As an adult, when you go from nearly life-long clear skin to problem skin in the space of three months, you might panic.
I did. Many ladies and gentlemen did and do. Adult-onset acne is not unheard of and can be triggered by any number of things – commonly hormones, but also environment, diet, and other lifestyle factors. Going from having something work for years to everything being clearly.freaking.wrong for your skin is frustrating!
For the first time in I’m-not-even-sure-at-this-point (18 months? 24? I don’t know anymore!), I’ve had clear skin. Clear, that is, aside from an occasional cycle-related blemish that is minor and goes away on its own. Hallelujah.
If you’re frantically trying to pursue resolution, you might inadvertently have left common sense by the wayside. No judgment; I did. Keep these things in mind when trying to manage suddenly problem skin.
It’s a common mistake made by many, but a lot of us were over-cleaning our skin, stripping it of essential moisture. In some, this causes the skin to overproduce oil. In others, you’re just left with annoying chronic dryness that it is difficult to manage. Or, you know, you could be like me and have both.
On top of that obvious bit, not being conscious about the pH of your cleanser (and the resultant adjusted pH when factoring your tap water) can compromise your acid mantle and cause skin to misbehave even further.
Don’t Over-Medicate Problem Skin
If you have acne, don’t use a ton of treatment products in conjunction with each other. Beta-Hydroxy Acid, or salicylic acid, is a common active ingredient in many acne treatment products. Face washes, toners, moisturizers, treatment pads (like Stridex), and more contain this – and you really only need to pick one. Using multiple BHA products in the same routine can wreak havoc, too.
Don’t Shackle Yourself to the (Product) Past
Put succinctly, what worked for you in the past will not necessarily work for you now.
Yes, it sucks…especially if you’d been reliably using the same products for 5+ years!
Don’t Rush – Pace Yourself
When trying to manage misbehaving skin, don’t change everything at once; you wouldn’t be able to determine which product(s) had an impact, whether positive or negative. At minimum, wait at least a week between introducing new elements; wait a little longer if they aren’t daily-drivers.
Trial and Error
If the thrill of the hunt outweighs the exasperation of what (seems like) no progress and/or wasted money, great! If you’re like me, be ready to be disappointed. It isn’t a failure though – every product that doesn’t work out tells you a little more about what your skin wants.
On the expense piece, most of my routine is drugstore aside from my tools (Mia2, Luna Mini) and the serum I’m using. Even at drugstore pricing, trial-and-error can get expensive. It pays to do research!
Mind Your Intake
I’ll be the first to admit that I am a brat about drinking water. I’ve trained myself to want it rather than other things (soda!), but I often forget to drink. I have a series of reminders configured to keep me on top of it. Proper hydration goes so much longer than many – including past me – would think. Get a bottle you like (this is the one I like) and keep it with you at all times.
Likewise, if you take vitamin supplements, be careful to ensure you aren’t screwing your relative B vitamin balance. (The cystic blemishes are gone!)
I’ll never tell you to eschew pizza and burgers (ever), but don’t have hyper-greasy stuff literally every day. Your body needs a break.
Get Better about your Brushes
If you put a brush (or sponge) on your face, whether it’s for cleaning or facepaint, take cleaning it more seriously. I have not been good about this because I’m lazy and am loath to instill too much routine in my personal time, but… well, sometimes you need to.
Don’t Rule Out Help
Dermatologists, though pricey, shouldn’t be discounted as useless when it comes to managing problem skin. Some people do need prescription-grade treatment – be it antibiotics, Retinol, or other things. You might not need to take the conventional route by seeking an appointment; services such as PocketDerm and Curology have amazing reviews. I haven’t tried them, however.
The Bottom Line
You aren’t alone. You aren’t weird. Many, many people experience problem skin out of nowhere, particularly starting in your mid-to-late 20s or during pregnancy/after childbirth. Finding a new normal is not, realistically, going to be a painless process for everyone – but there is light at the end of the, “WTF is going on with my FACE?!” tunnel.