Acne isn't just a teenage problem. In fact, 25% of women in their 40s and beyond experience breakouts. Banish blemishes for good with our spot-on advice from NYC-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D.
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Adult Acne: 6 Common Concerns Answered
Is there a right way to wash your face?
Dr. Engelman: Over-cleansing can irritate blemishes and dry out your skin. Wash twice daily with a gentle but effective cleanser that contains 2% salicylic acid. This will lightly exfoliate skin and open up pores, which can prevent future breakouts.
Editor's product pick: Bioré blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser, $8 The tingling, cooling sensation refreshes skin.
What causes acne, and how can I prevent it?
Dr. Engelman: Whatever your age, breakouts have similar causes. Hormones play a big role: Your body starts producing them during puberty and continues through adulthood, flaring back up in your 40s. Controlling your diet can help. Try to minimize intake of dairy and sugary snacks and drinks, which can worsen acne. Stress is another trigger. To relax, participate in a stress-reducing activity regularly. Exercise, meditation and yoga are good options.
Editor's product pick: DDF Sulfur Therapeutic Mask, $40 Apply once a week to help control oil production and heal breakouts.
Is there a difference between adult and teen acne?
Dr. Engelman: The location of breakouts changes as you get older. Teens frequently have clogged pores and whiteheads in the T-zone and center of the face (nose, cheeks). Women tend to break out at the periphery of the face—on the jaw and neck and along the hairline.
Editor's product pick: Oxy Maximum Action Spot Treatment, $7 Benzoyl peroxide (10%) kills bacteria, and a tint acts as a concealer.
Should I skip moisturizer if I have oily skin?
Dr. Engelman: The short answer is no. When you don't hydrate skin, oil glands go into overdrive to compensate, making acne worse. What's key is using the right product: an oil-free moisturizer with the word "non-comedogenic"—meaning it doesn't clog pores—on the package.
Editor's product pick: Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture SPF 35 (pictured), $12 Absorbs quickly and minimizes shine. Clearasil Rapid Action On-The-Go Wipes, $4.50 Remove dirt and makeup in a flash with one of these powerful pads.
What ingredients should I look for on the labels of anti-acne products?
Dr. Engelman: The most popular and effective treatments are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Look for a daily cleanser with salicylic acid or an overall treatment at 2% max. Benzoyl peroxide is ideal for spot treatments (either 5% or 10%, depending on sensitivity) but can bleach fabric, so let it dry completely if applying before bedtime. For a natural option, try anti-inflammatory tea tree oil.
Editor's product pick: Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum (pictured), $20 Salicylic acid and thyme extract unclog pores without over-drying. Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Spot Treatment, $9 Boasts a potent all-natural acne-fighting blend, including tea tree oil, calendula and parsley extracts.
How can I control breakouts and wrinkles at the same time?
Dr. Engelman: Retinol is a super-powerful ingredient that does double duty: It gently exfoliates to reduce breakouts while building collagen to plump up fine lines. But retinol can be irritating at first. If redness and peeling last longer than six weeks, lower the dosage and apply less frequently, or see your dermatologist.
Editor's product pick:
RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream, $23 A time-release formula that's perfect for users who are new to retinol.