Have you struggled with acne for years and feel like no matter what you do or no matter how much money you spend on acne treatments nothing ever works? Even the products with thousands of glowing reviews or that one routine your friend just swears cleared her up...that's a zip zilch zero for you.
I can relate because that was me. Even though my skin isn't perfect now (because no ones is), it's come a long way. I don't rely on makeup anymore and instead of breaking out being the constant thing, it's now a once in a while thing.
I'm finally at a place where I feel like I can give advice on acne treatments and I want to help because I know just how awful acne is for your confidence, mental state, and self-esteem. Seriously.
This post is about tips and acne treatments that have worked for me after I felt like I tried everything. Some of these may not be new for you, but I sincerely hope there is at least one good takeaway.
I want to start off with some encouragement. I totally 100% believe you can clear up (or mostly clear up) acne. Not cure it, mind you, because it's a life long effort and acne never truly goes away, but there's no reason why you should just have to accept that you're going to have bad acne every day for the rest of your life. I was getting to that point where I was done trying to clear it up and I was just going to accept it but oh boy, I'm so glad I didn't!
First, my acne journey
Even though my acne was not severe, I felt like I always had something. Very rarely did I have clear skin and it felt like I was always waking up to a new zit.
I went to dermatologists and though the products helped, they didn't always help for long and it was very expensive keeping up the prescriptions. Some were $200 and lasted only 1-2 months. YIKES! Did I try Proactive? Yep. Curology? Yep. Aztec healing clay and whatever else people claimed to cure acne? Yep, yep, yep!
I went looking for another option and this is when I dove into research and really dug into the cause of acne and realized my diet probably played a huge role in it. I totally flipped around my diet and lifestyle. Goodbye pasta, my favorite food. Goodbye creamer in coffee. Goodbye sugar, carbs, and dairy (for the most part). Hello working out, veggies, fruits, whole foods, and gallons of water.
Related: 13 Tips to a Healthy Lifestyle
Instead of using skincare products from the dermatologist, I went all-natural. Goodbye prescriptions. Instead, I washed my face with manuka honey, used tea tree oil for zits, moisturized with jojoba oil. I made my own skincare products.
Related: 3 DIY Natural Face Masks That Actually Work
This seemed to work and I remember feeling so happy. Weeks would go by without any new zits. I hacked the system! I found the cure!
Or so I thought...
Though I was finding some success in a healthy diet and a more natural approach, it all seemed to go away when I got pregnant for the first time. I eased up on all the strict healthy eating and working out. I still kept a pretty healthy pregnancy, but I had a whole other thing working against me: hormones.
When I was done being pregnant I was once again determined to figure out how to clear up my skin. I resumed the things that worked for me in the past. I worked out. I drank tons of water. I had little to no sugar and dairy. I ate salmon and brown rice. I had a spinach smoothie every morning.
Yet, it still wasn't working. Even though I was eating right and doing all the things you were "supposed" to do, I still wasn't getting clear skin. I was so frustrated. Every book and online article made it sound like all you had to do was eat right and wash your pillowcases and then you would have clear skin!
Because I was doing "all the right things" and it still wasn't working, I started to think that perhaps, pregnancy-related or not, something was wrong with my insides.
That's when I started digging into the cause of acne even more and realized there's one thing I didn't do.
I never tried to heal myself from the inside out.
Now, natural living and natural healing is not a new concept to me. It's something I try to (mostly) adopt in my family's current lifestyle and as you know, I was already eating right and tried using natural products on my face. But the thing is, acne is caused by inflammation that is happening inside your body and that is almost always from your gut. I think your diet is insanely powerful and sometimes the key, but it's not everything. Which brings me to my first and most important point.
Acne Treatments to Try if You Feel Like You've Tried Everything
A few disclaimers here:
I'm not a medical professional or expert. This post is based on my own personal experience with acne treatments and what has worked for me. Please do your own research and/or speak with a doctor before trying some of these tips.
Since this post is about things you probably haven't tried yet, I'm going to assume you've done your research and have already tried drinking tons of water, keeping your hands off your face (i.e, no picking), eating right, changing your pillowcases, cleansing your face twice a day, and not sleeping with makeup on. If you aren't doing all of those things yet however, then get on it! 😉
I went through the Natural Acne Clinic online program and I felt like it was the final step to getting my skin clear. This is not an ad and if you sign up for their program I will not get any affiliate compensation (so thank me by sharing this post instead!). Out of respect for them, I will not share their "trade secrets", but I am sharing some of my personal takeaways and what I've learned.
Now, back to the acne treatments!
1. Take natural supplements
If you are someone that struggles with acne no matter what and you've had a hunch that it could be something from your insides, follow that hunch because you are most likely right!
I had a hunch that my ever-present acne was caused by my gut and hormones and well, I was right. I always broke out on my cheeks and since taking these supplements/vitamins, it's a rare occurrence. Hallelujah!
Look into natural supplements to heal your gut, bowels, and regulate your hormones.
Unfortunately, the exact supplements that I took/take are not available to purchase without a membership from the program I did, but I'll list them anyway and why you need it as well. I don't want to play doctor and go prescribe you something similar that I never tried haha, so perhaps you can use the name and do your research to find something that works for you.
Bowel Rejuvenator & Vitalizer- this was a short-term supplement I took to heal my insides. You need something similar to start to heal your large intestine, specifically inflammation. Perhaps you're not "regular" and you already have bowel issues. Guess what? That plays into your acne.
Chaste Berry Vitex- for hormonal acne. Balances estrogen and progesterone in the body. Are you always breaking out on your neck and along your jaw and mouth? Do you always get zits before your time of the month?
Skin Clarity- a natural source of Vitamin A (a big key ingredient in staying clear) as well as other good for you ingredients. You may hear people sing the praises of Vitamin A (or a retinoid in a topical form). It really, really works. Beta Carotene is a natural source of this amazing Vitamin A. Not sure where beta carotene is from? Think carrots!
Additional supplements to consider:
Adrenal Stress Vitamins- Do you find yourself always dealing with stress acne? You need something to balance your adrenals! Stress increases androgen levels in females and therefore is an acne trigger.
Saw Palmetto- Though mostly used in men to balance testosterone hormones, women can use it too as a natural alternative to Spironolactone to reduce androgens. Higher androgen level=excess sebum=more oil=clogged skin=breakouts.
Probiotics- Of course, probiotics are probably no surprise to you. These vitamins/supplements are full of good bacteria that keep your insides working well and healthy.
Now, as far as what to take and when has a bit of science to it. You don't want to be harming your body or even canceling out some of what you're taking. Do your research and/or talk to a professional.
Don't skip over this first tip. It's key! If you've tried some of these and they're not working for you, it could be that your supplements have fillers and other ingredients that can actually make you break out more. More on ingredients that can break you out in tip #4 & #5. But usually, going the cheapest you can on vitamins/supplements never works.
2. Mix a natural + medicinal approach
I've found that the best way to clear skin is a mix of a natural and medicinal routine.
I tried all-natural and I tried all medicinal and it didn't work. I've had the best results with both.
Your skin needs benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to target surface bacteria and your body needs natural supplements to heal your body from the inside out.
Now you know what supplements you should try. So what does your skincare routine look like?
Here is a sample routine that I used in my dedicated months during the program to get clear. Now, I have been using and introducing other products (love this serum and moisturizer to name a few), but the routine is generally the same.
Cleanse- with a small amount of Benzoyl Peroxide (2.5%)
Ice- on any inflamed spots
Tone- with a small amount of Salicylic Acid
Serum- with mandelic acid
Serum- with Vitamin A
Moisturize- something lightweight and simple
at night- Instead of moisturizing, treat with a powerful Benzoyl Peroxide topical treatment (10%). It may depend on the product directions you use but I don't spot treat. I cover my entire face to heal existing spots (if any), but mostly for prevention.
*Knowing how skincare products should be layered is seriously so important as well. If you layer the wrong way, such as putting moisturizer over your night treatment then you are basically canceling out the acne treatment you spent a lot of money on!
This post and this post are a couple of resources that tell you the best way to put on skincare products.
3. Study Chinese face mapping
This title may sound a little "hooey", but it's important to know that (most of the time) acne isn't random and it's caused by something. I've found a lot of helpful info behind this non-scientific method called Chinese face mapping. Basically, you can map out where your acne is on your face and it will tell you what caused it. It's not 100% accurate and it can only tell you so much, but it's a good place to start.
I've touched on this a little bit before but are you always breaking out around your mouth, neck, and chin? It's most likely hormonal acne.
Along your hairline? Shampoo, conditioner, and other hair care products.
In between your eyes? Could be stress, diet, not sleeping well, and too much alcohol.
However, as I said though it can only tell you so much. For my big acne issue, the cheeks, mostly every image said I just needed to stop talking on my phone so much and wash my pillowcases! *eye roll*
Here are some images of what face mapping looks like!
4. Test your food sensitivities and hormones
I won't say much about food because I think we're all tired of hearing about how we need to fix our diet. I mean, it's the #1 thing we read when it comes to treating acne-prone skin naturally.
However, there are still some things worth mentioning that you might not have thought of before.
I personally never did this, but testing my hormone level and food sensitivities were something I was going to try had I not found some relief. There may be some "normal yet surprising" foods that you could be allergic to or have some sort of sensitivity to and not really know.
There are already some foods and ingredients that you should avoid/limit, such as dairy, sugar, iodine, protein powder, seaweed, biotin, peanut butter, and fish, but it may help to know if there are others that could affect you.
Also, sometimes it's not what you eat but how much. You could be fine with one piece of chocolate but two may send your body over the edge! Testing your body may help, but unfortunately, most things are going to come down to trial & error. You might consider keeping a food diary and trying an elimination diet as well.
I've heard a lot about this company if you're looking to try testing.
5. Analyze the ingredients in your products
Did you know that even acne-fighting products have ingredients in them that can clog your pores?? Don't just pick something off the shelf at Target without checking out the ingredients first.
I'm that person that's in the grocery store and flips everything over to read the ingredient label. Hidden sugar is my enemy! Well, I became that person with all my products too.
After research, I learned that a ton of the things I was using to "heal" my skin was actually making it worse. Even some natural products/ingredients can be bad as well. Most of the time, avoid certain types of oil. As in, don't give in to the hype and wash your face with coconut oil if you are acne-prone!!
I got my list of skincare products to avoid from my acne program. However, there are tons of lists out there of skincare products to avoid. I don't agree with everything that's on those lists, but we can probably all agree to stay away from sulfates, parabens, added fragrance, etc to start.
You can also try the Think Dirty app to see how clean your products are.
6. Don't reuse face towels
You know that you need to wash your pillowcase often, but have you thought about how much you wash the towel you use to clean your face? Just for the same reason you're supposed to clean your pillowcases regularly, bacteria can harbor on your towels.
I bought this pack of face towels so I have a fresh one to use every night until laundry day. If you're using the same towel every night to wash your face you may actually be making things worse!
7. Get non-pore-clogging hair products and laundry detergent
Though you may not have put much thought into it, what you put on your hair will eventually end up on pillowcases, skin, and even in your body too, if you believe in the whole absorbing chemicals thing. Check your hair products for pore cloggings ingredients such as parabens, sulfates, and even some oils.
Also, your laundry detergent matters! It's what you wash your towels and pillowcases with after all. Our whole family uses this one. It has no dyes or perfumes. Confusingly, there seem to be some bad reviews about this particular product, however, I haven't purchased them from Amazon.
8. Examine your makeup ingredients
Without really even trying to, I've started with what goes in your body, and now as I finish up, I've been moving to what you put on it.
Makeup is something that you can't overlook. Of course, check for the "bad" ingredients that we've already talked about, but consider stopping liquid foundation and concealer altogether.
I don't wear tons of makeup anymore, but when I do, lately I've been using Bare Minerals powder foundation & cream concealer. It takes a little getting used to. You feel exposed at first as the coverage is not at thick, but that's the point. I've been taught that even if the liquid foundation is clear of sulfates and parabens, it's still liquid sitting on your face which is not ideal.
You may have noticed that these acne treatments didn't necessarily go into specific acne products you should try. I mean, aren't we all frustrated with the posts about products that swear they'll cure your acne? Especially when it's never worked for you...
Products matter. Definitely. Don't get me wrong. But treating your acne is so much more than a product. It's a process. It's a lifestyle.
Ooo that sounds like a tagline for something. Copyright!
As you know, everyone is different. It may take just one face wash to help clear someone's skin but if you clicked on this post, then I know that's not the case for you.
I sincerely hope there were some acne treatments in here you can try that you never thought of before.
If so, and you found this helpful, share it so you can help someone else too!