Dr. Kim talks adult acne

Published 8:18 am Monday, July 1, 2019

Hi Dr. Kim! I would like to know how to get rid of adult acne. It appeared in my late teens and never went away! I have spent years and a lot of money trying every product. Nothing worked, and many cleansers seemed to actually make it worse. What do you recommend? — Adult acne sufferer in Elizabethton, Tenn.

Thanks for your question! There are many adult acne sufferers out there and many causes of acne. Poor hygiene habits, bad dietary habits, stress, hormonal imbalances, exposure to chemicals and pollutants, cosmetics, and use of the wrong skin products are all contributors. What I am calling “poor hygiene habits” are usually wrong habits that come from misinformation.

I want to tell you that clearing up acne is simpler than you imagined. What is going on inside the body is reflected on the surface of the skin. Like jaundice is the sign of a problematic liver, acne is the sign of inflammation and toxins.

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The skin of the face is thin and flexible, and it is the most exposed to the elements of sunlight, wind, and moisture. Thus, it has reactions to bacteria, dirt, and chemicals that may touch it, resulting in acne. The skin also reacts to hormones, and persistent acne may reflect a hormone imbalance.

Proper skin care consists of nutrition, hydration, and keeping the pores clean. Here are my tips for reducing acne. If you do these steps and the acne persists, its cause may be hormonal. In that case, come see me for a hormone consultation.


• Cut out refined sugars. Limit dairy, soy, and processed foods. Avoid excess salt and sugar.

• Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Choose spring water, filtered water, or any bottled water which has a good taste. If you have a filter at home, this is ideal. No beverage is a substitute for water. Your skin needs hydration to function properly.

• Supplement with organic herbal teas for their antioxidant content. Any kind of green tea, chamomile, or berry tea is naturally antioxidant. Drink 1-2 brewed cups per day, and consider purchasing from a natural, premium brand of tea to avoid additives and fake teas.

• Introduce foods high in antioxidants and vitamin C: berries, cherries, beets, spinach and all leafy greens, kiwi and citrus are good choices. All colorful vegetables are helpful, and omega-rich foods such as eggs, flax seeds, and salmon are natural skin-nurturers.


• Do not wash your face more than twice per day, unless you have worked up a sweat or gotten dirty. Excess washing creates more oil, which then traps dirt and bacteria on the skin.

• Wash with a gentle organic soap: Pre De Provence, Dr. Bronner’s castile, Tom’s, Kiss my Face, and L’Occitane are all good brands. Conventional soaps contain harsh chemicals that have a “stripping and drying” effect. Facial “cleansers” and acne-related products also contain ingredients which are irritants. It may sound counterintuitive, but they are extremely drying for the skin and create a cycle of need to use more of the product for its clearing effects to work. Using a gentle soap regularly at about the same time each day will break the cycle and return your skin to its natural oil balance-point.

• Avoid products which contain lots of oils. Essential oils smell great, but they should not be directly applied to skin unless diluted in a lotion or carrier oil. If acne is your problem, it is best to avoid oils until the acne has cleared.

• Never sleep without having washed your face. The skin absorbs whatever is touching it at night. Never sleep with makeup or sunscreen on your face, or your pores will absorb the material and get clogged.

• Almost everyone needs a facial moisturizer to counteract the effects of the sun and elements on the skin. Any gentle moisturizer diluted with a bit of water will work. Look for products that contain one of the following: Vitamins C or E, Oatmeal, Rose hips, Chamomile or Calendula flower, or green tea. A more expensive moisturizer is not necessarily better. Products labeled “sensitive skin” are not always superior to other products. I look for moisturizers that contain the fewest ingredients.

• If you must exfoliate, avoid exfoliating creams and simply use a washcloth or a pinch of coffee grounds. They exfoliate gently and detoxify, and will not clog the drain.

• Be careful with the face makeup you use. If you wear some, make sure it is non pore-clogging (non-comedogenic). Take regular breaks from use and try not to wear it every day.


If you are simple and regular in your skin-care routine and nutrition but find that this acne is not going away, here are some things to try.

• Spot care: if you have a large pimple come up, it is a site of bacteria and inflammation. Crush an aspirin tablet and mix with water to form a paste. Apply the paste to the pimple overnight. It will be reduced in the morning.

• Dryness: if your skin is very dry, dilute your moisturizer with water. The skin will absorb the water and the moisturizer seals it in. That way you can avoid using too much product and your skin will stay balanced for longer.

• Redness: If your acne is red or bleeds easily, make a tea from green tea bags or food-grade rose petals. Apply it with a cotton ball to the problem areas each night. The redness will soon reduce and the skin will be rejuvenated.

• Detergent: Consider changing your detergent to Purex, Arm and Hammer, or something else gentle and unscented. Stop using dryer sheets. The scents and chemicals in laundry products can cause skin reactions.

• Hormone Consultation: Imbalances of testosterone, estrogen, and other hormones can be a direct cause of adult acne. Having blood work and a consultation for hormonal health can address this problem.


Dr. Kimberly McMurtrey DNP, APRN, FNP-C is the Primary Provider at Tri Cities Health, located on West Elk Ave., Elizabethton. If you would like to submit a question for her to answer you can call 423-543-7000 or email your questions to tricitieshealth@outlook.com.

**Medical Disclaimer: The information contained in this column is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.