You were promised that the breakouts would end once you were an adult. The magazines said so. All you had to do was make it out of the awkward puberty phase, and you’d have clear skin. Plus, all of the young celebrities had flawless skin — therefore, it had to be true. So where did you go wrong to still be battling breakouts as an adult?

The false narrative of flawless skin awaiting you in adulthood is one driven by marketing and Photoshop. Clear skin looks great, and it sells well, too. But flashy publications rarely spell out what it takes to navigate puberty-based acne and manage it in adulthood. If your mirror check before work includes a reflection with blemishes, rest assured that there is hope for your complexion.

1. Find the Root Cause of Your Breakouts

Chasing persistent breakouts can be exhausting, so here’s your permission to take a break from the task. Instead, look into professional acne treatment and assessment to identify what exactly is going on with your skin. A professional can help define what type of breakouts you’re dealing with and how to treat them.

Since you’ve got acne in adulthood, treatment options are likely different from what you recall in adolescence. Puberty-induced acne is often a rite of passage and one that’s an accepted annoyance. But for adults with acne, there may be more going on under the surface that needs to be addressed.

Prescription medication is often part of adult acne treatment plans. Oral medications can right out-of-whack hormones to help your body produce the appropriate amount of oil. Topical treatments can improve healing time or deliver a powerful dosage of medication that improves overall skin condition. Work with a trusted provider to build a treatment protocol that works for your lifestyle and skin type. 

2. Upgrade Your Product Lineup With Your Clear Skin Goals in Mind

Just as you’re targeting your breakouts with prescription medication, so too should you with over-the-counter products. If you’ve been washing your face with body wash, now is the time to upgrade to something more appropriate. First, identify your skin type, complexion goals, and how much time you’re willing to dedicate to skincare. A simple three-step routine could be a gentle cleanser, calming toner, and light moisturizer with SPF 15 or higher. If you’re able to devote more time to your routine, you could add spot treatments, under-eye cream, and brightening serum.

Review product labels to ensure they’re compatible with your skin type. Oils may feel fantastic on dry skin types, but applying them on oily complexions may create more shine or breakouts. If you’re using prescription medications, check product labels to ensure you don’t create an avoidable interaction or over-application. Retinol-based products deliver a percentage of vitamin A to clear your skin. Don’t combine an over-the-counter retinol product with a prescription dosage, as doing so can irritate.

While you’re at it, update your cosmetics to products that perform well over a breakout. Dry powders can make zits look worse, while some creams flake off throughout the day. Research cosmetics that help you make it through a breakout with grace. Confirm products’ non-comedogenic status by checking the labeling. Doing so can save you from a makeup-induced breakout and unnecessary stress.

3. Revamp Your Habits So You Can Gracefully Manage Breakouts

Are you a constant face-toucher? Do you remember the last time you changed your pillowcase? Have you cleaned your phone recently – or ever? If this line of questioning has your face twisted up in disgust, you have some work to do.

Whatever touches your face deposits dirt and bacteria on one of the most sensitive parts of your body. And if you’re already acne-prone, you aren’t doing your skincare dreams any favors. Make some of the simplest changes to your skincare routine, and you may see results within days. First, keep your hands off of your face unless you absolutely have to, and only after washing them. If you’re a pimple popper, stop and leave extractions to an esthetician or dermatologist. Picking may be fun, but it’s a great way to spread bacteria and incite scarring.

Clean up your face-centric products and tools throughout your life. Phones, sunglasses, prescription lenses, earbuds, and other devices that make contact with your skin should be cleaned daily. Stash tech-safe wipes in your bag, desk, and skincare closet to clean up regularly. Start washing your pillowcase at least weekly – even multiple times a week if your acne is prevalent on your cheeks. These simple changes can reduce your exposure to unnecessary bacteria, giving your skin a chance to heal without stress.

Pursue Clear Skin, but Let Your Expertise Be What Others See First

It’s easy to feel like everyone is looking at your zit like they did Rudolph’s nose at the reindeer games. However, one perk to entering adulthood is the increased realization that people are more concerned with themselves than you. It may feel harsh saying this statement out loud, but your colleagues don’t care about your acne. What they do care about is your expertise.

Let your expertise speak for you, and command your colleagues’ attention with what you have to contribute. Most of the time, you’re the only one worried about your complexion, but it doesn’t mean it’s not important. Your confidence matters, and if having clear skin helps you feel and perform at your best, work toward improving it. When your external appearance reflects how you feel on the inside, there’s no boardroom you can’t handle.

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