Thanks to stress and fluctuating hormones, pimples can surface even after your kids have outgrown their teenage zits. More than a quarter of 40-something women and 15 percent of those 50 and older report having had adult acne, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Hydrate first. Counter the drying effects of pimple medications by rubbing on a noncomedogenic, oil-free lotion or an eye gel (which tends to be non-oily) before concealing. "If you put cover-up on a dried-out blemish, it looks like a frosted flake and attracts more attention," Arlt says. Give the moisturizer about a minute to sink in, then apply concealer with a small brush or clean finger. Those with salicylic acid, such as Physicians Formula Blemish Rx ($9, drugstores), help fight inflammation and keep pores clear during healing. Brush on a little at a time to get plenty of coverage without cakiness.
- Multitask. To form, acne requires a perfect storm of clogged pores, bacteria, and inflammation. You'll get the best treatment results if you attack it on all fronts, Dr. Kunin says. A regimen to consider: Twice a day, unblock pores with a 2 percent salicylic acid cleanser such as Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Power-Cream Wash ($8, drugstores). Kill bacteria and sop up oil with a 10 percent benzoyl peroxide spot treatment like Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Treatment Cream ($10, drugstores). And apply a sulfur mask a few times a week to draw out excess oil; try Proactiv Clear Purifying Mask ($20, proactiv.com), an odor-free, sulfur-based face mask. Once skin calms down, maintain results with easy-to-use salicylic acid pads such as Dr. Brandt Blemishes No More Cleansing Pads ($25 for 60, Sephora).
- See your M.D. Adult acne can be persistent — and resistant to treatment. So if an at-home regimen doesn't clear up skin within a few months (or you want to skip a few steps), talk to a dermatologist about Rx retinoids. Along with building collagen to smooth wrinkles, these multitaskers exfoliate skin to keep your complexion clear. Prescription retinoids can be irritating, but you can tailor their use — applying the solution every other night instead of nightly, for example. Expect to see results within a few months.
For breakouts seemingly immune to other therapies, oral antibiotics are another option. So is prescription Aldactone, which is typically used as a diuretic, but has anti-testosterone effects that prevent excess oil production. Dr. Marmur calls this drug her "magic bullet" for squelching hormonal acne.