Adult acne is pretty common, and it’s pretty annoying (at best). Depending on the day, my skin ranges from moderately broken-out to mostly clear—but this wasn’t always the case. Before I learned the following beauty secrets, it ranged from severely broken-out to I can’t even…
It’s my personal belief that acne is one of the great mysteries of the universe. Even when we narrow down its likely main causes, there always seems to be more going on. And sometimes it’s just hard to manage the known causes—like hormones!—especially when we’re trying to go a mostly natural route. The following tips, however, have proved to me that something can be done, and my best bet is to practice them and keep educating myself.
Main takeaway: Acne is best treated holistically—through food, exercise, and gentle products.
Nutrition. Some people can live on dairy and sweets and never have to worry about breakouts, which has led some dermatologists and beauty experts to conclude that while you probably should go easy on those things, they aren’t the cause of acne. Unfortunately this blanket assumption may lead some of us down the wrong path. It was only when I looked at my diet that my skin improved without the use of prescription medication.
While dairy and sugar are often the main culprits behind hormonal acne, the situation is likely more complex for each of us. Eating a whole foods, vegan diet rich in leafy greens and cleansing foods (such as lemon and ginger) helps me feel and look my best. Since it’s incredibly supportive of every bodily function (not just skin!), a simple, plant-based diet may be the best place to start.
Exercise. It doesn’t matter what you do, just move! The important thing is to boost your circulation (no intense panting required). Healthy blood flow promotes faster healing, efficient elimination, and more balanced hormones—all of which are necessary for gorgeous skin. Just be careful not to over exercise—repeatedly overdoing it on the treadmill taxes the adrenals, which allow our bodies to properly cope with all sources of stress—not just the physical kind. When our bodies are better able to manage stress, we’re more likely to have a healthier immune and endocrine systems.
I exercise more when I enjoy it. I alternate between yoga, ballet, walking, and running. We’ve got plenty of fitness tutorials to inspire!
Green your beauty bag. By avoiding most conventional beauty products and opting for more natural alternatives, you’re not only saving yourself from unhealthy chemicals, you’re also exposing yourself to more complete ingredients. Common synthetic ingredients are often highly manipulated elements of something that was once whole. When ingredients are isolated this way, they have the potential to become harmful in a way that their whole form wasn’t (the same applies to processed food). By using products with only minimally processed ingredients, you’re getting a more complete benefit. For example, anti-aging retinol creams contain a derivative of vitamin A. Rosehip seed oil, is rich in Vitamin A naturally –but it also offers additional antioxidants and serves as an emollient—and it’s just one ingredient.
The benefits of a green beauty bag don’t stop there. Natural products don’t contain hormone disrupting parabens and phthalates. They’re also usually richer in non-synthetic antioxidants. (And antioxidants aren’t just anti-wrinkle. Since they’re anti-inflammatory, they target, well, inflammation, which can manifest as fine lines and acne.) Finally, most progressive natural companies don’t test on animals and offer more vegan options.
Embrace (some) oils. Oddly, many oils don’t actually clog pores! Naturals oils can help balance an oily complexion, soothe sensitive skin, and bring radiance to dry, aging skin. Jojoba (technically a wax), olive oil, argan oil, coconut oil, rosehip seed oil, and almond oil are all great oils that can benefit any skin type. Look for the organic and cold-pressed variety. My skin tends to be a bit dry and sometimes sensitive—argan and rosehip seed oil would be my dessert island skin products. Argan is especially good for helping heal and diminish acne wounds while rosehip seed oil prompts faster cell turnover.
Be aware: mineral oil (found in baby oil and most conventional lotions) can wreak havoc on skin. Also, be careful with essential oils. While jasmine and frankincense (among several others) are safe for topical use, other essential oils can be skin irritants. Please research any oil before purchasing it.
Target your beauty regimen. Most of the above advice focuses on general health as it relates to acne. This last bit is just about topically targeting problem skin.
o Clay masks. Do them. 1-2x per week is best. Clay extracts impurities, leaving skin clearer and more ready to absorb additional topical treatments. You can mix your own mask with bentonite clay (available in most health food stores), coconut oil, and filtered water. Apply to damp, freshly cleansed skin and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes. Gently rinse off with warm water and wash cloth. Apply toner, serum and moisturizer.
o Toner. An all-natural toner will help restore your skin’s acid mantle. Most cleanser is alkaline, and the idea behind a good, pH-balancing toner is to return the skin to its natural state pre-cleanse—without all of the grime you just washed away, of course. Skin’s acid mantle acts as a barrier to bacteria and other contaminants.
o Cleanse with oil. Remember how oil can balance oil production? It can also help rid your skin of excess sebum. Here’s how to cleanse with oil.
o Spot treatments. Natural products containing tea tree oil, lavender, and witch hazel are ideal for acneic skin. Try them as spot treatments before applying all over your face, just in case they turn out to be a bit strong.
o Something with vitamin A. Whether you’re a retinol devotee or looking for something more natural (like rosehip seed oil), a product with vitamin A will help promote faster cell turnover, and over time, thicken skin, which helps skin resist permanent scarring while shortening the lifespan of temporary acne marks.
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Photos: Mary Hood