We're no longer in denial. Acne continues well into our adulthood. However, the best acne treatments change as our skin matures. "Acne in your 20s is very different from the acne in your 40s," says Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a Washington D.C.-based dermatologist.
"In your 20s, it's more of a teenage type of acne. For those type of people with increased oil, clogged pores, blackheads and whiteheads, the best thing to do is to seek out products that have benzoyl peroxide and heavy duty salicylic acid—high strength salicylic acid like 2% and higher percentage of the benzoyl peroxide—because you really want to exfoliate the surface of the skin and reduce some of the oil."
For 20-something skin on the dryer side, Dr. Tanzi recommends a kit like Proactiv. "You want something where the active ingredients are packaged and mixed with other ingredients that hydrate the skin. Those kits usually have a little bit of benzoyl peroxide and a little bit of salicylic acid but they also mix the moisturizer so they don't strip the skin."
When you reach your 30s and 40s, your skin isn't irritated by excess of oil. "It is often related to the fluctuation of hormones. That can mean more of the cystic, underground bump acne which can produce bigger pimples." While in your 20s, blemishes surface around the T-zone, they congregate around the mouth and along the jawline in your 40s. "You want to avoid really harsh stringent products because it's just going to dry out the surface of the skin and not help anyway." Tanzi recommends using products that are anti-wrinkle and anti-acne, opposed to benzoyl peroxide that will irritate the skin.
Spot treatments are a must for women in their 30s and 40s because you can easily prevent drying out the skin. She recommends touch sticks that contain salicylic acid, ranging in strength from .5% to 2%. "You want to use the strongest one you can handle."
For excessive acne, Dr. Tanzi recommends chemical peels. For more mature skin, there are double-duty peels that are both anti-aging and anti-acne. "My favorite for oily skin is called Vitalize peel. It would be a modified vitalized peel for more mature skin." The recovery takes four days. "The skin will peel about 48 hours later, and it's very dry, but not raw. And then it takes about 48 hours to peel."
Another 25 years of acne—that's one thing we wouldn't tell our high school selves.
For the best acne treatments for your age, shop the gallery above.