So I’m writing this post feeling far from my most confident self, but I thought it was important that I shared my journey with adult acne in the hope that it would help somebody going through the same thing. Let me start by saying that I haven’t suffered from acne since I was a teenager and I’m 29 now. My teen acne cleared up when I got to 19 and discovered Clean and Clear Advantage Cleansing Gel for Acne prone skin, and I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed clear, fairly fuss-free skin throughout my twenties.
And then, right after Christmas 2017, I started noticing acne popping up on my jawline and cheeks. At first I thought it was because I had eaten so much chocolate and other rubbish over Christmas and also perhaps that I hadn’t taken my makeup off as well I usually did on a couple of nights. It was particularly embarassing to have developed a HUGE, stubborn, angry, red spot right on my cheek which refused to go down no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it, on New Year’s Eve. It kept poking through my best attempts at concealer and I’m pretty sure I spent most of the night in the bathroom touching it up.
All I could think of during this was “FFS! Why me? Why again? This is so unfair! I’ve done my time in my teens! This shouldn’t be happening to me now – I’m almost thirty for crying out loud!”
*PS brace yourselves for some unsightly images deeper into the post. Usually the complete opposite from the pretty content I strive to create, but sometimes, it is important to keep things as real and honest as possible*
Then, over the next year, my skin went on to develop stubborn spots a week or so before that time of the month, but sadly, they’d take weeks to go away and always leave scars, no matter how much I tried to leave them alone. I tried everything from ice to apple cider vinegar to witch hazel to tea tree oil to salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. I even tried my hand at the Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Spot Treatment Pen, that claimed to cure spots from deep within by using light therapy, but alas, to no avail. Possibly because I had waited too long and used it on spots that were already mature, instead of those that were just starting out.
Now it is important to note that I am NOT a big foundation-wearer. I’m not a fan of the stuff and how it feels and / or looks on my face. And while I enjoy doing my eyes, brows and lips, I always prefer to let my skin breathe as much as possible. The only time I’d even bother concealing any spots was if I had an important meeting or blog event, but never otherwise. Also, my skincare regime is always on point. I never, EVER go to bed with my makeup on and always thoroughly cleanse and moisturise my face morning and night. I’ve also used the same products on my skin for a good few years now, so I had no idea what was causing the breakouts, except for perhaps hormones.
Fast forward about a year to January 2019. A couple of days before my flight to India to come visit my mum, I developed three stubborn spots on my jawline. They were red, angry and hard to touch and I left them alone for a few days hoping they’d go down. But when they still showed no signs of disappearing ten days into my visit, I started to put toothpaste on them at night, in an attempt to dry them out. As many of you will know, toothpaste is one of the most common home remedies for spots that people have used for generations. About three days into doing this, the spots got even redder, angrier and really sore to touch and to top it all off, three more had popped up on my face overnight bringing the grand total to six, and they were just as angry and inflamed as the last three.
Desperate and now fully understanding that there was definitely a problem here and that this wasn’t just the occasional period-related spot, I booked in to see my trusted dermatologist who has been tacking other less-serious issues with my skin for a few years now. I make it a point to see her whenever I am back in town, but this time, it felt like I was doing it because I needed to, not because I wanted to. She examined my face and confirmed that I had developed a bad case of stubborn adult acne. I’m still not sure what has caused it, but I have a feeling that it is largely hormonal, as the jawline is where one tends to develop hormonal acne. Not sure what may be causing yours? Check out this handy chart. Here’s the plan she has charted out to help cure it:
(Please note that I am not recommending you purchase any of the prodcucts mentioned below. These products were prescribed to me by a professional, based on my individual skin type and concerns. Please see a dermatologist and get the right products for you, as these may not work for you, and may potentially even make your adult acne worse).
(1) Oral Antibiotics
She has started by giving me a mild round of antibiotics to help deal with the infection and dry out the spots from the inside. This isn’t a step she plans to repeat often, or one that anybody should. Your body gets used to antibiotics and then they become less effective when you really need them, so I wouldn’t reccomend taking them more than once every six months, maximum.
(2) Topical Treatment
She has also prescribed two topical gels that I need to apply to the affected area (spots) daily, and alternate between the two every other day. One is Benzoyl Peroxide based and the other is Adapalene with Clindamycin Phosphate gel. Clindamycin is an antibiotic which stops the growth of bacteria and Adapalene is a common adult acne cure. Both these are prescription medications and are only available at drugstores with a prescription, instead of over the counter.
(3) Emergency Topical Treatments
These are to be used only after my current acne has gone away, or on new and painful spots just as they start to show up on or under the skin. The first one is the basic over-the-counter Fucidin ointment that we have all used at some point or the other and the second is another Clindamycin antibiotic gel.
(4) Face Wash and Moisturiser
One of the first things she said to me when I walked into her office was that my skin looked incredibly greasy / oily. When I told her that my face was bare save for a little moisturiser, she said the worst thing I could be doing is to apply moisturiser to the adult acne-affected area, especially if it was oil-based moisturiser. She said that it didn’t really matter if I didn’t wear foundation, because moisturiser over spots was as bad as using foundation to cover them up. She also said that my face wash was obviously drying out my skin, causing it to feel dry and over-produce sebum / oil, upon which I was putting more moisturizer, that was clogging up my pores and causing my acne.
She has suggested that I start washing my face with either Episoft Gel or Cetaphil Cleanser and has given me strict instructions to use either a water-based moisturizer or the Avene Clearance Mattifying Emulsion moistruriser, ONLY on the areas of my face that are unaffected by my adult acne.
(5) Hands Off
She said that I need to actively check myself from even accidentally touching my spots, because bacteria transfer from your hands is very real. No leaning on my hands, no accidental scratching and as far as possible, to keep my hair away from the affected area when I am at home.
I’m about seventy two hours into the treatment at the moment. My skin still feels a bit dry even when I wash it with Episoft because it is still used to my old face wash and hasn’t had the chance to adjust yet. But it does feel notibily less drier, more bouncy and hydrated than it did post-wash with my old face wash.
Not going to lie, I am mentally preparing myself for this bout of acne to scar and am a bit anxious about it, which is why she has prescribed a Tretinoin (Vitamin A acid) gel to heal them. I’m also going to try some Mederma I have in the house that I’ve had good experiences with in the past.
I am currently about 72 hours into the treatment and surpisingly, after even one one dose (out of three in total) of the prescribed oral antibiotic and appliying the Adapalene with Clindamycin Phosphate gel before bed, I woke up the next morning with my painful adult acne feeling a lot less swollen and sore, and looking as if it had started to dry up already! Even the doctor noticed it when I went in for a different treatment the morning after. And three days in, the acne has almost completely dried and flattened out, so it doesn’t feel like bumps on or under the skin. There is still a bit of redness and now dryness, but I’m very pleasantly surprised by how fast it has gone down, after suffering with it for weeks before.
For me, the moral of the story has definitely been to see a professional / dermatologist sooner rather than later. Their expertise is invaluable and you’d be better off with the products they reccomend rather than trying to muddle through on your own with over the counter / drugstore brands. Good skin is an investment and something that will stay with you for years, so never skimp on or avoid going to a dermatologist. Chances are, a year later, you’ll regret not having gone sooner.
Just so you know, this is by no means an ad of any sort.It is just something I’m going through at the moment that I thought I’d share my journey on, since a lot of people will relate. Adult acne is something we all go through at some point or the other.
My goal is to have my skin cleared up by my 30th birthday in June, so wish me luck! Would you like to follow my journey treating adult acne with monthly skin updates on the blog or Instagram stories? Tell me which one you’d prefer in the comments below! See you at the next post! xx