For many, acne isn't an adolescent right of passage; it's a problem that carries into adulthood. Those of us who still have acne-ridden skin know that it's an ongoing battle to not only treat the blemishes already on our faces but to prevent them from ever coming back, be it with oral medication or topical treatments that are either prescribed or over-the-counter.
But sometimes the best thing to do when fighting acne is go back to basics—or go natural. So, we spoke to UMA Oils founder Shrankhla Holecek, S.W. Basics founder Adina Grigore, and celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas of Joanna Vargas Salon, about the natural remedies for acne. We asked them which ingredients we should be looking for, what we can make of the natural ingredients we've found, and why these ingredients are ideal for treating acne.
Scroll to view these experts' picks.
"Technically, baking soda and water soften blackheads and any clogged pores in the skin. It’s best for congested skin," Vargas says. She recommends a DIY baking soda mask.
Apple Cider Vinegar
"It's the best astringent in nature because it helps to balance the skin’s pH, making you both less oily and less dry," says Grigore. But be aware that apple cider vinegar is very pungent, so it's important to dilute the substance before using it. "I recommend using a mixture of one part vinegar to four parts water. Apply to your face with cotton or a spritzer. No need to wash it off," she says.
According to Holecek, turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. She recommends mixing it with gentle, exfoliating bases like chickpea flour, oat powders, or kaolin clay.
Turmeric powder is made from the root of Curcuma zedoaria, a form of ginger native to Southeast Asia. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is what gives it a yellow-orange tinge; it's also what makes it such a potent anti-inflammatory. In addition to treating acne, turmeric can also lighten hyperpigmentation.
Holecek says honey is a soothing remedy for those pesky acne scars. For a DIY facial, she suggests mixing honey, aloe vera, one teaspoon of chickpea flour, and a pinch of turmeric to make a paste. Spread the paste on your face. Once you rinse off with cool water, use an ice cube on the skin for 30 seconds to treat a congested face.
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that contains a topical agent within its leaves best for soothing skin. The plant's mucilage, or the gel that is used to treat skin, contains about 99.5% water, which makes it perfect for adding hydration to the skin while calming it.
"Fine-grain salt cleans deeply, removes dead skin cells, balances moisture, and pulls toxins from pores, making it especially great for preventing acne or quick treatments during flare-ups on the face and body," says Grigore. "The simplest way to use sea salt is to wet your face or body, put some salt on your wet hand so it sticks, then pat it gently onto your skin. You can leave it for a few minutes or rinse immediately. Just make sure not to scrub too hard—it is too abrasive by itself."
Tea Tree Oil
According to Grigore, tea tree oil is known amongst skincare experts as a "miracle antiseptic."
"It's renowned for its antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal properties, making it an easy and effective spot treatment," says Grigore. She suggests diluting tea tree oil in a dab of extra virgin olive oil or organic jojoba oil and applying it directly on a zit.
Hollinger JC, Angra K, Halder RM. Are natural ingredients effective in the management of hyperpigmentation? a systematic review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018 Feb;11(2):28-37.