The Adult Acne Diaries

The Adult Acne Diaries

by Ruby Martin

I thought I’d be well past spots by now.

I’m 23, but I got my first proper spot when I was 13. I remember it clearly, as my newly pubescent logic figured that a plaster would sort it, like it had done with the various cuts and scratches of the past. I remember the look of surprise on my mum’s face as I met her from work looking like I’d been in a very precise fight. I learned very quickly, this does, in fact, do nothing and taking that thing off has lead me never to take up waxing.

Sadly that was not the end, as spots continued through my adolescence, with them taking a particular fancy to my chin, which to this day continues to bear the brunt of a particularly vindictive sebaceous system. I tried spot treatment after spot treatment, all the while I watching my sister’s clear face with silent envy.

one of the better lit photos during my acne peak, surprisingly not the worst my skin was though

“You’ll grow out of it” Everyone told me and naively, I waited for the day that these pimples would finally move out, but alas, like a man-child with arrested development, they stayed put long beyond their welcome.

One study in North America shows that 12%–22% women suffer from acne in their adult life.whilst another suggests that number can go up to 41%.

Often acne can feel like a trivial issue for teens, which makes me feel bad for  going to the doctor for this stuff, with the pressure and lack of funding the NHS is under at the moment. Part of me can’t help but blame myself for this, with various blogs suggesting that it’s just a lifestyle problem – cut out sugar/dairy/fun from your life. Maybe it could solved if your weren’t such a slob, Ruby. This feeling of unimportance is not helped by the fact whilst mine is persistent, it is not as serious as it could be.

#However I cannot wait to grow out of it any longer. So I decide I will try and change something, anything and document my efforts in case it helps anyone out there.



Steaming my face -made no difference although was great bonding time with my mother

Calamine lotion – yet again another one of my mums ideas

Facemasks – clay based masks were okay, peeling – whilst physically very satisfying, the actual physical effect was okay if not worse

The Ordinary- good for a day, improved appearance for a day then went back – whilst it takes a while for skin routines to work if more seem to be popping up than going away]

30th July 2018

After reading various articles online, I decide firstly to adjust my diet; quite a few online sources suggest that irregular spikes in blood sugar can have an effect which can be caused by caffeine, excessive salt and well…sugar.

I barely drank caffeine so that was pretty easy, bar the occasional iced tea. Cutting out sugar and excessive salt (e.g. Mccoys Salt and Vinegar are a particular weakness of mine.)  also seem to make a difference; however its mainly the way my face feels more than anything.

Cutting out dairy however is more difficult and I remain fairly undecided. I had never noticed much of a change except perhaps when I have a lot in one day, but even then it has never stuck out in my mind. Initial bonuses in my part-time vegan diet is that it seems to be slightly improving the smaller flareups and I also feel less bloated.

At least so I thought. Weeks pass and with every clear morning there seems to be tiny flareups and now the soy is giving me gas. Great, could I get any sexier? I also made the mistake of using a portable mirror and it was like looking at the surface of the moon. I will not be doing that in a hurry. Whilst often the advice with problems is to look at them square in the face, I do not advise it this time.

I wore a full face of makeup to a party last night for the first time in ages and it was depressing how much I liked myself in the mirror. I looked…normal.

I knew at this point diet is not enough.

I book an appointment with the doctors to try going back on the pill as well as a possible topical treatment. Every time I think I am winning in the battle to like how I look, I normally get several small red reminders that I shouldn’t. I know it is a patience thing and I know that I will probably be disappointed by the pill not working immediately. Either that or it will give me several other side-effects which I will also not be happy about. There’s no winning really but I need to at least feel like I’m doing something. Also I miss cheese.

3rd August 2018

I have been somewhat lax with the minimal dairy (I may have had a cheese toastie at Caffe Nero or 3) although I finally had a doctors appointment with a very nice doctor who was very understanding  and she prescribes the pill and a topical retinoid – similar to roaccutane but instead of a pill it is a cream you apply.

I will admit I am slightly scared when she says it will dry out your skin; also she warns to apply it at the weekend when you don’t have much to do as there is a possibility it will react and make parts of my skin red. I buy a water-based moisturizer after being advised against oil based products (and weirdly it is hard to find a moisturizer that advertises itself as oil free). We are in peak of the ridiculous summer heatwave so I think forgoing any oily products is a good idea, especially as I will just sweat it off on the tube.

So far the spots I have are going down and I haven’t had any more large sore ones so perhaps this is an improvement? However considering the almost daily flip-flopping I am not too hopeful yet.

12th September 2018

After a hectic trip to Edinburgh I manage to settle into a routine for a while with  toner, conditioning cleanser and at night my acne cream. All is well.

However, one day I go to the toilet in work. The fairly rigid routine had seemed to be slowly working, I had felt myself becoming more confident as it ever so slowly started to look less like a war zone.

Until now. Not one but three or four massive spots have formed slowly creeping out of the danger zone, almost in cheek territory. I was so close. I had just started to get through the period where every big spot that faded was replaced by one new one. At least that was a one to one ratio. Is this new all out attack due to my pill’s break week? Did I dare to have too much cheese? Either way I am gutted as I will be seeing one of my favourite authors tonight, and of course I have a breakout right beforehand.

adult acne cheek
a rare (badly lit) cheek spot sighting


I give up. Or at least I wish I could, but sadly one cannot give up having a face.

(I have also started becoming paranoid that even being near processed sugar gives me spots.  Does it stop me eating custard creams? No.)

3rd November 2018

I have eased off the cream a while back, I would say deliberately but more that I am terrible at remembering to take it with me everywhere. However this doesn’t devastate me too much as  I notice that there seems to be an improvement regardless.

So having been several months and another go for two months of taking the pill, there seems to be an overall change for the better. Whilst there are still very much spots and marks of spots, the general appearance of the rest of my skin is actually pretty good, which one friend even saying she did not realise I wasn’t wearing makeup! The spots themselves don’t appear as dark (unless it’s one of those godawful Sainburys screens they’ve started putting at the self-checkout) and I feel..well, less bothered. I don’t know if it’s just I don’t have the time or energy but as the spots are flattening out, I think I’m finally starting to care less?

2nd December 2018

Yes, who knew that the magic trick was a £2.99 cleanser. No I’m not kidding.

It’s been about 5 months and my skin has significantly improved. Like I barely think about it. Maybe it’s the stress of everything else in my life has caught up with me, or maybe it’s genuine progress. It’s not to say my skin is completely clear, the marks from spots past are still there, but it never tends to be more than one or two at most at a time. There was no massive fluctuations around my period.

If I was to wildly speculate, it would be due to the cleansers mixture of cleansing that isn’t not too harsh and moisturising that isn’t too oily that works for my very erratic combination skin. Bear in mind I am very much wildly speculating.

It would be a lie however if I pretended that was it, this one single product was a miraculous acne cure all. Being on the pill I think has been a big boon, although it has taken a while, and by a while I do mean at least 6 months, to see the effects and hormones to stabilize. I generally keep my salt/sugar and overly processed food fairly down (except grilled cheese, you’ll have to pry it out of my cold dead hands).

My routine

  1. Put cleanser on pad.
  2. Wipe cleanser on face.
  3. Wipe Excess off.
  4. Done.



It also might be easy to say that the cleanser is effectively doing nothing and the pill is doing the legwork. However, having been on the pill before, I can definitively say my skin never looked this good.  I consider this to be a more protective and preventative measure against pollution and such, as the non-acne parts of my skin look way clearer and even. To be honest, I didn’t realise my skin could look this clear. It’s even started improving in the awful Sainsbury’s self-checkout machines.

Maybe it’s a Christmas miracle.


1st February 2019

Just in case December’s results had been a fluke, I waited a bit to publish this article. Luckily that was not the case and I’ve even included an image below taken only last week.

look at this smug pr*ck

I will say that this definitely won’t work for everyone, as someone who has tried most of the tricks in the book. Lifestyle, location, pollution, genetics etc mean that everyone’s skin has it’s own complex formula, one that you kind of have to figure out. Also bear in mind a lot of magazines will pass off different quick fixes every other week, so if you are self-conscious or think adult acne is doing you damage mentally I do recommend going to the doctor about it.. They can talk you through options and give you much more veritable advice than me, a radiant stranger on the internet. Just know you’re not alone.


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Molly tries expensive things

Molly tries expensive things

By Molly Heath

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the older you get, the more you must suddenly start spending money on. It begins with the normal certainties that come from aging and slowly moving towards financial independence; buying my own clothes, deodorant, bedsheets. It goes through a phase of rebellion, which for me consisted of hair dye and some black eyeshadow that mercifully I think someone hid. Then, just when you think you’ve got the essentials cracked, society springs on you something it turns out you should have been spending money on all along. I remember with flashbacks of shock and fear the day someone told me I needed to invest in my eyebrows.

This has all led to a shopping list of items, mostly cosmetic, that I now have to buy and replace on a regular basis to be an adult woman in the world. I mean, I probably don’t have to, but for now under the patriarchal thumb I want to. As I’ve grown older, typically when a new item gets added to the list I buy it at the cheapest price possible. As your normal middle-class-but-not-that-rich-right-now girl next door, I’ve not got vast amounts of disposable income that I can suddenly transfer into a toner budget (side note: still don’t buy toner, still don’t know what is, at this point am deliberately not finding out).

Heartbreakingly another lesson I’ve learned is that you generally get what you pay for. Don’t get me wrong, there are cheap products that do a really good job for the money. But the truth still stands that 9/10 times, Charlotte Tilbury is going to do better for you than the cheapest thing in Boots.

I can’t afford to fill a make-up bag with these items. Neither can most women my age that I know. It’s very hard to justify spending £40 on a product when you could spend £5. Especially when it’s hard to know just how much of a difference it’s going to make. However, the older I have gotten, I have had ever-so-slightly more money, especially now after nearly two years in full time work. Definitely not enough to sustain a prciey make-up habit, but enough to occasionally switch out a regular purchase and treat myself to something more expensive ‘just to test it.’ I’m therefore slowly gaining an idea of what is worth considering splashing out on. In this new regular series, I’m going to share my new found wisdom, and give you a few of the items that I’ve learned really do make a difference to spend money on, and others that perhaps I wouldn’t bother with.

Product: Curly Wurly Shampoo from Lush

Price: £13.50 for 220g

Worth it? Eh, probably not

Cruelty free? Yes

If you know me personally, you will know I have massive, frizzy, curly hair. If you don’t

I mean this is not an appealing image is it now Lush

know me, you now know I have massive, frizzy, curly hair. This product is a shampoo specifically designed for curly hair requiring moisture, and is rich in oils with desiccated coconut pieces included in it. This genuinely was a good product, and did make my hair feel softer and more moisturised. It also smells glorious.

However, it definitely wasn’t a miracle change and had two major issues. Firstly, as my hair is very dense, it retained those coconut pieces in it LIKE CRAZY. The coconut thought my hair was its home. When I got out the shower and did my hair, the pieces fell everywhere and some even survived the brushing. Other people I’ve spoken to with finer hair did not have this problem, but for thick hair I would say be prepared. Additionally, I used it up about twice as quickly as any other shampoo. Because I have so much hair, spreading something with such a thick consistency meant using a lot of it in order to lather up properly. Having to spend on such an expensive item twice as much puts it out of my price range. If I felt it were a miracle, I would maybe stretch. But the difference wasn’t noticeable enough to justify it, so I’m back to whatever’s on offer in the supermarket for now.

Product: Glossier Boy Brow

Price: £14 (plus p & p as currently only available online in the UK)

Worth it? Yes

Cruelty free? Yes

This is a product that comes with a rep, and I tried it off the back of said rep. It deserves boy browthe rep. I will rep it for you now. This is probably the best thing I have ever tried on my eyebrows. If you don’t know it’s a brow gel that claims to ‘thicken, fill in and groom brows’ and holds them in place without being stiff, and I have to say it does meet those claims.

The look it produces is a very natural, thick brow with individual hairs well-defined, so if that’s the look you’re going for it’s going to be a winner for you. I prefer to use it aided with a cheap eyebrow pencil to work out a few kinks in the shape of my brows, but if you had better brows than me you likely wouldn’t need to. There are a few downsides; the colour range is limited and it comes in a very small tube for your money. But on to my second tube of the brown colour, I can verify that this is definitely one to try if you’re into your eyebrows.

Product: MAC Pro Longwear Concealer

Price: £18.50

Worth it? Begrudging yes

Cruelty free? No (and that’s why)

As someone who naturally has very dark circles under their eyes and feels insecure about it, I’ve become a concealer connoisseur over the years. I have tried a lot. This is probably my favourite. The coverage is very very good, and therefore is great at hiding mac pro longweardark circles and blotchiness, and does a lot for a scar I have on my face as well. In addition, I’m quite lucky to have relatively good skin on the rest of my face, so in periods when my skin is clear, I’d rather only wear concealer and not foundation if possible. Other high-coverage concealers often leave a noticeable change in skin tone from where the concealer stops and your foundation doesn’t start. However, this blends out really nicely, and this, coupled with the advantage of MAC matching you in-store rather than online or unmanned, means that I can get away with less make-up and save time in the morning.

Of course, it’s a lot of money for a single make-up item. And it’s not cruelty free, which for many people will make it completely beyond worth it. But if you like a high coverage concealer, I’ll be honest, I’m yet to find anything better. If you want to invest and you’re not going cruelty free yet (or if MAC have the change of heart we’re all praying for) this one is definitely the best. Eugh. Sorry.

If you’ve managed to cut a few pounds off your make-up bill, please consider donating to this month’s fundraiser to The British Heart Foundation