There’s nothing more disappointing than anticipating bright and clear skin in your 20s and beyond – and then experiencing adult acne, which is even harder to treat than problematic teen skin. Acne at any age, can be a contributor to low self esteem and confidence, but even more so in your adult years as you struggle to understand the cause and how best to treat it.

Teen acne is more accepted as we recognise that it’s part-genetic, part-hormonal and greatly related to the universal and unfortunate side effect of puberty - increased oil production.

In contrast, adult acne tends to be deeper, more painful and cyclical. It is commonly caused by stress, hormonal fluctuations, pollution, using the wrong products and even cleansing too often. Because cell turnover slows with age, adult skin can take longer to heal than teen skin, redness can also last longer and acne can be further complicated by sensitivity, dehydration and pigmentation issues.

“The typical changes we see on the skin with adult acne are an increase in sebum (oil) production, an overgrowth of dead skin cells and a build-up of bacteria – so anything that affects this process will impact on your acne.
Some cosmetics and sunscreens can worsen acne, so ensure these are ‘oil-free’ to reduce the sebum load on the skin. Working in a hot environment can also cause a flare up of acne, as can spending time in humid spas and saunas”, explains Dr Amanda Henderson, Cosmetic Doctor, The Clinic.

At The Clinic, we empathise with the significance that breakouts can have on your daily life and we understand that the causes are complex. Here, we demystify adult acne and talk you through ways to both treat it and overcome it.

No two skins are the same

Everyone’s skin is different so the first point of action at The Clinic is booking clients in for an in-depth consultation. During this assessment, we identify the client’s concerns and establish a history of acne onset, exacerbating and alleviating factors along with current and previous medications that may provoke a hormonal imbalance.

At times, we also advise our clients to visit their local GP for an assessment of potential underlying causes such as any physical factors or hormonal imbalances - and if the clients’ skin is quite aggressive and difficult to manage from the outset, a referral to a dermatologist may be recommended.

The ingredients to look for

The most common request we get is ‘how do I manage breakouts?’ After determining the potential causes, we work with our clients on a personalised and hydrating skin regime to best suit their skin type and needs. Multidisciplinary action is essential and in our experience, combining a recommended daily skin regime combined with regular in clinic cleansing peels are two vital steps in managing acne-prone skin.

How to treat adult acne - The Clinic Bondi Junction

In cases of moderate to severe acne, we ensure the client is under the monitoring of their GP or a dermatologist in order to address underlying causes and provide up-to-date treatment plans.

“Mild acne can often be treated with topical products only. You should apply the product to the whole area usually affected by acne, not just to the individual lesions. In the first instance it is a great idea to discuss your skin concerns with a clinician who can recommend products best suited to your skin. Often only a few small changes is all that is required to get control of your acne!” says Dr Henderson.

While we will always recommend specific products for individual clients, key ingredients to look for include:

Salicylic Acid - the gold standard of acne treatment. It's also called a beta-hydroxy acid and it works by exfoliating gently to unclog pores. We love Aspect Spot Stop and Cosmedix Simply Brilliant Serum.

“A simple skincare routine with the right products is the first step to controlling acne”, says Dr Henderson.
“The addition of salicylic acid to your cleanser can help exfoliate the skin by reducing the dead skin cells that may have built up and contribute to blocked pores”.

Sulfur - Draws oil out of skin and has a drying effect, making it another great spot treatment. You'll also find it as the active ingredient in some face masks, like our Cosmedix Clear Deep Clarifying Mask.

Cosmedix Clear Clarifying Mask - Buy Online at The Clinic

Glycolic Acid - An alpha-hydroxy acid and exfoliating ingredient that targets both acne and wrinkles at the same time. This powerful ingredient helps improve skin's texture and reduce fine lines and wrinkles while also clearing up breakouts. We recommend Societe Blemish Clarifying Complex.

Retinol - A vitamin A derivative, which the skin absorbs and converts to retinoic acid. The most effective treatment but also the harshest on the skin and should only be used when prescribed or recommended by your skin specialist. For a gentle option, we recommend Cosmedix Define.

“The addition of a topical retinoid product is great at reducing inflammation. Retinoids can cause dryness of the skin so it’s best to use an oil free moisturiser with this product. If you find your skin is becoming too dry then apply only every second night and wash off thoroughly in the morning. Retinoids can also make your skin more sensitive to the sun so it is also important to use a high SPF sunscreen when outside. If you are planning on becoming pregnant soon, currently pregnant, or breast feeding, Retinoids are not safe to use”, explains Dr Henderson.

When topical products aren’t enough

Another area of concern for many of our clients is not how to stop breakouts but how to conceal and reduce scars from the result of recurring breakouts.

At The Clinic, we offer a variety of medical-grade peels for deep cleansing of the skin and therefor aiding in cell turnover and rejuvenation of acne-prone skin. These specialist peels help to reduce the frequency of acne flare ups, promote healthy skin and are best used in conjunction with a personalised skin care regime. However, we also use the following for our clients.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): An effective rejuvenation treatment that breaks down melanin in the skin, reversing pigmentation and creating an even skin tone. The light therapy also kills bacteria and calms inflammation.

SkinPen: A medical micro-needling device that uses tiny needles to stimulate the body’s natural wound healing response. This is a more corrective option once the acne has cleared up as it treats scarring or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Fraxel: Fraxel is our most effective treatment for pigmentation, discolouration, freckles, sun spots, age spots, acne scarring and overall rejuvenation. We recommend this treatment for those who have their acne under control and are looking to correct their skin.

The most important thing to remember about adult acne is that it’s a journey, not a destination. It can often take weeks, sometimes even months to find the cause, eliminate triggers and start to see results.

We work with you for the long haul; we don’t promise quick fixes (and if someone else does, they probably don’t understand skin the same way we do); and we ensure at the end of your treatment plan, you love the skin you’re in.

“Acne can be effectively treated using a variety of different methods so don’t give up! And remember to be patient as most treatments can take at least 6 weeks to start to become effective”, adds Dr Henderson.

For more information and expert advice, book a consultation with our medically trained team today.