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Natural Beauty: My Emergency Breakout Remedy

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Over the past few years you’ve heard me mope about my hormonal acne, then declare–triumphantly–that I’ve overcome breakouts (albeit with the caveat of fine lines…urgh). And yet, as I sit here writing this, I’m aware of a sort-of-unsettling red bump that’s been making a home on my chin for the past 4-5 days or so. This is the first one I’ve gotten in about six months. But am I freaking out? No–and here’s why:

There are a lot of factors that go into play when it comes to your skin. First, there are different types of breakouts and blemishes: the ones that happen around your T-zone, for instance, will be most manageable and heal quickly, especially if you find the right cleansing and exfoliating method (more on that later). In my experience, the ones on your cheeks and especially, your chin, are likely to be the most dread kind of them all: cystic acne. This is the kind of acne that feels hard and inflamed underneath the skin, without a visible pore. It feels painful, looks red and is much harder to cover up than the “good” kind of acne.

Generally, the easier, T-zone acne is due to oil imbalance or puberty (especially on your forehead). Being more diligent about your skin regimen, particularly after working out, will make a big difference here. But cystic acne has more to do with your stress levels and monthly cycle, and so it is less predictable. The biggest step to dealing with cystic acne is basically taking a deeeep breath, knowing it’s not your fault and not stressing out about it. As for me, I’ve had stress coming out of my ears this month (and then onto next…) so it’s not surprising that this zit decided to make an appearance. Whateva.

Plus, I’ve gotten a system down for dealing with a situation like this. I don’t think there is any magic emergency breakout remedy that makes cystic acne go away in a few hours (if you know, please share in the comments 😀 ). But these steps reduce discomfort and make it go away within a few days, without leaving any scar.

Natural Beauty: On Dealing with a Breakout Emergency

1. When you first feel it, cleanse the area.

I cleanse with water and my regular cleanser, Earth Science Creamy Fruit Oil Cleanser. Often, the instinct is to “dry out” a cystic acne with oil-free, astringent cleansers. But this is not the time and place to follow your gut. 🙂 A gentle cleanser containing fruit oils will soothe, rather than inflame, an already-sensitive area.

2. Apply peppermint essential oil as spot treatment.

The “best” spot treatment I’ve used before switching over to gentler, more natural beauty products was Murad Acne Spot Fast Fix. While this products is formulated without parabens, phthalates, and sulfates, its active ingredient is benzoyl peroxide–not exactly the stuff your dinner is made of. I would have been fine with that, if it really healed my acne. But this kind of harsh drying-out was actually just peeling and inflaming the blemish even more. Nowadays I use just a few drops of peppermint essential oil as spot treatment, in the morning before putting on makeup and at night after cleansing. Peppermint is anti-inflammatory and cooling, so you’ll immediately notice that the breakout calm and reduce in size. It will also reduce the pain so you’ll be less tempted to touch or pick at your skin. I’ve also heard great things about tea tree oil and lavender oil as spot treatments. If you’ve tried them, let me know!

3. Conceal with makeup primer and concealer.

Once the oil dries, I use a makeup primer (I like Tarte CC Amazonian Clay makeup primer) lightly all over my face to even out the base. This reduces the redness so that the concealer application doesn’t come out looking darker than normal. I then use a BB cream as usual, then dab a bit of concealer (I use Tarte Amazonian Clay concealer) just on top of the blemish. If desired, finish with a bit of loose powder to seal in the concealer.

4. Use gentle daily peel.

Proper cleansing is a must especially when you’re dealing with a breakout. After cleansing, I use a toner to balance my pH, then I dab a bit of fruit-acid-based peel (like Ole Henriksen Invigorating Night Gel). This peel doesn’t dry out so much as gently remove the dead layer of skin so that it promotes new cell generation, and prevent the clogging of pores. Afterwards, I mix a bit of peppermint oil (to cool) and rose hip oil (to heal) on top of my hand and dab it onto the blemish.

This routine immediately shrinks the blemish so that it heals itself in a few days, with minimal discomfort. And the best part is that you won’t be left with any scars or darkened skin!

Last but not least, I’ve found that 2x a week clay mask (I use Kaeng Raeng Charcoal Clay Mask) and using the daily peel gel keeps hormonal acne in check almost all the time. But when prevention doesn’t work, this emergency system works quite well. 🙂

Now your turn–what’s your system for dealing with a breakout emergency? 

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Also see: Treating Adult Acne

How to Practice Skin Cycling

My Journey to Glowing Skin- Update

I Tried It: Using Micro Needling for Acne Scars

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Photo: Peaceful Dumpling

Juhea Kim
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Juhea now lives in NYC with her Oreo cookie cat, Zeus. When she is not writing, she enjoys running in Central Park, yoga, and teaching Barre classes. Follow Juhea on Instagram @peacefuldumpling, Google+ and Pinterest.
  • OhHowNovel

    I’ve used Tea Tree Oil pretty regularly throughout my life for everything from burns to serious acne breakouts — both regular comedones and cystic acne. The problem with Tea Tree Oil is that it can be severely drying, so it has to be used in moderation. It also should be diluted to less than 15%, else the whole dryness situation is worsened and it can cause redness and irritation that makes the whole situation worse — dry skin and a chemical-burn-like rash just make you pick at your acne more! One thing to remember is that Tea Tree Oil is not really something you want to put onto an open/bleeding/oozing wound; it can cause temporary immunity to the antibacterial properties, heightened redness and minor allergic reactions. If you have an open wound, it’s best to use something like witch hazel to soothe the skin and allow the wound to close/scab over a bit before applying the Tea Tree Oil. Facial scrubs/exfoliants that have Teat Tree Oil in them already can be very good to use a couple of times a week — so can masques or peels which contain it. Again, though, because Tea Tree Oil can be very drying, it should be used sparingly. Once the oil soaks into your skin, be sure to apply a moisturizer to counteract some of the drying side effects. Failure to do so will just cause more irritation.

    Something else I’ve found can work minor miracles is liquid Zinc. However, this is EXTREMELY drying and should only be done if you’ve got a few days for your skin to ‘calm back down’ before you have an event. My cystic acne can get so bad that I look as though a small marble has been surgically implanted under my skin, so I use this option when the cyst is so bad that I need a serious emergency treatment.

    The most important thing to remember when looking for emergency acne treatments is that you should NEVER combine the usage of essential oils and prescribed acne medication without first talking to your dermatologist. Some of the chemicals used in prescription medications can interact very badly to some of these oils and you can end up with permanent scarring or discoloration if you mix them. You also may need to talk to your doctor about the type of makeup/cleanser you are intending to use because some breakouts can be a direct result of mixing incompatible chemcials/solutions onto your skin. Even ‘all natural’ things should not be combined without talking to your doctor. Just because something is homeopathic/all natural does not mean that it is automatically safe. Some plants/oils can be toxic when combined with others; so it’s best not to make assumptions.

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