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10 natural ways to deal with acne that really work

hiding acne

(Photo Credit: Catherine Parkinson, Seecreatures.com)

It’s easy to feel like you don’t have control over your breakouts. But the fact is, you do in most cases, says Mandy Epley, a master clinical facialist at Jillian Wright Clinical Skin Spa in New York, who specializes in converting challenging skin into glowing complexions.

Acne is a “tremendously embarrassing and burdensome problem” for about half of the women who book time in her Midtown treatment room. “Many attribute their acne to oily skin, food allergies, or say it’s hereditary. But none of these are absolutes,” says Epley. “Sometimes, all your body needs is the right nutritional balance and proper skin care.”

So what works? “Natural remedies can be just as effective as prescribed topical products. Possibly more powerful,” says Epley. She sees a lot of frustrated women fresh from the dermatologist with “dry, irritated, usually red, and sensitive skin.” In most cases, they just need to know more about how to use their prescriptions properly—and use way too much, she says. And they’re missing a few extra tips on what they can do in the day-to-day to try to reduce their acne.

To that end, Epley offers some easy things you can start doing today that help heal acne. (Naturally, she’s a fan of getting monthly facials to help clear and calm your skin.) And good news: You should notice a difference in your skin in about four weeks, she says. Here’s how:

facialist Mandy Epley

Clinical facialist Mandy Epley

1. Scale back on your prescriptions for acne. If you’re using prescription topical products, try using them every other day to avoid excess drying. The alternate days, use a very gentle cleanser (Epley likes Bioelements All Things Pure Cleanser) and a moisturizer for your skin type. This will help balance the skin.

2. Use an exfoliating mask. If you have moderate to severe acne, do not use a Clarisonic or any facial scrub. This can irritate inflamed acne and spread bacteria. Instead, use an exfoliating mask that doesn’t abrade the skin as it sloughs dead skin cells and helps purge pores. Dr. Alkaitis Organic Exfoliating Enzyme Mask can do the trick.

3. Eat more carrots. Vitamin A strengthens the protective tissue of the skin and actually prevents acne. It helps reduce sebum production, too.

4. Limit your dairy intake. Too much dairy can cause oil glands to kick into high gear, studies show.

5. Don’t touch the face or pick. People know not to do this, says Epley, but some may not even realize they’re doing it. If you sit in front of a computer most hours of your work days, try putting a post-it note on the side of your screen saying “Do not touch face!”

6. Add turmeric to your diet. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties that may reduce redness and inflammation of acne. It’s a good reason to order Indian food the next time you go out, or try adding this spice to your eggs or stir-fry at home, she says.

7. Cut out sugar. Limit it to once a week. Fruit is okay, but try to stick to melons and berries. Sugar is a huge culprit because it spikes your insulin, which in turn revs your hormones and the adrenal glands. So keep the sugar to one day a week and don’t eat much of it.

8. Exercise! Sweat detoxifies the skin. Plus, studies find that those who work out at least 3 days a week are more likely to choose healthier foods, she says.

9. Consider nutritional supplements. Acne can be a sign that something is nutritionally off in your diet, says Epley. Your skin depends on nutrition, and if your body isn’t receiving it, acne can result. Antioxidants like resveratrol, anti-inflammatories like omega fatty acids, and a good multivitamin can help. (You might want to check out our 7 rules for taking supplements.)

10. Clean up! Wipe your cell phone, glasses, sunglasses, keyboards, with a device-friendly anti-bacterial wipe, and launder your pillowcases weekly. It can’t hurt. —Melisse Gelula

For more information, visit www.jillianwrightclinicalskinspa.com

Did we forget a natural breakout remedy that worked for you? Tell us in the Comments, below!

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12 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. September 19th, 2012 at 11:01 am

    These are all really great tips. But, for some women, even after they’ve done all of these, the issue is deeper rooted in their hormonal balance, particularly if they experience ongoing cystic acne. If that’s the case, they should visit a doctor or a naturopath to discuss medications or solutions to balancing hormones. This was a life-changer for me.

  2. September 20th, 2012 at 8:24 am

    good article. thank you for sharing.

  3. September 21st, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Hello, the image used above is my photograph. Please credit the image directly below (in the caption) with a link to See Creatures (http://www.seecreatures.com) or remove it from the article. Thanks!

  4. September 23rd, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Don’t forget to cut oily seeds and chocolate! Some people can get acne from eating them really fast!

  5. September 25th, 2012 at 2:20 am

    I would also add taking your Omega 3s, enzymes and getting checked out for parasites and skin fungus. There is usually more going on beneath the surface than clogged pores and bacteria. Also opt for cosmetics that don’t contain chemicals. A mixture of jojoba oil with teatree oil is great for treating acne. Be sure to dillute the teatree oil because it’s very potent. It should never be ingested.

  6. September 25th, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Food intolerances also cause acne. They often lead to what’s called a leaky gut, meaning that they cause a degeneration of your intestines that allows toxins to enter your body, in which case they’re elminated through your skin. Also get your elmination organs checked out. The skin is the last resort for eliminating toxins, so when other elimination organs aren’t working well, the skin picks up tha slack. That’s why it’s also important to limit your exposure to toxins which are found in our environment, food, water and personal care products.

  7. September 25th, 2012 at 2:28 am

    I forgot to mention that yeast also leads to acne. That’s why it’s important to lay off the sugar and dairy which stimulates mucous. I highly recommend doing a yeast cleanse and a heavy metal detox.

  8. January 16th, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    The dairy tip is so true. When I cut back on dairy my skin is super clear!

  9. February 26th, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Have yourself checked for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). And avoid other “white” carbohydrates in addition to sugar–bread, pasta, white rice, etc.–especially those that are refined.

  10. March 7th, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I have PCOS. In addition to observing a great many of the very on target tips above, I stopped drinking coffee and when I did, my cystic acne virtually disappeared. I drink green tea, which has some but not as much caffeine. And occasionally (like once or twice per MONTH) I still enjoy a cup of really good coffee. But it’s like clockwork: if I start drinking it every day, within a week, my little bumps starts to make a come back. It’s worth a try if you are dealing with acne.

  11. March 28th, 2013 at 12:38 am

    This is something I used to tacklemy acne externally, first of all do not use alcohol and water astrigent, instead I used soap like Neutrogena clear pore oil Controlling astrigent, or something I found even better I applied an all natural mask made of bentonitre or egg whites. Believe it cause it works.

  12. April 4th, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    In my opinion and experience, Chelsea is absolutely right. Dairy is a real problem if you’re an acne sufferer. Cut out milk, yoghurt, milk-based products e.g. potted rice etc., and cut right back on cheese, i.e. 200g once a month and no more. Switch to soya products and take a mineral supplement if worried about calcium intake. After 40 years of suffering this debilitating condition, a simple dietary change stopped my acne completely within 3 months. All other efforts, including every imaginable skin product and some really heavy medication throughout my teens and beyond failed dismally. Ditch dairy and watch the astonishing results emerge. I only wish I’d had this same advice 45 years ago.

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