If you emerged from under a Covid mask with the kind of spots you last saw during your GCSEs, you could be one of the 11.5% of UK adults who suffer from acne.

Online searches for clear skin solutions peaked towards the end of lockdown, but it seems adults can’t shake the effects of “maskne”. Even if face coverings aren’t to blame, research has found more than a third of UK adults have suffered from acne .

As skin ages, it needs different care for break-outs, so it’s time to ditch the treatments you tried in your teens and swot up on the science. Put down that toothpaste and let us guide you through the dos and don’ts of dealing with grown-up spots.

There's lots of myths that surround adult acne and skincare

Myth: sunblock is the culprit

Mature skin needs sun protection, even on dull, wintery days. To prevent damage, wrinkles and darker spots, add this crucial extra step to your skincare, spotty days included. It won’t clog pores or irritate skin if you choose a lighter, oil and perfume-free shield such as CellDerma Tinted Mineral SPF 30, £46.30, which also gives a touch of colour.

Skin needs to be protected from the sun, even on wintery days

Myth: your junk food habits are the cause

You’ve ditched the chips and chocolate, so why the spots? “Clinical trials confirm that acne is more down to hormones and genetics, for example the make-up of your microbiome and size/density of your oil glands, which is hereditary,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. “Diet can play a role and some people find cutting out dairy can affect their skin positively, but improvement will only happen over time.”

Myth: going without make-up is essential on spotty days

Hiding behind a full face of slap may not be a bad thing when spots surface. The trick is to find products that benefit the skin, rather than upset its balance. Look for foundation and concealers with active anti-acne ingredients, such as Glow Hub’s genius Under Cover Zit Zap Concealer Wand, £14, in 26 shades.

Glow Hub’s genius Under Cover Zit Zap Concealer Wand has anti-acne ingredients

Myth: stick to natural skincare only

Move on from the witch hazel or soap-and-water remedies of your youth. Introducing retinol, salicylic acid and antibacterial ingredients to your skincare routine can really help with adult acne and active agents like these also have anti-ageing benefits.

Myth: wipes will clean up spotty skin

“Maybe, but they can also be too much for adult acne-prone complexions. Take your time over make-up removal,” advises Dr Al Khubra. “Some brands of make-up wipes have harsh chemicals and they dehydrate your skin and strip away natural oils. There are lots of other great options for make-up removal and I recommend using a cleanser, such as Doctors Dose Skin Clearing Cleansing Balm [£26].”

"Take your time over make-up removal,” says Dr Al Khubra

Myth: toothpaste will blitz your zits

Scrolling through TikTok spot hacks might have you reaching for the toothpaste, but dabbing this on spots can only make things worse.

It’s formulated for teeth, not your face, so the basic pH level can cause irritation or even burn sensitive skin, causing acne flare-ups.

To see results, slap on these brilliant overnight patches, £7.99 from Absorbzit, instead.

Myth: don’t apply moisturiser to oily and spotty skin

Applying cream or gel might feel like it’s adding to the problem but moisturiser creates a barrier that could keep bacteria out, as well as stopping dead skin debris from blocking pores.

Even the oiliest, spottiest skin needs it, so slather away. We like Q+A Skin’s Daily Moisturiser (a bargain at £8.50), which has hyaluronic acid and a lovely, lightweight texture.

It's important to moisturise, even if you have oily skin

Myth: you need special products for body acne

“If you’re prone to chest and back acne, there’s no reason why you can’t use products that you’d use on your face containing active ingredients like salicylic acid, niacinamide or zinc to wash with,” says Dr Hasia Al Khubra, who specialises in dermatology. She recommends changing out of your kit and showering ASAP, post workout.

Myth: you’ll get scars if you pick at your acne

Pick or pop it and the damage could go deeper, but even leaving a spot to rupture on its own can damage the surrounding skin, causing discolouration and pitting. Scarring depends on genetics and your individual skin make-up too, rather than how much you’ve picked. The PCA Skin Acne Gel Advanced Treatment, £64, treats spots and existing scarring if you’re dealing with an acne hangover.

Scarring depends on your genetics and general skin make-up

Solution? Grown-up zit busters

  • Use an antibacterial silk pillowcase infused with silver for a luxurious skin- improving kip. Anti-Acne Silk Pillowcase, £60, This Is Silk
  • A high-tech blue and red light therapy mask will banish acne and fade scars from previous breakouts. Ashley Graham, Tom Holland and Miranda Kerr are all fans. Omnilux Clear, £299
  • Pop pills, not pimples. A skincare supplement can calm inflammation and helps reduce oil production. SkinCapsule CLEAR+, £33.60, Hush & Hush


By Editor