A zit after 16 is nothing to be ashamed of, and although adult acne plagues many, there are multiple paths to regaining perfect skin

Anyone who’s triumphed over the woes of teenage skin—embarrassing blemishes in all the wrong places—knows how satisfying it feels to move past it and no longer worry about pesky pimples. But then, sometime in our 20s—or even 80s!—it might come back. “Hormones called androgens are responsible for both adult and teen acne,” says sought-after esthetician Gina Marí, who just opened a beautiful Beverly Hills skin destination. “Teenage acne usually manifests itself in the T-zone area, while adult acne tends to present itself on the lower jaw area.” So, while we may feel like totally different people, factors like hormonal fluctuations and emotional and physical stress can make it feel like we’re regressing—while aging!

So while Proactiv is great for teenage acne, the products that will really make strides on more mature problem skin are a bit different. “A strong benzoyl peroxide product might work wonders on teenage skin, but can occasionally be too strong for women and men above 25,” says Marí. “It is important to not overly treat the skin with strong products in an attempt to ‘dry it up.’” The esthetician’s preferred method of treatment means keeping skin hydrated—and that doesn’t mean oily. Instead, try formulas that decongest while moisturizing, like iS Clinical’s Active Serum and Ayur Medic’s Clearifying Cream.

Clearogen’s two percent salicylic acid Foaming Cleanser and Acne Treatment Lotion (with 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide) treat not just the acne on the surface, but they stop acne production at the root and leave the complexion hydrated and moisturized. Marí suggests complimenting that regimen with EndZit, a spot treatment that comes in several shades and will quickly fix any blemish. Other products with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA exfoliants, for example) and sulfur also make great go-tos when healing congestion.

Another step toward ending adult acne concerns what we put in our body. “Too much caffeine, alcohol and chocolate can affect the skin,” she says. “Drinking the right amount of water for your specific body (generally about 2.2 liters a day) will greatly improve the overall health.” Factors like birth control also make a huge difference: “Finding your ideal hormone balance is a very individual process; I encourage all my clients to discuss this issue with their doctor.” When topical treatments don’t produce positive results, it’s time to see an esthetician or dermatologist.

“Weekly facial treatments are a must,” continues Marí, since “it’s extremely important to keep the pores cleaned out so additional bacteria does not form.” The esthetician is a huge fan of LED technology—blue light in particular. She treats all her acneic clients with it for 15 minutes each week, since it “penetrates molecules within the skin that cause P. acnes bacteria to form, producing free radicals that destroy the bacteria itself.” Antibacterial products, like those with oxygen (Arcona’s Night Breeze and Bliss’s Triple Oxygen + C Energizing Cream), will also help keep congestion at bay.

As for when you do have one of those “pesky pimples,” which Marí swears even 80-year-olds come to her with, do not pick it! “When pimples are extracted improperly, they will leave a mark; a properly extracted pimple will fade much quicker,” she says. When you do have a dark spot or scar from one, try a retinol or hydroquinone product and stay out of the sun. In addition, exfoliate—“it’s a key part in healing acne, however don’t overdo it! If you are not having weekly treatments, I would recommend two to three times per week”—and try to let your skin breathe without heavy makeup. “I am not a fan of covering up acne when treating it, but if you must, Clinique is my favorite.”