Adult Acne: How To Get Rid Of It And What's Causing The Spots

Finally, the sheer number of products women pile on may be to blame for “pomade acne,” so named for pimple-causing hair ointments but now used to refer to breakouts from any occlusive product. Too many acne treatments can cause inflammation, which itself can cause pore blockage.

Also at issue is what Dr. Zeichner called “21-step skin care routines,” which may or may not be effective. Combining multiple products may inactivate the hero ingredients in each, and using the wrong things “can certainly cause an acne flare,” he said.

Dr. Zeichner, who sees double the number of adult female acne patients now compared to five years ago, suggested that after cleansing, any more than three steps in the morning or evening is “too much.” His preferred regimen is even simpler: serum and sunscreen in the morning; moisturizer and a therapeutic product in the evening.

He also advised giving products a monthlong trial to see results. No active ingredient works instantly unless it’s a hydrator or a plumper, which are only temporary benefits.

When choosing products, respect the skin barrier. In adult acne sufferers, the skin is often dry and sensitive, and unable to tolerate the same treatments (or the same levels of ingredients) as robust teenage oily skin. If you’re using a leave-on product with a potential irritant — like the common zit treatments benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid — avoid using a cleanser with irritants. (A rule of thumb: ones labeled “acne-fighting” or “pore-refining.”)

Another challenge in healing adult acne is that because of collagen breakdown from aging, the skin is weaker than that of teenagers. Sarah Chapman, a facialist in London whose clients include Meghan Markle, said blemishes can take, in her experience, four to 10 times as long to disappear.

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