Waking up to discover a range of unwelcome and unsightly inhabitants on your face isn’t just discomforting, it’s insulting: Acne…for adults?

Recently, I’ve had several frustrated colleagues pop by my office looking for a solution to a sudden onset of acne — unfortunately, it’s a common myth that pimples remain confined to the teenage years.

“Many of the 40-plus women at my clinic complain about it,” says Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist at DLK on Avenue in Toronto. “They say, ‘I’m getting wrinkles and I’ve still got acne? — it doesn’t seem fair.’”

What brings on adult acne? Good old hormones, of course. When they’re thrown off balance by fluctuating estrogen and testosterone levels (in peri- or post-menopause, for example), the skin produces more oil and breakouts can occur. 

Ironically, the super-rich creams so often found in the anti-aging aisles can also be a factor. Using oil-free, water-based products can help reduce flare-ups.

Keep in mind too that mature skin takes longer to repair itself after a breakout. “You can be left with a red spot for months,” says Kellett, who recommends visiting a dermatologist for advice as well as more advanced treatments such as microdermabrasion and Intense Pulsed Light to improve skin texture, and using a 35 per cent topical vitamin C solution to help speed healing.

Don’t forget the basics: Drink plenty of water, eat your veggies and take a supplement that includes vitamins B and C. Sleep with your hair pulled back off your face and try to touch your skin only with clean hands.

At home, a successful anti-acne regimen includes reducing oil, eliminating bacteria (five per cent benzoyl peroxide is the gold standard) and exfoliating the skin to help remove debris from pores.

Here are some grown-up products that may also help:

The salicylic acid in Vichy Normaderm Anti-Imperfection Hydrating Care ($30) keeps pores clean; the product also acts as a light moisturizer for oily skin.

Encourage healthy skin cell turnover with Clear Clinical Exfoliating Gel Cleanser ($42), which sloughs off dead skin without stripping essential oils; benzoyl peroxide, found in its Acne Treatment Cream ($75), treats and prevents breakouts.

Get a flawless makeup application using Clean & Clear Advantage Invisible Patch ($10), which forms a clear, smooth layer over acne.

The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Facial Wash ($12) is a refreshing gel cleanser with natural antiseptic and calming ingredients for blemish-prone skin.

G.M. Collin Acne Complex ($57) fights blackheads and helps to calm irritated skin using aloe vera and rosemary oil.

Dermalogica Clearing Mattifier ($54) controls shine and leaves skin smooth, offering a lightweight, matte finish that lasts all day.