Someone needs to write a manual about all the unexpected realities of adulthood.
We know to expect certain things, like taxes, wrinkles and the impending existential dread that rolls around every Monday morning, but we do not expect to still be dealing with pimples past the age of 21.
It absolutely sucks. But we can take some small comfort in the fact that this happens to literally everyone, so we’re all stuck in this oily hellhole together.
Whether you’re struggling with the odd nasty blind pimple each month or more intense adult acne, we’re here for you.
The pimples will never stop coming, but we can build up our arsenal of beauty products to help take control. Because that’s the most frustrating thing about breakouts — feeling like you cannot control what is happening to your own face.
So here are nine awesome skincare and make-up products to help us all achieve our noble mission of clear, glowing skin.
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SUKIN FOAMING FACIAL CLEANSER
Available from: Priceline, Chemist Warehouse
Sukin is a great natural Australian beauty brand that’s also very cheap. All of their products are awesome and perfect for people with sensitive skin or on a budget.
Cleansing the skin morning and night is crucial if you’re prone to acne and breakouts. It’s important to double cleanse in the evenings to get rid of make-up, sweat and dirt from the day. That means literally cleansing your face twice — once to remove all the surface grime, then once to actually clean the skin. You can use the same cleanser twice, or use a cleansing balm/oil first, followed by your normal cleanser.
This Sukin cleanser is gentle, but the foaming formula means it still gets deep into the pores and cleanses everything properly. If foams aren’t your thing, there’s also a cream version and a gel for sensitive skin, if those textures are more your style.
ASPECT EXFOLIATING CLEANSER
Available from: Adore Beauty
We should all be exfoliating once or twice a week to remove dead skin cells and encourage skin turnover, but many physical exfoliators contain scrubs that can feel harsh on pimples.
Enter this chemical exfoliating cleanser. It contains lactic acid (a gentle AHA) and salicylic acid (a popular BHA) to gently exfoliate the skin.
Chemical exfoliants are particularly good to use when you have breakouts because they encourage the not-nice skin on top to go away and the beautiful new skin underneath to come through.
PAULA’S CHOICE SKIN PERFECTING 2 PER CENT BHA LIQUID
Price: $38, currently on sale for $30
Available from: Paula’s Choice online
This is the MVP product everyone with breakouts should have in their arsenal. It’s honestly a miracle worker.
That’s all thanks to salicylic acid, which is also called BHA (beta hydroxy acid). It’s a popular chemical exfoliant that’s in a lot of acne products because it helps shed dead skin.
It can penetrate the pore lining and exfoliate inside our pores as well as on the surface of the skin, so it’s great for reducing blackheads and whiteheads. It can also calm aggravated skin, improve uneven skin tone and provide hydration.
OLE HENRIKSEN GLOW20H DARK SPOT TONER
Available from: Sephora
This toner contains glycolic acid, lactic acid and witch hazel, which are all excellent ingredients for acne-prone skin.
While this product does exactly what it says on the tin and is great for reducing dark spots and pigmentation, it’s also a good way to kill off pimples.
Once your pimple has developed a head, and after you’ve decided it’s ready to pop (read our Beauty Diary guide to killing off a pimple here), you need to apply a product that will close the pore and ensure it doesn’t refill with oil and gunk.
A cotton pad soaked in this toner, then pressed firmly onto the affected area for about 30 seconds at night goes a long way. It’s also good for reducing acne scarring.
THE ORDINARY NIACINAMIDE 10 PER CENT AND ZINC 1 PER CENT SERUM
Available from: The Ordinary online, Priceline, Adore Beauty, Myer
Niacinamide is a brilliant skincare ingredient that calms redness and helps rejuvenate skin.
This serum from budget-friendly brand The Ordinary is great to apply during a nasty breakout because it gently calms the skin and acts as a thin seal.
It creates an excellent barrier between the skin and the outside world, meaning any moisturiser or night cream you apply will hydrate the skin, but won’t feed your oil-loving breakouts and make them worse.
READ MORE: The awesome new $60 foundation you need in your life
COSRX ACNE PIMPLE MASTER PATCH
Price: Varied, around $4-$10, depending on the website
Available from:sheetmaskshop.com.au, Soko Glam, Nudie Glow, Look Fantastic
Mate, you need these pimple stickers in your life. They are literal miracle workers, and I don’t know how I survived pimples before this discovery.
They’re designed to be used on pimples that have just been popped. They seal off the open pimple so it can’t refill with sebum and get ready for round two.
While there are loads of different brands of pimple patches out there, this set from Korean skincare brand CosRx are the best because they come in a range of sizes and are super cheap.
Apply these onto clean skin at night, then carefully apply your night cream or moisturiser around it. If you use the patches on moist skin, they will simply slide around your face and come off in your sleep.
CETAPHIL MOISTURISING LOTION
Available from: Chemist Warehouse, Priceline
Look, don’t get me wrong. I love using bougie moisturisers like Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream or Dr Spiller’s Day Cream. But when it’s a week before payday and I’ve run out of moisturiser, Cetaphil always comes through with the goods.
This moisturiser is a little lighter than the brand’s classic, thicker moisturising cream, so it’s great for oily, breakout-prone skin. It can be used morning and night, over serums and under sunscreen.
GARNIER ORIGINAL BB CREAM
Available from: Coles, Woolworths, Priceline, Chemist Warehouse
Garnier make what feels like 75 versions of their classic BB Cream — there are different variations including oil free, anti ageing and sensitive skin — but I always go back to the original.
BB stands for beauty balm. These products claim to act as your primer, moisturiser, sunscreen and foundation in one. That’s not accurate — you still need to use skincare and SPF — but this product does provide excellent coverage with just a few drops.
It’s not heavy and covers up breakouts without needing a thick, creamy formula.
To expertly cover up pimples, apply one thin layer all over the face, then apply more product just on the affected areas with a Beauty Blender ($30 from Sephora). It’s much more effective that going in with concealer, and you end up with a more flawless finish.
The only problem with this product is its shade range. Like most base products available at the supermarket or chemist, the colours are limited.
If you can’t find your colour, Mecca Maxima also has a great affordable BB Cream (Mecca Max Game Face BB Cream with SPF 30, $26).
BENEFIT COSMETICS CHACHATINT CHEEK & LIP STAIN
Available from: Sephora, Myer
Finding good products to bring colour to the cheeks can be tricky if you’re prone to breakouts in this area.
You don’t want something too pink because that will only enhance any redness caused by breakouts.
This coral, mango-ish cheek stain is a perfect solution. One swipe on each cheek gives a natural sweep of colour without the redness. Benefit makes this product in other colours too, but they’re not the best for hiding breakouts.
A matte bronzer like Benefit’s Hoola ($28 from Sephora), or Hoola Lite if you’re more pale like me, is also a good way to bring colour and definition to the cheeks without highlighting any imperfections.
— This column is not sponsored and this is not advertorial content. Every review is independent, honest and ad-free.