18.07.17

How I got Rid of My Adult Acne

Kira Simpson

I was 13 when my very first pimple reared its ugly head. It appeared on my chin and I watched it grow over several days, all the while wailing that my life was now over.

Within a few months, the little monsters had spread to most of my face and I was now one of hundreds of thousands of teens around the world, with hormonal acne.

My mum was very sympathetic and her solution was to buy me a giant bottle of Clearasil cleanser. Which we all now know is laden with alcohol and the absolute worst thing you can do to an already red, irritated face. Obviously it didn’t do anything except strip my face of its natural oils and send the natural pH out of whack.

Eventually, it spread to my chest and upper back and the tiny red bumps covering half my upper body were painful and embarrassing. In an era where tiny Supre singlets were all the rage, I was covering myself with oversized t-shirts.

Grownups would cluck in sympathy and tell me “don’t worry, it will clear up when your older”. It didn’t, and by the time I turned 20, I kept wondering how much older I needed to be before it went away.

adult acne

"Acne can be debilitating. You’re always wondering if people are looking at you or your bad skin."

Adult acne

Throughout my early 20’s I tried countless three step systems from Nivea, L’Oréal, Clean and Clear, anything I could find at my local Woolworths. The clever marketing promising I would have perfect skin in a matter of days. It was never the case and with each new skincare purchase I would become more dejected about the state of my skin. Working in hospitality, night shifts, a poor diet, drinking and smoking only exacerbated the problem.

A solution

When I was 23, I had enough and made an appointment with a dermatologist who prescribed me roaccutane. I was on the drug for six months but within the first month, I saw an enormous improvement. My skin cleared up almost completely and I was fortunately left with only a few minor scars on my cheeks.

I’m not advocating for this as a choice for everyone, but it was what I needed at the time to clear up the worst of my breakouts.

Once I was off the roaccutane, I started using products from Dermalogica, which were good but, I still experienced breakouts at regular intervals and thought it was something I just had to live with.

Today

Turns out, you don’t need to live with acne. It’s not easy, but I’ve discovered and it just takes some research and tweaking your routine until you find what works for you. The key word here being research. something I had never done before as I had always relied on marketing to tell me what would work.

I’m now 33 and my skin needs and personal values have changed. I still experience the occasional breakout but can manage them reasonably well with a good skincare routine and mostly healthy eating.

Just over two years ago I started incorporating more natural and cruelty free products into my routine. In the past year, since starting The Green Hub, I’ve come across a lot of great products so my skincare routine does vary a little each time something new lands on my desk. Gotta test out the new stuff!

This is what I’m using on my face right now. There’s a combination of natural, organic and conventional (because I like them) products and I’ve found my skin looks better now than ever. These are what work for me and my skin right now, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research as well. No one knows your skin like you.

adult acne

Current Routine

Morning

  • Cleanse with Sodashi Clay Cleanser  – This is gentle, a non foaming cleanser. It does leave a slight film on your face after rinsing off, which is a little strange at first but you do get used to it. I love it for the colder months because it leaves my face feeling smooth and hydrated and it’s lightly exfoliating as well. OR Mukti Balancing Foaming Cleanser – A great foaming cleanser for everyday/ twice a day use. It leaves my face feeling clean, but not ‘squeaky’.
  • Apply Mukti Vital C Serum – A brightening serum which gives your face an overall ‘fresh’ and plump look. I like it for lifting the minor pigment left over from breakouts, which clear up quickly with regular daily use. Vitamin C is an excellent skin brightener but, in it’s pure form is unstable. This serum acontains Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP) a water-soluble derivative of Vitamin C which is more stable. As with most serums, a little goes a long way so don’t be put off by the price.
  • Finish with SIMPLE as that SPF30 – Right now, I’m testing out a bunch of mineral sunscreens and this is my favourite because it contains rosehip oil which is really hydrating for my oily skin, and eliminates the need for a moisturiser as well.  It also contains raspberry seed oil which is a highly effective moisturiser.
  • Drink The Beauty Chef Beauty Powder – good skin often starts in your gut. My love of cheese, bread and some not so easily digestible foods mean I need probiotics and fermented foods to help everything working as it should if you know what I mean! I mix a teaspoon of this into a glass of water every morning.

Evening 

  • Cleanse with Sodashi Clay Cleanser or Mukti Balancing Foaming Cleanser
  • Apply The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid – Disclaimer: this is a non natural products but I will continue to use it until I come across a natural retinol alternative that I like. Retinol or more commonly known as Vitamin A is amazing for skin. They increase skin cell turnover and stimulate collagen synthesis, resulting in smoother skin, reduced fine lines and smaller pores. Over the counter strength (0.5% – 2%) retinol is still strong and some people experience redness and peeling at first so if you do introduce it into your routine, start slowly and only use a few times a week. I use this every second night.
  • Vintners Daughter Active Botanical Serum – I’ve spoken about my love of this this holy grail product in another article here, and while I love how it makes my skin look, the price puts me off repurchasing. I recently had a facial with the lovely Natalie from Kindred Toxin Free Facials and asked her about alternatives. She swears by the Erica Brooke Emerald Elixer.

Weekly

  • Mukti Antioxidant Mask – I use this once a week to help keep my skin clear and smooth. Plus I really like the pampering feeling of having a weekly face mask! The white clay is wonderful fro breakouts and reducing redness and papaya is moisturing. OR Akhal Beauty Clay Mask – you can read all about it here.
  • Paula’s Choice 10% AHA – Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids are brilliant chemical exfoliants. I use this AHA 1-2 times a week. Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) also called Glycolic Acid, works on the upper layers of your skin to slough away dead skin cells.  Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is also know as Salicylic Acid, is great for breakouts because it can exfoliate inside the pore. My skin does not respond well to physical, granular exfoliants. I find them too harsh and abrasive so I stick with an AHA. The natural equivalent/similar would be lactic, fruit and malic acids, which I have limited experience with but have heard very good things about them.
  • Mukti Clarity Balm Acne Treatment – a great spot treatment to use when a pesky breakout rears it ugly head. It helps clear the pimple without drying the surrounding area.

Final words

I’m not telling you go out buy a whole bunch of expensive skincare, I’m simply sharing some great products which have worked for me.

I know people who cleanse with a soap bar and moisturise with coconut oil and their skin looks phenomenal. Alas, I am not one of those people. I love skincare products and really love sharing the ones I think are fantastic. I also like to support small businesses who put a lot of love and care into the products they make.

Makeup and skincare products land on my desk every week and I give most of them a try, either on my face or a patch test on my arm. Most of the products mentioned in this article were gifted to me but, as someone who has had bad skin for most of their life, I would not promote a product I thought was terrible.

Adult acne can be debilitating. You invest so much time and money trying to “cure” it. You spend hours trying to cover it with makeup and you’re always wondering if people are looking at you or your skin.

If you think any of these products will work for you, do your research first and read more reviews to hear about other peoples experiences with them.

Some places to start your research:

  • Beautypedia – created by Paula’s Choice, they share expert and consumer reviews of popular makeup and skincare brands. They also share science based research and articles to help you understand what you’re putting on your skin.
  • Nourished Life – the customer reviews are a helpful guide and founder Irene also writes in depth articles about natural and organic beauty and the products she sells.
  • Into The Gloss – an online beauty publication founded and run by beauty editors. These ladies have tried it all and know their stuff.
  • Organic Index – being a Brisbane based business, I have had the pleasure of meeting the ladies behind this Mecca for natural and organic beauty. The sisters are super passionate about good skincare, which actually works, so this is a great place to start your research.

I would also love to hear about your experiences and if you have any holy grail products, natural or otherwise, which have worked for you. Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Image source: Mukti

Kira Simpson

Founder + Director of The Green Hub, an urban green living advocate and coffee obsessive. She believes there is no one size fits all green lifestyle and we can all live more sustainably in a way that fits in with each of our unique lifestyles.
  • Ella

    Thank you so much for your post, the honesty makes me feel trusting in your advice. It has been so hard for me, I like you have suffered since my early teens and I’m in my late twenty’s now. It has been a roller coaster of a journey and I have spent thousands of dollars trying to cure it. This past month it has really been getting me down because it has spread down my neck, all over my shoulders and back now. Not just that face I feel everyone is staring at. 🙁 Thank you x

    • Thank you Ella. It can be so frustrating and really difficult to live with. A good dermatologist is also really important to talk to to help you through your journey. xxx

  • ScarletTindle

    I have used dermalmd acne serum on my forehead area the past 2 weeks and I am amazed by the results. No drying out either, but it works quickly and is one of the best acne treatments I have ever used in my life, and I have tried dozens of things in the past especially when I was younger. I get rare breakouts now, but most of mine are on the forehead area due to the summer heat and humidity and this thing does an amazing job. It absorbs quickly, does not leave a greasy residue and is all around perfect.