THE ADULT ACNE DIARIES: 3 Non-Prescription Things That Actually Really Really Work

I don't officially encourage you to skip dermatologist appointments or anything, but duh, I do totally have acne solutions for when you want to.

I vacillate between perfect skin and totally busted-around-the-jaw-and-mouth meth scab face, and when I say "meth scab face" I just mean acne because I'm attention-seeking and inappropriate that way (didn't you know?). I happen to be broken out a little right now, truth be told, because it's summer and I'm lazy and all that. Skincare-lazy.

And when it comes to adult acne, laziness is the death knell. You have to be vigilant, mang! If you're just past college years and still breaking out, I've got news for you: chances are it's not going to be easier for you at 27, 30, and beyond. That's what adult acne is -- a grown-ass woman problem. We all have to be on top of our treatment games. No, you are not your friend who took Accutane in 2001 and still is effortlessly clear and glowy-faced now. Doesn't work that way.

The good thing about being older and having breakouts is that hopefully, generally, as a not-19-year-old-anymore person, you are better financially equipped to handle them. BELIEVE ME, I of all people am more than aware of the fact that this is not true across the board (I am either feeling wildly rich with $4K in the account or bumming cash from my friends to buy $5 sushi rolls from the deli; trust). Taking great care of your problem skin costs money: not a ton of money, but a little bit of money on the regular.

And, ideally, health insurance (more grownup swag, see)? For retinols like Differin or Retin-A Micro or whatever. Now dermatologists obvi know what they're doing, and prescription retinols do work TOTAL miracles and we all should know by now that they are truly THE best things for acne, BUT: if you're anything like me, sometimes you're just not into going to a dermatologist. It's boring! I'm not writing this to say don't go to the derm, because at the end of the day, you should -- but we all should do a lot of things, and people like me don't.

The reality is, it's possible to totally clear up your skin without being consulted by someone who's been to medical school, and I know this because I've personally done it. Without further adieu, then, three things have really worked for me when it comes to fighting my adult breakouts...


I've written about this before, and I'll write about it again: consistency counts. That means commiting to a regular routine of a few simple products and sticking with it. My favorite acne products will always be by Proactiv, and I endorse those wholeheartedly because the Proactiv system works better than almost anything -- probably because it ENCOURAGES that you use the same boring one-two-three products over and over day after day and not get tempted by a bunch of other nonsense.

People with naturally clear skin can try every other product they come across and switch cleansers and shiz all the time. If you're reading this and relating to me, you cannot. Brands like Clinique, Murad and Dermalogica (amongst many other brands) all also have excellent acne systems: My advice is to pick the brand that has worked best for you in the past, select core products from it, and stick with them for at least two months. Three months is better still.


In my beauty editor and personal experience, this falls under Things That Are Worth The Money. I put facials and microdermabrasion together because you can get the two treatments done hand-in-hand, often by just asking the receptionist over the phone to book extra time before the microdermabrasion for some basic extraction.

It usually takes an extra half an hour or 45 minutes or so, and it's not hugely comfortable: If your skin is sensitive-sensitive, you don't have to tell me twice in the comments section (ooh, but do it anyway) that extraction and someone squeezing at your nose as though to murder it is decidedly Not For You. I hear you! It hurts, and your skin needs a few days to recover afterwards. But if your skin can handle acne facials, go for it.

Plus, then microdermabrasion afterward feels heavenly by comparison: It doesn't hurt at all, only tickles, because it's tiny little crystals being blasted on your face by a cool machine, and a vaccuum polish of sorts after. Dude, you won't believe how good your skin looks when you walk out of there (or at least, like two days later when the acne wounds close), and you only have to get an intensive treatment like that once every two months for big results. I go to a place called Completely Bare here in New York and it's AWESOME. Try it and report back to me.


You can get light chemical peels at a day spa or whatever, but you can also totally do them home with the right products. Quite frankly, there is nothing I get off on more. They're so easy -- you wipe one medicated pad over your face, wait a few moderately tingly minutes, and then use a neutralizing pad. Done.

And you get such visible, glowy, excellent results. For those of you who haven't tried them, peels make your skin glowy and clearer and firmer, and work on everything from fine lines to acne to discoloration. The "peel" part isn't as gory as it sounds: at-home peels are much more superficial -- that is, less harsh -- than what you'd get at a dermatologist's office.

My favorite is the always-a-beauty-classic Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Extra Stregth Alpha Beta Peel, which is SO fantastic for preventing breakouts and even, yes, making your pores look smaller (which again, is not a bone I will throw out there often when I'm beauty-writing, because I think it's an overused marketing ploy). It's $80 or so but WORTH IT.

And what if your skin is easily irritated? Look for a peel designed for sensitive skin, like Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel for Sensitive Skin, or use a more potent peel less often. Either way, wear SPF outside when you peel, or you're EXTRA-susceptible to sun damage and subsequent wrinkles and things, and screw that!

SOOO, those are three of MY favorite adult acne strategies, and look, Jane -- I made it through a whole beauty post without using the word "dick" or anything! Oh, wait, no I didn't. ANYHOW, you guys know what I'm going to say: leave YOUR adult breakout-fighting tips in comments section, please. MWAH and happy Friday!