I'm No Teen. Why Am I Breaking Out?

Your guide to banishing adult acne from your face.

Woman with pimples on her forehead.

To treat your acne, start with over-the-counter products then, if necessary, discuss your options with a physician or dermatologist.

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What treatment options will the doctor prescribe?

After assessing your type of acne and its cause, a doctor may prescribe a topical medication (a treatment applied directly to the skin) that may either fight the bacteria in your pores, reduce oil or inflammation. Another option might be medicines you take orally, such as antibiotics to combat bacteria and reduce inflammation, or a type of oral contraceptive for women whose acne is caused by hormonal imbalances. In some cases, for people who have severe, scarring acne that won’t respond to any other treatment, a physician may prescribe a powerful drug named isotretinoin, Huang​ says

There are also a few procedures on the table to complement your acne treatment plan. Light therapy sessions are used to kill acne bacteria and (with a certain kind of procedure) shrink oil glands, according to the Mayo Clinic. Steroid injections are used to flatten nodules and cysts, the clinic states, and chemical peels​ and microdermabrasion are used to essentially buff the skin by unclogging pores and clearing dead cells.

Huang​ points out that these kinds of procedures are sometimes not covered by insurance, and so they can add up – especially if you need repeat treatments. But if they sound promising to you, bring it up with your doctor. As she helps you conquer your acne, you can have fun with the grown-up stuff, like not stressing about locker combinations. Or SATs. Or that crush on your lab partner.  

[Read: 5 Tips for a Smooth Doctor's Appointment.]