Adult Acne: What's the Deal?


Adult acne is so not fair. We expect a bit of acne as teenagers, but once the hormonal fluctuations of adolescence subside and we reach adulthood, we are well and truly ready for a flawless complexion.

So when adult acne strikes, it can be embarrassing and frustrating. Even mild episodes of acne can lead to scarring, which can be both physically and psychologically damaging. You might want to rush out to the pharmacy and buy some heavy duty acne products that promise to rid you of pimples fast, but don't go there.

Unfortunately, skin care alone cannot assist with acne prevention and control. Most mainstream products are full of harmful chemicals that don't help your acne; they exacerbate it.

You're better off taking a more holistic approach. By learning about the causes and contributing factors of adult acne, you can work from the inside out to balance hormones and put the right nutrients into your body, which will help reduce and eliminate breakouts.  

Here's what you need to look at... 


During certain times, such as puberty, perimenopause and menopause, the oil (sebaceous) glands become more active. This affects the follicular epithelium, increasing the cell turnover and creating an inflammatory response. The gland becomes swollen and forms a bacterium (propionibacterium) that results in the formation of acne.

The bacteria colonise the swollen gland, causing inflammation and pus and leading to pustules, lesions and skin eruptions. In very severe cases, the glands may burst into the skin and produce cysts.

Hormonal breakouts tend to occur during ovulation or the week before menstruation. Hormonally induced acne usually occurs when the ovaries' ability to release eggs is impaired. When this happens, the male hormones (androgens) are secreted in excess, resulting in acne.

Outbreaks can appear on the face, shoulders, scalp, upper arms and legs, upper chest and back. The pores can also become clogged with sebum, dried skin and bacteria, causing the skin to erupt into spots, pimples, red blotches and sometimes inflamed and infected pustules and abscesses.

To correct hormonal acne, many doctors prescribe birth control pills to prevent ovulation. 

Sugar and Insulin

Diets that are high in refined carbohydrates permanently boost insulin. Excess consumption of sugar results in a rise of insulin and may trigger androgens that in turn, can increase the prevalence of acne.  Sustained high insulin levels can elevate hormone levels, stimulating the production of oil that leads to clogged pores, bacterial growth and acne. 


Ever had an acne breakout when you're stressed and wondered what the deal was? The hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland in response to stress makes its way into the human sebaceous gland, which results in an increase in localised androgens and acne.

Diet and Nutrition

Interestingly, acne is seen as a condition associated with Western diets that are generally higher in saturated and trans-fats, high in simple carbohydrates and sugars and lower in healthy protein sources.  In other cultures that are not exposed to processed foods and where diets focus on fresh foods consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables, there are few reports of acne.

If you suffer from adult acne, I suggest following a diet of mainly fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and game. Stay right away from trans-fatty acids found in commercially processed and packaged foods.

You can also try following a low glycemic index (GI) diet. 

An Australian trial conducted at RMIT University, Melbourne showed that a low GI, high protein diet improved symptoms of acne including the number of facial lesions. The diet consisted of 25% of energy from protein and 45% of energy from low GI carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables, grains and pulses.

Also, make sure your digestion is firing on all cylinders. Acne is associated with low stomach acidity and digestive problems can result in incomplete food breakdown and insufficient elimination of toxins. 


Nutritional supplements can assist with normalising ovulation and eliminating the problem at the source. 

  • Vitamin A – Topically applied assists acne as it acts on the invisible microcomedo. Supplementation may also assist with repair and maintaining skin tissue by reinforcing the mucous membranes that protect against viruses and bacteria. It also decreases the production of sebum which can clog pores. Found in our Vital A Elixir.

  • Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) – May assist with antimicrobials both topically and as a supplement. Found in our Vital B Elixir

  • Zinc Salts – Assist with wound healing and repairing damaged skin. Controls hormones and oil production, also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity. Recommended dosage – 30 mg/day of zinc gluconate.

  • Vitamin C – An important antioxidant that protects against free radical damage and is instrumental in the production of collagen and wound healing. All of our products that contain kakadu plum contain vitamin C, as it's one of nature's highest sources of this wonderful antioxidant. We also have a potent vitamin C serum containing Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP), our Vital C Elixir

  • Oral supplementation in the form of Selenium – Low levels of glutathione peroxide (a selenium dependent enzyme) may contribute to increased sebaceous activity. Recommended dosage: 400mcg daily combined with vitamin E.

  • Chaste Berry (Vitex Agnus Castus) – Assists with balancing and regulating the female hormones. Oral supplementation – 2ml liquid extract in water per day. 

  • Omega 3 Oils (arachidonic acid) – Dietary supplementation especially in the form of fatty fish is recommended due to the anti-inflammatory activity it produces.  

Other factors that may be contributing to adult acne:

Products that contain oily substances such as mineral oil, petroleum and certain vegetable oils can block the pores and interfere with the natural transpiration process of the skin, inhibiting its ability to breath. 

Medications such as corticosteroids, anabolic steroids, iodides and bromides or the contraceptive pill are also known to cause acne. 

Chemical-ridden cosmetics or any facial products that contain harsh surfactants such as sodium laureth/lauryl sulphate, isocetyl stearate, isopropyl isostearate, isopropyl palmitate, isopropyl myristate, sodium chloride and parabens that will further dry out the skin and exacerbate the problem.  

Our recommended product guideline for Blemish-prone Skin: 

Morning Routine

  1. Start with Balancing Cleansing Gel, a non-foaming, oil free anti-inflammatory cleanser which will help minimise the spread of bacteria on the skin.

  2. Bolster your anti-congestion effort by applying Orange Blossom Balancing Mist to a cotton round and wiping gently over the face to clear the pores and calm the skin.

  3. Apply Barrier Repair Serum.

  4. Apply Aloe Vera Moisturiser, a lightweight moisturiser to sooth and calm.

  5. Apply Blemish Control directly to spots and pustules to help eliminate bacteria, mattify and remove excess oil.

  6. Finish with Daily Moisturiser for protection.

    Evening Routine

    1. Cleanse with Balancing Cleansing Gel, a non-foaming, oil free anti-inflammatory cleanser which will help minimise the spread of bacteria on the skin.
    2. If you have any old acne or scarring, exfoliate gently with our 2-in-1 Resurfacing Exfoliant twice a week.
    3. Mist with Orange Blossom Balancing Mist.
    4. Target any individual blemishes, reducing the appearance of redness and inflammation with Blemish Control Gel.
    5. Apply Age Defiance Eye Serum around the eye area to protect and nourish the delicate skin.
    6. Apply Age Defiance Night Serum to assist with gentle overnight exfoliation, minimise pores and congestion.
    7. Apply Restorative Moisturiser if additional hydration is required.

    My Top Tips to Combat Adult Acne

    • Keep product usage to a minimum – less is best.
    • Double cleanse morning and evening with the balancing cleanser.
    • Use a fresh flannel to prevent the spread of bacteria.
    • Hands off – avoid picking and touching your face.
    • Keep hydrated – drink up 2 litres of filtered water per day.
    • Avoid processed sugar and food – anything in a packet.
    • Avoid dairy products – swap for coconut or nut milks.
    • Use natural makeup products only that do not contain mineral oils.
    • Take 1 tablespoon or 4 capsules of fish or flaxseed oil per day.
    • Get 7-8 hours of sleep to replenish nutrients and reduce anxiety and stress.
    • Stop smoking – it can cause over 60% increase in acne.
    • Reduce stress – exercise and meditate regularly.
    • Let your skin to breath – have a day or two off from wearing makeup.   

          If you suffer from adult acne, please feel free to share your experience with us or ask me for advice in the comments section below.

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          By Mukti

          Mukti has been actively involved in the beauty and personal care industry for over two decades. Her varied career has encompassed a common thread focusing on health and wellness. Her aim is to reconnect people to nature, creating health and happiness via toxin-free lifestyles and beauty regimes.