Adult acne can be more than just annoying. For some, it's a major blow to confidence and self-esteem. Sometimes, it's even painful.
Four women who have struggled with adult acne for years opened up about their experiences finding a skin care regimen that worked for them and the hurdles they faced along the way.
Sharon Martinez, a 21-year-old student and photographer, uses just three products to tame her adult acne. When she first began to struggle with the condition, she said she just wanted to hide from the world — but once she found a regimen that worked for her and her skin, she found herself regaining some of that confidence.
Most days, Sarah's morning routine only has one step, as she washes her face with the Promise Organic Nourishing Coconut Milk Face Cleanser With Papaya. Once a week she applies an exfoliating Pumpkin Enzyme Masque.
Promise Organic Nourishing Coconut Milk Face Cleanser With Papaya, $8, CVS
This gentle product cleanses and purifies skin, without stripping it of its natural oils or causing further irritation. Best used on normal to combination skin, it's safe for sensitive skin and combines coconut milk and cupuacu butter for instant hydration and softness. As a bonus, its first ingredient is aloe vera, not water, ensuring extra nourishment.
Pumpkin Enzyme Masque, $39, Banish
Exfoliate in just 10 minutes with this mask. Formulated with natural pumpkin enzymes and glycolic acid, it works on all skin types and improves skin clarity while reducing oil and congestion, clearing pores. Key vitamins and antioxidants reduce the appearance of fine lines, and defend against pollutants. Because it doesn't require any harsh scrubbing, it won't irritate skin.
Her evening routine starts out with another application of the facial cleanser. She then applies The Banish Oil, a vitamin C serum that she lets sit overnight.
The Banish Oil, $49, Banish
Designed to help even out skin tone, improve skin's texture and create a smoother, firmer appearance, this oil works overtime. It's made fresh to order for maximum effectiveness, and with no colored dyes or artificial fragrances, it's gentle on your skin.
Chelsea Henak, a 22-year-old actress and student, primarily uses Proactiv products to keep her skin clear.
She starts her morning routine with a cleanser, followed by a toner. She then uses a treatment to repair her skin and finishes it all off with Proactiv's Green Tea Moisturizer.
Proactiv Green Tea Moisturizer, $40, Amazon
Apply this nongreasy moisturizer daily to alleviate dryness. Chock-full of hydrating ingredients and nature's most powerful antioxidant, green tea, it's designed to nourish and smooth skin.
The evening routine uses all the same steps as the morning — there's the cleanser, toner, repairing treatment and green-tea moisturizer, all applied in the same order. As an additional, final step, she applies Proactiv's Clarifying Night Cream.
Sarah Sorsaburu, a 30-year-old stay-at-home mom and skin health coach, had adult acne that often left her skin painful to the touch. She talked about Nia 24 products as she described her morning routine. She's also used chemical peels to remove her scarring — but when another life change brought on more breakouts, she decided to keep those acne scars, deciding that they were just "a part of who I was."
Sarah said that she starts with Nia 24's Gentle Cleansing Cream to wash her face and follows it with the brand's Rapid Exfoliating Serum to tone. She moisturizes with the Nia 24 Intensive Recovery Complex and follows it all up with a 30 SPF sunscreen from the brand's Sun Damage Prevention line.
Nia 24 Gentle Cleansing Cream, $33, Amazon
This non-foaming cleanser leaves skin feeling moisturized and soft. Great for fighting sun damage, it's gentle enough to use morning and night.
Nia 24 Rapid Exfoliating Serum, $82, Amazon
This resurfacing treatment reduces rough, dry patches, which can clog pores and dull your skin's appearance. This serum uses plant-based exfoliants to increase and supplement the natural exfoliation enzymes of your skin, and its clinical-strength Pro-Niacin improves cell turnover, leaving skin refreshed and clean.
Nia 24 Intensive Recovery Complex, $118, Amazon
This intense treatment can be used daily. With the essential elements and brighteners that your skin needs to reduce discoloration and have a firmer, more toned texture, the smallest amount leads to visibly fuller, firmer and brighter skin.
Nia 24 Sun Damage Prevention Sunscreen, $49, Amazon
Of course, nothing protects your skin like preventive care. This lightweight, nongreasy sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection while also helping repair your skin.
Sarah didn't talk about her evening routine, but spoke about her experience with chemical peels. They allowed her to get rid of her acne scars without any redness or discoloration.
Chloe Brown, a 29-year-old content creator, said that when she started treating her acne, she went to natural products. Some of the products worked, others didn't, and eventually she went to a dermatologist to ask for help. Now, her multistep routine uses a combination of prescription and over-the-counter products to treat her acne.
Her six-step morning routine begins with CeraVe's Hydrating Facial Cleanser, which is gentle and moisturizing. She follows that with a 10% benzoyl peroxide wash, which sits on the skin for two minutes before being washed again. Next comes a prescribed 1% clindamycin phosphate topical solution, which she applies with a small cotton pad. She allows that to sit for 20 minutes before washing it off.
Chloe follows all of this with CeraVe's Daily Moisturizing Lotion, a heavy-duty moisturizer. She then spot-treats problem areas with another dose of benzoyl peroxide, this one at 2.5%.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, $15, Amazon
This cleanser uses a unique formula with three essential ceramides that cleanse, hydrate and restore your skin. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, it helps retain skin's natural moisture, and it's non-irritating and gentle on even the most sensitive skin.
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion, $13, Amazon
The lightweight formula of this lotion leaves your skin feeling hydrated all day long. Formulated with three essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid, just like the facial cleanser, it uses patented MVE controlled-release technology to replenish those ceramides throughout the day. Free of fragrance and oil, it hydrates without clogging pores and is gentle on skin.
The evening routine is pretty similar to her morning one. Once again, she washes her face with the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser and follows it with a 10% benzoyl peroxide wash, but this time she doesn't let it sit for more than 10 seconds before washing it off. She then reapplies the clindamycin phosphate and lets it set for another 20 minutes, just like in the morning.
She follows that with "the tiniest bit" of a prescribed Retin-A topical cream and wraps it all up with another application of the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion.
For more skin care recommendations, check out:
- The skin care products you should use at every age, according to NewBeauty
- 15 new skin care products from Harper's Bazaar's Anti-Aging Awards
- The simple skin care routine dermatologists recommend (and it's not complicated)