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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