Almost everyone has experienced an acne breakout at some point in their lives.
Up to 50 million Americans are affected by acne every year, and that number includes both teenagers and adults.
Acne can manifest as anything a few stray pimples to a smattering of blackheads to nasty, chronic acne that requires dermatological attention.
Causes of acne
Acne is usually caused by some combination of the following contributing factors:
- Excess oil production on the skin’s surface, particularly on the face
- Dead skin cells which have not been exfoliated and removed
- Production of harmful bacteria
- Clogged pores, often as a result of the above factors
In the presence of one or more of these contributing factors, the hair follicles in your skin can become clogged with the excess oils and dead skin cells.
These follicles are connected to the glands that generate your skin oils; when the follicles become clogged, these oils get trapped beneath your skin and cause acne breakouts.
Types of acne
The most common types of acne are blackheads and whiteheads.
These instances typically do not result in pain or swelling and, while they do flare up easily in acne-prone complexions, they can often be addressed through topical treatment and regular exfoliation.
Both blackheads and whiteheads result when one of your pores or hair follicles gets blocked up by dead skin cells and oils.
If the pore remains open to the air, the blockage discolors to the dark color that is easily recognized as a blackhead.
If the pore closes up from the blockage, then the blockage forms a whitehead, which appears as a small, white bump on the skin.
If your acne becomes infected by bacteria, then it can become red and swollen – these types of acne are, as a group, referred to as inflammatory acne.
Unlike the simpler onset of surface acne (blackheads and whiteheads), the infections that cause inflammatory acne are frequently housed deep within the skin, which makes it much more difficult to treat.
There are several types of inflammatory acne, each with its own telltale indicators.
Papules are red, hard, raised bumps on the skin that are tender to the touch, and occur when the walls surrounding your pores are afflicted by severe levels of inflammation.
Pustules are very similar to papules, and stem from the same causes, but are filled with pus that is usually visible at the top of the pustule.
Nodules and cysts are more serious variants of inflammatory acne. These types of breakouts occur when clogged pores cause so much irritation that the pore swells in size beneath the skin’s surface. Both are caused by severe clogging of either pores or hair follicles, but cysts are frequently caused by severe infections and are painful to the touch.
If not properly treated, cysts can actually cause permanent scarring. Though visibly noticeable, nodules and cysts reside so deep beneath the skin that dermatologists often recommend prescription medications as opposed to topical treatments.
Factors that increase breakouts
Acne can occur in even those teenagers and adults who follow a strict skincare regimen. This is because, in addition to the difficulty of eliminating our body’s natural causes of acne, our behaviors and lifestyle habits can increase the onset of breakouts.
- Your diet habits can affect your skin. For example, eating spicy foods can actually change the pH levels of your skin and trigger a breakout.Additionally, many people react to specific categories of food, such as dairy products or gluten, which in some cases can also impact your complexion.
- Skincare products and cosmetics containing heavy moisturizing components can clog up your pores. Even the hair products that you use in the shower can cause acne on your shoulders, chest, back, or hairline. Additionally, you should wash your makeup brushes regularly to avoid buildup of bacteria and skin oils.
- Smoking decreases your body’s production of the chemicals that keep your skin firm and elastic. This, in turn, can cause your pores to enlarge, providing a greater opportunity for them to be clogged by dead skin cells and bacteria.
- Stress stimulates the glands that produce your skin oils. Extended periods of stress and anxiety can lead to more breakouts.
- If you work out regularly, not showering immediately after you finish up at the gym can allow your sweat to settle in the with the oil and bacteria on your skin.
Even seemingly small actions, such as touching your face or wearing an oily sunscreen, can make it harder to prevent breakouts.
Blackheads and whiteheads, usually classified as “mild acne,” can frequently be treated using over-the-counter topical products.
In some cases, a mild soap may be sufficient.
Products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, such as medicated facial washes or creams, are commercially available from many skincare brands in low chemical concentrations.
If your acne is unaffected by either of these chemicals, a dermatologist can prescribe a product with a stronger dosage. In cases of severe acne, a doctor may even prescribe an oral antibiotic to treat infections deeper under the skin.
Sometimes dermatologists will recommend the use of multiple treatments simultaneously to avoid inadvertently developing bacteria that is immune to medications.
If this sounds like a hassle to you, or you don’t want to introduce a handful of foreign chemicals into your skincare regimen, you are not alone.
Chemical skin care products can help to clear up annoying breakouts, but they also come with their own set of headaches:
- Prescribed acne medication can take weeks to take effect
- Regularly using medicated skin care products can actually change the way that your skin naturally produces oils, which means that you could develop a long-term reliance on those products to maintain your complexion
- Acne prescriptions can be expensive and can induce unwanted side effects
- Using a product with a concentration that exceeds the sensitivity of your skin can actually cause MORE breakouts
- The chemicals may not have any effect at all
Luckily there are a wide variety of natural treatments for acne and blemishes that you can use to avoid introducing prescriptions and chemicals into your skincare regimen!
1. Use clary sage essential oil
The clary sage plant has been recognized for its medicinal properties for centuries.
Its benefits for vision health are well-known, but its abilities extend far beyond protection from vision loss. Clary sage can be used to relieve muscle spasms and cramps, stave off infections in open wounds, reduce the effects of hair loss, and decrease symptoms of menstrual discomfort.
These benefits are all captured in its essential oil, derived from the buds and leaves of the clary sage plant.
Clary sage essential oil contained a compound called linalyl acetate that assists with reducing acne breakouts in a number of ways. In addition to reducing general inflammation and skin irritation, this chemical also helps to regulate your skin’s oil production and keep your hormones in balance.
This multi-purpose oil can also reduce bacterial growth and, when used aromatically, can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety that could be undermining your skin care efforts!
Directions: Apply several drops of clary sage essential oil directly to the affected area (1-3 drops, depending on the extent of your breakout).
If you have sensitive skin, consider mixing 2-3 drops with coconut oil and applying as a balm instead.
If pervasive stress is spurring more prevalent breakouts, diffuse 2-3 drops of clary sage essential oil in a diffuser of your choice to reduce anxiety and promote a calmer mental state.
2. Save your green tea bags
Green tea has numerous properties that are beneficial to your health and is among one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
The antioxidants and nutrients contained in every cup of green tea can keep your mind sharp, help you to lose weight and age gracefully, and may even decrease cancer risk.
If you suffer from painful or intermittent acne flare ups, you can use green tea bags like a poultice to soothe your inflammation and blemishes.
Green tea has antibacterial properties that can fight off the bacteria that make your acne worse, and beneficial effects that can improve the quality of your skin and shrink your pores.
Drinking the glass of tea that you brewed can also help to manage anxiety and fight infections from the inside out.
- Brew a cup of green tea.
- When the tea is fully steeped, remove the tea bag and allow it to cool.
- Once cooled, apply the team bag directly your blemish and leave in place for 20-30 minutes.
- Drink the glass of tea to improve your body’s ability to fight the infection from within.
3. Apply juniper essential oil to the breakout
Juniper essential oil is used in many industries for a variety of purposes, from flavoring gin to making air fresheners. Its uses in medicinal and health pursuits are just as varied.
Juniper oil can be used to improve blood circulation, reduce excess gas, remove toxins from the blood stream, and even overcome feelings of dizziness and fatigue.
Further, juniper essential oil is a perfect fit for an all-natural skin care routine. It has antibacterial, detoxifying, and antimicrobial properties that enable it to both cleanse and fight infections.
In particular, its specific antibacterial properties make juniper berry oil a highly effective anti-acne solution.
Directions: Mix 2-3 drops of juniper essential oil with a carrier oil, such as avocado or coconut oil, and apply topically to visible blemishes.
4. Make a honey oatmeal mask
Honey is yet another substance with powerful antibacterial properties.
In fact, before antibiotics were developed, honey was frequently used to heal wounds of all types.
Honey is also a strong antiseptic, which means that it inhibits bacterial growth. It even accomplishes all of this while preserving the moisture in your skin, unlike medicated topical lotions that frequently dry out the skin surrounding your blemish.
Whole oats also contain anti-inflammatory properties and cleansing agents. Add a little bit of lemon juice, which has additional antibacterial properties as well as the ability to limit your face’s oil production, and you’ve got a honey oatmeal mask recipe designed for success!
- Grind 2 tablespoons of old fashioned oats into a fine powder.
- Add in half a tablespoon of lemon juice and two tablespoons of honey.
- Stir until well blended, and then apply directly to your face.
- Leave the mask on for 10-15 minutes, and then remove with cold water and a washcloth.
Before turning to medicated balms and chemical face washes to clear up your acne, try one of these natural home remedies instead. The results could amaze you!