How to Build a Skin Care Routine for Adult Acne

If you’re not seeing improvements with over-the-counter products, it may be time to speak to a medical professional. Kikam says there’s no “one-size-fits-all to acne treatment.” A doctor may consider a wide range of topical and oral medications, including retinoids; antibiotics to reduce bacteria; androgen blockers or birth control pills for hormonal acne; or isotretinoin, popularly known as Accutane, for severe cases, though the drug can have serious side effects.

The safest way to deal with a stubborn pimple is to see a professional; Pavitt recommends making an appointment with an aesthetician two weeks before an event if you’re flaring up. If that’s not an option, she encourages grabbing two Q-tips and using those, instead of your fingers, to gently press on blemishes that have a white head. Trying to extract other types of acne like nodules — those hard, painful pimples buried underneath the skin — stubborn blackheads and inflamed acne lesions can cause scarring, worsen hyperpigmentation and force debris deeper into your skin.

For acne-prone skin, Garrette recommends monthly facials that focus on extractions, deep pore cleansing and LED light therapy. Pavitt also likes at-home LED masks that combine red light, to “[bring] down inflammation and [stimulate] collagen production,” she says, and blue light, “to help kill acne bacteria.” She recommends versions by Current Body ($380), Dennis Gross ($455) and Celluma ($1,795).

Chemical peels are highly concentrated solutions of exfoliating acids that can resurface the skin. For the best results, aestheticians typically suggest a series of peels, spaced out over a few weeks or months, depending on the solution’s strength. Although peel packages can be pricey (generally starting at about $300 per visit, or $1,000 for a series of three treatments), they’re an expedited solution for both blemishes and stubborn hyperpigmentation.

Laser skin-resurfacing treatments are another effective treatment for uneven tone and texture. (They can start at $400 per session, or $1,500 to $3,000 for a series of three to four treatments.) For clients with deeper skin tones, Garrette strongly recommends choosing a melanin-friendly, nonablative laser brand such as Clear + Brilliant. More aggressive, ablative lasers, which remove the outer layer of skin, can cause the body to go “into defense mode,” leading to more hyperpigmentation, Garrette says.

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