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11 Natural Acne Treatments
Essential Takeaways
Acne occurs when the pores of your skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Each pore of your skin opens to a follicle, where all this nasty stuff can build up and cause a breakout. Although acne comes in many forms, including blackheads and whiteheads, the most severe type of acne is a pimple that develops deep in the skin, which can be oh-so-painful.

11 Natural Acne Treatments

Pimples and blackheads can seemingly pop out of nowhere, and sometimes it may seem that there is no escaping regular breakouts. While it is completely normal to experience acne, it can be irritating, painful, and damaging to our skin.

You may have tried countless over-the-counter or even prescription acne treatment options, but nothing has worked. We feel you! While conventional acne treatments using chemicals such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are proven to be the most effective acne solutions, they can be expensive and cause side effects that are just as annoying as the acne itself, such as dryness, redness, and irritation. Plus, as a clean beauty addict, using such harsh chemicals on your face may not jive with you.

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Because of the expense and side effects of such treatments, many acne sufferers have tried using natural acne treatments at home. While these home remedies don’t have the scientific backing of traditional treatments, the options are still worth trying to see if they help. One or more of these natural solutions could be just right for you because just as you take care to purchase vegan cruelty-free skincare and makeup products, so too can you choose acne solutions that are more in line with your needs and lifestyle.

What is acne?

Perhaps a little TMI, but acne occurs when the pores of your skin become blocked with oil, dead skin, or bacteria. Each pore of your skin opens to a follicle, where all this nasty stuff can build up and cause a breakout. Although acne comes in many forms, including blackheads and whiteheads, the most severe type of acne is a pimple that develops deep in the skin, which can be oh-so-painful.

What causes acne?

The truth is that there may be deep-rooted causes for those annoying bumps and blemishes, so the first thing to do is learn what could be triggering them before you attempt to treat them. Acne is considered an inflammatory skin condition marked by tender bumps and pimples on your face, neck, back, or chest. Typically, the buildup of bacteria and excess oil is what clogs pores and hair follicles in your skin, causing swollen, tender pimples as part of your body’s inflammatory response.

But inflammation isn’t the only contributing factor. Hormonal changes can affect acne by producing excess oil, which can result in clogged pores and an increase in bacterial growth. Sometimes called hormonal acne, it is usually the reason acne develops during certain times in our lives, like when we go through puberty and, later in life, menopause.


Does makeup affect acne?

It makes sense that makeup could cause acne because we put it directly on our face. For the most part, this can be, or at least impact, our pimple problems. This is especially true if we don’t take the time to wash our face thoroughly at the end of a long day, leading to dirt and bacteria buildup in our pores. Certain ingredients in makeup could also trigger a breakout, especially if you have sensitive skin, as do dirty makeup brushes and sponges that spread dirt and bacteria on your face.

The good news is you can still wear makeup if you have acne-prone skin, as long as you invest time in a thorough skincare routine before and after you apply it. Additionally, look for clean, vegan makeup products that are labeled as non-comedogenic, meaning they don’t contain ingredients that might cause acne.

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While you take additional care in your vegan skincare and makeup routine, it could also help to implement home remedies that specifically target pimples and blackheads.

Natural treatments for acne

How you treat your skin and body is important when it comes to acne prevention. In addition to your vegan cruelty-free skincare routine, there are many easy, at-home treatments that can help balance your skin’s oil levels, reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, and prevent future breakouts. Because we know what it’s like to deal with acne ourselves, we want to arm you with the right information so that you can naturally prevent blemishes from popping up in the first place.

Closeup of a woman's hands with a dropper of an acne treatment

With that said, if you’re interested in trying these natural remedies, it is a good idea to do a skin patch test first, which consists of putting a small amount of the topical treatment on your wrist or hand to test for skin reactions. This helps ensure you won’t have a negative reaction when you apply it to your face.

Ready to learn more about specific natural acne treatments? Let’s dive in.

1. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar, otherwise known as ACV, is made when apple cider is fermented with yeast and other helpful bacteria, creating a compound called acetic acid that may help kill bacteria such as those that cause acne. The alpha hydroxy acids in ACV also exfoliate skin, sloughing off dead skin cells that block pores and, over time, reducing the appearance of dark spots, which are made of up excess pigment. While apple cider vinegar is good as a spot treatment to dry out individual blemishes, keep in mind that it can be harsh for dry and sensitive skin, so it’s important to dilute it with water, so it is less acidic on your skin.

As with any of these natural treatments, it’s best to do a spot test before applying the solution to your face just to be sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. With ACV, you’ll want to dilute it by mixing one part ACV with four parts water (if you have sensitive skin, you can dilute it even more). First, apply a small amount to your inner elbow using a cotton pad and leave it for about 15 minutes. If you don’t see any signs of skin sensitivity, such as burning, redness, itchiness, and swelling, you can go ahead and apply it on your face by dabbing it on your blemishes using a cotton pad.

2. Zinc

Zinc, an essential mineral, is one of the most widely studied forms of acne treatment and comes in both supplement and topical treatments that can be used at home. While zinc is known to help fight viruses and bacteria, it also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help relieve some of the redness and irritation that come with moderate-to-severe acne and reduce the appearance of acne scars.

According to our research, there are conflicting studies on the best form of zinc for acne. Some studies report that taking a dietary zinc supplement was effective for inflammatory and bacterial forms of acne, but it can come with side effects such as nausea and vomiting. Topical ointment, on the other hand, has fewer side effects but isn’t considered to be as effective.

If you want to add zinc to your acne-fighting arsenal, you first need to choose the best form for your needs. For example, if you have severe acne, a zinc supplement might have the best fighting power —but be sure to consult with your doctor or dermatologist to ensure you’re taking the proper dose. If your acne is mild, topical zinc may be all you need to clear your breakout, but be sure to do a patch test first and then follow the instructions on the label when applying it to your acne.

3. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil, which is extracted from a native Australian tree, known for its ability to fight bacteria and reduce skin inflammation, and it has also been found to help fight the specific bacteria that cause pimples. Studies found that 5 percent tea tree oil gel was nearly six times more effective at reducing acne severity than a placebo and equally effective at reducing pimples as a lotion containing the same amount of benzoyl peroxide, a common acne medication. Tea tree oil has also been found to have fewer adverse effects, including dryness, irritation, and burning. But it’s important to note that it’s not considered a complementary treatment rather than a cure-all.

Start by diluting the tea tree oil by applying one or two drops to 12 drops of carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba, grapeseed, avocado, or sunflower oil. Before applying the diluted oil to your face, be sure to do a patch test on the inside of your elbow to ensure your skin doesn’t react to the solution. If all is a-okay, dab the tea tree oil solution on your clean face, specifically focusing on the blemishes, using a cotton pad and allow it to dry. Follow up with your usual face moisturizer. This can be done morning and night as part of your skincare regime.

4. Green tea

Researchers have found that for some people, the consumption or topical application of green tea or green tea extract can help improve the lesions, redness, and irritated skin that come with acne. This is because green tea contains plant-based compounds, or polyphenols, that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties and attack free radicals. Green tea is also especially rich in epigallocatechin, a polyphenol that research has shown can improve acne and oily skin.

Closeup of natural green tea acne treatment with brush

If you go this route, look for clean skincare products such as face cream and serum that contain green tea as an ingredient. You can also buy powdered green tea to mix it into your favorite moisturizer. Drinking green tea may also be beneficial, but researchers haven’t yet confirmed what dose is most effective.

5. Aloe vera

Like many magical plants, aloe vera has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which means that it can help to reduce swelling. Putting aloe vera on a red, swollen pimple can help reduce tenderness and pain. And because aloe also has wound-healing effects, it may help heal open acne blemishes. At the same time, just as aloe soothes a painful sunburn, it can also soothe other skin irritations such as acne.

While research is limited in terms of its effects on reducing acne on its own, some studies have shown that it may boost the effectiveness of acne medications. For example, treating acne with a topical medication like tretinoin together with aloe vera has shown improvements in redness and fewer pimples. Another bonus is that it may also help fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (those red or dark marks left after pimples have healed) because of a compound in aloe called aloin, which helps lighten dark areas of the skin. And because aloe reduces inflammation, it may help keep the hyper-pigmentation from developing in the first place.

While aloe may be a helpful and soothing addition to your acne treatment plan, be sure to ask your dermatologist before adding it to your routine if you are also using prescription acne medication.

6. Omega-3

It’s possible that polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids—which consist of DHA, EPA, and ALA—could improve acne because of their anti-inflammatory effects on the body. However, studies are limited and have mainly focused on dietary supplements and show mixed results.

Increasing your omega-3s is a good idea for overall health anyway, so if you’re interested in eating more omega-3s to see if they improve your acne symptoms, try plant-based sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. There are also omega 3, 6, and 9 blend oils that can be added to things like salad dressing and sauces.

7. Exfoliation

While certain natural products can help reduce acne, there are also ways you can improve your skincare routine and overall lifestyle that can lead to clearer skin. One of them is exfoliating, which involves removing dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. While our skin naturally releases dead skin cells on its own, in people with acne, this process probably isn’t working as effectively as it should. In this case, certain exfoliant products can aid in reducing the appearance of acne and fade acne scars. However, it’s crucial to choose a product that is gentle yet effective.

Physical exfoliants such as cleansing scrubs and textured cloths require manual rubbing, which are often not the best option for acne-prone skin because it can irritate your already inflamed skin. Chemical exfoliants such as toners and peels, on the other hand, use chemicals and enzymes to renew your skin and improve its texture and appearance. And lucky for us, some chemical exfoliants are specifically formulated to be non-irritating and gentle enough for acne-prone skin.

If you have mild-to-moderate acne, consider products that contain retinoids—a catch-all term for vitamin A-based skin products. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, retinoids play an essential role in managing acne because they have been shown to reduce visible lesions and inhibit the development of new blemishes. Most over-the-counter exfoliant products are gentle enough to use regularly, but they can dry out your skin to some degree, so be sure to follow up with a gentle oil-free face moisturizer.

8. Clean skincare

No matter how broken-out your skin is, it is essential to establish a skincare routine that uses only clean products. In other words, you want to look for skincare products that are made without synthetic chemicals and ingredients that could harm your body or irritate your skin.

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Shifting to a completely clean skincare routine will help in acne prevention and recovery because blemish-prone skin is already sensitive. Simply eliminating the irritating chemicals, preservatives, and synthetic fragrances found in conventional skincare products can help soothe breakouts and irritation on its own. For example, the drying formulas that are the mainstays of many conventional acne treatments can have an inflaming effect on breakout-prone skin. Look for gentle formulas that are clean, vegan, cruelty-free and don’t strip your skin, which will help keep oil glands from going into overdrive. More importantly, you want to avoid toxic chemicals in makeup and skincare because they can do even more harm to your health.

When it comes to establishing a skincare routine, consistency is key. If you stick to it, after a while, you should see real improvements. Start your search for clean skincare products by clicking here.

9. No more sugar

The old saying “You are what you eat” rings true in the case of acne. Some research has shown that following a low-glycemic diet may reduce acne because it eliminates spikes in blood sugar. When your blood sugar spikes, it causes inflammation in the body. These spikes also cause your body to make more oil, which is a not-so-good thing for your acne-prone skin because inflammation and excess oil can lead to acne.

This means foods that are high on the glycemic index—foods and drink that contain added sugar and refined carbs like white bread and pasta—should be kept to a minimum to avoid inflammation in the body. Stick with a diet that includes lots of whole fruits and veggies instead.

10. No more dairy

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, cow’s milk in all forms (whole, low fat, and skim) has been linked to acne. In fact, one study found that women who drink two or more glasses of milk a day were 44 percent more likely to have acne than the other women in the study.

Why cow’s milk may increase or worsen acne is still a mystery for researchers, but one theory is that the hormones in cow’s milk cause inflammation in the body, which can ultimately affect the skin. So, in addition to the ethical and environmental consequences of drinking cow’s milk, saving your skin is another reason to avoid it altogether.

11. Exercise

You may assume that working out—which we all know causes excess sweating—could lead to more acne, but this could be far from the truth. In fact, exercising regularly has amazing benefits and is good for your overall health, so don’t quit because you think it’ll affect your already oily skin.

The key is to maintain proper hygiene before, during, and after your workouts. This includes removing your makeup, wearing clean workout clothes, and cleaning off excess sweat during and after your workouts. Also, consider showering immediately after you exercise to rinse away bacteria that can cause acne and use clean skincare products to cleanse your skin afterward, too.

Final thoughts

When fighting acne, sometimes the best thing to do is go back to the basics, naturally. If you have one takeaway, it’s that going clean and natural are the best ways to treat your skin and your health. Try one or more of these remedies to treat pimple-prone skin and see how your skin reacts. You can thank us later.



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