How I Tackled Adult Acne

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Breakout Backstory

My crusade against acne dates back to a time when Bioré nose strips were all the rage and Jennifer Love Hewitt was the fresh face of Neutrogena. As a greasy teenager, I exhausted all of the shiny drugstore products and three-step processes in trying to clear it up, but discovered they pretty much sucked as a means to confront real problematic skin (forgive me, Jennifer). The only effective solution for me came in the form of Accutane - two rounds - which, in conjunction with time, found me entering my twenties with the smoothest skin of my life.

This smooth sailing would continue for years to come, thanks to a moderate skincare regimen and semi-regular facials. But, all good things must come to an end, and sometime around twenty-eight, the pimple pendulum swung back my way, when one day I woke up to a cluster of gross red zits on my chin and jawline.

When Hormonal Zits Hit

Back with a vengeance, pimples once again plagued my existence, popping up (quite literally) at the most inconvenient of times: dates, interviews and group outings when photo ops were not in short supply. Ugh. While tempted to feel sorry for myself - How could I be victim to this again? Weren't my teenage years enough? Hadn't I come of age? - I resolved to take the power back and come up with a game plan to defeat the nuisance once and for all. In lieu of subjecting myself to Accutane again, I endeavored to eliminate acne by whatever less-harsh means I could, and along the way, compile my findings to help others suffering the same hormonal breakouts. Read on for my comprehensive guide to banishing adult acne. Bye Felicia.

How To Kick Adult Acne

Think of this as a roadmap to your clearest skin imaginable. You're welcome.

1. Recruit professional help.

As in find a great dermatologist and aesthetician. I can't emphasize enough the importance of appointing professional players to your team in your battle against acne. Not only are they your biggest cheerleaders, but they will be the most equipped to provide you with groundbreaking treatments and tips. After all, it's their job!

2. Try topical cream

I was initially resistant to topical cream when my dermatologist suggested it, because they didn't work for me as a teenager. But, the reality is that prescription products have come a long way over the years. Specifically, Finacea Gel is my secret weapon. I use a dime-size of the azealic acid every morning before my moisturizer and makeup, and as a spot treatment when needed. It tingles without being too harsh on my sensitive skin, and it is the single most prized product in my routine.

3. Rotate your pillow cases

This is seemingly obvious, but dirty pillowcases are a big culprit for acne. I suggest changing your pillow cases at least once or twice per week. Consider going a step further by investing in a blemish-fighting pillowcase. Additionally, it is important to be mindful of other germy offenders — cell phones, yoga mats and your hands. Keep them away from your face!

4. Establish a take-no-prisoners regime

Long gone are the days of a laissez-faire approach to skincare. If you want great or even good skin, you have to get serious about how you take care of it. This means: Never go to sleep without removing your makeup. Never! Wash your face at night and in the morning. Exfoliate twice a week. Use a mask once a week. Treat yourself to a facial once a month or so; those torturous extractions really make a difference. Wear sunscreen. All of this seems like a lot of work, and it is, but I've found it to be worth it.

5. Switch to tinted moisturizer

The more I break out, the more I want to cake on the foundation but this further aggravates the problem. Now I wear Eve Lom's Radiance Perfected Moisturizer daily and save the heavier coverage foundation for special occasions.

6. Identify trigger foods

I used to believe that acne-causing food was a myth, but I have found the opposite to be true for my skin. If you are the least bit suspicious that something in your diet is triggering breakouts, try eliminating it for a week or two to see what happens. My problem foods are dairy, high-iodine products (pickles, seaweed) and bananas, which is a real bummer because I love bananas. I digress. On the topic of nutrition and skin, note that drinking hot water with lemon every morning will work wonders for your complexion (and digestion).

7. Consider prescription medication

My dermatologist prescribed me a low dose of Spironolactone, which while originally intended to treat hypertension, is now a popular acne medication too. It works to block testosterone, thereby preventing hormonal breakouts. I am personally holding out on taking the drug since my skin is more or less under control without it, but I do know several women, including a few Team Zoe staffers, who swear by it.

8. Do not touch your face

Last but not least, do not touch face. It's the oldest dermatology dictum in the book, and the most obvious, but if you're like me than you still struggle with this very simple no-no. So, join me in vowing to keep our filthy paws off of our pretty visages, won't you?

The Results Are In

Two months into my skincare bootcamp, and while I'm not quite Jennifer Love Hewitt, I am still feeling my own version of clean and clear and under control.

Skin Brightening Exfoliator

$29

Kiehl's

Radiance Perfected Tinted Moisturizer

$55

Eve Lom

Milky Jelly Cleanser

$18

Glossier

Ultra Facial Cream

$27

Kiehl's