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The Truth About Natural Acne Remedies

Don’t have the money to see the dermatologist? No day off to luxuriate at the spa? Here are seven acne home remedies that really work, and won’t put a big dent in your budget.

Honey for Acne
Honey helps kill the bacteria that cause “pimple-like” eruptions on the skin.

Summary:

  • Home remedies may not give you perfect skin, but you can improve acne even on the tightest budget.
  • Soap and water, used correctly, using the right soap, work for cleansing the skin.
  • Lemon juice can be helpful if used correctly, although some people should not use it.
  • Honey kills the bacteria that cause “pimple-like” eruptions on the skin that are not actually acne.
  • Mud—bought at the drugstore, not dug up in the yard or the in park—lightens oily skin.
  • Water is an excellent moisturizer. Drink plenty of it, and apply it before you apply makeup.
  • There’s nothing fishy about eating fish for skin health. The essential fatty acids in fish and flaxseed oil are incorporated into sebum, and kill acne bacteria as the sebum breaks down.
  • Simply avoiding sweets can dramatically reduce pimples.  Contrary to popular opinion, though, chocolate itself doesn’t lead to acne (but the milk and sugar in milk chocolate do).

1. Soap and water, used correctly.

Bar soap is not an ideal remedy for blemished skin. Some soaps should never be used on blemished skin. An abrasive soap like Lava will only injure the walls of pores and push acne bacteria beneath the surface of the skin, replacing pimples with nodules. A fragrant soap like Irish Spring will trigger allergic reactions and shrink pores, forming a little prison for acne bacteria.  This just traps bacteria inside the skin, where they can do even more harm.

But some soaps are generally safe for the skin. Gentle soaps like Neutrogena Transparent Facial Bar and Cetaphil soaps, are fine for all but the most sensitive skin. Wash your hands before you wash your face. Then make a lather of these soaps in your hands, and apply the foamy lather to your face. Let the lather do the work of cleansing your skin, and then rinse off with warm water, patting dry with a clean towel. Never rub your face with a washcloth or with a bare bar of soap—this can damage your skin. Cleansing your face with a mild soap twice a day1 has been shown to be the best regimen for reducing acne.

2. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed.

According to folk wisdom2, freshly squeezed lemon juice sometimes works wonders for the skin.  However, washing your face with lemon juice is not recommended3; instead, use lemon juice with other ingredients for spot treatment or as part of a toner or face pack3.  In addition, citric acid– a key acid in lemon juice– can act together with zinc oxide4 as an effective acne-fighting combination. Taking zinc5 supplements can also help with acne.

3. Honey masks.

Bees make honey from flower nectars they collect over an very large area. Honey is such a good antiseptic that honey soaked gauze can be used as a dressing for burns and skin wounds, and has been shown specifically to have antibacterial effects against acne-causing bacteria6.

To use honey for acne, wash and dry your hands, and pour out several tablespoons (about 50 g) of honey into a clean bowl. Apply the honey with your clean fingertips in a thin layer all over your face. Allow to dry for 15 to 30 minutes, and then rinse off with warm water, patting your skin dry with a clean towel.

4. Facial masks.

There are lots of commercial products you can use to make healing facial masks to treat acne. Many swear by clay masks, and healing clay with jojoba oil has been shown in a clinical study to improve acne7.

However, anything that combines mud with essential oils or herbal extracts can irritate the skin. Sterile medicinal clay, however, just acts as a magnet to pull oil and dirt off the skin and out of pores.

When you use a mud pack, place a thin layer of mud over the skin, either squeezing it out of the tube or mixing it as directed on the label. Let the mud pack dry until it begins to crack, and then rinse off with warm water. A warm glow to your skin indicates that it has worked, but you don’t want to use any product that causes noticeable redness, tingling, itching, or irritation.

5. Water.

People who have acne need to keep their skin moisturized. The best way to do this is by drinking water8. There are also lots of products to keep skin moist. Ironically, some alcohol-based “moisturizers” actually make the skin drier, though, and some oil-based moisturizers tend to clog pores on already oily skin. A good splash of water on the skin after you complete your cleansing routine, however, that you allow to dry on its own (rather than toweling dry), can increase the hydration inside your skin, at least temporarily.

Of course, an hour in the sun, or a few hours indoors in a room heated with a forced-air furnace or air conditioned without the use of a humidified, can necessitate another splash of water to your face. Periodic, water-only washes throughout the day can be helpful.

6. Dietary changes, especially eating more fish.

Countries where cold-water fish is a staple of the diet, especially in the northernmost reaches of the Northern Hemisphere and in Japan, tend to be places where most people have beautiful skin.  Fish oil has been shown to help with acne9, and the reason may be that eating lots of fish provides lots of omega-3 essential fatty acids10. Fish are also high in acne-fighting zinc5. Flaxseed oil is also a good source of omega-3’s.

You have to eat the foods that provide the omega-3’s. Don’t try smearing fish oil on your face. Your cat may find it endearing, but you won’t do your skin any good.

7. Dietary changes, especially avoiding sweets.

Many people who have acne love chocolate, and there is a popular belief that eating chocolate causes acne.  This has not been borne out by the evidence, though.  Instead, it seems that high-glycemic foods (like sugar and other low-fiber carbohydrates) are the main culprits11.  Chocolate itself is not the problem; it is the sugar and dairy products in milk chocolate that are, according to a review of the evidence12.  To avoid acne, lower your consumption of dairy products, sugar, and white bread, and increase your intake of vegetables, fish, and olive oil– the so-called Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to be beneficial for acne13.

These simple acne home remedies can make a real difference in skin care. But so can an acne care system like Exposed Skin Care.

References

  1. Zip C. The Role of Skin Care in Optimizing Treatment of Acne and Rosacea. Skin Therapy Lett. 2017 May;22(3):5-7.
  2. Gönül, M., Gül, Ü., Çakmak, S. K., & Kılıç, S. (2009). Unconventional medicine in dermatology outpatients in Turkey. International Journal of Dermatology, 48(6), 639–644.
  3. 7 ways to use lemon on face without side effects: Dermatologist Guide. Dr Surbhi, MD
  4. Evaluation of anti-microbial activities of ZnO, citric acidand a mixture of both against Propionibacterium acnes. Bae JY, Park SN. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2016 Dec;38(6):550-557.
  5. Natural acne treatment: What’s most effective? Mayo Clinic
  6. Antibacterial Activity of Ethanolic Extract of Cinnamon Bark, Honey, and Their Combination Effects against Acne-Causing Bacteria. Julianti E, Rajah KK, Fidrianny I. Sci Pharm. 2017 Apr 11;85(2).
  7. Clay jojoba oil facial mask for lesioned skin and mild acne–results of a prospective, observational pilot study. Meier L, Stange R, Michalsen A, Uehleke B. Forsch Komplementmed. 2012;19(2):75-9.
  8. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Palma L, Marques LT, Bujan J, Rodrigues LM. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015 Aug 3;8:413-21
  9. Effects of fish oil supplementation on inflammatory acne. Khayef G, Young J, Burns-Whitmore B, Spalding T. Lipids Health Dis. 2012 Dec 3;11:165.
  10. Effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fattyacid and gamma-linolenic acid on acne vulgaris: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial. Jung JY, Kwon HH, Hong JS, Yoon JY, Park MS, Jang MY, Suh DH. Acta Derm Venereol. 2014 Sep;94(5):521-5.
  11. Diet and acne update: carbohydrates emerge as the main culprit. Mahmood SN, Bowe WP. J Drugs Dermatol. 2014 Apr;13(4):428-35.
  12. Diet and acne: a review of the evidence. Spencer EH(1), Ferdowsian HR, Barnard ND. Int J Dermatol. 2009 Apr;48(4):339-47.
  13. Mediterranean dietand familial dysmetabolism as factors influencing the development of acne. Skroza N, Tolino E, Semyonov L, Proietti I, Bernardini N, Nicolucci F, La Viola G, Del Prete G, Saulle R, Potenza C, La Torre G. Scand J Public Health. 2012 Jul;40(5):466-74.
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