You can breathe a sigh of relief when you eventually reach the big 4-0. The youthful insecurities often give way to a kind acceptance, and the qualities that once felt like differences are usually the same ones that now feel unique and individual. You're no longer trying to "discover" yourself—you know who you are and what you offer. There's a certain calm in that mindset, and a hard-earned confidence that comes with it.
So it's tough when you find that an aspect of adolescence can come back to rock the boat: acne. "Some of the causes behind experiencing acne in your 40s can be due to high levels of stress, too much sugar intake, hormonal fluctuations, clogged pores from oil-based moisturizers, and bacteria buildup within the skin," says Ronald Moy, MD, FAAC, of MFC Dermatology in Beverly Hills.
Although breakouts are stereotypically part of a teenager's experiences, seeing blemishes pop up as a 40-year-old woman can be more common than you think. The hormonal component of this shift has to do with the alternating level of androgens in the body, which are responsible for creating excess oil production. Androgens can also prompt skin cells to shed more often, and that can clog hair follicles. If you suspect that androgens are behind your pimples, then it's best to see a doctor. For the other causes, Roy has another solution, and it also speaks to his profession: "Focus on a healthy diet and get more sleep," he says.
"There are definitely a few changes you can make to your lifestyle to help with acne, especially around decreasing your sugar and dairy intake," he continues. "The current theory suggests that sugars can cause an inflammatory response in the skin, and dairy can play a role in influencing acne and even rosacea. Lastly, better sleep improves the repair and the health of the skin, including acne."
Aim to sleep about eight hours per night to achieve optimal skin.
If you're in the midst of a flare-up, Roy suggests putting ice on the area to help with swelling. Will ice and other home remedies get rid of your problems? Not really, he says. For that, you'll need something stronger.
"You should for ingredients that kill bacteria, such as benzoyl peroxide, and ingredients that unclog pores like Differin," he says. "Tazorac or retinoids also work."
We asked Roy for his four must-buy recommendations to treat adult acne, and all of them are budget-friendly. We also included four other items to buy that follow his advice. Because even though we know that you're a confident, accomplished 40-something, we also know that acne can put a damper on your mood. Here's to changing that as soon as possible.
"Differin is now sold over the counter, and it has a retinoid that helps kill the bacteria that causes acne," he says.
"The benzoyl peroxide in Proactiv products also do well to kill the bacteria that causes acne," he says. "It also treats the acne that's currently flaring up."
"The salicylic acid in this gel is what helps clear and prevent adult acne," Roy notes. "Plus, it won't over-dry skin."
"The 10 percent of benzoyl peroxide in this cream can help clear up pimples fast when used as a spot treatment," he adds.
Other Acne-Clearing Products to Try
This serum is made of 100% natural salicylic acid to clear pores of blemishes and blackheads.
Apply this mask once a week for 20 minutes, and its glycolic and salicylic acids will treat acne without drying skin.
The same glycolic and salicylic acids mix with lactic acid for a potent but gentle combination to treat and soothe skin.
Treat acne with this FDA-approved device, which uses LED technology to promote clearer, calmer skin.