener for me. Sure, she told me some stuff I knew I should be doing (like staying hydrated) but she also gave me some helpful tips which I’ll share with you below.

*if you are suffering from acne, I’d advise you to seek professional advice before trying a new product or skincare regime.

  • Drink 2 litres of water every day
  • Change your pillow every night
  • Wash your face with hot water and a flannel
  • DO NOT TOUCH your face
  • Stop stripping your skin
  • Microdermabrasion, mild toning acid & blue light
  • Reduce or eliminate dairy products


We all know we should be drinking enough water every day, so why is this so hard to achieve?

Dehydration makes your skin dry and rough, causing your skin to overproduce oils and increasing the layer of dead skin cells that can build up and clog your pores. It also reduces the body’s ability to fight acne-causing bacteria and the skins ability to heal itself.

I’ve noticed that If I leave a bottle of water by my desk whilst I’m working It will disappear as I drink it without thinking. This goes for any beverage, if there’s coffee there I’ll drink that. So, by choosing to fill up my water bottle instead of making a cup of coffee I’ll be making this goal more achievable for myself.

Sometimes buying yourself a nice water bottle can prompt you to drink more water as you love to use it! I love these bottles, they’re eco-friendly and so pretty.

Change your pillow

What every night? This was my response to this suggestion. Yes, every night or at least flip your pillow over so you’re sleeping on a fresh side each night.

Pillowcases spend about eight hours every day touching your face. During the night all the oils and dirt from our hair and skin soak into the sheets and can transfer onto our faces. And if you drool? The enzymes in your saliva are incredibly irritating to the skin.

If you’re suffering from acne changing your pillowcase could be a fairly cheap prevention method worth trying. After all, there’s no point cleansing your skin at night if you’re just going to sleep on a bed of germs…

Just hot water?

As for cleansing, this one really shocked me. I was advised to clean my face with just hot water and a clean flannel. Common sense is involved here – don’t scrub too hard, watch the delicate eye area and don’t use water so hot it will burn.

Like me, you’ve probably been told all your life that you need to use some form of soap or cleanser, followed by a toner to remove the days’ grime and makeup. But its all so stripping and irritating to your skin. So, while this makes me feel a bit dubious, at this stage I’m willing to try anything. Time to invest in some flannels.


This is definitely the hardest rule for me as I have to resist the urge to pick at my pimples/blackheads.

I’ve probably touched my face about 10 times whilst writing this post! When you’re told not to touch your face do you suddenly feel so itchy? It’s a work in progress.

Some people recommend wearing gloves, but honestly, that’s just not practical – you can’t type in gloves!

The key here is perhaps to raise your awareness of the times you touch your face. Maybe when you’re watching tv, talking to people, reading a book or sitting at your computer desk. Notice when you touch your face and make an active decision to lower your hands.

Someone to keep you accountable could also help you. My consultant is perfectly bossy and not afraid of telling me off, so she’s perfect for keeping me accountable. Ask a friend to help you, your partner or join an accountability group on social media.

Stop stripping your skin

I considered salicylic acid to be quite mild, but the dry, flaking skin and increased breakouts have suggested that maybe it’s too much for my skin.

My normal cleansing routine for years has been Garnier micellar water, a product that used to work so well for me and gave me the clearest skin I’d ever had in my early 20s. However, my consultant advised me it may no longer be right for my skin and it actually contains other chemicals which can cause irritation – which leads to acne.

To add insult to injury I was following my skin-stripping routine with an oil containing vitamin C, believing that I need to add moisture and vitamin C has been hailed recently for its skin repairing properties.

Whilst moisture is great, vitamin C can actually irritate acne-prone skin by acting as a pro-oxidant. If you want to know more this article explains in fantastic detail why putting vitamin C containing products on your skin does more harm than good. I think it’s fair to say that I will not be jumping on the vitamin C skincare train that’s saturating the market at the moment.

Instead of all these unnecessary products, I’ll be trying the hot water and flannel method as outlined above.

Treatment plan

My consultant recommended that as well as the above steps I should consider some sessions of microdermabrasion to remove the top layer of skin and deeply cleanse my pores. We’re also going to try some acid peels to keep my pores clear, but not at the same time as the dermabrasion as this would be overly irritating to my skin.

Following these treatments, I’m going to be using blue light therapy which kills the bacteria that cause acne. So, once my pores are clear the blue light prevents the bacteria from making a home again.

I’ve heard about blue light therapy before, although I’ve always wondered how effective it would be. However, it’s something that has been used by dermatologists for over 20 years and is backed by science.

In one study, 77% of people with acne who were treated for five weeks with blue light therapy saw improvement. There have also been studies which show at-home treatment with blue light devices can also be effective, and I may follow this route in order to save a few $$.

Here is the blue light device I have bought.

Reduce or eliminate dairy products

Reducing or eliminating dairy from my diet was also discussed. The concern with dairy products is the artificial hormones that are present in cow’s milk which is thought to throw your hormones off balance, triggering acne. Another theory is that the growth hormones already in milk naturally aggravate acne no matter what.  

As a teenager, my father mentioned this to me as he thought I was eating too much dairy. Being a sensitive teenager desperate for an improvement in my skin, I suddenly cut dairy from my diet and started eating soya-based alternatives. I did this for years and saw no improvement.

But when I introduced dairy back into my diet, I noticed I was showing symptoms of being lactose intolerant. Wonderful.

There are currently mixed views about the effect of dairy on acne sufferers and many conflicting scientific studies, which shows more research in this area is clearly needed.

Due to my issues with lactose, I will be cutting down on the amount of dairy I eat, but I’m unlikely to cut it from my diet completely, at least not yet.

To recap, here’s the list of recommendations again:
  • Drink 2 litres of water every day
  • Change your pillow every night
  • Wash your face with hot water and a flannel
  • DO NOT TOUCH your face
  • Stop stripping your skin
  • Microdermabrasion, mild toning acid & blue light
  • Reduce or eliminate dairy products

I hope these tips will be useful to you. Remember that what works for one person may not necessarily work for another and if your suffering with your acne and feel like you’ve tried everything, I’d highly recommend going to see a skincare consultant who should be able to create a plan tailored specifically to your skin.

If you want to share your experience with any acne products/treatments or you’ve got any more tips for acne-prone skin, let me know in the comments below!

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