Despite it being the bane of the teenage existence – be it mild, moderate or severe – pubescent acne can still be chalked down to a teen rite of passage (alongside gluey glitter eye shadow, over-plucked eyebrows and sticky lip gloss). But, when this beauty woe doesn’t leave us, well into adulthood, it’s much more difficult to deal with. Adult acne can be a horrible burden to bear, and can feel extremely alienating when you’re a grown woman battling oil slicks, whiteheads or (most painful) cysts. So, we enlisted the help of Philippa at Clear Skincare Clinic to shed light on the cause and, more importantly, cure for adult acne. Consider this your beauty bible for dealing with extreme breakouts.



“The true underlying cause of acne is overactive sebaceous glands,” explains Philippa. “The skin’s oil glands causing pimples.” Rogue glands produce too much oil and too many skin cells that then block the pore, and thus the acne cycle begins.


“The most important thing to understand with acne is that, whilst there are certain things that can aggravate it, unless you treat the cause, it can become a chronic condition,”says Philippa. She suggests a three-step approach: the first (and main) step in eliminating acne is to destroy the glands that are causing issues. Secondly avoid triggers- stress is generally the biggest in adults. Following a low GI and dairy free diet can also help some, but rarely acts as a cure. Lastly she preaches patience! It is so important to stick it out- while you can spot target, treating the cause takes time.

A great starting point is to ensure that you’re not sabotaging your complexion yourself- don’t touch your face, use non-comodegenic makeup, change sheets often and clean your phone screen. Next is your home skincare routine; make this your plan of attack:·

  • Gel Cleanser: Cleansing morning and night is essential to remove pimple causing bacteria and surface oil. (At night, we like a Micellar Water before hand to remove makeup). Try Clear skincare Gel Cleanser with glycolic acid DermalogicaMedibac Clearing Skin Wash  and BiodermaSebium H20
  • Salicylic Acid Toner: use after cleansing to further break down oil and aid exfoliation. Give Clearskincare 2% Salicylic Acid Toner a go .
  • Spot Treatment: use them on stubborn spots over night, especially helpful if you have an event coming up. We love cult faveMario Badescu Drying Lotion  and Paula’s Choice Resist BHA 9 .
  • Vitamin A Treatment: Visit your local GP and ask about a topical Vitamin A that can be used to keep pores clear. A common choice in Australia is Stevia A.
  • Oil free moisturiser- don’t be tempted to starve your oily skin of moisture, this will only exacerbate the problem. Try Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer, or Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion.
  •  You must have heard about dermarollers or microneedling? Whether you want to improve your skin appearance, treat acne scars, stretch marks or even hair loss, Dermroller is the number one skin needling tool.

Oral treatments are another option: Philippa explains that the contraceptive pill can be effective, but often acne returns once it is no longer taken. Oral antibiotics prescribed by a GP are available, but can fail long term as sufferers develop a resistance. Roaccutane is the only permanent option for acne sufferers, but often the side effects are so bad, many opt out.


If spots persist, or you are dealing with a more sinister form (think deep, painful cysts), a trip to a skin specialist is in order. LED Light Therapy is an option that controls breakouts at a cellular level- blue light in particular destroys acne-causing bacteria. Exclusive to Clear Skin Care Clinics is Dr McCaffery’s SGA treatment – which we road tested here. Quick and only with minor discomfort,this treatment, which involves tiny probes zapping the sebaceous gland. It permanently removes the cause, destroying those rouge sebaceous glands. With a 90% success rate, it’s certainly worth a try for stubborn spots.

As far as scarring goes, fractional resurfacing and skin needling techniques can create thousands of micro injuries that stimulate skin cell turnover and can help with smoothing the skin.

Do you suffer adult acne? Have you found an effective way to treat it?

Story by Emily Algar

Comment (0)

  1. July 22, 2016

    I never thought I would be dealing with adult acne well into my 40s. I’m definitely going to try the products you suggest in this article, thanks for the help

  2. August 2, 2016

    No problem Carol- let us know how you go x

  3. August 8, 2016

    Thanks for addressing this and providing such a detailed account, will be picking up a vitamin A treatment as soon as possible x

  4. August 8, 2016

    Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizer has been my go-to for years! Never been let down

  5. September 12, 2016

    I’ve found that since I live in a humid climate washing my face several times a day ( especially after sweating and using sunblock ) is really important. My skin has really cleared up lately thanks to taking Abigail O’Neill’s advice on using Frankincense essential oil. I mix a few drops of it with Jojoba oil every night after cleansing and using a rosewater toner and my skin has never been better. I also use a gentle clay mask weekly, either Evan Healy’s Rose Clay or Clean Living Collection’s Flowers and Mud Mask.