Adult acne is on the rise. It is estimated that around 40% to 55% of the adult population aged between 20 and 40 are currently suffering from this condition, with this affecting both the face and the body.

Adult acne can be so frustrating and challenging to deal with, but there are a number of steps that you can take to clear your skin up, while also preventing future breakouts from occurring.

Cleanse Regularly, But Not Too Much

One of the common causes of adult acne is blocked pores. These clogs then lead to inflammation in the skin, which triggers a breakout.

What causes these blockages?

Everything from dirt to oil to dead skin cells. These build up on your skin over the course of the day, and, if they aren’t removed, end up working their way into your pores.

Infographic on acne formation

This is why cleansing is so essential when it comes to tackling and preventing adult acne.

How often should you be cleansing?

Every evening for sure. If your skin is especially oily, you may need to cleanse twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

While your skin may feel so fresh and clean after cleansing, it is important to ensure that you don’t over-cleanse either. This will cause you to strip away too much of your skin’s natural oil.

You’re probably thinking…

Isn’t that a good thing?

In theory it may sound good, but, in practice, stripping your skin of all of its oils leads to your skin amping up its oil production in order to compensate for this. This will then leave your skin oilier than ever.

Don’t forget to also use a toner after cleansing…


Because most cleansers out there are on the alkaline side of the pH scale, whereas your skin leans more towards the acidic side. A cleanser throws the skin’s’ pH level off balance, and this can then lead to even more inflammation and breakouts.

How does a toner help?

It re-balances your skin’s pH level, while also providing your skin with some extra hydration and nourishment. 

Not sure which cleanser or toner you should use? You can always start with the White Pearl 2-Step Cleansing Kit, which includes a milk cleanser and skin toner that are both gentle enough for sensitive skin.

Don’t Forget to Exfoliate

While cleansing clears away all of the debris from the surface of your skin, some of this will still inevitably settle in your pores.

This is where exfoliation comes in…

There are two main types of exfoliation to choose from:

  • Physical Exfoliation – this uses abrasive particles to scrub away dirt and dead skin cells from within the pores
  • Chemical Exfoliation – this uses specific acids to dissolve away oil, dirt and other impurities

Which form of exfoliation is better when dealing with adult acne?

Chemical exfoliation tends to be best. It may sound a little aggressive if you’ve never used a chemical exfoliant before, but they can actually be much more gentle than an abrasive scrub. Scrubs can also result in you spreading acne-causing bacteria all over your face, worsening your condition.

When it comes to chemical exfoliation, there are several different acids that are used. They can usually be categorized as one of the following:

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) – these are water-soluble acids that target enlarged pores, aging skin and hyperpigmentation
  • Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) – these are oil-soluble acids that delve deep into the pores, clearing away dead skin cells and dissolving excess oil

As you can see, BHAs tend to be the best option for acne. The most common BHA is salicylic acid, which is also incorporated into many of the acne treatments out there. Keep an eye on the concentration of salicylic acid in the product you use – you need it to be strong enough to have an effect, but not too strong that it causes damage to your skin.

If you are unsure, start off with a low concentration and slowly work your way up.

Clean Up Your Diet 

There is such a strong link between diet and adult acne, meaning that making a few changes to the foods that you eat could really help you clear up your skin

Certain foods are known for being common acne triggers. These include:

  • Sugar
  • Refined grains
  • Dairy products
  • Fried foods and junk foods

These foods make up a significant portion of the modern day diet, but they are also quite easy to cut out if you are dedicated to this. There are so many healthier alternatives out there. Try to incorporate as many fresh and whole foods into your diet as possible, staying away from processed and packaged items.

Give Blue Light Therapy A Try

Have you ever heard of LED light therapy?

It’s a skin care treatment that is becoming so popular.

The technology was first developed by NASA in the 1990s, but it wasn’t long before the skin care industry also realized its benefits.

What exactly is LED light therapy?

It makes use of a device that emits LED lights. Different wavelengths (ie. colors) of light are used to target different skin concerns. These lights penetrate deep into the skin, stimulating your skin cells when it comes to performing certain tasks.

When it comes to dealing with adult acne, blue light therapy is what you need.

What do the blue lights do?

They penetrate deep into the pores and hair follicles. The bacteria that causes acne is actually extremely sensitive when it comes to the blue light spectrum. When the blue lights come into contact with this bacteria, the lights put a stop to the bacteria’s metabolism, which then causes them to die. 

Woman undergoing blue light therapy

Red lights can also be useful for dealing with acne too, although only when used in conjunction with the blue lights. Red lights have the effect of minimizing inflammation, which then helps to reduce breakouts.

Where should you go for these light therapy treatments?

Many dermatologists and medical spas offer LED light therapy. However, this is something that needs to be done quite consistently if you really want to clear up your acne, ideally around two to three times a week. As you can imagine, professional treatments this frequently can really add up in cost.

If you think that LED light therapy may be what you need, it could be worth investing in an at-home device. This will save you so much money in the long run, and also makes it much easier and more convenient to carry out the treatments at a time and place that suits you.

Get Those Hormones Under Control

One of the most common causes of adult acne is hormonal fluctuations. This is more so the case for women, with hormonal levels changing quite a bit through the menstrual cycle. It is also common during pregnancy

Each month, as your period draws closer, the amount of estrogen in your body drops. This leaves the testosterone in your body to run wild!

Why does this matter?

Because testosterone has the effect of increasing the amount of oil your skin produces. As you know, excess oil leads to clogged pores and breakouts, so this is something that you definitely want to try to avoid as much as possible.


One way is with the birth control pill. This will regulate your hormonal levels each month. However, keep in mind that once you choose to come off the pill, this may then send your oil glands into overdrive.

There are other medications out there that can also help to keep your hormones under control, but this is something that you would need to speak to your doctor about.

Speaking of hormones…

Cortisol is another hormone worth taking note of. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone, since this is the hormone that your body produces whenever you are feeling stressed.

What does cortisol have to do with adult acne?

Because cortisol triggers your oil glands to produce more oil, once again leading to clogged pores and breakouts. Cortisol also increases the level of inflammation in your body, which also contributes to acne. 

Infographic on cortisol

Don’t worry, there are so many stress reduction techniques out there that you can try. Here are a few scientifically-proven methods to get you started:

You will likely need to try a few different techniques before you find one that works well for you. Don’t give up if it takes you a while – it really is worth taking the time to keep your stress levels down if you suffer from adult acne.

Incorporate Benzoyl Peroxide Into Your Skin Care Routine 

If you have been suffering from adult acne for a while now, then you have likely already heard of benzoyl peroxide.

It is a topical medication that is commonly used to treat acne, and can be found in a wide range of over-the-counter products. Whether you prefer to use creams, gels, cleansers, toners or anything else, chances are that you will be able to find one that contains benzoyl peroxide.

Of course, prescription-strength versions of this medication are available too, although you should always try a gentler one first.

How does benzoyl peroxide actually work?

It has antimicrobial properties. This means that it is able to destroy the acne-causing bacteria on your skin and in your pores, significantly reducing the frequency and severity of your breakouts. It also helps to keep the pores clean and clear, preventing future breakouts from occurring too.

One thing to keep in mind if you have never used benzoyl peroxide before…

This can be quite a harsh ingredient, and can sometimes lead to dryness and peeling skin. The best way to avoid this is to begin using it gradually, starting off with just a couple of times a week. Make sure that you also keep your skin well protected from the sun, since benzoyl peroxide can increase sun sensitivity

Make Sure Your Moisturizer is Water-Based, Non-Comedogenic and Fragrance-Free

You need to be quite careful about the skin care products you use when dealing with adult acne.

It may seem tempting to skip the moisturizer altogether. After all, your skin already contains plenty of excess oil, so is a moisturizer really necessary?

The answer is yes. Oil and water are two completely different things. Although your skin may have plenty of oil, your skin cells still need water in order to properly function.

Skipping out on the moisturizer will only leave your skin cells parched. In order to try to compensate for this, your oil glands will begin to produce more oil. This won’t actually help with hydrating your skin cells, and will only exacerbate your acne.

So, while a moisturizer is a must, you still need to make sure that you are using the right one.

A water-based, rather than an oil-based, moisturizer is the first thing to look out for. You want to be adding water, rather than more oil, to your skin, so stay away from any moisturizers that are heavy with oils.

A non-comedogenic formula is also very important…

What does this mean?

Non-comedogenic means that the formula does not contain any ingredients that will clog up your pores.

Why does your moisturizer need to be fragrance-free too?

Because “fragrance” is a blanket term, and doesn’t actually tell you which specific ingredients have been used to create that fragrance. Many fragrances actually consist of hundreds of different chemicals, and many of these can be highly irritating. The last thing you want to do to acne-prone skin is irritate it even further, which is why a fragrance-free formula would be your safest bet.

If you really don’t want to use a moisturizer…

You may be able to get away with just a serum. However, make sure that the serum you choose contains plenty of hydrating ingredients, as you need to keep your skin’s moisture levels topped up.

Dealing with adult acne is never easy, but there are so many different treatment options out there that you can try. You will likely need to combine multiple treatments in order to really tackle the problem, but all of this effort will be worth it when you are finally rewarded with clear, blemish-free skin.