My journey with acne started when Mother Nature decided to give me a lovely forehead of breakouts to introduce me to middle school. Of course, with puberty things got worse and over time I was constantly dealing with persistent pimples and my bathroom drawer began to fill up with every over-the-counter, marketing promise, “wonder” product, and “miracle” cream I could find. I literally tried every method including antibiotics, prescriptions, and birth control pills to balance out my hormones.
Nothing had a long term positive effect.
So, I put away my wallet and started to really understand acne. I dove headfirst into learning my acne to determine the cause and find a natural acne treatment that would actually work.
I learned that my daily activities and diet were actually causing my own acne. I learned how to balance my blood sugar and avoid spiking my insulin by cleaning up my diet and cutting sugar and dairy. In turn, this cleaned up my digestion, which was also a contributing factor to my acne. This natural acne treatment had nothing to do with a cream or cleanser but made a huge difference.
In addition to dietary changes, I started to wash my face only at night with a natural acne treatment. I would gently apply my acne products without scrubbing my skin raw. I made sure to get enough sleep, then just re-moisturize my face in the morning
The last step was to remove hormonal birth control and balance my hormones naturally. (This was not an easy process).
I can’t say that I remain one hundred percent acne-free one hundred percent of the time, but the health of my skin has dramatically improved and now I may have a pimple here to there, but my acne is no longer defining who I am or what I can do thanks to natural acne treatments.
What Is Acne?
The medical definition of acne is:
A skin disorder of the sebaceous follicles that commonly occurs in adolescence and in young adulthood. The major pathogenic factors involved are hyperkeratinization, obstruction of sebaceous follicles resulting from abnormal keratinization of the infundibular epithelium, stimulation of sebaceous gland secretion by androgens, and microbial colonization of pilosebaceous units by Propionibacterium acnes, which promotes perifollicular inflammation. Source
Most of the words in that paragraph I can’t even pronounce, but basically acne is an overgrowth of skin cells. These clumps of cells and follicles stick together if not shed normally. When that is combined with a production of excess oil, and the ever-present p.acnes bacteria, it causes a breakout. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the United States. Ten of millions of Americans of all ages every year suffer from breakouts and chronic acne. But not all acne is the same.
The Main Types of Acne
There are five main types of acne:
- Non-inflammatory acne. This is where you have whiteheads and blackheads, but not necessary acne that appears bumpy or raised on the skin.
- Inflammatory acne. This acne is usually swollen and hurts. It is caused by small infections due to P. Acnes bacteria.
- Cystic acne. This is an intense form of acne. It appears as large, inflamed cysts and nodules on the skin
- Acne Fulminans. This is when inflammatory acne gets worse and moves to the jaw, chest, and back. Usually affecting teen boys.
- Acne Mechanica. This is usually specific to athletes and is acne of small bumps triggered by excess pressure, heat, and friction.
What Causes Acne?
This is one of the hardest parts of finding a natural acne treatment, first you need to know where your acne is coming from. There are three main reasons you have excess skin cell growth, excess oil and lack of cell shedding (aka: acne).
- Bad Diet: The conventional American diet is full of refined grains, sugar, and unhealthy fats. These are all contributing factors to acne. When you have excess sugar, it triggers insulin release in your body. This can cause acne and other health concerns, such as PCOS.
- Hormonal Issues: Most acne shows up around puberty, and that’s because hormones are going crazy. Anytime you have a hormone fluctuation or imbalance, it can affect your oil production and contribute to acne (hello ovulation and menstruation).
- Digestive Issues: Acne is an external representation of an internal problem. If your digestive system is having a hard time flushing out your organs, that includes your skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ. In turn, your digestion strongly affects your skin.
Other Reasons for Acne
There are a myriad of culprits for acne. Those listed above are the most common, and are usually a contributing factor, but there may be additional reasons including, but not limited to:
- High androgens as a result of taking certain medications
- Food allergies
- Overall inflammation of the body and internal organs due to poor diet
- Not handling your face products and application correctly (overdoing for example)
What Are Natural Acne Treatments?
Natural acne treatments are designed to bring your body back to balance. We want to use natural acne treatments to avoid bringing more chemicals into your body and life and instead, focus on a more holistic regime. Natural acne treatments are focused on avoiding harmful chemicals and conventional methods and still getting the results you want.
Home Remedies for Acne
Most acne can and should be cured at home with natural acne treatments rather than in a doctor’s office. With the right knowledge, best ingredients, and correct techniques, you can create your own natural acne treatment without even leaving your house. These home remedies include four steps: skincare, diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes.
Step 1: Skin Care
The first step in any natural acne treatment routine is to find the right cleanser for your acne. This may require you to try several acne washes to find the one that works best with your skin, but we recommend following a few clear guidelines when choosing a natural acne treatment cleanser.
- Know your face type. Before you shop for cleansers, you need to know whether you have oily, dry, normal, or combination skin.
- Check the active ingredients. Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or other AHAs/BHAs are important to fight bacteria and kill acne, but they can be harsh to sensitive skin.
- Listen to your skin and pay attention to what it’s telling you. Red and itchy skin is screaming for relief and needs something more gentle.
- Always start out by going easy on your skin, don’t head straight for the most powerful product as you may harm your skin and do more damage.
We have a full post dedicated to choosing the best acne face wash for you, along with product recommendations. Other natural acne treatment options include:
- Apple Cider Vinegar Toner: Pure apple cider vinegar as an evening and morning toner is packed with natural acne treatment ingredients like potassium, magnesium, acetic acid and enzymes that kill bacteria on the skin.
- Green tea spray: Green tea is high in antioxidants that fight bacteria and reduce acne. While no research has shown that drinking green tea helps acne, using a green tea spray directly onto the skin has been shown to significantly reduce acne.
You can’t scrub acne away, no matter how hard you try. This is why we recommend avoiding physical scrubs and opting for chemical exfoliants instead. These types of masks are a safer and more natural acne treatment without causing unnecessary roughness to the skin.
- Papaya enzyme mask: Papayas have an enzyme called papain, it works as a natural acne treatment and effective exfoliator. Papaya enzyme masks can brighten the skin and remove dead skin cells, allowing the skin to repair itself.
- Manuka Honey Cinnamon Mask: Mix two tablespoons of raw manuka honey, one teaspoon of aloe vera and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to create a face mask. Keeping this on for 5-10 minutes can help to fight acne because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties of both honey and cinnamon.
It may seem counterintuitive, but using oil as a moisturizer might be the best form of natural acne treatment. Intentional use of oils such as jojoba oil for acne can add in good oils with significant benefits to the skin. Using aloe vera with your moisturizer can also provide additional help for redness reduction and is a humectant.
My current moisturizer concoction is the following cocktail of natural acne treatment ingredients:
- Jojoba oil (carrier oil and moisturizer)
- Aloe vera (anti-inflammatory and humectant)
- Tea tree oil (kills bacteria)
- Lavender oil (calms skin)
- Niacinamide powder (b3) (calms skin and slows oil production)
Fill a dropper bottle halfway with jojoba oil, add in aloe vera to fill the bottle up ⅚ full, then add 10 drop tea tree, 10 drops lavender and a tsp of niacinamide. In addition, I add in a moisturizer with SPF daily to follow.
D: Natural Acne Spot Treatment
For troublesome flare-ups that you need taken care of right away and don’t have time for a full skincare routine, a natural acne spot treatment can do the trick. Three of my favorite remedies for instant natural acne treatment include:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Tea tree oil
- Vitamin A/retinol for all over face – like this one
Step 2: Diet
Your skin is often an outward manifestation of what is going on inside your body. That’s why taking care of your digestive health and eating a better diet can be the best natural acne treatment. Oftentimes, doing these things can make a bigger difference than any product or natural acne treatment you put on your face.
Keep blood sugar low by eating a low glycemic index diet. This means you want to cut out those foods that make your blood sugar spike like sugar, processed foods, soft drinks, sweets, candy, and sugary breakfast cereals. Instead, snack on fruits, vegetables, nuts, or whole grains.
- Cut out dairy. Drinking milk and consuming dairy products exposes you to hormones, which may cause hormonal changes and lead to acne.
- Apple cider vinegar can be a powerful natural acne treatment both on the skin and ingested daily.
- Drink more water, including mixing up your own detox water can be a great natural acne treatment. You can find more detox water recipes here.
- Teas including green tea, spearmint tea, and dandelion tea have powerful antioxidants that aid in any natural acne treatment.
- Eat more garlic. That’s right, using natural garlic in your favorite recipes can provide your body with natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Eat foods high in Vitamin A including spinach, carrots and beef liver.
- Eat as many cruciferous vegetables as possible to help lower estrogen.
- Try to eat within the first hour of waking with a high protein and fat meal like a smoothie with protein powder, avocados, berries, spinach, and coconut milk!
Step 3: Supplements for Acne
In addition to changing your diet to aid your natural acne treatment regimen, there are some supplements that may be helpful as well.
- Zinc for acne is one of the most studied supplements for skincare. Zinc compounds are actually found in many acne-fighting products and several studies have shown the effectiveness of zinc supplements. Between 30-45mg of zinc per day resulted in a significant reduction of acne for 90 percent of patients.
If you are looking for one supplement that might do the most for your acne, I recommend HUM Nutrition. They have a Daily Cleanse vitamin that has the skin powerhouses like zinc, chlorella, dandelion root, milk thistle, and green tea.
- Probiotics can improve skin health by supporting healthy digestion and the immune system. According to a recent study published in the Dermatology Online Journal, researchers indicate that probiotic foods and supplements are promising and safe natural acne treatment.
- Cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA, which is essential in terms of combating inflammation in the body, which includes acne. If you aren’t getting these from your diet, a supplement may help. But make sure to get the capsules and keep it refrigerated – you will thank me later for that!
- Guggul is a supplement that has been shown to be a particularly effective natural acne treatment for those with oily skin and/or cystic acne.
- B vitamins can be particularly important if you were on the pill, or if you still are. This can help balance the hormones and calm the acne. You want them all to be in balance so I recommend the complex, which will help too if you are on or getting off hormonal birth control.
Step 4: Lifestyle
Sometimes we can use the right products with the best diet and still, stubborn acne stays put. The next step is to examine your lifestyle and how it could be contributing to your acne.
- Reduce stress. This is perhaps the best natural acne treatment because it’s something we should be doing anyway. Stress is one of the biggest causes of acne flare-ups. Albeit, reducing stress is easier said than done, but it is possible to find ways to cope and manage stress when it comes up.
- Exercise regularly. This is a great way to reduce stress and get your hormones balanced. Sweating is the body’s way to detox and is a great natural acne treatment.
- Drink the water. Specifically, drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. Yes, this is part of the diet, but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning here again. Drink the water, all of it, all day long. Make it a part of your day.
- Light treatment. Sometimes light treatments can be used to treat specific types of acne. Red light is for anti-aging and inflammation, blue light is for killing a specific acne-causing bacterium called Propionibacterium.
- Go Outside. Get some natural light to get vitamin D. Take a walk in the sun, enjoy the outdoors. Sunshine is perhaps the best natural acne treatment.
- Detoxify your Liver. This is the best cleansing system in your body, and it can be a powerful natural acne treatment. We have more information on how to detoxify the liver and help keep you healthy.
- Poop. In order to keep your skin clean and clear, you should keep your body clean and clear as well. Make sure you are pooping regularly to remove all of the waste from your system. If you’re looking for a strong waste detox, check out our coffee enema guide here.
Let’s Clear Things Up!
Remember nothing is an overnight solution – that is impossible. With any type of natural acne treatment, consistency will provide the best results. Keep at it and be gentle and patient with your skin. Strive for progress not perfection and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful skin.