Skincare products that fight acne without tons of synthetic ingredients

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By: JamieCC BY 2.0
To all those beautiful offbeat girlies that have perfect skin… I am a 26-year-old and still have acne. I recently went off my birth control pills in order to make some off-kilter spawn and now my skin looks like I have the plague! My skin was pretty good on the pill, but now that I’m off, these painful little bastards are seriously putting a cramp in my style.

I have used every over-the-counter wash, cream, and goo on the market and nothing seems to be working. I wash my pillow case, wipe down my phone compulsively, and try not to touch my face with dirty hands. My diet is very good and I get plenty of exercise and water. As the hubs and I work on making puppies, I am more concerned about the synthetic chemicals I’m putting on my face and was wondering if anyone has found a natural or less irritating way to kill the dreaded acne cooties. I’ve got my foot out the door to the dermatologist, but before I go… Help! And thank you.


You can go ahead and say it: acne sucks. It especially sucks as an adult, when you’re all “Shouldn’t I already be past this shit?!” My skin has never been the most stellar on its own, but after being prescribed Tazorac when I was twenty, I had it under control. Fast-forward a few years to twenty-three, when I got pregnant. It turns out using Tazorac while pregnant is a BIG no-no, so I was suddenly stranded without my favorite skincare treatment.

I worked out some new routines, which I’ll share with you here. First and foremost, let me say this: talk to your healthcare provider or someone you trust about what will and won’t work for you. I am by no means an expert — these are just the things that yielded the most positive results for me.

First, I’ll say this: Don’t scrub it. Don’t exfoliate, because your skin will most likely be too delicate to handle it.

Now, let’s talk about some stuff that might help: After many a late-night internet search for solutions, I discovered Moroccan Red Clay Powder. I was able to score a 6 oz. container at a local grocery store, but you can get it on Amazon as well. I won’t say that this completely rid my skin of acne, but it definitely made everything a lot better; if anything, I felt like my face was much cleaner after using it.

Another potential anti-acne aid is an oatmeal scrub. They’re way gentler than most chemical-based stuff you’ll find, and you can make your own pretty easily — you just need oatmeal and water. Another route would be to mix a tablespoon of honey and enough warm water to make a paste. You can use it as an exfoliant or lay gauze over your face and put the mixture on top of the gauze. Leave it on for fifteen minutes, and lift the gauze to remove. The oatmeal mixture will leave behind a milky liquid on your skin, and you simply rub that into your skin for hydration.

Also, take a second peek at your diet. Caffeine, dairy, cooked fats, and meat are all linked to acne. This doesn’t mean too much, since many a water-drinking vegetarian also contends with this facial curse. Foods that have been shown to help include avocado, mango, olives, garlic, and berries.

Alright, Homies. We all have our skincare regimes, and we want to hear about your more facial cleansers, goops, and secret acne treatment methods that are more on the natural end of the spectrum. Share your tips and links in the comments!

Comments on Skincare products that fight acne without tons of synthetic ingredients

  1. LUSH. A thousand times LUSH. They are always super friendly and if there is a store near you the will give you samples of what they think will work for you, and if it doesn’t, they will send you home with something else. Also their stuff lasts cause you only need a bit. I love them.

    • YES. LUSH.

      I love them. I’m the only person I know who has managed to be allergic to hypo-allergenic products, but with Lush stuff I don’t ever have to worry. It’s so nice.

      • Thirded LUSH. I love that they’ll help you pick out products and with package up samples for you to try before investing in a bunch of stuff. I swear by their Greased Lightening. It reduces any kind of irritation in my skin, including acne and it doesn’t dry the surrounding area out. LOVE IT.

  2. I converted to extra-virgin coconut oil just about 2 months ago and found that’s it’s actually been pretty great about keeping my skin clear. I generally just apply after showering all over.

  3. My skin hates me and likes to be oily, yet dry at the same time. Thanks skin, I really appreciate it bro. I have found that the Body Shop’s tea tree oil line is super helpful. I wash every day with the face wash, and then when I need a touch up or am having an oily day I use the toner. I also keep the blotting papers with me when I’m travelling, but got them on sale and can’t say they work any better than any other ones. I am also trying the night cream now that wedding season (friend’s not mine) has passed. The bonus is that there are often sales at the body shop like, buy one get one free (or 2, or 3), or 50% off face stuff, and I am a member of their love your body club so get 10$ off coupons mailed sporadically, which really brings down the price to one I am happier paying. Plus the smell is really invigorating in the morning!

  4. Re: Moroccan Red Clay. You know, I could have sworn my mother told me she used to use some kind of clay in her hair as a shampoo when she was a kid (she’s from the Middle East). Maybe that’s an alternative use for that clay powder mentioned in Stephanie’s response.

  5. I’ve had really horrific “bacne” (involving my entire trunk) since I was twelve, now going on 25. We were always too poor to do anything about it, though, so I just covered up. I got on some antibiotics last summer after it got really terrible (I was working in an industrial kitchen, and I’m allergic to just about everything in that kitchen. The constant exposure to allergens turned me into a giant walking pimple, basically, even on my face, which rarely breaks out!).

    The antibiotics worked a miracle, and I had clear skin for the first time in over a decade. However, I had to get off them a few months later for job reasons, and the acne came back in a month or two.

    For me, it’s linked to my food allergies, as well to my thyroid/adrenal/GI tract conditions. For the first time, though, I’ve got it under control naturally– I use colloidal silver gel on my skin after every shower, and usually every night before bed. In addition to that, I’ve noticed that since I’ve started a once-weekly enema to clear out my colon, those toxins are getting flushed out rather than being trapped in my gut and coming out as pimples. I can actually count the few remaining super-stubborn eruptions (which are drying out!) on a hand and a half. It was a gradual process with the silver, taking a few months to effect a dramatic change, but it’s amazing. Just amazing.

    Acne comes from the inside out, is what I’ve heard/read. Definitely true in my case!

  6. I have pretty severe cystic acne, and was on some pretty severe oral and topical prescriptions for it. It helped clear it up, but once it was clear, it was too harsh. Now, I find that plain Cetaphil or Cerave are the best drug store buys.
    Also, nothing causes a worse flare up than alcohol. Caffeine, etc. are all known triggers, but everyone forgets how alcohol can do the same. I think I am more susceptible than most, but everything in moderation!(Think of those girls in your dorm that were drunk 15 hours a day 7 days a week–their complexions were always awful.)

    • I just want to second the suggestion of Crunchy Betty. I have her ebook “food on your face for acne” and it’s awesome! Tons of recipes for scrubs, masks, steams and washes made with everyday products and info about how they work. I have had moderate acne my whole life (I’m 28 now) and it has never been less troublesome then since I started washing my face with only honey daily as per Crunchy Betty’s recommendation. What’s more, my husband and I both look forward to face washing time more every day!

  7. I have been trying to fix it from the inside out. Excess oil production, hormone disregulation, and inflammation can be helped with dietary changes. It isn’t a quick fix by any means, but I feel like I’m getting at the root of the problem–at least for me. Here’s what I think has been helpful for me (n=1, of course): 1) Really focusing on nutrient-dense, whole foods (so, pretty much nothing in a box or can), 2) Cutting waaaay back on grains and dairy, 3) Really cutting back on sugar, 4) Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil (expensive and nasty tasting, this stuff has had a more dramatic impact on the texture of my skin than Tazorac or Retin-A ever did).

  8. I’m 33 and have tried every product on the market and still have the cursed acne. I’ll fully admit that I’m a picker. I pick at my skin and I know it’s the worst but I can’t stop.
    Having said that, the only time my skin is beautiful is when I go for regular facials (about every 5-6 weeks). It can get costly, but really, they use natural products, and having professional extractions done is so much gentler than me picking and poking my skin. I’ve tried a few different places and found one I like and will stick with. For me, the professional extractions and natural products make all the difference in the world.

  9. I’m going to agree with the Oil Cleansing Method! My skin has gotten so much better in the past few months that I’ve been doing it.

    I have to disagree about exfoliating–my skin has a lot of trouble sloughing off on its own, and that dead skin always contributes to my acne. I exfoliate with Burt’s Bees every morning and use the oil cleansing method every night. As long as I’m consistent with my routine, my skin is soft, dewy, and way better at dealing with these Ohio winters.

    It takes some time to find the oil combo that works for you (olive oil and jojoba oil dry out my skin, I finally found a happy mix with grapeseed and the base cleanser, castor oil), but it’s totally worth it.

    Additionally, if you use cosmetics, I’d encourage you to look into less processed cosmetics. I’ve been using stuff from Madison Street Beauty ( for a year now and I just can’t say enough about how awesome their products are. My skin cleared up after I started using them (this was before I started oil cleansing), and it’s high-quality product that’s all natural and I think vegan. And it’s reasonably priced! I seriously can’t say enough about how awesome their stuff is.

  10. Well for a while I used apple cider vinegar to help cleanse and dry out certain spots just before bed. It worked fairly well but not I just use it for spot control since the smell really gets to me. Another good one is Tea tree oil or green tea (I like dipping some cheesecloth into the green tea and then just putting it over my face for a little while- the warmth of the just made tea helps open up pores and the green tea I do believe helps clear up bacteria.

    😛 I’ll be honest- I switched to Mary Kay face wash for normal to oily skin and omg my skin is looking AMAZING from it. Since my skin tends to switch I also have the normal to dry washes and I like those too. I know it’s probably not at chemical free as wanted but It’s what has made my troublesome skin to be FINALLY break-out free.

    Hmmm I agree though on staying away from MOST scrubs to quote a smart woman- “What I have read is that large, rough granules in some scrubs (mainly the cheaper ones) can tear at and rip the edges of the pores. The resulting effect is larger, uneven pores. If you look at some of the cheap scrubs (like St. Ives Apricot Scrub) under a microscope you will see that the little beads have jagged, pointy edges…instead of a nice, smooth surface. It seems quite possible to me that these pointy beads may indeed be doing a number on delicate pores.”

    Now another thing is diet.(I know it was said that they have a good diet but I’m going to put it down anyhow.) There are five “food types” that you should avoid or reeeeeeally cut down on eating for healthier skin; number one on that list is Caffeine, after that is Alcohol, beef and pork, pasta, and any large amount of sugar (I’m not saying sugar in general but anything with a high amount of sugar in it.)

    Hmmm some other facial remedies that Said wise woman has are-
    Mayonnaise mask- for dry skin. Apply mayonnaise (the whole egg kind) directly onto your face for about 20 minutes. Rinse well.
    Tomato mask- for oily skin. Mash up a ripe tomato and apply to skin. Leave on for 15- 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
    Banana mask- to moisturize and keep skin firm. Mash up a very ripe banana. Add a little bit of honey creating a soft pulp. Apply over face and even hair. Leave on for 20+ minutes and wipe and rinse. This is an age-old firming technique, if you were “blessed” with larger breast you can use it on your chest to make your boobs perky. I haven’t tried it, mine would kill someone if they got any perkier. If you try it, e-mail me and let me know if it actually works.
    Honey mask- to soften and moisturize. Apply pure honey to face. Allow to settle until it dries (about 15 mins.) Rinse with very warm water.
    Pepto Bismol mask- for sensitive skin. It coats the stomach and it’ll do the same to your face leaving it soft and smooth. Apply it straight from the bottle with a cotton ball, dabbing it on your face. Allow to dry, then rinse with cool water.
    Chamomile Steam- steaming your face is a wonderful way to instantly moisturize skin. Boil a bag of Chamomile tea and then grab a towel. Hold the towel over your head (to keep the steam in) and hold your head about 12 inches from the pot. (f the steam is too intense, add distance)
    Exfoliating Mask- this is a good way to rid skin of dryness and flakes. Make this mild scrub by mixing 2 tbsp of plain yogurt, 1 tbsp oatmeal and 1 tbsp honey into a paste. Gently massage onto skin in a circular motion and rinse off.

    Soak a Q-tip in garlic juice and dab onto pimples. It helps to prevent on-coming breakouts and existing pimples.
    Take the red out of pimples by dabbing on some eye drops. They take the red out of pimples much like they tame the redness of eyes.
    To get rid of the white top of pimples, soak a cotton ball in warm salt water. Hold onto pimple for about 3-5 minutes until top is dissolved.
    Honey can draw out and rid skin of bacteria. Apply it onto a *blemish* to deep clean it. Leave on for about 10 minutes and rinse it off.
    For quick pimple solution, lick your finger and apply it to your blemish. Saliva is a powerful antiseptic.
    You can take the puffiness and redness out of pimples by holding ice to the blemish. Put the ice in a plastic baggie and hold to the blemish for about 5 minutes.

    Most of these I’ve tried and found them to be true personally. 🙂 I hope this helped a little.

    • oh I forgot to add- sometimes when my skin is SUUUUPER oily (it happens to me once a month is you know what I mean.) aside from other methods mentioned I also have a small spray bottle of lemon juice (real stuff- usually fresh) mixed with water and I spritz it on my face after washing. <3 I love it cause it smells super good too.

      • oh I just read another one- Cut grapes in half and rub over the face for a natural facial cleanser. That’s interesting…. think maybe I’ll have to try that sometime.

  11. I’m in my late 30s, and facing the wonderful how to treat both acne and wrinkles problem. I have combination skin that is also super sensitive to chemicals. I’ve really had good results with African black soap. It cleans and moisturizes my face without leaving it oily and gross or too squeaky clean and irritated, and since I have been using it I have had much fewer breakouts. It is good for keratosis pilaris too. And it smells wonderful, on top of everything. Health food stores and African American hair stores should sell it, but I’ve found the best stuff (at least here) at the local flea market. A little African woman sells it wrapped in saran wrap, the real stuff straight from Africa; it looks like a delicious brownie all soft and slightly crumbly.

    Other than black soap, I use witch hazel with lavender oil in it, which tones and shrinks pores without being super harsh. Lavender is antibacterial and smells nice. And it seems to work best if you don’t over-clense your face, at least for me. I wash my face with black soap in the shower, then tone with the witch hazel once I’m out. At night, I just use plain hot water and a soft cloth unless I’ve been especially grimy that day. It works as well as anything I’ve tried.

  12. I’ll be honest that I am not worried about how natural a product it – really I just wanted it fixed. I’ve tried at least 20 products with no results until I tried the Burt’s Bees 3 step acne stuff. Typically I only use step 1 now but it really helped clean my face up. My acne is also hormonal but since I’ve been on the same stuff for 4 years I’ve had to find something that worked.

  13. I’m 27 and still have acne. A few months ago, I switched to drinking only organic milk (which lacks hormones) and my acne basically went away overnight. If I have a serving of non-organic cheese, I can basically expect a breakout in the next couple of days.

  14. I am really enjoying reading everyone’s tips. I have been dealing with acne since I hit puberty and recently it has gotten much worse. So I am looking at all my options to see what I can change to hopefully make it better.

  15. Switching to all natural skincare and mineral makeup products has made a huge difference to my skin and hair.
    Research is also a big part of it. First, do research to figure out what type of skin you have – some people who get acne actually have dry skin, but because of the acne they think it’s oily so are treating it with the wrong types of products.
    For my combination skin, foaming facial cleansers are highly recommended. I switched to a supermarket brand foaming cleanser and my skin improved heaps. I then switched to Sukin Organics’ foaming cleanser, which is all natural, and I get almost no pimples. Add a natural moisturiser to balance out dryness and bam! suddenly my skin is happy and looks almost perfect!
    It’s all about finding what works best for you and your skin, everyone is different.
    Take samples or small sizes wherever possible before buying products. If I use something for two days in a row and don’t break out then I know I’m safe, so having a small sample to try allows me to make smarter purchases.

  16. Timely post. I’ve been breaking out like crazy lately (I’m 30! Whyyyy, skin??), and salicylic acid just made me crazy dry and didn’t get rid of the really deep, painful zits.

    Gross-alert: If you accidentally pop a zit, very gently squeeze it to get rid of the gunk, wash and dry, dab some anti-bacterial ointment on the spot and cover it with a band-aid. Works like a charm (especially if it happens right before bed).

  17. Since I moved to a high pollution area regular extraction has been key for me. I bought a cheapo one from amazon and wash and steam my face then gently go over all of it.

  18. I wipe my skin with extra virgin oil (any kind) then wash with honey and tone with cider vinegar. Worked a charm. Now I only use extra v oil because I have oily skin and it keeps my oil produ tion in check.

  19. Another vote for coconut oil. I am 31 and have had moderate acne for 20 %#@$ing years. I cleanse with Cetaphil, and just recently started to moisturize with a very, very light smear of coconut oil on all my trouble spots. This is the first time I have been zit free in ages.

  20. I have had problems with my skin since puberty began (I am now 32), but didn’t want to use chemicals while creating my own spawn. I had heard such good things about oatmeal that when I starting breaking out terribly during pregnancy #2, I picked up a bar of oatmeal soap from Trader Joes. Currently, I use that, and their oil-free moisturizer, and my skin has never looked better. Of course, it could be another crazy hormone shift that caused the improvement, but I had terrible skin during my entire first pregnancy, and this time it’s been great for at least five months?

  21. Just a note about honey- beware if you are prone to yeast infections! You may have a yeast overgrowth in your body (very common due to birth control or multiple courses of anti-biotics), and the honey can cause intense breakouts because yeast feeds on sugar.

    I did a honey mask and broke out all over my face in the most painful acne I’ve ever had.

    I hope I can save others from the same fate…

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