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Got adult acne? A London facialist brings you its surprising causes (such as stress and hot food) and 7 steps to help

Even after your teenage years have passed, acne can still rear its ugly head. Luckily, Ada Ooi, the founder and CEO of 001 Skincare, has these tips on getting rid of adult acne — and keeping it away.

In the recent years I found a growing skin concern among my clients about adult acne. Unlike teenage acne, adult acne doesn’t go through the cycle of appearing as a small hard white head, turning into an inflamed lump with white mucus and then drying up and healing.

Instead, adult acne come in groups of small cysts, although their appearance is smaller than teenage pimples, the infections on adult acne are generally larger as they are caused by chronic inflammation. What happens is, as our skin constantly secretes excessive sebum clogging the pores, a large amount of bacteria builds up and destroys the walls of the pores. That then binds with dead skin cells and goes under the living skin, creating patches of micro-cysts that don’t seem to go away easily.

Daily stress can cause hormonal fluctuations and lead to excessive sebum secretion, triggering the growth of adult acne.

The cause? Research has shown that daily stress can cause hormonal fluctuations and lead to excessive sebum secretion, triggering the growth of adult acne. You can find more about that in my video here:

Here you’ll find 7 steps to conquer it:

1. Avoid getting over-heated

Excessive heat can create an inflammatory reaction in the body and cause a rise in temperature, leading to sebum secretion. The oil in the sebum then captures bacteria and dirt, which worsens acne conditions. My definition of heat here doesn’t confine to your radiator, but extends to spicy food and unstable emotions that lead to the same bodily and skin reactions that can cause the acne.

2. A good morning and night skincare routine
skin care products, conquer adult acne by
Always have a toner, hydrating serum and moisturiser on hand.

Cleansing and toning are a crucial step to balancing skin pH after cleansing with England’s water, which is prone to being alkaline.  A toner fills skin with water to help other skincare products adhere, as serum and moisturisers usually contain humectant ingredients that work by attracting water content in the skin. Follow with a hydrating serum and a moisturiser that’s able to bind and lock moisture within the skin.

3. Keep it simple, avoid silicons

Your daily skincare products should be kept simple so avoid harmful ingredients that can clog pores, like synthetic silicons. These work by creating a film that covers all the pores and uneven surfaces on the skin, giving a silky and smooth skin touch. This film just sits on top of the skin and clogs pores, so the skin can’t breathe. It also creates a desirable environment for bacteria to grow actively within our skin leading to an acne reaction.

Avoid harmful ingredients that can clog pores, like synthetic silicons.

4. Keep skin hydrated at all time

When your skin is dry, it sends a signal that it needs moisturisation and it secretes sebum which can be a cause of imbalanced sebum secretion, which again, nurtures the growth of bacteria and dead skin growth, leading to acne.

5. Get a gentle treatment product

As we age, our skin thins. I wouldn’t recommend using the over-the-counter treatment targeted at teenage acne, these treatments are usually with 10 per cent benzoyl peroxide or 2 per cent salicylic acid and may be too harsh. Try something with benzoyl peroxide in the 2 per cent range and salicylic acid in the .5 per cent range.

001 cleanser, conquer adult acne by

Or, as a daily mild exfoliation that encourages daily skin cell turnover, try the 001 Exfoliating & Conditioning Cleanser with lactic acid. Lactic acid is the mildest natural exfoliant that sloughs off dead skin gently and moisturises at the same time.

6. Watch your diet

While adult acne can be caused by a fluctuation of hormones, it’s important that we don’t further obstruct the balance by feeding ourselves with too much hormone-enriched dairy and meat. Try to understand where your food comes from or opt for organic options.

woman grocery shopping, conquer adult acne by
Buy organic food that’s free of chemicals and hormones.

Sugar aggravates acne so cut down on sugar as well as carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, potatoes and rice as they cause a similar reaction to sugar in the body. As your blood sugar levels increase, the pancreas responds by releasing insulin, a hormone that takes sugar into cells and reduces blood sugar levels. These hormones increase acne severity, sebum production and pore size, making them visible. To simplify, sugar equals sebum, excess sebum equals acne. Avoid white rice and pasta, opt for wheat and beans, and chuck those Haribos away.

7. Stay happy, stay healthy

We can almost certainly say that adult acne is hormonal so keep your stress levels in check (I know that’s easy to say but hard to do) because stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin are known to throw off the balance of sex hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen, which can lead to serious breakouts. Find different ways to release your tensions. My ‘alone’ activity would be playing the harp, and to socialise I go to Zouk dance events a lot (a modern Brazillian Lambada). Sometimes, I find something as simple as crying my eyes out to a movie helps release pent-up emotions. Would be great to hear what you do as well!


Beauty Buzzwords video series – what is hydration and moisturisation?

Beauty Buzzwords video series – what is thermal ageing?

ada ooi headshot, keys to conquering adult acne by

Ada Ooi is a London facialist and creator of  001 Skincare

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