Like leg warmers, bouffants and stirrup pants, acne is supposed to be a thing of the past—like a distant memory you encounter after cracking open your old high school yearbook. Or so you thought. The truth is pimples don’t magically disappear on your eighteenth birthday. In fact, a study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that over half of adult women suffer from acne, with menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and oral contraceptives being the main culprits. “Hormonal imbalances stimulate the production of sebum,” explains New York City-based dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D. “Sebum is a natural oil on your skin that’s meant to moisturize, but it can also block pores.”
As if a spotted complexion wasn’t bad enough, your thirties and forties are also the time when you begin to notice the first signs of aging. Jeanine Downie, M.D., a dermatologist in Montclair, New Jersey, estimates that nearly 80 percent of her patients suffer from both acne and the signs of aging. Is there no justice?
The good news: There’s plenty you can do to abolish this pesky pile-up. Here are four best practices to keep in mind when trying to rid your complexion of both pimples and wrinkles, plus powerful products formulated to treat both.
1. Never squeeze.
No doubt, you’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating. While it’s tempting to pop whiteheads and blackheads, overzealous picking can lead to scars and marks on your skin (and remember aging skin takes longer to regenerate, so those tell-tale, picked over marks are likely to hang around for weeks or even months). “Popping also spreads bacteria from your fingers to your skin, causing even more pimples to form,” warns New York-based dermatologist Craig Austin, M.D.
2.Beware of drying out your skin.
Teenage acne accumulates around the oily T-zone area (forehead, nose and chin) so alcohol-based astringents are a teen’s treatment of choice. In contrast, adult acne clusters along the jawline (which isn’t typically oily), so you’ll want to stay away from that bottle of Sea Breeze. “Skin generally becomes drier as we age, so harsh exfoliating and drying ingredients found in most acne medications are far too aggressive” says Fusco. She recommends using a salicylic acid-based cleanser (see our product picks below) and to avoid irritation, to keep your product numbers low. “You wouldn’t want to use a face wash for oily skin and then layer an anti-aging medication that deeply exfoliates over top,” Fusco adds.
3. Steer clear of pore-clogging makeup.
Breakouts caused by makeup are so common there’s even a name for it—acne cosmetica. If you’re suffering from spots, Linwood, New Jersey-based dermatologist Coyle Connolly, M.D. suggests opting for a non-comedogenic, mineral-based makeup line like Jane Iredale. “These products are oil-free, so they don’t exacerbate acne but offer full coverage,” Connolly says. And be sure to wash makeup brushes each week to rid them of acne-causing bacteria, recommends Jennifer Peterson, M.D., a dermatologist in Houston, Texas. Fancy cleaners aren’t necessary: A mixture of water and baby shampoo will do the trick.