The Best Tips for Fighting Acne and Aging

Finally, how to nip your two most agonizing skin issues in the bud

Acne is bad enough during your teen years but aging beneath incessant breakouts is no fun either. While you might be thankful your hormones are still raging, keep any negative effects under control (and out of your mirror) by following these tips from top skin doctors and estheticians.

By Charli Schuler

Step 1: Check your skincare regimen If you have acne and are reading this, chances are you've tried the gamut of over-the-counter "solutions" and had no luck. If so, skip to step five to find out why and what you can do from there. If not, keep reading to find out what types of products you should and shouldn't be using. In general, "if you're younger, you're generally going to want to divide your skin care regime so that 70 percent of it addresses acne and 30 percent addresses aging," says Annet King, Director of Training and Development for The International Dermal Institute. "As you get older, you'll want to reverse it so that 80 percent addresses aging and 20 percent addresses acne." Read on for options on how to weave anti-aging and acne products together into one regimen. Next: Treat acne at any age Annet King, The International Dermal Institute Step 2: Treat acne at any age Start with a daily cleanser that contains acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid. (Try AyurMedic Salicylic Wash, $25 .) Follow with an oil-free moisturizer (like Kiehl's Sodium PCA Oil-Free Moisturizer, $17.50 ). If you're near 40, stick with a mostly age-fighting regimen and use a salicylic acid-based product to treat breakouts at night. Remember to apply products in order of thin to thick for the best effectiveness. Next: Use acne-friendly aging tactics Step 3: Use acne-friendly aging tactics If you see signs of aging all over, apply a firming serum or fluid that doesn't feel greasy or oily to the touch and lists anti-aging ingredients early in the ingredients. (Look for retinol, which does double duty as an acne treatment; peptides, which encourage cell turnover; and antioxidants like green tea and vitamins, which protect your skin from environmental damage.) Mix a few drops of serum with your moisturizer, or wear it underneath or overnight with a booster, which can enhance its effectiveness by adding more anti-aging properties. (Try Philosophy Booster Caps, $50 .) Next: Spot treat partial signs of acne and aging Step 4: Spot treat partial signs of acne and aging If you only see signs of aging around eyes or lips, use a gel or silicone (look for ingredients that end in "-cone") product just in those areas. (Try Olay Age Defying Revitalizing Eye Gel, $9.99 .) If you only see acne on certain areas, apply a clay-based mask once a week on those areas and wear an anti-aging mask on the rest of your face. (Try Dermalogica mediBac Clearing Sebum Clearing Masque with Dermalogica Age Smart Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque, each $40 .) Next: Learn what to avoid and why Step 5: Learn what to avoid and why When picking products, steer clear of those based in thick humectants like shea butter. "The base is more important than the ingredients," King says. "Fatty emulsifiers which are thick, heavy, oily or creamy can be comedogenic [clog pores], making breakouts more likely." Noncomedogenic gel- or silicone-based products are best for your skin type, as well as serums, fluids and even light essential oils like kukui nut oil, which can actually help acne. Also avoid products that list ingredients like SD alcohol and fragrance among their first ingredients. These ingredients, popular in products marketed to teens and women in their 20s, are drying and can trigger more oil production, says King. Next: Consider a radical approach Serums are your friend. Step 6: Consider a radical approach If you've exhausted your skincare choices and still experience breakouts at a level beyond your comfort zone, consider more radical treatments (if they're in your price range). Chemical peels, light therapy, laser treatments and microdermabrasion series are growing alternatives to reducing non-cystic acne, signs of aging and acne scars. "The treatments that I recommend for [acne] are Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and the [Candela] Smoothbeam laser ... a diode-based laser," says dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Beer. "Lasers and light systems target the bacteria and help the acne resolve." Some laser treatments and peels typically involve several days of downtime and peeling while light therapy and microdermabrasion usually involve no downtime. Discuss your options with a reputable medi-spa professional or doctor to see if any of these options are right for you. (Keep in mind these treatments usually have to be kept up to see lasting results.) Next: Destress your skin A patient undergoes Fraxel laser treatment. Step 7: Destress your skin If radical treatments aren't for you but over-the-counter products still aren't helping, it's time to evaluate your stress level. "Some people get used to a certain level of stress and unconsciously maintain it," says King. Stress-related breakouts can appear either all over or, particularly later in life, concentrated in the chin or neck area. Spot treatment products (like Patricia Wexler M.D. Acnescription Overnight Acne Repair Lotion with Acnostat, $20 ) may help decrease the appearance of blemishes but you need to reduce your stress level to keep blemishes from appearing in the first place. "Skin is the largest organ of the body and one that is nourished last," says plastic surgeon Dr. Garth Fisher. Reduce the stress you place on your body by decreasing your daily activities, taking a relaxing yoga classes, setting aside quiet time, eating a nutritional diet and quitting smoking, drugs or alcohol. Your skin will thank you. Next: Still having problems? Yoga can decrease stress. Step 8: Still having problems? OK, you're relaxed and your skin is not responding to all the treatments you've tried. "If you have really red, pustular breakouts that linger or are very bothersome, your acne could be hormone-based," says King. "Hormones influence every reaction in our body." Now's when you see a doctor. A dermatologist may recommend prescription topical products like tretinoin or Retin-A, which treat acne and help reduce discoloration and wrinkles, as well as oral antibiotics, which help minimize bacteria that grow into follicles and cause inflammation, says Beer. An endocrinologist can evaluate your hormone level and pinpoint any imbalances that might be responsible for your breakouts. (Be sure to ask if he or she is familiar with hormonal treatment of acne first.) This treatment may involve oral contraceptives to regulate hormones. If you'd rather not take meds, consider seeing an acupuncturist who can recommend homeopathic treatments like teas, herbs and acupressure. Remember, what's right for a pregnant woman in her 20s may not be right for a menopausal woman in her 40s, so discuss any such hormonal stages with the specialist you choose. (Note: Accutane isn't recommended for either due to its extremely drying qualities and tendency to produce birth defects.) Next: If all else fails ... Acupuncture can help acne. Step 9: If all else fails ... Embrace your skin. If you've tried many of the aforementioned levels of treatment and you find that no one solution works long-term, fighting acne will likely be a constant battle for you. Some people find switching to another treatment whenever their acne seems to stop responding to a current treatment provides extended relief ... but this approach may require constanst switching. It will be best for your confidence level to stick with the treatment(s) and lifestyle alterations you're most comfortable with and try to embrace your skin for what it is. Many people find that perfecting the application of mineral makeup (when you think you're done blending, blend for several more minutes) and concealer (watch our concealer video ) can really help get them through the day. Tip: Blend concealer with a cotton swab. Top-Rated Acne Fighters Readers' Top 22 Facial Cleansers The Right Skin Care for Your Age Subject Subject Subject Message Message Message /content/package/c_acne_aging/

Products Mentioned in This Story

Olay Age Defying Classic Eye Gel

Average Member Rating: 8.1

Philosophy Booster Caps

Average Member Rating: 9.1

Dermalogica Sebum Clearing Masque

Average Member Rating: 8.8

AyurMedic Salicylic Wash

Average Member Rating: 9.0

Kiehl's Sodium PCA Oil-Free Moisturizer

Average Member Rating: 9.8

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older comments

I really liked this article I just wished it had a easier to read format. I have most everything I could except acupuncture and the more expensive laser treatments. The one thing that did wonders is accutane 3rd course of treatment. Lets hope it won't end up a constant battle.

by arn22 Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 11:44AM Report as inappropriate

ive tried over the counter acne meds and the dont work def going to try other treatments...

by jenni84 Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 08:30AM Report as inappropriate

yeah unfortunately I'm in the last category... "embracing my skin" :(

by tr3kkie9rl Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 07:33AM Report as inappropriate

I did read these before...opps

by Only1KimmieD Friday, June 22, 2012 at 12:38PM Report as inappropriate

Good tips

by TBjunkie Monday, May 14, 2012 at 11:01PM Report as inappropriate

I liked these

by Only1KimmieD Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 11:41AM Report as inappropriate

Most of the info was very helpful and I plan on applying this advice to my skincare regimen. I didn't like the part that said to basically accept your skin as is, there are way too many medical advances available to allow people with acne to just deal with it.

by RoleModel Saturday, December 10, 2011 at 04:16PM Report as inappropriate

I thought the article was ok until I read step 9. "embrace your skin?" It's clear that the person who wrote this never has suffer skin problems. I've battle with skin problems since I was in 7th grade and I'm 36. I have been called names, made fun and have been rejected. Most people doesn't see this as a health issue. They treat us like is our fault, like we want this, like we enjoy it. It's hard to grow and ego when people sees you as a freak So "embrace your skin you said? that's BS.

by kpellot Friday, July 8, 2011 at 08:57PM Report as inappropriate

great advice! apply products in order from thin to thick for best results, i'll remembr that!

by luxylexi Monday, May 16, 2011 at 05:47PM Report as inappropriate

great. :D

by yckitsmary Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 07:49PM Report as inappropriate

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