Style and Beauty

Adult acne: Makeup tips and products that work

How to battle blemishes, including what's safe to use for pregnancy acne. Plus our favourite blemish products!

Photo: Getty Images

If you’re one of the 30 percent of Canadian adults living in Blemish City, having less-than perfect skin can be frustrating. But with the right know-how, you can work toward clear skin and become a master of camouflaging when spots still appear.

Your complexion woes

A family history of acne can make you more susceptible to breakouts, but the condition is also influenced by hormonal fluctuations, says Toronto dermatologist Julia Carroll. For instance, your skin might act up if you’re about to get your period or if you stop taking birth control pills. And if moms-to-be are hoping to get that lovely pregnancy glow, realize that’s a matter of luck. “Some women get flare-ups while others have the best skin of their lives,” says Carroll.

According to Vancouver naturopathic doctor Rida Wang, chronic breakouts also stem from food sensitivities. “The biggest problems I see with adult-onset acne are with dairy, eggs, wheat and sugar,” she says. You can try an elimination diet by cutting out those commonly reactive foods. Wang’s patients have reported noticeable improvements in as little as one week’s time.

Target trouble spots


Forget super-charging your skincare regime by layering on topical acne treatments. Doubling up can cause inflammation and over-drying. If you’re going to use over-the-counter medications in tandem, apply one in the morning and the other at night. Carroll suggests salicylic acid, which helps break down whiteheads and reduce swelling. But if you’re pregnant, this ingredient is a no-no, as it may be absorbed into the bloodstream and have adverse effects on your baby (retinoids, such as Retin-A and tretinoin, should also be avoided). Products with glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that’s naturally derived from sugar cane and acts as an exfoliator, is a safer bet for expectant mothers.

Fake a flawless face

So if all else fails and you’re dealing with a spot­ty complexion, how do you expertly hide those imperfections? After washing with a gentle cleanser, apply a moisturizer that’s labelled non-comedogenic, meaning it’s made for fussy skin. Next, put on a primer to blur imperfections, decrease shine and create an even palette for makeup application, says Toronto makeup artist Natalia Zurawska. Now for foundation: Zurawska recommends applying a thin layer of pressed powder (too much and you might clog your pores). If you prefer liquid foundation, look for an oil-free formulation and use clean, freshly washed fingertips to work it in, rather than brushes and sponges, which, once wet, attract germs. “You want to make sure that there’s no chance bacteria will get transferred onto your face,” says Zurawska. If you can’t part with your foundation brush, she recommends washing it with shampoo at least once a week.


Once your foundation is set, treat any blemishes with a spot concealer. Her tried-and-true technique is to dot concealer on top of the pimple, blend it in and fan the edges around the bump outward for a more even look. Follow with a bit of powder overtop to set it.

With a just a bit of perseverance and a few small changes to your everyday routine, you’ll hopefully be on your way to a clearer complexion.

Skin Saver: Another common acne culprit is oil-based hair products, which can rub off on your pillow case at night and wreak havoc on your pores. Banish breakouts by washing bedding regularly.


Products we like, from left to right:


1. Clear Difference Targeted Blemish Treatment, $38,

2. Blue Herbal Moisterizer, $37,

3. Tea Tree Blemish Fade Night Lotion, $18,

4. Andalou Naturals Citrus Kombucha Cleansing Gel, $14,

5. Benefit Stay Flawless 15-Hour Primer, $38,


A version of this article appeared in our October 2014 issue with the headline “Pimple Patrol,” p. 40.

This article was originally published on Sep 10, 2014

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