4 Truths (And 1 Lie) About Adult Acne
As seen in Elle Magazine. Unlike high-school crushes, an obsession with The Hills and awkward formal photos, breakouts aren’t something you necessarily leave behind in your teens – it’s reported that 40 per cent of Australian women suffer from acne at some point in their adult lives.
Painful, debilitating and often embarrassing, coming to terms with adult acne isn’t easy. With good skin being crucial to both our physical and emotional wellbeing, we asked Dr Philippa McCaffery, cosmetic physician and Clinical Director of Clearskincare Clinics, to shed some light on adult acne and sort the facts from the fiction in a bid to get rid of it once and for all.
TRUTH: Dairy and carbs could be the culprits
Google ‘diet and acne’ and you’ll find pages and pages of contradictory articles debating the impact that food has (or doesn’t have) on your skin. Confused? We don’t blame you, but Dr McCaffery believes that lifestyle factors—such diet and smoking—play a crucial role in adult acne. “There is starting to be more evidence that diet is a factor in acne,” she says. “We recommend our clients try to reduce their dairy and refined carbohydrates intake. Trial an elimination of these foods and see if they are contributing to your breakouts.”
As for smoking? While it’s long been considered a skin sin (and just a general health sin), research suggests smoking isn’t just responsible for rogue wrinkles, but adult acne too. The study, in the British Journal of Dermatology, found that smokers who suffered acne as a teen were four times as likely to develop adult acne.
TRUTH: Don’t use a facial moisturiser
Adult acne doesn’t respond well to a traditional skincare routine; those with problem skin are advised to skip the moisturiser step altogether. “Moisturisers should generally be avoided,” she says. “They clog pores and increase oiliness and cheaper supermarket products don’t have sufficient active ingredients to make a difference in the skin.”
As for makeup? The more natural, the better. “Whilst makeup is fine to cover pimples, oil-based makeup is a big no-no,” says McCaffery. “Mineral powder is much kinder to your pores and still provides great coverage.
TRUTH: The sun and sea are your friends
While the idea of going make-up free at the beach next summer may fill you with dread, beach days could actually help fix your breakouts. “Certain frequencies of light can help breakouts and salt water is a natural exfoliator,” says McCaffery. Salt can get a bad rap food-wise—it’s associated with dehydration, bloating and sodium-heavy diets—but when it comes to skincare, salt helps to deeply cleanse the skin, ridding any acne-causing bacteria. It’s also a stellar exfoliant and leaves skin feeling smoother and ready to absorb skin-balancing nutrients.
Vitamin D has shown to be effective in the treatment of acne, however McCaffery suggests avoiding potentially harmful sun exposure and sticking with LED lights instead: “Do your skin a favour and skip the UV light of the sun in favour of clinic-based LED treatments which have the same effects.”
TRUTH: You need to exfoliate daily
Ask any beauty pro and they’ll likely tell you that exfoliating more than 2-3 times a week will irritate your skin and cause it to overproduce oil (oh hey shine). However, once again, that doesn’t apply to acne sufferers. “Most acne-prone skin likes to be regularly exfoliated,” McCaffery says. She advises cleansing and exfoliating daily if you have problem skin. “It is best to use low concentration glycolic or lactic peels, or glycolic creams with microdermabrasion crystals,” she says.
LIE: Adult acne will eventually fix itself
“It’s a huge misconception that acne only affects teenagers,” says McCaffery. “For reasons we don’t fully understand, acne is affecting adults at an increasing rate and can be very chronic and treatment resistant, particularly among adult females.” So what’s the solution? Topical treatments? “Most topical acne treatments only work whilst you use them,” she says. “And laser and light-based acne treatments have variable results that are usually not permanent. Also, most oral treatments are non-selective and have side effects.”