How Do You Battle Adult Acne?

Ahhh, the quest for clear skin. I have to admit that today’s open thread is a rather selfish one. After ditching my monthly birth control pills in favor of feeling more like myself and less like a manic zombie with zero libido, my acne once again decided to rear its ugly head. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I’m nearly 27. Why is this still happening?” So, I figured I’d open up conversation for all those who may be trying and feeling like they, too, are failing in this pesky skin department.

You see, my acne and I have quite the toxic, albeit longstanding relationship. It all started when I was a freshmen in college. A move from Nebraska to Texas, maintaining intense, self-inflicted spells of stress and, well, a transition from my teens to my twenties all played their roles. But, if you know me, you know I’m headstrong. I like to attack issues such as these with an intense fervor and won’t stop until I find a solution. And, I did. Find a solution, that is. I popped over to the university medical center, was prescribed a low dose of Doxycycline, and on my merry way I want — pimple free, too.

That worked for a bit. But, just as I was beginning to forget my days of white-headed dread and classify myself as someone who doesn’t struggle with acne, it made its way back into my life after yet another move from Texas to Tennessee. This time, more intense than ever. I made a beeline straight for the closest, yet most reliable dermatologist I could find, and together we came to what seemed like the ideal resolution: a straightforward cocktail of birth control, retinol, and a little extra TLC for my skin after a sweaty session at the gym. This also worked wonders. But, for whatever reason, everything with my acne feels as though it always comes full circle. So, here I am again, feeling more like myself thanks to ditching the added hormones, but with one more breakout than I’d care to see living beneath the surface of my skin.

I’ve come to the realization that the more I allow myself to be vulnerable about these struggles with others — whether they be the friends closest to me, acquaintances I meet in passing, or work colleagues— the more I realize that I’m not alone in this fight. Adult acne is more common than one might think. Sometimes it’s genetics, other times it’s mere trial and error, finding what works for you and your particular situation. And, everyone’s definition of acne looks a little different than the person sitting next to them. I want to hear about your journeys and where you’ve found success. I’d love to de-stigmatize the need for a perfect complexion in lieu of getting real about what’s going on in our world. I’ll start: since ditching the birth control, I’ve found exfoliation does wonders, especially if I get ahead of the issue and start when I feel a breakout coming on. I particularly love the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel, the Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel when I need something a bit more intense, and the Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial. I also try to cut dairy as much as possible and take a Vitamin A supplement.

What’s helped keep your acne under control? Have you taken a more holistic approach, choosing to start internally before searching for external solutions? Or, perhaps you’ve tried something more intense like prescription medication? How do you battle adult acne both physically and mentally? I’m all ears.

Written by: Tiana Gidley

Tiana Gidley is a 20-something Contributing Editor at The Bleu. She binge-watches reality TV on Bravo, throws a mean murder mystery party, and makes her bed every morning.


  1. liza

    September 16, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    i battled acne until i strickly started using drunk elephant only and removed silicone from my skin care

    • Tiana Gidley

      September 17, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      I love Drunk Elephant and have found that quite a few of their products do wonders for my skin as well. I haven’t tried going completely DE, but I’ve heard of so many people who have. I might have to consider! T

      • liza

        September 18, 2019 at 5:19 am

        do it! i was skeptical of the hype and crazy loyal fans, but it literally saved my skin.

    • Ashlae W.

      September 19, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      THIS. YES. Ditto. I had pretty bad adult acne until I started incorporating DE products into my routine *religiously*. TLC framboos, b-hydra, and C-firma have saved my skin. <3

      • Tiana Gidley

        September 20, 2019 at 11:28 am

        The TLC & C-Firma are SO good! Will definitely have to grab the B-Hydra!

  2. Kristina

    September 16, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    I have mostly clear skin but I get hormonal acne that pops up right before my period. It’s usually just 1-3 pimples but stubborn and the deep, painful kind. They take forever to go away. But then I tried Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion and Drying Lotion. I SWEAR by it. If a feel a pimple starting to form under the skin I put the buffering lotion on top of it at night and by the morning it has usually vanished, without ever surfacing. Because the Buffering Lotion works so well I rarely have to use the Drying Lotion, but in the event a pimple actually surfaces, I use the Drying lotion and it dries it up fairly quickly. If you have very sensitive skin or rosacea these may not be the products for you but they have felt like a miracle product for me personally.

    • Tiana Gidley

      September 17, 2019 at 5:45 pm

      I had never heard of the Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion, if you can believe it! I am definitely going to swing by and pick that one up. Thank you!

  3. Tracy

    September 19, 2019 at 8:03 am

    I had clear skin until I turned 22 then it was open season on my face for cystic acne. It was so painful and nothing worked I just looked like a leper .

    As I got older I had flare ups before and during my period and I used Clinique clearing solution to spot treat and it worked well. I changed my birth control and now I have clearer skin and minor blemishes that pop up mostly due to stress and lack of sleep so I use hydrocolloid band aids or Mario bedescu drying lotion. I recently purchased zitsticka’s and they have cool micro darts to treat deeper blemishes. They aren’t cheap but they work.

    I feel like the best treatment is water, sleep and knowing that everyone goes through it so don’t worry too much .

    • Tiana Gidley

      September 20, 2019 at 11:30 am

      I couldn’t agree more! Water and sleep are paramount. But, I’ll definitely have to try the zitsticka + hydrocolloid band-aids, too!

  4. Roberta

    September 23, 2019 at 1:36 pm


    For me the biggest game changers are using some type of salicylic/glycolic acid combo when I feel spots coming on or to heal them upon arrival. Also the Renée Rouleau anti cyst serum is wildly good. But overall I think a lot of acne is based on what’s going on inside so whenever I feel some coming on I try to eat lots of greens and take a burdock root tincture to clean my blood which usually does wonders 🙂

  5. Miranda

    September 24, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    I think I have *some* stuff down at age 25. Context: v oily skin but dry skin around cheeks/jaw (oh you cheeky sebaceous glands, you), breakouts before my period for SURE and mid-cycle usually.

    The biggest thing for my skin has been massively reducing dairy intake and getting over my fear of moisturizing. There was something so confusing to me about applying more moisture to your face when there is already a party of zits but now I swear by it. Plus, an exfoliator.

    Now my skin is largely under control, but I still usually have one or two zits on my radar everyday. Any skin nerds out there, I would welcome feedback. 🙂

    PM (looks so intense when i write this down omg, truth be told, i love this routine… i’ll usually wash my face in the bathroom and apply the exfoliant, and then just apply the rest of the stuff in the sequence below as I read/go on my phone/watch TV in my bed)
    Remove makeup with a micellar wash
    Wash face with CeraVe gentle wash (for normal to dry skin)
    BHA Liquid Exfoliant 2% from Paula’s Choice
    Antioxidant Pore Purifier from Paula’s Choice
    The Ordinary HLA 2% + B5 (SAVED my skin from being dry!!)
    Sometimes a Vitamin C serum from the ordinary
    The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
    Benzagel on any zits

    Wash face with water
    Sometimes apply the PC exfoliant
    SPF 15 moisturizer from CeraVe AM

  6. Patrice

    September 25, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    DIM supplements worked really well for me and my cystic acne for quite awhile. I also found that sulfur based face wash made a huge difference compared to other cleansers/washes I had used in the past. I use Kate Somerville. I now have to take spironolactone as all my non-medication methods were no longer enough to keep my acne remotely at bay. Before starting the medication, I had constant hormonal acne for a year – all around my mouth/chin and jawline area – I finally gave in and went to a dermatologist. Within 2 months of starting the medication I was getting one, cystic type pimple every 2 to 3 weeks rather than what felt like a new one everyday for the year prior.

  7. Elena olson

    September 30, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Mad Hippie exfoliating serum is two thumbs up. I sometimes get cystic acne and if I feel something coming on, using it as a spot treatment is efficient.

    Mizon all in one Snail Repair was another game changer for me. Great every day moisturizer. Make up layers beautifully and never feels tacky.

    Lavender and frankincense essential oils have helped tremendously as well. Works great as a spot treatment or added to s facial oil. My favorite (and easy on the wallet) is Acure Seriously Soothing. Blue Tansy for the win!

  8. BHaun

    October 6, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Cosrx pimple patches are absolute life savers! They’re little stickers you put on blemishes and they draw out all gunk, flattening the bump out on a matter of hours. Bonus: they’re super affordable at $6 a sheet. I cannot be without them!

  9. Gemma

    October 7, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    I’m 26 and I’ve struggled with acne my whole life. I’m not sure which of these things has made my skin better because I kinda started doing them all at once and immediately saw improvements:
    1. After I wash my face, I dry my face with a paper towel. You wouldn’t believe how much bacteria grows on a wet towel, and when you’re already prone to acne, it’s better to play it safe.
    2. I use Glossier milk jelly cleanser at night along with Glossier solution to wipe of all dead skin.
    3. I end my routine with Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer (the OG).
    Good luck on finding what’s right for your skin!

  10. Elizabeth

    October 11, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    Rosehip oil! I’ve struggled with painful cystic acne and have tried everything from medications, retinol creams, acid peels, etc. The only thing that truly did the trick was Rosehip oil. I was hesitant at first – why would I want to make my face MORE oily!? But what I learned is that oil reduces oil! I apply generously at night and apply a smaller amount via a cotton pad in the morning. It has done wonders for my skin (not only acne free, but also glowy) and makes my makeup go on beautifully.


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