Can We Talk (or Rant) About Adult Acne for a Minute?

As an acnewbie, I asked fellow xoVain contributors about their own experiences with consistent breakouts in their 20s.
Publish date:
November 6, 2015
acne, adult acne, Self-esteem

As 2015 winds slowly down, I'm ready to go ahead and tell this past year that it can SMD. Though it had some pleasant moments (I got a kitten! I bought a car! This North West moment!), most of 2015 felt like I was trudging endlessly through a depressing, debt-laden hellscape in head-to-toe Forever 21 highly flammable poly-blends. Between nasty breakups, a never-ending march of pseudo-intellectual f*ckboys, financial issues, job insecurities, and a variety of other woes, 2015 has been a year I am looking forward to leaving behind.

And here's the kicker: In 2015, at the tender and mind-numbingly transitional age of 25, my face seemingly decided, "Hey, now's a good time to develop acne! Like, a lot of it!"

Thanks a lot, face.

Though I'm not much for humble bragging (lol, jk), I'll be up front with y'all. For most of my life, my skin could be described as near-perfect. Sure, I had the occasional blemish but, dermally speaking, my life was smooth sailing.

Until suddenly, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, everything took a turn for the worse. While the other stresses of my life have clearly been a significant factor in my skin issues, adult onset acne is actually pretty common. HORMONES, am I right?

Because misery loves company, I reached out to my xoVain compatriots seeking commiseration on the adult-acne front. Here's what some of my fellow sufferers had to say on the subject:


"It started at 22, right when I graduated college, and I am STILL trying to get it under control after ten billion products, diet changes, pills, dermatologist procedures, drinking gallons of water a day. I tried adjusting the bacteria in my gut. I tried cutting sugar. I tried cutting dairy. I've been on the pill since 14. I tried it all! After three months on spironolactone it is definitely improving, so cross your fingers. I'm about to turn 28."


"I had clear skin until I was about 25. Then I started getting chin and forehead zits like crazy. Nothing seemed to help, honestly. Since I skated through my teen years without a zit, I didn't know what to do at all. I went after them with Stridex and Clearasil, and they just got worse. It lasted maybe three years, but those were oddly the worst years of a relationship, so stress/coffee/no sleep might have also been a factor."


"I had great skin in my teens other than the odd cyst I'd always have on my nose (I have literal craters from them now). But other than my nose, my skin was always clear. I found in the past year and a half I've had really consistent breakouts on my chin, which never happened before. I think my nose and chin/cystic acne will always be a problem, but I've found cutting out dairy (thanks to my doctor and a super-horrible elimination diet) has helped a lot. So yeah, weird acne that never happened before started happening mid-20s. Who knows why?"


"My acne totally changed from normal pimples and the occasional cystic spot when I turned 22, to crazy never-ending whiteheads that I've only recently figured out are pretty much directly linked to my diet. If I eat super-clean, my skin is great. If I eat a bunch of sugar/carbs/alcohol, it's breakout city. Oh, and if I didn't exfoliate I'm pretty sure my face would be one giant zit."


"So I've had acne pretty consistently since I was 11 or 12. I was left to deal with it on my own and did a pretty bad job until I was in my late 20s, when my skin calmed down a bit and I learned to treat it gently and actually moisturize. I still get breakouts, and now my skin takes WAY longer to heal, so even small break-outs linger for weeks. However, visible acne does make people think I'm a lot younger than I am. Not 'younger and hotter,' though. Just 'younger and scabbier.'"


"I've always had the odd pimple here and there, until last year when my face decided to fully explode on me, and it was pretty demoralizing. I've never considered myself particularly vain (despite being part of this publication) but suddenly I found myself staring in the mirror for hours at these boils and scars all over my cheeks and jaw and wondering where the f*** it came from. I've always believed that nobody pays as much attention to your physical appearance as you yourself do, but when my face was a total disaster, I found it pretty hard to keep believing that. So yeah, adult acne blows."

Adult acne DOES blow, Victoria. You are so right.

Acne is many things: genetic, biological, the result of a shitty diet, the aftermath of a high-stress period of time, a hormonal symptom, etc. But most of all, acne is a pig from hell, and I hate it.

As an acnewbie, I felt ill-prepared to tackle my cystic mountain. I knew from years of reading beauty blogs that I shouldn't pick at my skin, but nobody ever told me how GOOD it feels to do that. Oh my god, I'm a monster.

I also know you shouldn't dry your skin out too much in any well-intentioned effort to scare blemishes off, since that will just make your skin freak out and start producing excess oil (or sebum—ick, what a word) and then you're back to the lonely, homely square where you began.

But, like, what fresh hell even is acne? I swear on my Sex and the City: Complete Series DVD set, I have been approaching this situation from every angle thinkable for a year and, yet, here I sit, acne-riddled and bummed.

I'm ashamed of myself for how much I let this acne situation mess with my self esteem. I've spent a long time building myself as a human, and I'm frustrated that I let my problem skin affect my self-worth. But it did. It's hard not to let it.

When I'm being truly honest, I mean, there have been days where I just sit in front of the mirror and cry. And then, you know, you get angry with yourself for crying over something as trivial as zits when there are far worse things in this world. I mean, Gwen Stefani is dating BLAKE SHELTON. The world is a messed up place, and so is my skin.

It's difficult not to let your skin affect the way you see yourself, especially if you're an avid reader of magazines, beauty blogs, etc. The recent beauty-sphere focus on skincare is a good thing, I think, but what do you do when it makes you feel left out because your skin just refuses to be good?

And so rather than share with you the one skincare product that magically cleared my skin overnight (because unicorns aren't real), I'm just gonna open up this floor for discussion. I'm tired of being shilled skincare products by Swedish teenagers with perfect skin on other beauty sites. This is xoVain. No beauty secrets.

Consider this a safe space. A safe, angry, judgement-free, blemish-prone space. Rant with me, won't you?

  • Seriously, how messed up is adult acne? What even is the deal?
  • Share your story below. I am here for you. Think of me like Oprah. But like, white and 25 and with acne. So nothing like Oprah at all. OK, go!