Hacking Adult Acne: How to get rid of it

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.


There are certain things in life that are a right of passage in life:


  • Losing your two front teeth around ages 7 or 8
  • Starting your period (and having an embarrassing “I was wearing white pants” story to go along with it)
  • Your first kiss
  • Passing your driving test after practicing parallel parking for hours in Driver’s Ed or with your dad
  • Getting braces
  • And ‘going through’ the teenage hormone rollercoaster of zits, breakouts and acne


Oh the dreaded pimple!


I’ll never forget on my 12th birthday, my mom taking me to the Clinique skin and makeup counter in the mall for a lesson in skin-care 101.



While I had no idea what pimples were at the time, the cosmetologist walked me through the morning routine she told me I would need to do FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE (Say what?!).


Step 1: Open the pores of the face with warm water

Step 2: Wash the face with the special formulated soap

Step 3: Wash off soap with cold water to close pores and tighten skin

Step 4: Cleanse the face with a cotton ball and special Clinique toner

Step 5: Moisturize with the special Clinique (greasy-feeling) lotion


Voila: A new woman!


I never thought twice about the routine from then on—and continued to do what I was told throughout my teen and college days, somehow skating by, UNTOUCHED by the acne breakouts many of my peers experienced and battled on a daily basis.


How so?


Read on (Note: And it WASN’T the skincare routine)…


Pimples and zits are a “part of life” for many—in fact, nearly 50 million Americans suffer from acne, and 95% of ALL people will experience acne at SOME POINT in their lives (leaving only 5% of people to never struggle).


And while acne breakouts in both girls and boys peak somewhere between ages 14-19 (i.e. teenagers), did you know that 50% of adult women have acne (and 25% of men)?!  


Contrary to popular belief, ‘pizza face’ (and back and chest) is NOT just confined to teeny boppers.



I’m talking about ADULT ACNE.


Why is this?!


Sure, we know hormonal changes and puberty are the primary triggers for acne in our teenage years…BUT WHAT ABOUT THE 25-YEAR-OLD, OR 38-YEAR-OLD, OR 56-YEAR-OLD who STILL battles skin flare-ups?


Surely we can’t blame voice changes or boob growth on breakouts then.




Adult acne is most often attributed to ALLERGIES.


And allergies have a strong connection to our GUT HEALTH (or lack thereof):


  • Low stomach acid (for proper digestion) and/or GERD (linked to low-stomach acid)
  • Pancreatic enzyme deficiency (poor processing of your nutrients)
  • Maldigestion
  • GI irritation (leaky gut, SIBO, bacterial overgrowth, frequent constipation, bloating or gas, etc.)


When our gut health or gut integrity is off, food and nutrients are not digested properly, and as a result, foreign proteins from our food (‘invaders’) leak into the bloodstream—coming face to face with antibodies of the immune system. (Anti-bodies are your body’s natural ‘destroyers’, poised to defend and kill any threat or foreigners to the body).


It is the reaction of these foreign proteins with these antibodies that produces the symptoms of allergies…resulting in INFLAMMATION (a.k.a. acne) and decreased immune function over time.


In other words: Poor gut health or integrity increases your risk for inflammation.


EVEN IF YOU ‘EAT HEALTHY’ now, you can still have a poor gut integrity from a slew of factors, including:

  • Previous years of eating a processed-food diet;
  • NOT chewing your food enough;
  • NOT slowing down to eat;
  • NOT drinking enough water;
  • Undereating;
  • Fad diets;
  • Anxiety and stress;
  • Regular intake of gut irritating (‘healthy’) foods with known inflammatory properties (eggs, nuts, yogurt, dairy, alcohol and shellfish come to mind)


Additionally, aside from your gut health, there is also a strong connection between acne and the liver, a need for calcium, a fatty-acid deficiency, and, this BIG CONTRIBUTOR: blood sugar dysfunction (i.e. an increased intake of sweets, candy and refined sugar).


In fact, adult acne has often been called the ‘Diabetes of the face.’


  • Are you a sugar craver?
  • Have a tough time controlling your sugar monster?
  • Need a sweet treat after dinner every night?
  • Feel tired or run down for no apparent reason?
  • Require coffee or caffeine to get going in the mornings?
  • Experience dips in energy throughout the day or the classic 3 p.m. ‘slump’?
  • Experience times of ‘hanger’, shakiness or headaches when you need to eat?
  • Do you consume healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocado, fatty fish, egg yolks, etc.) with every meal—and are you digesting them appropriately?
  • Get wired and tired at night?


These are just some of the indicators that you may have some blood sugar dysfunction going on.


Blood sugar levels can rise and fall dramatically (dysfunction) for various reasons, producing a plethora of symptoms. One of the most common causes is the frequent use of sugar-rich foods and beverages in an individual’s diet.


When we consume sugar—and consume it regularly (even hidden sugars in salad dressings, artificial sweeteners, condiments, sauces, cereals, bars, etc.), the body often over-compensates for those frequent rises in blood sugar, quickly bringing its levels down lower than before.


These lowered sugar levels can make you feel hungry, tired, or crave more sweets or caffeine.


Reaching for that sugar or caffeine fix provides a temporary lift—only to leave you feeling more drained or tired again shortly after.


So how does acne come into play?!


When our bodies are conditioned to run off sugar (and caffeine)—non-ideal and non-preferred energy sources—our hormone balance goes a little haywire (namely cortisol).


And when our cortisol goes haywire, our bodies get stressed out!


The stress reaction?




Oy vey!!!


“It’s complicated.”


The bottom line?


If your skin is an issue, here are three BIG players to look further into for your own skin health and well-being:


  1. Your daily nutrition.

    • Do protein, healthy fats and veggies making up the base of your meals?
    • Along with plenty of water (half your bodyweight in ounces daily), limited starch and fruit intake (depending on activity levels, these foods are often required more)?
    • And little to no processed foods or added sugars? (80/20 people).


  1. Your gut-health

    • Do you take a probiotic or eat fermented foods daily? (Seriously consider adding fermented foods 1-3 times per day with your main meals for some probiotic gut-punch).
    • Do you experience constipation, gas, bloating, belching, diarrhea, nausea, or GERD on a frequent basis?
    • Do you poop a ‘sausage’-like stool on a daily basis, and feel like you’ve fully eliminated your colon?
    • Do you recognize certain foods don’t ‘agree’ with you—but you eat them anyways?
    • Experience airborne or seasonal allergies?
    • Use prescription medications or NSAIDs on a regular basis?
    • Does your pulse or heart speed up after eating certain foods?
    • Brittle nails or dry hair?
    • Feel like skipping breakfast or sometimes feel better when you don’t eat? Sense of excess fullness after meals?
  2. Your blood-sugar regulation

    • Fatigue that is relieved by eating?
    • Excessive appetite?
    • Episodes of binging or uncontrolled eating?
    • Crave sweets?
    • Awaken a few hours after falling asleep, or hard to get back to sleep?
    • Dip in the afternoon?
    • Headache, irritable or shaky if meals are skipped or delayed?
    • Family members with diabetes?


While your ‘roots’ to your adult acne may stem from a combination of all these factors (not to mention some hormonal imbalances—which is another topic for another day), consider the lifestyle factors that may be impacting your skin.


Before resorting to the Clarisonic or expensive name-brand skin care line, addressing your body’s health is THE ULTIMATE beyond-skin-deep approach for clearing thy face.



And, I’ll say it one more time: Even if you do “eat clean” or “practice a healthy lifestyle” or “follow a paleo diet”, IF and WHEN your underlying issues (gut health, liver/gallbladder function, blood sugar regulation, mineral/vitamin deficiencies and/or hormonal imbalances) are NOT addressed, then you will continue to struggle.


Above all: YOU are not defined by your skin or what your face looks like, and THERE IS A CURE.


Book a free consult with me today to talk about clearing your skin—from the inside out.

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