The Clear-Skin Makeover

From the WebMD Archives

By Jenny Bailly

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Fighting pimples and wrinkles? Here’s how to give your old routine a grown-up overhaul for radiant results.

Like high school pop quizzes and awkward prom dates, pimples are supposed to be distant bad memories. If only. But these days, even moms of teens are battling blemishes — and wrinkles, too. In fact, between 15 and 35 percent of women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s suffer from breakouts, according to a report published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. And those numbers are on the rise, says dermatologist Richard Fried, M.D., Ph.D., author of Healing Adult Acne. Doctors attribute this increase to everything from skyrocketing stress levels and hormone fluctuations to today’s carbohydrate-heavy diets.

If you’re tempted to treat your acne with a few old tricks from your teen years, don’t. Adult skin is more sensitive and less resilient than adolescent complexions, and it calls for treatments that also fight the signs of aging. Luckily, many of the best zit zappers out there happen to be top anti-agers, too. So whether your breakouts are an occasional annoyance or a constant struggle, find the updated plan that’s best for you.


What you did then: Scoured your face every chance you got

What you should do now: Cleanse no more than twice a day. Since your skin is likely drier than it once was, over-washing can remove the surface oils that keep it supple, says New Orleans dermatologist Mary Lupo, M.D. Look for a cleanser with salicylic acid to break up pore-clogging sebum, plus a skin softener like glycerin. Try Bioré Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser ($6, drugstores) or Garnier Nutritioniste Nutri-Pure Detoxifying Gel Cleanser ($6, drugstores). If your skin is sensitive or extra-dry, alternate with a mild product like Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($11, drugstores). And if you only face a pimple or two a month, make that your only cleanser and rely on acne creams for treatment.

What you did then: Applied drying masks to soak up oil

What you should do now: Focus on exfoliating, not degreasing. As we age, skin’s cell turnover slows, and pores can get clogged with dead cells. Slough them away with an at-home peel. (Bonus: Peels soften lines and fade dark spots.) If you break out regularly, use a 10 percent–glycolic acid solution. Try Patricia Wexler M.D. Dermatology Exfoliating Glyco Peel System ($60, Bath & Body Works). For occasional breakouts, opt for lactic acid, the most gentle, moisturizing choice. Find it in Philosophy The Microdelivery Mini Peel Pads ($35, Sephora). And toss the scrubs. “Abrasive grains can rupture acne cysts and increase their life span,” says Jeannette Graf, M.D., a dermatologist in Great Neck, NY.