Why Your Adult Acne Is Not Like Your Teen Acne & What To Do With It

Why Your Adult Acne Is Not Like Your Teen Acne & What To Do With It

By AMS Fulfillment

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When you first learn that acne doesn’t just end after being a teen, it can be shocking. What makes the acne you experience as a teen going through puberty and as an adult going through tax season is different and that is why you can’t treat them the same way that you did, scrubbing at your face in your parent's bathroom.

When you first learn that acne doesn’t just end after being a teen, it can be shocking. What makes the acne you experience as a teen going through puberty and as an adult going through tax season is different and that is why you can’t treat them the same way that you did, scrubbing at your face in your parent's bathroom.

What percentage of clients have adult acne?

This is an interesting question because clients and Skin Therapists would disagree on this one. “If you ask a Skin Therapist, they might estimate that they might treat 10-20% of clients for adult acne,” Alex S. tells us. “However, if you ask clients, I’d say that almost 50% of clients tell us that they have adult acne. The good news is that often we’re actually seeing breakouts, not clinical acne.”

What is the difference between breakouts and acne? How do I know what I have?

It is common to get the two confused. To decipher between acne and breakouts, we take a step back and look at the broader picture of your skin across time.

Acne is a condition. It arises from those with a genetic predisposition. Do breakouts run in your family? Did your parents have it? Did your breakout activity start at the onset of puberty? Do you tend to experience breakouts not only on the face but back or chest as well? If you answered yes to ⅔ of these questions, your skin might be genetically determined to being acneic.

When we speak of simply “breakouts,” we are speaking of the skin having a temporary response to improper product usage, bacteria presence, or hormonal fluctuations which lead to the appearance of red bumps often inflamed and at times with a whitehead (sign of infection).

Okay so back to acne. Teen acne — that’s pretty straightforward, right?

Yep, no surprises here. You can blame it on becoming an adult. “Teenage breakouts usually come down to puberty and rapid changes happening in your body,” Alex S. tells us. “As testosterone increases, oil production does as well, which makes you more prone to acne.” For girls, well...you know, periods.

And what about adult acne?

When looking at our clients from the last year, we found that a full 25% of clients experienced the dry breakouts associated with adult acne. Think of where a surgical mask sits, along the chin and jaw – right up in there is the hormonally-linked area of the face. We’re not as likely to see adult acne on the forehead. Adult acne can result from a few different reasons. The first is stress.

Uh oh.

Yep, as professional Skin Therapists, we recognize that chronic, continual stress can trigger breakouts as increased hormone levels can lead to an increase in oil production.

Especially in females, it is a common path of dermatological treatment to recommend a birth control pill to decrease the androgen activity contributing to breakouts. However, this method does not guarantee improvement and often leads to other troubling side effects. That being said, we always ask about it. "I often ask my clients about their birth control, because these issues can line up together without someone even noticing. Especially because coming off of birth control can mean that they are focusing on something else (aka having babies),” our Skin Therapist Sam M. says.

What about products?

Changing products regularly can cause the skin to react by purging and result in breakouts. It can also make your skin and lipid barrier go a little (or a lot). Over-exfoliating? Same result. Breakouts from this don't necessarily mean that you have an acne condition, though.

So what can I do about adult acne? Are there certain products I should use?

It can be a frustrating trip down the aisle of any drugstore or even the most popular beauty retailers, as a lot of "acne" products are formulated for teenage skin, loaded with harsh drying ingredients. (We can debate whether those are/were good for the teens another time...) These products do little to heal breakout activity and commonly leave the skin sensitized and damaged. Adult breakouts live way deep down in the skin, and involve a lot of inflammation, which require a different treatment method.

Here at Heyday, our philosophy is to feed the skin with deeply healing ingredients, rather than strip it and hope for the best.

A thorough skin analysis will identify what may be contributing to your breakout activity, and your Skin Therapists will tweak or fill in the gaps of your home routine to get you on the path to clear, happy skin. But should you not be able to join us, here’s some advice from our Jenna W.

Consistent, appropriate exfoliation

Look for gentle fruit enzymes such as papain and bromelain (from papaya and pineapple) to digest dead skin cells which easily lead to clogged pores and breakouts. We love One Love Organics' Brand New Day. Shoot for using it (or another) exfoliant around twice a week in the shower (the warm water will help prepare your skin). If you suspect you need to go deeper than that, a peel might be the next step.

Balanced hydration

A properly balanced, hydrated complexion with an intact moisture barrier (read that twice) simply heals faster, and this extends to quicker breakout clearing. Look for skincare products full of humectants such as honey, aloe, hyaluronic acid, or glycerin. These powerhouse hydrators attract water and hold it to the skin all day, keeping your skin protected and functioning at its very best. Without a solid moisture barrier, skin is quick to react in breakouts to any fluctuation such as with weather change, travel, or stress. We’re big fans of Image’s Hyaluronic Filler, as it can hold 1,000 times it weight in water and its lightweight silkiness won't feel heavy on skin with breakouts.

Gentle antibacterial ingredients

Bacteria – it’s everywhere, unavoidable, and a major contributor to pesky breakouts, especially those with panic-inducing whiteheads. A necessary step of a clearing regimen includes ingredients such as lavender, lemon, rosemary, honey, tea tree or willow bark to kill bacteria, then shrink and eventually prevent breakouts. These antibacterial ingredients will make their way into the breakout without popping/opening up your breakout. Doing so would only spread bacteria to neighboring pores. A product we love here is Ursa Major’s Face Tonic.

Anti-Inflammatory masks/spot treatment

Masks and overnight spot treatments are your opportunity to kick clearing into high gear! Look for calming ingredients such as arnica, sage, ginger, green tea, licorice, oats, turmeric, neem, and evening primrose. You’ll find their soothing properties shrink sore (especially cystic) breakouts much much faster than any 3-step teen line, or pale pink no-shake bottle could. Think of feeding breakouts healing ingredients as oppose to starving them. (It's weird, but think of it this way – aggravate them and they'll get angrier; be kind to them, and they'll listen to you.) For feeding and clearing, we’re obsessed with Shaffali’s Volcanic Ash & Sage Facial Earth Mask.


Bottom line, we know what it's like to suffer from adult acne or breakouts. So many of our team members got into this line of work after their own struggles and triumphs.

When it comes to treating it, there are ways to keep things under control and find the real reason behind what is happening. We just need to look under the hood a bit and that's arguably, one of our favorite things to do. 


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