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Over 40 and Dealing with Acne? Dermatologists Share the 7 Best Products for Adult Acne

Plus, a guide on all of the ingredients that help banish breakouts

From hormonal fluctuations to oilier skin and a slower skin cell turnover rate as we get older, there’s a number of reasons why we can be dealing with acne in our 40s. Thankfully, there are a number of products that can be used as a way for how to get rid of adult acne. But it’s likely you’re not sure what’s right for you, and/or you want to use the same treatments a teenager is using for their blackheads. That’s why we tapped top dermatologists to share the best products for adult acne and they gave us a list of cleansers, spot treatments, moisturizers and more that clear up skin quickly. Keep scrolling to find the solution that’s right for you.

What to look for — and avoid — when treating adult acne

Steering clear of pore-clogging oils is key when asking how to get rid of adult acne — all of the dermatologists we spoke with underscored this point. That applies across the board for any type of acne, but for adult acne, it’s also a good idea to avoid fragrances and alcohol, as both are drying and irritating to the skin, says Michele Farber, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia. Adult skin is typically more sensitive than teenage skin, notes Mona Foad, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at MONA Dermatology in Cincinnati, Ohio, so it’s important to take even a gentler approach when it comes to the types of products you’re using.

skincare product swatches
Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty

To that point, there are few fan favorite ingredients for treating adult acne:

  • Salicylic acid is a great exfoliant that penetrates deep into pores, clearing out excess oil and dead skin cells, and helping prevent the formation of new acne lesions, explains Dr. Foad.
  • Benzoyl peroxide works against acne-causing bacteria and is also anti-inflammatory, making it a great choice for treating the red, swollen pimples associated with adult acne, says Dr. Foad.  
  • Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that gently exfoliates to improve skin texture as well as help fade acne scars, notes Dr. Foad. Plus, it helps stimulate collagen production, which is always a good thing as you get older.
  • Retinoids are one of the best ingredients out there, since they reduce oil production, keep pores clear and even help fade dark marks leftover from acne breakouts, says Dr. Farber. Not to mention that they’re choice wrinkle fighters, too, giving you even more bang for your buck.
  • Niacinamide is a multi-tasking B vitamin. “It helps reduce inflammation and redness, regulates oil production and improves skin barrier function,” explains Dr. Foad. The last part is especially noteworthy given that our barrier becomes more compromised as we age, leaving our skin drier and more sensitized.  

Related: How to Get Rid of Pimple Redness: Top Dermatologists’ 6 Simple Tips

The best products for adult acne

The derm-backed picks below rely on these ingredients (and others) to deliver maximum skin-clearing benefits.

Best cleanser for adult acne

SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel, one of the best products for adult acne
SkinCeuticals

SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel

Jeremy Brauer, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Spectrum Skin and Laser in New York says this is a great option for acne-prone skin. He lauds it for the addition of both salicylic acid (to help with oil control) and gently exfoliating glycolic acid.

Best exfoliant for adult acne

Skinbetter Science AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads
Skinbetter Science

Skinbetter Science AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads

These individually-packaged pads are loaded with a combination of a retinoid, plus a blend of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid, says Dr. Brauer of another one of his picks. He also adds that they’re not too-irritating for drier skin types. 

Best retinoid for adult acne

Differin Gel Acne Retinoid Treatment, one of the best products for adult acne
Differin/Target

Differin Gel Acne Retinoid Treatment

Dr. Farber calls this her “single favorite over-the-counter acne product,” adding that retinoids are a mainstay of acne treatment. Fun fact: This relies on adapalene, a type of retinoid that until recently was available by prescription-only.

Related: Sensitive Skin? Here’s How to Use Retinol for a Smoother, Glowing Complexion + Pros’ Top 9 Product Picks

Best leave-on treatment for adult acne

The Ordinary Azeliac Acid Suspension 10%
The Ordinary/Sephora

The Ordinary Azeliac Acid Suspension 10%

This is another of Dr. Farber’s picks, who says that the ingredient (azelaic acid) is great for helping to both fight acne and brighten skin. A bonus perk of this acid is that it’s also been show to reduce redness, making it great for those with rosacea too.

Best sunscreen for adult acne

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, one of the best products for adult acne
EltaMD

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

Both Dr. Foad and Dr. Brauer recommend this sunscreen for those with acne-prone skin. It’s oil-free, but also great for sensitive skin, and contains niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and lactic acid, helping to address discoloration and breakouts, she says. All while yes, protecting your skin from the sun, too.

Related: Should I Use a Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen? Pros Weigh In + Share the Best SPF Formulas

Best spot treatment for adult acne

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Treatment Gel
Neutrogena/Target

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Treatment Gel

Thanks to a 10% concentration of benzoyl peroxide, “This is useful for treating bigger, more painful bumps,” says Dr. Farber. Although, she does add that it can be a bit too intense for those with more sensitive skin.

Best moisturizer for adult acne

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion, one of the best products for adult acne
CeraVe/Target

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

It’s important to moisturize even when you’re dealing with breakouts; if your skin gets too dry, it can actually end up producing too much oil. That’s why Dr. Farber suggests using this lotion, which is non-comedogenic, fragrance-free and great for helping to strengthen your skin barrier.


See more expert-backed skin care tips and tricks:

Oilplaning Steps and How to Do This Viral Trend That Makes Skin Look Smoother and Youthful Instantly

Clean Beauty: What You Need to Know About Brands, Plus 6 Products You’ll Want to Use

MDs Share the Best Menopause Skin Care Routine + Products for Women Over 50

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