The Best Natural Ingredients That Fight Acne, According to Science

Updated 03/21/17
Woman with clear, beautiful skin

In today’s chemically-derived, synthetically-manufactured world, it can be tough to solve your skin issues without dousing yourself in a slew of unpronounceable products. Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back from harsh chemicals, and treat your skin with a few Mother Nature-approved ingredients—especially when your skin is suffering from a bout of acne. After all, acne-prone skin is already irritated and inflamed—no need to over-stimulate it. And, no, going the natural route doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice results. Keep reading for all of the details on the most effective natural acne-fighting ingredients!

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree leaves

The immune systems of tea trees are particularly effective at destroying bacteria. The oil extracted from the tree possesses the same powerful anti-bacterial properties. And when used in skincare, its bacteria-fighting abilities are comparable to benzoyl peroxide, making it an excellent, natural alternative to chemical ingredients.



Sulfur is one of the oldest skin remedies still in existence, with treatments dating back to ancient times. And for good reason, the mineral is a natural oil absorber that also eases inflammation and helps to exfoliate dead skin cells. Yes, it smells (like rotten eggs), but its ability to draw excess oil and sebum out of pores make the odor more tolerable.

Willow Bark Extract

Willow bark extract

Willow bark extract is a natural form of salicylic acid, and it happens to be another time-tested cure. People have been tapping into the white willow tree for centuries—long before the synthetic version of the proven breakout solution was created. Willow bark extract works to slough off dead cells to keep your pores clear of debris (even better than salicylic acid, some experts say). Add it to your routine to ease existing breakouts and avoid future ones.

Green Tea

Glass mug of green tea with tea leaves

Like many of the ingredients on this list, green tea provides anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial benefits. It directly helps with acne because the compounds that fight off infection in the green tea plant function similarly in skincare—going straight to the acne lesion and killing the bacteria. But green tea also packs the antioxidant punch, making it an incredible healer and a good choice for improving the overall health of your skin.

Kaolin Clay

Pieces of kaolin clay

Clay is primarily known for its oil-absorbing action, but it’s also a rather calming and soothing mineral (thanks to those trusty anti-inflammatory properties). Kaolin (also known as white China clay) is one of the gentlest clays. It clears your complexion of pore-clogging toxins and impurities, and removes excess oil and dirt, without drying out your skin.

Sage Extract

Leaves of sage extract

Sage extract is another antioxidant-rich ingredient in the bunch. It’s known to protect skin cells from damage, prevent dryness, and promote healthy skin. All of which translates into good news for stressed-out complexions. The natural extract reduces redness and irritation while also purifying the skin. Use it to soothe inflamed skin and prevent acne-causing inflammation from popping up again.

The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil $10
Arcona Tea Tree Purify Mask $36
Clearogen Sulfur Acne Lotion $32
Dr. Dennis Gross Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask $42
Boscia Clear Complexion Willow Bark Spot Treatment $18
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Polish $25
Sephora Collection Face Mask—Green Tea $6
Ole Henriksen Truth Serum $49
Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask $28
Caudalie Instant Foam Cleanser $28
Dr. Jart+ Blackhead Master Patch $35

Have you ever tried any of these natural ingredients? Tell us in the comments below!

This post was originally published on July 31st, 2014.

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