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Adult Acne vs Teen Acne

Adult Acne vs Teen Acne

Have you ever wondered if there is a difference between the acne you experience as an adult vs when you were a teenager? Let’s take a look at the difference between adult acne and teenage acne and the best skincare ingredients to treat breakouts.

Adult Acne vs Teenage Acne

The root cause of all acne is essentially the same, your pores become clogged with excess sebum and dead cells.

Clogged pores become the ideal environment for skin bacteria, p. Acnes, to thrive causing acne, inflammation, and swelling.

Adult acne and teenage acne can be triggered by different hormonal changes that lead to excess oil production - causing pores to become blocked.

So, what's the difference between adult acne and teenage acne?

Adult acne is more common around the chin, and along the jawline while teenage acne usually appears in T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and sometimes on the chest and upper back.

The treatment of adult acne and teenage acne should also be approached in different ways.

Because teenage skin is very oily, it can handle stronger acne treatments. As the skin ages, it becomes drier and more sensitive so treatments designed for teenage acne can cause excessive irritation for adults.

The best acne treatments for adults are gentler and easier for the skin to tolerate.

Hormonal Acne

Your skin changes in response to fluctuating hormones, such as estrogen, which can trigger acne.

For adults, hormone-related adult acne can be triggered by your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, and stress,

Teenagers experience acne due to an increase in androgen hormones - like testosterone.

These hormones play a key role in kick-starting puberty and send the production of sebum into overdrive, increasing the chance of clogged pores.

Hormonal acne can usually be treated with a combination of the right skincare products. In some, more severe, cases you may need over the counter medication too.

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is the most serious and painful type of acne.

Both teenagers and adults can experience cystic acne which is identified by the following characteristics:

Large white bumps

Large pus-filled cysts

Skin is inflamed and painful to touch

Over the counter treatments and skincare products alone aren’t strong enough to treat cystic acne. If you’re dealing with cystic acne see a dermatologist about prescription medication to compliment an anti-acne skincare routine.

Blackheads and Whiteheads

These are the mildest forms of adult acne and teenage acne.

A blackhead (scientifically known as an ‘open comedone’) is essentially a pore clogged with dead skin, sebum and dirt that has opened a little and been exposed to air - turning it black.

A whitehead is known as a ‘closed comedone’ - the pore is clogged but hasn’t opened for air to enter and cause it to turn black.

These two are usually the easiest type of acne to treat and can be improved with the right skincare routine and treatments.

In some extreme cases, blackheads may need to be professionally extracted by an esthetician.

Best Skincare Ingredients To Treat Acne

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid, a potent exfoliator for the topmost layers of the skin - removing dead cells which clog pores.

Glycolic acid also boosts moisture retention. This helps prevent the overproduction of oil that leads to breakouts. Its skin regeneration properties help reduce the appearance of scars and overall, brightens the skin.

Salicylic acid

A beta-hydroxy acid, Salicylic acid also acts as an exfoliant however, salicylic acid is able to penetrate deeper into the skin than glycolic acid - targeting acne at its source.

Both glycolic and salicylic acid are often used in combination to treat acne.

Benzoyl peroxide

Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, benzoyl peroxide fights the acne-causing bacteria on the skin. By targeting the bacteria, breakouts are minimised. It also helps keep pores of dead cells and oil build-up.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has benefits for all skin types, especially acne-prone skin. It’s antifungal and antibacterial properties fight bacteria while drawing impurities out from within the pore.

Bentonite and Kaolin Clay

Known for its ability to draw out toxins, heavy metals, impurities, and chemicals from the skin Bentonite also soaks up extra oil. Kaolin clay has more mild absorption properties than bentonite, which makes it better for dry to normal skin.

Retinoids (Vitamin A)

Naturally occurring forms of Vitamin A retinoids also have very effective pore clearing capabilities. They prevent pores from clogging stopping breakouts before they even begin developing.

esmi Skincare Routine To Treat Adult And Teenage Acne


We always recommend you Double Cleanse your skin each morning and night.

The first cleanse is to remove any products (like SPF or makeup) and the second is to get deep into the pores to remove debris and any built-up oil. You can use the same cleanser for both or a combination of cleansers to achieve more targeted results.

Choosing a gentle cleanser is particularly important for teens as many cleansers targeted towards teenage acne can be very harsh and strip the skin of its natural oils. This only exacerbates the issue.

The Uncomplicated Cleanser

Starting with the original Uncomplicated Cleanser is ideal to remove surface products.

The Uncomplicated Cleanser plus Charcoal

Follow with a second cleanse using The Uncomplicated Cleanser plus Charcoal. Ideal for all skin types prone to congestion, breakouts, and large pores, the active ingredient charcoal purifies and balances oils for a refined, clearer complexion.

If you’re experiencing cystic acne or acne that is inflamed, instead of the Charcoal Cleanser you could opt for The Uncomplicated Cleanser plus Anti-Redness for the second cleanse.

It contains antibacterial properties that are ideal for soothing inflammation and minimising break out flare-ups.


Detoxifying Exfoliating Charcoal Serum

Using this 2-3 times per week will help to buff away dead skin cells and detoxify the skin by drawing out impurities, revealing a clearer, smoother complexion.

This serum contains powerful drawing agents, it will draw out any underlying congestion - so don’t be alarmed if your skin purges. Continue use after impurities have emerged to aid healing.


Acai Hydrate & Nourish Duo (Teen)

The 'gentle' dose of actives in this formulation is perfect for teens and helps to balance and strengthen skin, promote repair and soothe skin.

Anti-Redness Minty Green Smoothie (Adult and teen acne)

Cools and heals damaged, red skin with potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and hydrating properties. Suitable for all skin types to treat red, puffy or acne inflamed skin. Ideal for both adult and teen acne as a spot treatment for breakouts.

Hyaluronic Hydrating Serum (Adult and teen acne)

Perfect for all skin types and ages, this serum hydrates from the inside out, restores, repairs and reveals healthy skin and a hydrated glow.

Hyaluronic Serum contains Vit B3 (niacinamide) which will help to balance skin and regulate oil flow which can act as a preventative for breakouts. It also accelerates healing and repair post-breakout.


Acai Skin Balancing Face Oil (Adult acne)

Ideal for all skin types, especially oily skin with balance concerns, this nourishing oil can replace moisturiser to improve tone, calm and hydrate while regulating oil flow.

Peppermint Green Oil (Teen acne)

Highly moisturising with antiseptic and astringent properties to treat acne-prone skin, as well as anti-inflammatory properties targeting redness and inflammation.


Soft Skin Refining Charcoal Clay Booster Mask (Teen acne)

The mild exfoliation action of kaolin clay is kind to sensitive and breakout-prone skin, soothes and regulates oil production while deeply cleansing to remove impurities.

Teenagers should introduce this step slowly, once the skin is used to the actives in the cleansers and serums.

Anti-inflammation Mint Gel Booster Mask (Adult acne)

Cools the discomfort of red, irritated skin while shutting down inflammation and breakouts with powerful natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

If your skin is not used to active ingredients or you would like help choosing the right products to treat acne, book a free consultation with an esmi Skin Minerals Consultant. The team at esmi are always here to support you on your skin journey!