Quarter-Life Crisis: Why Am I Suddenly Breaking Out at 25?

Amanda Montell
PHOTO:

Imaxtree

There are a few widespread beauty myths that most of us grow up believing: that sleeping on wet hair will give you a cold, that shaving makes your hair grow back thicker, and that acne only happens to teenagers. For years, this last one felt like a given to me, and when I got out of puberty unscathed by breakouts, I thought I was in the clear. Sure, a pimple or two would pop up right before my period, but they were small and went away in a matter of days, leaving not a trace of pigmentation behind. Historically my skin issues were eczema and keratosis pilaris, but never acne. And by the time I reached my mid-20s, I'd gotten pretty used to that.

My adult acne seemed like it happened overnight. I turned 24, and bam—with no warning, a constellation of breakouts had taken up residence on my cheeks and chin. When the blemishes first appeared, I ignored them. I covered them up with concealer and assumed they'd go away in a few days like always. But they didn't. After about a month of this, they became impossible to ignore. I started to feel like I didn't know my skin anymore, and I didn't know how to take care of it.

My "aha" moment about my skin arrived about a month after my 24th birthday, when I showed up for a facial with esthetician Renée Rouleau, my face dotted with both active breakouts and scars. "Is this a typical day for your skin?" she asked me. "I want to say no," I told her. "But this seems to be what my skin is now. And I need help."

Getting acne as an adult is scary. It feels like your body is totally out of your control and that a breakout could come at any time for no reason. These feelings are valid, but over the past year, I've learned that adult acne isn't completely random. It isn't trying to senselessly ruin your life. And most importantly, it isn't as uncommon as I once thought it was.

To share the truth about adult acne, I got back in touch with Rouleau as well as Neutrogena acne expert Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital's Department of Dermatology. Here, they provide clear, trustworthy information about the causes and treatments for adult acne (much of which helped me clear my own!).

Are you in your 20s and suddenly struggling with breakouts? Keep scrolling to learn why (and what you can do about it).

Next up, don't miss the 100% free trick that gave my skin an instant glow.

Explore: Adult Acne, Acne

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