5 Effective Natural Remedies For Acne
Acne is a skin condition that develops when oil, dead cells, and bacteria clog the pores and cause blemishes to form.
The most common way to treat acne is by using a combination of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription skincare products or medications.
Natural remedies have also proven to be effective in reducing breakouts and may help treat acne if used as part of a comprehensive treatment approach.
Common natural remedies for acne include tea tree oil, green tea, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, and honey.
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the U.S., affecting nearly 85% of the population.
Although most cases of acne are typically mild, persistent breakouts can be frustrating to deal with, especially if you feel like you’ve tried every treatment on the market.
When treating acne, it’s important to keep the severity of your breakout, type of blemishes, and skin type in mind to determine what would work best for you.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at five natural remedies that you can use to reduce your breakouts and start your journey to clearer skin.
What is Acne and How Does it Develop?
Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that occurs when pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.
It’s often characterized by blemishes and pus-filled pimples that occur all over the skin. These blemishes can be red, swollen, and even painful.
There are a number of causes of acne, and most of them are beyond our control. The most common causes include:
Genetics: Your risk of acne may be higher if one or both of your parents had it in their lifetimes. It’s also likely that you’ll experience the same type of acne as they did.
Hormones: Hormonal fluctuations — such as those experienced during puberty or pregnancy — may cause a buildup of oil on the skin that can lead to acne.
Excess oil (sebum) production: The skin naturally produces a waxy substance called sebum that protects it from external irritants. However, some factors — like stress, genetics, diet, and hormones — can prompt the skin to produce too much oil. When this happens, pores start to clog, and blemishes begin developing.
Bacterial infection: Acne-causing bacteria are naturally occurring organisms found in the pores. When pores become clogged with oil, this bacteria starts to grow and causes an infection in the skin. If your breakouts become infected, the blemishes will feel painful and may be harder to treat.
How is Acne Normally Treated?
Acne is typically treated by using a comprehensive approach tailored to the severity of your breakouts.
If you have a mild case of acne, a dermatologist may recommend topical over-the-counter treatments that contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).
These ingredients are known for their ability to unclog pores and reduce inflammation, which helps to minimize blemishes.
For moderate to severe acne breakouts, you may need stronger prescription treatments. These may include:
- Oral antibiotics to help control bacteria and inflammation
- Oral birth control to stabilize fluctuating hormone levels in women
- Oral retinoids
If you have persistent acne, your dermatologist will likely prescribe tretinoin first. This is a topical retinoid that can help unclog your pores and clear acne.
For persistent and severe cases, doctors may recommend isotretinoin — also known as Accutane — which is an aggressive treatment that requires medical supervision.
In addition to topical and oral products, doctors may also recommend aesthetic procedures to drain large cysts and minimize scarring. This may include:
- Chemical peels
- Laser therapy
- Surgical procedures to manually remove blemishes
It’s important to speak to your doctor about your acne before starting any treatment to help you determine the right plan for your skin.
Your dermatologist can evaluate your acne to help you understand its severity and recommend a variety of treatment options to help you overcome it.
5 Natural Remedies for Acne
Although OTC and prescription skincare products or medication are the most common ways to treat acne, natural remedies may also be effective for reducing breakouts.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the most popular natural acne treatments:
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory product that can help kill acne-causing bacteria.
Its anti-inflammatory properties also mean that tea tree oil can help reduce redness and swelling associated with acne.
Tea tree products can be used in a cream, gel, or oil form and are typically applied directly to the skin.
Research suggests using a product with a tea tree oil concentration of under 5% to minimize skin irritation.
Aloe vera is another natural option that is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, giving it the ability to reduce the appearance of acne scars and blemishes.
It contains salicylic acid and sulfur, two ingredients that are often used to treat acne. Aloe vera may also help to reduce lesions and skin inflammation thanks to its soothing properties.
To use aloe vera, you can either scrape the gel directly from the flesh of the plant and apply it to your skin, or you can purchase products from the store.
Remember to ensure that the products contain pure aloe without any added ingredients to reduce the risk of adverse reactions.
Green tea is high in antioxidants, and drinking it may promote clearer skin while improving your overall health.
Research suggests that green tea can be effective in reducing acne because of its polyphenol content.
Polyphenols are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in plants. They are known for their antioxidant properties that can help reduce inflammation and regulate sebum.
These properties are essential for minimizing redness and unclogging pores to clear the skin.
Green tea can be used as an acne treatment either by consuming it or applying an extract directly to the skin.
Studies have found that applying green tea topically is the most effective way to use it for treating acne.
Honey contains antioxidants that may clear clogged pores and treat skin conditions like acne. It also has antibacterial properties that can help remove harmful bacteria from the skin.
When using honey to treat acne, it’s important to use the manuka variant or other pure forms.
These forms have the highest percentage of antimicrobial activity and may be more effective than store-bought options.
Many commercial honey brands have added ingredients — like sugar and stabilizers — that can irritate the skin and worsen breakouts.
When using honey as an acne treatment, you can apply it as a facemask. Leave it on for about 15 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has shown an ability to fight many types of bacteria and fungi, which may make it effective in reducing acne.
It contains organic citric acids and zinc oxide, which are both known for killing acne-causing bacteria. Research also shows that the lactic acid found in apple cider vinegar may help improve acne scars.
Although using apple cider vinegar as an acne treatment may be beneficial, it could also make your acne worse.
That’s why dermatologists generally advise diluting one part vinegar with three parts water before applying it to your skin.
It’s important to rinse this mixture off your skin and avoid letting it sit for more than 30 seconds.
How Will You Know if These Remedies are Safe?
Before incorporating any natural remedies or treatments into your skincare routine, you’ll need to determine if they’re safe for your skin type.
In this section, we’ll take a look at two methods that can help you do that.
Patch testing is used to determine if products will irritate your skin or if you might be allergic to any ingredients.
To patch test, apply a small amount of product to your inner forearm or behind your ear. Then, observe this area for 24 to 48 hours.
For a more accurate result, consider covering the area with a Band-Aid or bandage.
You shouldn't use the product if you experience any adverse reactions — such as itching, swelling, or other signs of irritation.
Getting professional advice
Consulting a dermatologist or healthcare professional before using new products is important — especially if you are struggling to get rid of your acne.
These doctors can provide personalized advice based on your skin type, acne severity, and medical history to help you find the right treatment.
This will ensure that you use products that are suited to your skin and won’t make your breakouts worse.
Treating Your Acne with Dietary and Lifestyle Adjustments
Following a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy diet can have a significant impact on the overall health and appearance of your skin.
While a healthy diet may not cure all of your skin concerns on its own, it’s a key component of maintaining a clear complexion.
A diet rich in nutrient-dense food has been shown to contribute to clear and radiant skin by helping the body address underlying factors that may trigger breakouts.
Antioxidant-rich foods — such as colorful fruits and vegetables — can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation, which are common acne causes.
Other foods — like omega-3 fatty acids, legumes, and proteins — can also help the skin maintain its lipid barrier, support collagen production, and heal acne scars.
Diets low in refined sugars and processed foods may have additional benefits, too. They can help regulate hormones and sebum production, which is critical for treating acne.
Stress management also plays an important role in treating and preventing acne.
When we experience high levels of stress, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol, which can trigger various responses.
This includes increased sebum production, inflammation, and hormonal imbalances, which all contribute to the development of acne. They can also worsen existing breakouts.
The impact that stress can have on the skin shows why it’s important to implement healthy coping mechanisms to lower our cortisol levels.
Popular stress management techniques include:
- Deep breathing
- Getting enough quality sleep
Implementing these techniques into your daily routine is an essential part of treating your acne and clearing your skin while improving your overall quality of life.
Although stress management alone won’t heal your acne, it’s crucial to recognize its impact and how it can help you on your journey to a clear complexion.
When Should You See a Doctor About Acne Treatments?
Understanding when you should see a doctor about your acne is an important part of getting the right treatment.
It’s generally advised to seek professional advice if you:
- Experience breakouts that feel painful or uncomfortable
- Don’t see any results after using OTC products
- Experience scarring or if cysts are starting to form
- Experience persistent breakouts that don’t improve
These symptoms can indicate that you have a more severe case of acne that requires prescription medications or other advanced treatments.
Your dermatologist can accurately diagnose the severity of your acne and determine if a more aggressive approach is required.
If you have any questions or concerns about the treatments you’re currently using, it’s also advisable to contact your doctor for help.
Where Can You Learn More About Treating Acne?
If you’re concerned about your acne or want to know more about treating this condition, LifeMD is here to help.
Licensed healthcare providers can provide information about acne and guidance on how to manage it properly to achieve clear skin — all from the comfort of your home.
Make an appointment with a doctor or nurse practitioner to give your skin the best possible care with LifeMD.