“Natural acne treatment” might sound like an oxymoron, especially if you’ve ever struggled with acne. Back in the day, acne treatment was all about attacking the oil on your face like it was the enemy with the harshest possible chemicals (watch this 1984 Clearasil ad if you think we’re kidding about the war metaphors!).
Any acne-prone 80s/90s teen can remember ads that told us exactly how to get rid of blemish-ridden skin: Demolish it with benzoyl peroxide, astringents, alcohol-based toners and uber-drying soaps. That stinging feeling after slathering Sea Breeze on your face meant it was working, right?
Drying out your skin was supposed to be the solution to acne. Sadly, these harsh acne treatments were often ineffective for many, and even exacerbated skin problems for some acne sufferers. (Raise your hand if you used Clearasil, Bonne Bell Ten-O-Six, Oxy pads and Buf-Pufs daily throughout your adolescence and somehow STILL had pimples and breakouts!)
Today, the American Academy of Dermatology warns acne sufferers that excessive dryness and harsh is counterproductive, and can actually make acne worse: “It can be tempting to apply astringent and acne treatments until your face feels dry. Don’t. Dry skin is irritated skin. Anytime you irritate your skin, you risk getting more acne.”
Old-school acne remedies weren’t taking into account combination skin, easily irritated skin, adult acne, or the fact that excessive dryness can actually lead to breakouts. Turns out aggressive drying treatments are kind of like crash diets: Not only don’t they work, they can often make the problem worse:
- Dry skin is irritated skin, which makes it more vulnerable to acne
- Dryness also leads to dead skin flakes, which can clog pores and lead to pimples
- Overwashing and over-exfoliation (looking at you, Buf Puf!) strips your skin of its natural oils, causing your dermis to produce even more oil
- People with adult acne are often coping with both breakouts and dryness as their skin changes with age, so “Dry out all of your natural oils” doesn’t solve their skin problems
Natural Acne Treatment: Why Oil Is Not Evil
Thankfully, in 2020 we take a more nuanced approach when it comes to how to get rid of acne. We know now that while certain types of oils can aggravate acne-prone skin, the right moisture can actually help rid you of acne.
While super-drying products like benzoyl peroxide can kick your sebum production into overdrive and lead to excessively oily skin (and more breakouts) properly selected moisture can actually slow down sebum production, reducing breakouts by bringing your sebum production back into balance.
Natural acne treatment doesn’t make oil the enemy: It means strengthening your skin barrier, calming inflammation, and balancing your skin’s natural oil production. Several plant compounds have shown positive effects in clearing acne, especially in adults and people with combination or sensitive skin. (We’ve included all three of these ingredients in the Frigg Attuning Face Potion for this reason.)
1. Tea tree oil
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Tea tree oil may be as effective as lotions containing 5 percent benzoyl peroxide [in treating acne], although tea tree oil might work more slowly.”
2. Meadowfoam oil
If you’re acne-prone, you need to make sure any oil you use is non-comedogenic (a.k.a. won't clog your pores). Meadowfoam seed oil fits that bill perfectly.
Because it’s similar in structure to the sebum naturally produced by our skin, it absorbs easily without leaving a greasy layer sitting on top of the skin. It contains Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and linoleic acid, which promotes cellular regeneration and turnover and may improve both the look and feel of skin. Through non-comedogenic moisture, meadowfoam oil may fight acne by signaling the body not to produce excess sebum.
CBD is obviously the it-girl new ingredient, found in everything from pain creams to bone broth (ew). But CBD’s appearance in skin care products is based in science, not hot ingredient trends. Studies show CBD can have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin—and acne is essentially an inflammatory disease. It makes sense that some patients with inflammatory skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema have found CBD helpful in managing their symptoms.
A 2014 study concluded that “due to the combined lipostatic, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects, CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris.” (For an even deeper dive on cannabinoids and how they can support skin and hair health, check out our post “The Recently Discovered Bodily System That Supports Healthy Skin and Hair”).
Everyone’s skin is different, and treating acne takes time as well as an individualized approach. But many have found natural acne treatment can actually bring skin back into balance, without depleting it of its natural oils. Plant compounds like CBD show amazing promise in terms of skin care and the treatment of skin diseases. Science is now demonstrating what we’ve always intuited: Plants are good for you—and good for your skin.
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Wanna learn more about stress, skin + hair health and plant-based beauty solutions? We got you!
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