Face Invaders: dealing with spots in adulthood

Featured graphic for dealing with spots in adults. Young woman is holding pink balloons in front of her face wearing a white t-shirt against a blue background

Seriously? Spots appearing when we’re adults? Didn’t we deal with that trauma as teenagers?  Why do these little puss-filled joy killers feel the need to reacquaint themselves with us and invade our faces?

Yes, unfortunately, spots in adults is really a thing!  It’s more common than many of us want to acknowledge.  Whether you’re in your late 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, (and I can go on) spots aren’t necessarily done with you yet. 

They started making an unwelcome appearance for me in my 30’s.  In my opinion, spots are complete confidence stealers and as such, an affront to my well-being.  So as soon as one appears, I always go to war.  Over the last year, they seemed to be setting up camp and it was actually quite upsetting.  But through lots of research and slight changes, I’m finally reclaiming a clearer complexion!

Want to know how I did it?  Well OK, you’ve twisted my arm, I’ll tell you. 

But first, let’s look at what causes those un-welcome spots in adults…

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There are quite a few causes actually.  Some easier to address than others, but rarely without hope of reversal.  Here are the main ones…

– Hormones –

As we age our estrogen levels begin to dip making skin less tight and ultimately drier which leads to breakouts.  Hormones can become unbalanced for other reasons too, such as when we’re close to our periods, if we’re pregnant or very stressed.

– Health conditions and medications –

Spots in adults - certain types of medication can lead to spots. Image of tablets in blister packs

Conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or an underactive thyroid can potentially lead to breakouts.  Plus if you’re taking certain medications containing things like steroids these can cause spots to appear too. 

– Lifestyle choices –

Smoking, alcohol intake and diets which contain a large amount of high glycemic index foods (sugary and processed) can aggravate breakouts in people who are predisposed to acne.

– Skincare & makeup –

Dealing with spots in adults. Image of some used makeup

Overly congesting our skin with certain skincare products and pore-clogging makeup formulations will welcome spots.  As will using make-up brushes that need cleaning.

A little note to consider…

I’m neither a doctor nor a skincare specialist but from personal experience, I believe there are two types of spots.  Short-lived rectifiable ones, such as the ones you get from not cleansing properly or that darn one that appears on your chin right before your period; and then there’s… adult acne.

I developed what I now know was adult acne along my jawline and neck.  Lots of spots that kept re-occurring, despite months of effort on my part and trips to the pharmacy for over-the-counter solutions.  In the end, I saw my GP.  They prescribed a cream and within 6-weeks (fortunately for me) it all cleared up.  Thankfully, I’m back to the occasional short-lived one.

Now we know what causes the little nightmares, what can we do to deal with them?

Improving well-being: The key to being happy? Image of a young woman posing with a thinking face as if considering the answer to a tricky question

– Don’t revert to teenage tactics –

Whilst we’re likely to mimic the emotions we experienced as a teenager when spots reappear in our adulthood, our approach to tackling them needs to be different. 

Skincare products that are specifically designed for teenage skin (you know the type I’m talking about) are not going to help you here.  In fact, they might actually make the whole situation worse.  They are often drying and stripping in nature, which for adult skin is not beneficial.  I’ll talk about products/ingredients to consider in the last section of this post.  But for now, stay away from the teenage skincare section in Boots!

And don’t be tempted to break out your teenager pimple-squeezing ninja skills again either.  It was a bad course of action then and it’s a bad course of action now.  Even though it’s absolutely tempting, (speaking from experience!) you really need to resist the urge to pop!

– Adopt good skincare habits –

Setting the tone - Why you need to use toner

Let’s be honest, if you have full-blown adult acne, simply washing your face is not going to cure it. 

However, good skincare practices, in general, will not only improve the overall quality and health of your skin but will also help to stop preventable breakouts. 

Thoroughly cleanse your face daily to remove any dirt and makeup.  I’ve recommended my favourite cleansers in Recommended Facial Cleansers (For all skin types).  Follow with a toner to balance your skin and ensure all traces of pore-clogging residue are removed.  You can find out more about toning and its benefits in Setting the Tone – why should you use toner?

Regularly exfoliating is ideal for sloughing away dead skin cells and discouraging spots.  Find out more in For the scrub of it: why should you exfoliate and how to do it right! 

Good to know: Sometimes introducing new skincare products can lead to flare-ups, as can a facial.  This shouldn’t discourage you from using the product or having the facial – but note when the pimples keep recurring.  That’s probably your sign that your skin isn’t happy.

Make sure your products are right for your skin type and try to opt for non-comedogenic options especially when it comes to your foundation.

– Hydrate –

Spots in adults - stay hydrated - woman drinking a glass of water

Having a good intake of non-caffeinated drinks throughout the day will help to flush out toxins.

Top Tip: I particularly find a cup of decaffeinated green tea works wonders for clearing my skin.

– Give yourself clean days –

This one is two-fold. 

Firstly if you do like a glass of something alcoholic regularly (who, me?!) cut down to allow yourself some ‘clean’ days. 

Additionally, if you find it beyond realistic to eat a balanced diet daily (again, who, me?!) set yourself some ‘balanced’ days which include more anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, nuts and fresh fruit.  Increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory foods balances out the inflammation (and ultimately the breakouts) caused by consuming too many sugar-loaded treats. 

Spots in adults - eat more fruit and nuts, reduce sugar intake - image of a plate with fruit and nuts on it on a yellow background

Secondly when you can – if you don’t already – avoid the makeup.  Allowing your skin opportunity to breathe is great for discouraging spots caused by pores being clogged. 

Top Tip:  If you wouldn’t leave the house without makeup, try to get into the habit of removing it as soon as you get home.  Don’t let it sit on your skin unnecessarily.  Also, the earlier you remove it, the less temptation there will be to skip it at bedtime.

And whilst we’re on the subject of clean.  Remember to regularly clean your pillows, towels, flannels etc. whatever comes into contact with your face should be as free of bacteria as possible.  That includes your makeup brushes and sponges too!  I use & recommend MAC makeup brush cleanser*.

– Work on your stress levels –

Our stress levels can affect our hormones.  These hormones increase oil production which leads to break-outs. 

Addressing the causes of your stress and adopting some stress-relieving strategies will help. 

I personally find exercise and mindfulness great for reducing stress.  Make sure you’re also prioritising your sleep and try to carve out some me-time. 

For wellness tips and advice visit the Living.Pretty.Happy Wellness page

Here are products I find helpful for keeping my skin clear:

The INKEY List Zinc Oxide Cream Moisturiser icon*

Spots in adults. Image of The Inkey List Zinc moisturiser

What I love about this moisturiser is it’s actually SPF 50.  Why is this so good?  Well, I found it difficult to source a broad-spectrum sunscreen that didn’t make my skin too oily and/or actually contribute to blocked pores and breakouts.  This multi-tasking zinc oxide moisturiser also protects against damaging free radicals, so it’s very protective of my skin.  The addition of 1% hyaluronic acid adds some additional hydration but it’s one of the most lightweight moisturisers I have ever used – making it a perfect makeup base too.   It’s non-pore clogging, proven to reduce redness and inflammation and ultimately discourages the breakouts.  It’s suitable for all skin types – but I recommend for combination/oily.  Fragrance-free and paraben-free, what more could you ask for, for under £10!  Find out more here icon*

Balance Me Congested Skin Serum icon

Spots in adults. Image of Balance Me Congested Skin Serum

A 99% natural serum containing powerful ingredients such as kanuka oil – known for its anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties and spruce knot – an anti-oxidant rich in vitamin E.  It’s a really light and gentle serum that I pull out of my spot fighting tool kit when needed.  If I have a rogue spot, I just apply a dab of serum directly to it and let it work its magic overnight.  Otherwise, leading up to that time of the month I swap in place of my regular serum, to minimise the breakouts.  As good at calming the skin as it is at combating unwelcome face visitors, you can’t go far wrong with this fab serum from Balance me.  Find out more hereicon*

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic icon*

Image of Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic.  Recommended product to tackle spots in adulthood

I’ve mentioned this toner before and you’ll have to forgive me, as I’m going to keep mentioning it.  I just love it!  Due to my job, I often substitute it out to try other products all in the name of research for you lovely people, but in short, I always miss it and always go back.  Calming aloe, refreshing cucumber and packed with natural source vitamin E it really does boost your skin.  I love the scent too, very therapeutic in the morning.  I’ve seen a number of reviews, where users have also claimed a calming of break-outs through use.  Plus it’s hydrating and alcohol-free.  Find out more here icon*

The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil*

Spots in adults. Image of The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil

Excuse the Game of Thrones reference but sometimes you get what I describe as the ‘King Joffrey of spots’ – one so incredibly annoying, that despite your best efforts just seems to get more evil and leads you to ultimately spend every waking minute wishing it would die.  Again apologies if you have no idea who I’m talking about, but I think you’ll recognise the type of spot I’m referring to!  This is where tea tree oil steps in.  Each sustainably steam-distilled 20ml bottle of The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil contains the oil of 15,000 tea tree leaves.  Vegan-friendly, just a dab of the oil directly onto the offending mound starts to gently dry it up and send it into oblivion.  I’ve tried toothpaste, Sudocrem etc, but personally, this gives the best results.  Find out more here*

Good to know: Salicylic Acid is another ingredient heralded as great for blemishes.  It’s a beta hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin.  I haven’t personally tried this which is why I’m not recommending a specific product here.  However, I wanted to bring it to your attention as you may find it useful. 

Spots? What spots?

Secret Identity: Being you

For less severe spot outbreaks in adults, taking on these tips should pave the way to a clearer complexion.  But if nothing seems to be working, it’s wise to seek professional support.  Don’t despair there are lots of alternative treatments to try.

Just remember that whilst you believe you have Vesuvius erupting on your face, to those around you, it’s probably not even noticeable.  Things have a habit of appearing worse to yourself than they do to others.  Take confidence in the fact there is far more to you then a few little unwelcome face invaders.


PMS causing you problems? Read: How to manage PMS & take back some control

Face Invaders: How to deal with spots when you're an adult. What causes spots in adults? What can you do to minimise or clear the spots? Recommended products to help for spots and outbreaks. Dealing with adult acne. #adultspots #beauty #skincare #adultacne
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Aren’t spots when you’re an adult even more annoying than when you were a teenager?!  Were you aware spots in adults are really common?  Have you ever had (or are you currently experiencing) an adulthood resurgence of them?  Are you well behaved and don’t squeeze them? Or can you not resist?  Have you found anything worked particularly well for you?  Any top tips to share?  Any questions? Whatever you’d like to say, I’d love to hear from you!  Get in touch via the comment box below 

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