By Ellen Marmur, M.D., chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City

Adult acne is the most common complaint from my patients, and it can be persistent and difficult to treat. Pimples often crop up in the same place each month—which is usually PMS-related—or around the mouth. To find solutions for your adult acne, try my six steps:

Adult Acne article - Masterfile

1. Detox your skin. We all over-scrub, over-treat and over-touch our skin—and using too many products can irritate skin and cause breakouts. If you have mild-to-moderate breakouts, stop all your troubleshooting products and wait a few days to see if your skin calms down. Then you can add products back slowly, one at a time over a couple of weeks.

2. Calm and treat existing pimples with topical prescription medications that contain benzoyl peroxide or clindamycin. Over-the-counter (OTC) products with salicylic acid are another good bet. If your skin doesn’t respond, talk to your doctor. You might need a short course of a low-dose antibiotic. A doctor can also tell you if your acne is related to conditions such as rosacea or polycystic ovarian syndrome.

3. Fine-tune your diet. Every time I eat chocolate, I get a pimple within 24 hours. For others, trigger items may be dairy or salty snack foods. Figure out yours by keeping a six-week food diary. Each time you have a pimple, look back two days, see what you ate and try eliminating the suspect foods.

4. Moisturize regularly. Extremely dry skin can have an acne-like reaction, so if yours is especially arid, try a soothing moisturizer. My favorites include those with a calming agent, such as Strivectin SD Sensitive Skin. These protect skin from the drying elements and give it a chance to heal.

5. Rely on a retinoid to keep pores from clogging up with dead skin cells and breaking out all over again. Prescription retinoids are excellent, but there are some very good OTC products, like those from ROC, Oil of Olay, Neutrogena and Shiseido.

6. Live well. De-stress: Adult acne is often related to tension. Try deep breathing, yoga or another stress-reducing activity. Get seven-plus hours of sleep: Rested skin is healthy skin. Avoid alcohol before bedtime: This interrupts the sleep cycle and makes you more acne-prone.

5 Fast Blemish Fixes

Try these easy home remedies to zap those zits:

Toothpaste for Pimples - MasterfileToothpaste

If I break out and have nothing else on hand, I’ll dab a bit of toothpaste on my pimple and leave it on overnight. This dries the blemish out pretty quickly.

Contact lens solution

Do you wear contacts? Squeeze a bit of contact lens solution on your pimple—the saltiness can act as an astringent and dry the area.

An OTC steroid Cream

Over-the- counter (1 percent) hydrocortisone cream can reduce redness fast. You can also use this cream for other occasional skin irritations.

Tea Tree Oil

You can try a drop or two of tea tree oil, which is a natural antiseptic and anti- inflammatory. Tea tree oil can reduce a pimple’s inflammation and redness.

Your Dermatologist

Ask your dermatologist to inject a tiny bit of steroid solution into the blemish. For a widespread break- out, prescription gels Epiduo and Duac can clear skin in a day.

From our sister publication, REMEDY’s Healthy Living, Fall 2011

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 30 Aug 2011

Last Modified: 26 Aug 2015