You thought you were done with zits the day you put your awkward high school days behind you, but clearer skin doesn’t always come with age. Plain and simple, pimples pop up when your pores are clogged, so it’s not uncommon to break out during your 20s—and even into your 30s and 40s. What’s more, stress can cause acne flare-ups since it throws hormone levels out of whack. And because ingrown hairs tend to clog pores, shaving also makes guys more pimple-prone.
Your best defense against adult acne: keeping skin clean, healthy, and hydrated. Wash your face twice a day to get rid of poor-clogging dirt and bacteria. Then apply moisturizer—if you skip this step, your skin will crank up oil production, which can lead to breakouts. Once or twice a week, use an exfoliator to slough away the outer layer of skin cells. This lets extra oil escape instead of clogging your pores. (For a run-down of our top face wash, moisturizer, and exfoliator picks, see 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Better Skin)
When zits do fight their way through, try one of these six treatments to knock ‘em out fast.
Battle mild breakouts with a drugstore moisturizer that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These acne-fighting ingredients help dry up excess oil and reduce the inflammation that causes blemishes. Apply at night for best results. MF pick: Clean & Clear Essentials Dual Action Moisturizer ($6, walgreens.com)
Target more obvious pimples with a spot treatment. The ingredients, like salicylic acid and oil-absorbing alcohols, are similar to those found in OTC acne-fighting moisturizers, but they come in higher concentrations, so they work faster. Dab directly onto a zit. MF pick: Bliss No Zit Sherlock Spot Treatment ($18, blissworld.com)