5 Simple Habits That Will Help You Control Adult Acne

When you’re an adult, nothing is more terrifying than acne that won’t quit. It’s like a flashback to your teenage years! Yet, adult acne is very real, giving you an unfortunate walk down memory lane. But why does it happen? And are there ways to stop it?

For a surprising number of women, these are questions constantly spinning in their heads. Adult acne affects 45% of women aged between 21 and 30, 26% of those aged between 31 and 40, and 12% of women aged between 41 and 50. Inflammatory breakouts are more common in younger women, while comedonal acne affects older ones and develops when hair follicles clog up.1 Regardless of your age, adult acne is still a pain.

What Causes Adult Acne?

In most cases, hormonal imbalances are to blame. Compared to men, women experience more frequent fluctuations, especially around that time of the month. Family history may also play a part.


you break out after trying a new beauty product or medication? Stop using it immediately and your skin is likely to clear up.2

If your acne can’t be traced back to a product, the following approaches will help.

How To Manage Adult Acne

1. Avoid Dairy Products

Steer clear of dairy products to prevent the increase of cell activity in sebaceous glands

If you’re lactose intolerant or a vegan, dairy products might already be off the list of foods you can eat. But if you eat milk products, give it another thought. According to a 2015 study, dairy products increase the levels of hormones that promote acne.

You already know that milk helps baby mammals grow. It activates growth-promoting proteins that enhance the signaling of insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1, which also happens to be the major growth hormone of puberty. The main job of this hormone is to increase cell activity, especially in sebaceous glands. The result is more sebum, or oil, which in turn triggers pimples. Even the amino acids in milk encourage the process.3


not a bad idea to avoid or limit dairy products to prevent adult acne. Consider fortified milk made of almonds or oats and opt for non-dairy products like cashew cheese or coconut yogurt.

2. Avoid Refined Grains

Ditch refined grains to prevent IGF-1 levels from spiking and causing adult acne

While the occasional pastry or white bread won’t cause acne, a diet full of refined grains certainly won’t help. The high glycemic load reduces the binding proteins that typically control IGF-1. In turn, IGF-1 levels increase, causing sex hormones to throw a party. The result is bigger sebaceous glands and therefore more sebum.4 A 2012 Korean study even found that low glycemic diets shrink sebaceous glands.5 So, clearly, it’s worth ditching the junk.


refined grains for whole grains like brown rice, barley, and oats. These “good” carbs will lower the risk not only for type 2 diabetes and weight gain but also acne.

3. Ditch Fried Food

Avoid fried food to prevent inflammation of the skin and hence adult acne

Fried food isn’t the best idea for your waistline, heart, or even your skin for that matter. When food is deep-fried, nutrients are destroyed and calories are added. Unsaturated fats also break down, creating trans fats in the process. Frying food spells trouble for saturated fat, too.6


both trans and saturated fat bring on IGF-1 activity. Even the inflammatory response in the skin follicles increases, making breakouts more likely.7

When possible, skip fried foods like chicken nuggets and onion rings. Eat baked, steamed, and poached foods instead.

4. Control Stress

Manage your stress to ensure cortisol levels don’t increase and cause adult acne

Stress is a normal part of life but it can do a number on your body. And your skin is no exception. When stress builds up, it increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This allows inflammation to increase and flourish, making it easy for existing skin problems to worsen.8 If stress builds up, you’ll also be more likely to eat more junk like refined grains and fried food. Emotional eating, after all, is very real.9 Make stress relief a priority, and your skin will thank you.

Quit Smoking

Stop smoking to prevent sebum composition from being altered

Smoking is known for reducing the body’s antioxidant reserve. This can actually alter sebum composition and not in a good way, creating an ideal environment for post-adolescent acne. Furthermore, skin circulation and collagen synthesis decline. Smoking also increases inflammation in the central and peripheral nervous systems, which then affects immune cells. This, in turn, causes wound healing to slow down and skin aging to speed up.10


consider using natural remedies like tea tree oil, sandalwood oil, and honey to treat adult acne.11 12 13 Their antibacterial properties will do wonders for your acne without any chemicals.

If none of these work, visit your doctor at the earliest to rule out the possibility of an underlying disease like polycystic ovary syndrome.