Exploring the World of Natural Remedies for Acne

Jeff Hautala
By Jeff Hautala, Co-Founder of Exposed Skincare

There are countless acne medications, prescriptions, creams, and gels out there, but have you ever considered trying natural remedies for acne? If you haven’t, we can understand why. Many natural remedies for acne haven’t been rigorously studied and tested the way many lab-made acne solutions have been, and it can be hard to believe something as simple as oatmeal can cure the acne you’ve been trying to get rid of for years. Then again, if you have tried natural remedies for acne before, you know that there are plenty of lab-made acne treatments that are poorly studied and ineffective, and there are many natural ingredients that have been used in medicine for centuries because they actually work. If you want to try natural remedies for acne, it’s important to know which ones work, which ones don’t, and which ones could actually make your acne worse.

natural remedies for acne sample
Harvested autumn set of medicinal herbs and flowers

Natural Remedy #1: Witch Hazel for Acne

Witch hazel for acne is one of the most popular natural remedies for acne right now. But what is it exactly? Witch hazel is a flowering shrub also known as Hammamelis virginiana. It grows mostly in North America and Asia, and can supposedly help fight all three main causes of acne: inflammation, excess oil, and bacteria. But can it really?

Overall, we say: maybe. Witch hazel has a lot of properties that might be able to combat those three main acne causes, but there’s been no research on how witch hazel affects acne directly, and the studies done on its effects on other skin conditions have been so varied and conflicting that it’s hard to say for sure how effective witch hazel really is.

Witch hazel is astringent, meaning it dries out cells in order to pull them closer together. In regard to acne, this could be a very good thing because it could help dry out the excess oil that can cause blackheads and whiteheads, and it can help shrink the pores. However, pure witch hazel is far too strong and will dry out the skin too much, causing irritation, inflammation, and more acne, but many witch hazel products often contain other ingredients, like alcohol, that can also cause those same issues. It’s a common acne myth that if your skin feels tight and prickly after applying an acne product, that means it’s working. That actually means it’s drying out your skin which can easily result in more acne, not less. Witch hazel products without alcohol could help reduce the excess oil involved in acne, but again, it’s hard to say how effective witch hazel really is.

You can find out more about witch hazel by reading another one of our blog posts dedicated entirely to witch hazel for acne.

Natural Remedy #2: Sulfur for Acne

We’re a bit more confident in our verdict on using sulfur for acne: yes, it should be able to help reduce acne in most cases.

Unlike astringent ingredients, sulfur for acne is a gentle drying agent. It helps exfoliate the skin, meaning it clears away the layer of dead skin cells and excess oil on the surface of the skin, but it doesn’t dry out the skin to the point of getting irritated and causing more acne. This can help prevent clogged pores that often lead to blackheads and whiteheads. There’s also a chance sulfur can help reduce pimples, but we’re less convinced of this claim. Pimples are the result of a minor infection due to acne-causing bacteria, called p. acnes, getting stuck in a pore. Some studies have shown sulfur to be mildly antibacterial, but there haven’t been any studies on whether or not sulfur can kill p. acnes bacteria specifically, or in numbers significant enough to actually help prevent pimples. However, because p. acnes’ main food source is the oil our skin produces, by clearing away excess oil, sulfur could reduce p. acnes’ food source enough to deplete their numbers. But again, sulfur’s effect on pimples is far less certain than its effect on blackheads and whiteheads.

There are only two downsides to sulfur. First, it is not a good idea for dry skin. It can be useful for all other skin types, even sensitive skin, but if your skin is already dry, the last thing you want is to dry it out even more. The second downside is the smell. It’s true, pure sulfur has a terrible rotten eggs smell, but the small amounts included in acne products don’t have such a strong aroma. Many people say products that include sulfur for acne smell a bit funny, but not in an unbearable way.

Natural Remedy #3: Lemon for Acne

Lemon for acne is one of the classic natural remedies for acne, but does it really work? Yes, but it isn’t the best option for everybody.

Lemon, like witch hazel, is astringent, and it can be particularly strong if used on its own, undiluted. If you have very oily skin, using pure lemon juice might be an option, though you should only use it a few times a week, at the most, and you’ll want to be on the lookout for any dry skin or irritation. If you have somewhat oily skin, we recommend adding some lemon juice to another natural ingredient that’s a little less harsh, like honey. If you have dry skin, you definitely don’t want to mess around with lemon juice. Move right on to the next natural remedy.

There’s one more important warning about lemon juice: it may not be safe for dark skin tones. The high levels of vitamin C in lemons can cause a skin-lightening effect. In fair skin, this could help reduce the visibility of dark spots caused by acne, but in dark skin, this could result in light spots or more dark spots. If you have dark skin and want to try lemon for acne, we recommend diluting it with honey and testing a small area on your arm for a few days first.

Natural Remedy #4: ACV for Acne (Apple Cider Vinegar)

If you’ve read “ACV for acne” before but weren’t sure what it meant exactly, we’re here to fill you in: ACV stands for apple cider vinegar, one of the most popular natural remedies for acne on the internet right now. Unfortunately, it’s one of the worst natural “remedies” we can think of for acne.

Apple cider vinegar for acne is one of the natural remedies on this list that can actually make your acne worse. This is because it is very harsh (even harsher than lemon), but those properties that make it harsh don’t help fight acne. Like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar is very acidic, and this acid can help clear away excess oil. Also like lemon juice, this is not always all that helpful, as it can sometimes strip away too much oil, leaving our skin exposed to all kinds of irritation that can inflame the skin and cause even more acne. Some sites claim that this risk is worth it because apple cider vinegar can also kill p. acnes bacteria. But this is only half-true. Apple cider vinegar is antibacterial, but it doesn’t kill p. acnes very well. Instead, apple cider vinegar is most effective against foodborne bacteria, which is incredibly helpful in food preparation or even helping reduce symptoms of food poisoning, but not overly helpful in treating acne.

natural remedies for acne like apple cider vinegar
Although apple cider vinegar has a reputation as a great natural remedy for acne, it can actually cause more harm than good.

You may be wondering, does this mean that apple cider vinegar and baking soda is a bad idea too? Yes, absolutely. In fact, that’s worse than ACV for acne alone. Apple cider vinegar and baking soda combine to make a harsh, foaming substance that can be used to clear out bath tub drains. If something is strong enough to work with plumbing, it is far too strong to be used on human skin.

Natural Remedy #5: Rose Water for Acne

Rose water for acne is the first natural remedy on this list that is geared toward those with dry skin, rather than those with oily skin. As we’ve been saying, if your skin is too dry, it becomes easily irritated and acne often results. Rose water for acne can help because it’s an astringent—but not like the other astringents we’ve discussed so far. Instead of tightening pores by drying out the skin cells, rose water encourages new skin cell production.

There hasn’t been a ton of research done on how rose water affects acne specifically, but based on how it affects the skin in general, there is reason to believe rose water could be a helpful acne treatment for some people. Rose water stimulates specific skin cells called keratinocytes. These cells are responsible for creating new skin cells and transferring them to the topmost layer of the skin, where they can protect it. This helps prevent irritation, which is of great importance for dry skin, but this is also how rose water can make pores smaller without drying out the cells. The new cells make their way to the surface along with the cells that are already there, leaving less of an opening for the pores.

This is also why rose water is not the number one choice for oily skin. If you produce a lot of excess oil, you don’t want smaller pores without the added benefit of exfoliation, because then the oil will simply be trapped in the pores, effectively creating acne rather than getting rid of it. However, for dry skin, rose water could be a great method for protecting the skin from acne-causing irritation.

Natural Remedy #6: Shea Butter for Acne

Like rose water, shea butter for acne is most effective in dry skin, rather than oily skin. The reason why should be fairly clear from its name alone: shea butter, emphasis on the butter.

Shea butter is a fatty substance made from the nuts of shea trees in Africa. Shea is grown in over 20 countries in Africa, including Niger, Togo, Sudan, Senegal, and more. Some shea butter products are refined using lab-made chemicals, or lab-made chemicals are added for other reasons, like changing the smell or consistency, but these chemicals are likely to irritate the skin, and if you’re using shea butter because your skin is dry, the last thing you want is irritation.

Like with many other natural remedies for acne, shea butter for acne has not been widely studied, but its powerful moisturizing properties combined with its low comedogenicity rating make it an ideal acne treatment for those with dry skin. The problem with most moisturizing oils or butters is that they tend to be comedogenic, meaning they clog pores. Cocoa butter and coconut oil are widely praised in the skin care community, but they both have a comedogenicity rating of 4. A comedogenicity rating is a rating that determines how likely a substance is to clog pores, with 0 being the least likely and 5 being the most. Shea butter, though, is an exception. It’s comedogenicity rating ranges from 0 to 2, depending on the product, which means it’s relatively safe for most people with acne.

Unlike many of the natural remedies for acne we’ve discussed so far, shea butter can’t exfoliate the skin, remove excess oil, or kill p. acnes bacteria, but it can help moisturize the skin, prevent irritation, and soothe inflammation.

Natural Remedy #7: Hydrocolloid Bandages for Acne

One of the newer natural remedies for acne is hydrocolloid bandages for acne. Hydrocolloid bandages are basically a special type of adhesive bandage that can help heal acne faster without drying out the skin.

A hydrocolloid is a substance that forms when water is mixed with a substance that causes it to form a gel-like material. Hydrocolloid bandages for acne and for other wounds, like minor burns or blisters, use hydrocolloids made from water, cellulose, and gelatin and/or pectin. The bandages are similar to other bandages in that they have a plasticky outer layer, but underneath, instead of a thin gauze pad, hydrocolloid bandages have a thin layer of hydrocolloid gel.

There are several reasons hydrocolloid bandages are effective as a spot treatment for acne. First, the gel creates a seal that prevents any new bacteria from getting in. Second, hydrocolloid gels are hydrophilic, meaning they love absorbing water. This won’t help when it comes to blackheads or whiteheads, but it can be very effective when treating pimples.

Pimples are caused by a minor infection of p. acnes bacteria, and when the immune system kills off the p. acnes, many immune system cells die as well, and the mixture of dead cell matter becomes pus, which collects under the skin and gives pimples their signature white or yellow head. Although it’s generally a bad idea to pop pimples, if you pop a pimple just slightly, just enough for a small amount of pus to escape, a hydrocolloid bandage can help a lot. The gel will quickly absorb the pus and if you leave it on for several hours, or even days, it will continue drawing out the pus until the pimple is drained entirely. And unlike drying creams, hydrocolloid gels keep the pimple moist, preventing the skin from getting too dried out.

Natural Remedy #8: Colloidal Silver for Acne

Colloidal silver for acne is somewhat similar to hydrocolloid bandages because it involves a substance being dispersed evenly in water, however, unlike hydrocolloid bandages, colloidal silver doesn’t form a gel. It often comes in the form of sprays or droppers, but you can also take colloidal silver for acne orally, in pill-form. Does it work though?

The best answer is: we’re not sure. Silver has been used in the past to strengthen the immune system and kill bacteria, but it’s hard to prove that the silver is what was actually doing those things in the past. It could just as easily be attributed to a variable people then didn’t think to look for or notice. Today, there has been some research on how silver affects wounds and infections in general, but none on how it affects acne specifically. Supposedly, colloidal silver can help reduce acne by killing p. acnes bacteria and reducing inflammation, which would be great if it were true, but so far there’s no evidence that colloidal silver can accomplish that for acne specifically.

Because we don’t know for sure how it will affect the skin, we don’t recommend trying colloidal silver for acne just yet. This is especially true because colloidal silver can come with some serious side effects. Direct application to the skin can cause gray or blue discoloration in all skin colors that can be very difficult to get rid of. When taken orally, it can occasionally build up in various organs and cause distress and dysfunction.

Natural Remedy # 9: Green Tea for Acne

Green tea is one of our favorite natural remedies for acne because it’s so versatile and it gets to the heart of the problem with acne: inflammation.

There are countless reasons the skin might become inflamed, but one of the most common is free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that are missing an electron, making them highly unstable. They tend to damage or destroy your own cells in search of the electron they need to be stabilized, and this destruction signals to the immune system that there’s a problem. The immune system responds by boosting inflammation to prevent the problem from spreading to other cells, and this is how free radicals can cause acne. When the skin is inflamed, the pores constrict slightly, trapping oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria inside where they form blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.

Green tea for acne is so great because studies show that it can help prevent all this. Treating acne is all well and good, but what we all really want is to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. That’s why we like green tea for acne so much. It both helps prevent acne, and helps reduce inflammation of acne that’s already formed. How, you ask? Green tea contains powerful antioxidants that lend an electron to free radicals so they aren’t as destructive, which in turn prevents the immune system from triggering the inflammation response. Without that inflammation, far less acne is likely to form.

Green tea can be used like many natural remedies for acne, by being applied directly to the skin, but if you have mild acne, it’s also possible that drinking a cup of green tea every day can help reduce your acne as well.

Natural Remedy #10: Spearmint Tea for Acne

Spearmint tea for acne is one of the only natural remedies that treats a particularly stubborn form of acne: hormonal acne. Everyone can get hormonal acne, though many people experience it during the week before their period starts due to the sudden drop in estrogen levels.

Because estrogen counterbalances testosterone, this sudden drop makes the body think there’s been an increase in testosterone. Regardless of gender or sex, everyone produces both estrogen and testosterone, and any time we start to produce extra testosterone or other androgens (or our body thinks we are) our body responds by producing more oil. This increase in oil production leads to more clogged pores, more p. acnes bacteria, and more acne.

Because the cause of this particular type of acne is hormonal, it can often be difficult to treat. The main form of treatment is some kind of anti-androgen medication, which right now means either combined oral contraceptives or spironolactone, but it turns out spearmint tea can be surprisingly effective as well. Two studies have been conducted the prove that spearmint tea helps to absorb extra testosterone. They were conducted on patients being treated for hirsutism (excessive hair growth), and the patients said they felt that their condition had improved, though according to the researchers’ indicative measures, there was no significant change. However, both of these studies lasted less than a month, so it’s possible that with time, spearmint tea could be another anti-androgen solution for hormonal acne. This is great news, because combined oral contraceptives and spironolactone often come with heaps of side effects, and so far, spearmint tea for acne has not shown many, if any, side effects.

Spearmint tea is one of the only natural remedies for acne that might be able to treat hormonal acne specifically.

Natural Remedy #11: Calamine Lotion Acne Solutions

Generally, we don’t recommend most of the popular calamine acne solutions, but it could serve as a good last-minute spot treatment due to its main active ingredient, zinc oxide. But like with lemon juice, calamine may not be the best solution for dark skin.

Calamine lotion is typically used to relieve the itching and swelling that comes along with poison ivy or bug bites, so it makes some sense that it might be able to help acne that’s itchy or inflamed. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any studies on how calamine lotion affects acne specifically, but we do know that zinc oxide, calamine lotion’s main active ingredient, has some anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. However, the studies that demonstrate these properties were conducted on cells in a lab rather than on human skin, so it’s not clear whether zinc oxide is really able to reduce inflammation and bacteria or not.

Because of all this, we don’t recommend calamine lotion as a daily, all-over acne treatment. Instead, we think it might be effective as a spot treatment to provide temporary relief from inflammation and redness. If you have a big, important event the next day, but you also have a big, prominent pimple or breakout, applying a thin layer of calamine lotion and allowing it to set overnight might make it less noticeable the next day. Calamine lotion for acne won’t make the breakout go away, but it might make it a little easier to hide.

Natural Remedy #12: Epsom Salt for Acne

Epsom salt is not salt at all, which is a combination of sodium and chlorine. Epsom salt, rather, is a combination of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. Of all these ingredients, researchers believe that the magnesium is what could make Epsom salt for acne an effective treatment. However, there’s very little research to support this idea.

Many people in the Western world have a magnesium deficiency, resulting in fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, and other symptoms that often get missed in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Inflammation is another one of these symptoms, and it could lead to increased acne. Because of this, some people suggest taking magnesium orally. Many people simply take a supplement pill, but others dissolve Epsom salt into a glass of water and drink it, despite its bitter taste. Others suggest dissolving Epsom salt into water and applying the mixture directly to your acne. Because magnesium is not easily absorbed through the skin, this won’t solve a magnesium deficiency, but it could help reduce inflammation in that particular spot, making it somewhat similar to calamine lotion. We wouldn’t recommend daily or all-over use of Epsom salt for acne because there are so many other products that can be absorbed into the skin better and produce more significant results, but it could make a perfectly good spot treatment.

Natural Remedy #13: Vaseline for Acne

There’s a lot of controversy about using Vaseline for acne. Some camps are adamant that Vaseline is not an acne treatment and is likely to make things worse, while others insist that Vaseline is the only thing that has helped their acne. So, does Vaseline help acne?

It looks like the answer is yes—under certain circumstances and to a certain extent. Vaseline won’t cure your acne on is own, but it could help reduce acne by sealing in the other treatment products you apply, moisturizing the skin, and keeping external irritants like allergens or bacteria out. But there are conditions for this to actually work.

The first condition is that it has to be Vaseline. In most cases, any brand will do as long as the right ingredients are present, but off-brand petroleum jelly could contain harmful substances left over from the refining process. This isn’t a worry with Vaseline because they have a rigorous refining process and they purify their petroleum jelly three times to make sure anything harmful has been completely removed, but you could run into trouble with other brands. The second condition is that it needs to be applied in a thin layer. When applied in excess, Vaseline can make the skin look oily and could clog pores, even though Vaseline generally is non-comedogenic. The final condition of applying Vaseline for acne is that your skin must be thoroughly (but gently) cleansed beforehand. Vaseline can help keep your skin healthy by sealing in moisture, but if you don’t remove your makeup or cleanse your skin of the oil and bacteria built up throughout the day, then all of that will get sealed in with your skin as well, which is a guaranteed recipe for acne. So, does Vaseline help acne? It can, when used correctly.

Natural Remedy #14: Vicks for Acne

Vicks VapoRub is a petroleum jelly-based cream that is commonly used to suppress a cough by applying a small amount to the chest and allowing the vapors to enter the nose and mouth. Like Vaseline, it may be able to form a gentle seal over the skin to keep out external irritants, but unlike Vaseline, Vicks for acne can do so much more.

Vicks contains two ingredients that have been proven to significantly reduce acne: eucalyptus oil to camphor. Eucalyptus oil is great for pimples because research has proven that it can effectively kill p. acnes bacteria at the same rates as many lab-made acne products like benzoyl peroxide. Camphor is the other main ingredient that makes Vicks for acne a surprisingly helpful natural remedy. Camphor is a waxy substance derived from the camphor tree, and it helps relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Because pimples and breakouts are often painful, applying a mild pain reliever can feel great, and as we’ve pointed out several times, anything that helps reduce inflammation can help reduce acne. The only drawback of the camphor is that it can be mildly comedogenic, so if you notice fewer pimples but more blackheads after using Vicks for acne, you may want to try a different product or add an exfoliating product to your skin care routine.

Natural Remedy #15: Ice for Acne

Does ice help acne? It can, but it definitely shouldn’t be your main form of acne treatment. Using ice for acne helps primarily with inflammation. Applying an ice cube to a breakout or pimple slows down blood flow to that particular spot. This might like a small, simple thing, but it can do wonders for acne.

Because immune system cells are carried through the bloodstream, slowing down blood flow reduces the number of immune system cells that arrive at the site of the breakout. Fewer immune system cells might sound bad, like your body won’t be able to fight off the infection, but immune system cells are the ones responsible for all the inflammation around a painful pimple, and reducing inflammation typically helps acne heal faster, even with fewer immune system cells. Plus, reducing inflammation also reduces pain and visibility, making it a great trick before going to work, school, or out with friends. A few minutes of exposure to ice should give you a few hours with diminished redness and inflammation.

Ice for acne can be effective on its own, but it’s also possible to combine it with many of the other natural remedies for acne in this list. For instance, you can brew a strong pot of green tea, let it cool, then pour it into ice trays and use these ice cubes for an extra boost of anti-inflammatory power. You can do the same with spearmint tea, rose water, lemon juice and water, and other remedies coming up, like micellar water.

Natural Remedy #16: Micellar Water Acne Products

Micellar water acne products are great for getting rid of excess oil—well, they can be. Some micellar water acne products gently remove excess oil and dead skin cells, but others contain so many extra ingredients that they are just as drying as some traditional face washes.

Micellar water gets its name from something called micelles, which are a type of surfactant, a compound that clings to various other compounds and carries them with it whenever the surfactant is washed or wiped away. For example, toothpaste contains several surfactant ingredients that cling to plaque and carry it away. In the case of micellar water, the micelles are the surfactant and those other compounds are excess oil and dead skin cells on the surface of our skin. In theory, when you apply micellar water to your skin, the micelles cling to the oil and dead skin cells and when you wipe the micellar water away, the oil and dead skin cells come with it and your skin is left cleansed and fresh.

Micellar water acne products with minimal ingredients may be able to do this, but most products on the market right now contain other irritating ingredients that are more likely to aggravate acne than they are to treat it. For instance, many micellar water products contain fragrances, which are almost always irritating to the skin, and they often contain alcohol-based chemicals which are known for drying out the skin.

If you’re interested in trying micellar water for acne, we have two important recommendations: first, check the ingredient list and avoid alcohol-based chemicals and fragrances; and second, make sure you cleanse your face using an acne-fighting face wash after using micellar water. This will rinse away the micelles (and the oil and dead skin cells they’ve absorbed) completely, to keep your face as clear as possible.

Natural Remedy #17: Bentonite Clay Acne Mask

If you have oily skin, a bentonite clay acne mask could be exactly the thing for you. If you have dry or sensitive skin, stay far, far away. Bentonite clay is a particular type of clay that forms out of volcanic ash, and it’s incredibly absorbent when it comes to oil.

Currently, there’s not a lot of research on how bentonite clay acne masks could help treat acne, but bentonite clay is used to measure oil production in studies about the differences between those who have acne and those who don’t. In many studies, researchers apply a bentonite clay mask to those with and without acne and then measure how much oil was absorbed on average from both categories to determine if there’s a difference in how much oil each group produces (FYI, those of us with acne tend to produce almost three times as much oil). So even without research examining the relationship between bentonite clay and acne, we know bentonite clay can absorb a lot of oil relatively quickly, which should help reduce acne in oily skin.

There are plenty of bentonite clay acne masks that are pre-made and ready to apply, or even regular acne creams that contain bentonite, but it’s also possible to buy bentonite clay powder and make your own bentonite clay acne mask. Toward the end of this article we have a few suggestions on how to combine these natural remedies for acne to make the best homemade acne treatments; check out the oily skin treatment for a homemade bentonite clay mask.

Natural Remedy #18: Sea Salt for Acne

Sea salt has been a major craze over the last few years, making an appearance in everything from chocolate to skin care. When it comes to using sea salt for acne, it could definitely help, but we aren’t convinced that it can help any more than regular salt.

The biggest difference between sea salt and normal table salt is how its processed. Sea salt forms through evaporation from bodies of saltwater and doesn’t go through much processing beyond that. This means various minerals and nutrients from that particular body of water collect with the sea salt. Table salt, on the other hand, is mined from the earth and goes through several rounds of processing to remove any extra minerals. Some people claim that because of its extra minerals, sea salt is better for acne, but as we learned with calamine lotion, our skin can’t always absorb minerals the way our stomach can. Because of this, it’s unlikely that sea salt for acne is any more effective than table salt for acne. So…is table salt for acne a good idea?

Because sea salt absorbs different minerals depending on which body of water it comes from, it occurs in all kinds of different colors.

Yes and no. If you have dry or sensitive skin, table salt would likely only irritate and dry out your skin, and we definitely don’t recommend creating any kind of salt scrub. If you have oily skin and you dissolve the salt completely into warm water, salt can be a great way to kill off p. acnes bacteria. Saline solutions are regularly used at doctor’s offices and at home to help fight minor infections, so it makes sense that salt could help acne, pimples specifically. Pimples are caused by a minor infection of p. acnes, so a gentle saline solution applied to the pimple twice a day could fight the infection and kill enough p. acnes to clear away the pimple.

Natural Remedy #19: Banana Peel for Acne

Using a banana peel for acne might sound like one of the more ridiculous natural remedies in this list, but there is actually substantial research on the anti-bacterial and wound-healing effects of banana peels.

Just by looking at the chemical makeup of banana peels, it’s clear that they at least have the potential to fight acne. Banana peels are full of enzymes commonly used to reduce itchiness and swelling, vitamins that could give the skin nutrients it needs, and other chemicals that function as antioxidants and antibacterial agents. One study found that banana peels that have been turned into powder had the capability to kill Candida yeast, and another found that banana peels are effective in killing several types of bacteria, including the bacteria responsible for Staph infections. However, these studies did not test for effectiveness against p. acnes, so there’s no evidence that banana peels can kill acne-causing bacteria specifically.

Another study found that banana peels, especially when mixed with citrus peels, can absorb petrol oil and lubricant oils to a moderate degree. Although the oil our skin produces is very different from petrol, this study indicates that banana peels might also be effective in absorbing excess oil on our skin.

Even though it sounds a little silly to rub a banana peel on your face to fight acne, there’s actually some real evidence that it might work. For the best possible results, use ripe bananas rather than green ones, and apply the banana peel to your skin within five minutes of peeling it off the banana.

Natural Remedy #20: Saw Palmetto Acne Solutions

Research on saw palmetto as a medicinal herb is in the very early stages, and no research has been conducted to explore the possibility of saw palmetto acne solutions specifically. Based on the limited research that’s been done so far, saw palmetto might have the power to reduce acne, but right now there are other, better options.

The hope is that saw palmetto could function in a similar way to spearmint tea: consumption or direct application of saw palmetto could reduce oil production, making it the perfect natural remedy for hormonal acne, which often results from extra oil production due to hormonal fluctuations. The problem is, saw palmetto doesn’t have the research to back up these claims. There have been a few studies conducted on the cellular level that have found saw palmetto to be effective in reducing inflammation, but it’s difficult to say how that will translate to real human skin. The one study conducted on people only involved 20 participants and only lasted four weeks, though it did find that a product containing saw palmetto, sesame seeds, and argan oil effectively reduced oil levels by approximately 20-42%, depending on how oily the particular area of the skin was to begin with.

Because of the lack of research, right now we would recommend spearmint tea over saw palmetto for treating hormonal acne. It’s likely that in the future we’ll learn more about saw palmetto and find that it’s an ideal oil reducer, but for the time being, it’s not the most scientifically-sound option.

Natural Remedy #21: Milk Thistle for Acne

Milk thistle for acne is a popular online natural acne treatment, but there is very little evidence that it works. No studies have been conducted on how milk thistle affects the skin in general, let alone how it affects acne specifically, and the studies that have been conducted on liver function have found that milk thistle is no more effective than a placebo.

Milk thistle is a flowering plant that originated in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, but is now found all over the globe. It’s been used throughout history as a natural remedy, primarily for liver disorders, but recent research suggests that it does not have a significant effect. However, natural skin care gurus argue that milk thistle’s high levels of antioxidants can reduce inflammation and prevent acne. Because there’s no research supporting this, and because the antioxidants in milk thistle could easily be overridden by other aspects of the plant, we can’t recommend milk thistle as a great natural remedy for acne. Instead, we recommend trying green tea, Vicks, or ice to reduce inflammation related to acne.

Natural Remedy #22: Desitin for Acne

Applying diaper cream to your face seems counterintuitive at best, but some people swear by diaper creams like Desitin for acne. There are several ingredients in Desitin that could make it a decent acne treatment, but generally, we don’t recommend it.

Desitin contains zinc oxide, cod liver oil, glycerin, beeswax, and fragrance, among a few other ingredients. Some of these highlighted ingredients could be good for acne, but others are likely to cause problems. Overall, Desitin and other diaper creams contain enough problematic ingredients that they are unlikely to improve acne as much as other great natural remedies for acne.

Zinc oxide is often listed as the main reason for using Desitin for acne, but just like with calamine lotion, zinc oxide is not enough to treat acne completely, and it can pose a problem for people with dark skin. Still, Desitin contains other potential acne-fighting ingredients, like glycerin and cod liver oil. Glycerin is a great ingredient for any acne treatment because it helps the skin absorb more moisture which helps to prevent irritation and dryness. Cod oil liver could potentially help reduce acne because studies show that cod liver oil can speed up the wound healing process. Since acne is technically a type of wound, cod liver oil could shorten the amount of time breakouts linger on your skin. If zinc oxide, glycerin, and cod liver oil were the only ingredients in diaper cream, it may actually be a pretty good acne treatment. The trouble is, it also contains beeswax and fragrances. Beeswax, due to its thick waxy texture, can easily clog pores, and fragrances often cause irritation and inflammation, leading to even more clogged pores.

Overall, using Desitin for acne isn’t the worst idea in the world, but it’s certainly not the best either.

Natural Remedy #23: Oatmeal Acne Masks

Oatmeal is right up there with honey, lemon, and aloe vera in the ranks of natural remedies for acne that really work. The only problem? Oatmeal is pretty bad for your skin.

Oatmeal is great for eating, but not so great for fighting acne.

The reason oatmeal acne masks aren’t nearly as good for the skin as we all want to believe is because they break the number one rule of acne: don’t irritate the skin. This is actually a huge problem in the skin care industry in general. Many skin care products, lab-made and natural, try to get rid of acne by being as harsh as possible and stripping the skin of its oil—and its moisture and protection. This simply leads to inflammation, which in turn leads to more acne. Oatmeal works the same way. It joined the ranks of the widely trusted natural remedies for acne because it exfoliates the skin, which is a key step in the acne treatment process. It carries away the oil and dead skin cells on the surface of the skin to keep them from clogging pores. The trouble is, in the exfoliating process, the harshness of the cut oats irritate the skin and it quickly becomes inflamed.

If you have sensitive skin, we don’t recommend using oatmeal for acne in any capacity, but if you have particularly oily skin that isn’t easily irritated, you could try using cooked oatmeal in your acne face masks. Raw oatmeal is too harsh for all skin types, but cooking the oats softens them up so they cause slightly less irritation.

Natural Remedy #24: Milk of Magnesia Acne Treatments

Milk of magnesia gets its name from its oddly milky appearance, but what is it exactly? Milk of magnesia is the common name for a mixture of water and magnesium hydroxide, and it is not especially useful in treating acne.

Like all skin care rumors, the idea that we might be able to formulate milk of magnesia acne treatments came from a small kernel of truth that got twisted, exaggerated, or accepted without any research to back it up. In the case of milk of magnesia, the problem was the research. In the 1970s, a man named Randy Sigal wrote in to a dermatology magazine and said that he’d successfully reduced acne and its associated inflammation by combining tetracycline antibiotics and milk of magnesia. However, it was never confirmed whether Sigal was a dermatologist or a patient, and no further research was conducted to back up his claims. Unfortunately, many people have blindly believed Sigal and still insist that milk of magnesia is a miracle acne cure.

It’s important to remember that nothing “cures” acne. Acne treatments are meant to prevent new acne from forming and heal acne that’s already formed, but nothing can get rid of acne permanently, least of all milk of magnesia. It doesn’t seem to harm the skin, but there’s no evidence that it does anything helpful either.

Combining Natural Remedies for Acne to Create Your Own DIY Acne Treatment

Using these and countless other natural remedies for acne, you can concoct your own recipes for DIY acne treatments, from homemade acne treatment face masks to a homemade face scrub for acne. Below, we’ve outlined our favorite DIY acne recipes, but feel free to mix and match ingredients according to your skin needs!

The Best Homemade Acne Treatment for Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, it can be tempting to throw every natural drying ingredient you have into a bowl, mix it up, and apply it to your skin as often as possible, but we promise that this kind of homemade acne treatment will only make things worse. Instead, try this bentonite clay mask with green tea and sea salt.

Ingredients:

  • 3 teaspoons bentonite clay powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or table salt, either works)
  • Water
  • 1 green tea bag, or loose green tea and an infuser

To make this gentle drying mask, start by brewing some green tea. Allow the tea to steep for 20 minutes to ensure that as much green tea as possible is infused into the water. Measure out one teaspoon of green tea into a bowl, then add one teaspoon of sea salt. Stir until the salt is entirely dissolved, then add the three teaspoons of bentonite clay powder. Stir until thick and smooth (feel free to add a little more tea if it’s crumbly, or a little more clay powder if it’s too liquid). Wash your face with plain water, pat dry, then apply the mask mixture to your skin. Allow it to set for 10-15 minutes, then rinse the mixture off with cool water. Avoid scrubbing as that will only irritate the skin. Pat dry, and viola, your skin should be considerably less oily.

The Best DIY Acne Treatment for Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, the last thing you want to try is bentonite, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own DIY acne treatment. Instead, try a combination of shea butter, rose water, and sea salt.

Shea butter is a great face mask ingredient for dry skin because of how well it moisturizes the skin.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of shea butter
  • 1 teaspoon of rosewater
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt (or table salt)

Before you can start making this hydrating mask, you’ll likely need to heat up the rose water so the salt will properly dissolve. Measure out one teaspoon of rosewater into a bowl and heat in the microwave until warm. Then add one teaspoon of sea salt and stir until it has dissolved entirely. Add one tablespoon of shea butter to the salt-rose water mixture and stir until the combination is a smooth consistency. Wash your face using plain water, pat dry, and then apply the mask in a very thin layer. If laid on too thick, this mask could clog pores or make your skin appear greasy, so it’s best to keep it light. This mask works best if allowed to set overnight. In the morning, rinse the mask away using cool water and pat dry.

The Best Homemade Face Scrub for Acne

Generally, we do not recommend face scrubs because scrubbing usually just irritates the skin, leading to more acne, not less. However, we’ve devised a gentle homemade face scrub for acne that exfoliates the skin without causing irritation and inflammation—as long as you don’t have sensitive skin. If your skin is sensitive, we recommend staying away from all face scrubs, no matter how gentle. If your skin is a little tougher though, give this gently exfoliating scrub a try.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons Vicks VapoRub
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 banana peel

The first step in making this homemade face scrub for acne is combining the lemon juice and the Vicks VapoRub. Stir the mixture until it’s an even consistency. As always, start by washing your face with plain water. Then apply a small amount of the mixture in a thin layer on the banana peel, and gently scrub a small area of skin. Repeat this process until your full face has been treated, then let the Vicks-lemon mixture set for 15-20 minutes. Rinse with cool water and pat dry.

Exposed Skin Care’s Approach to Natural Remedies for Acne

There are an abundance of effective natural remedies for acne, but we’ve found that the best way to utilize natural remedies is to combine them with some of the best scientific remedies. That’s why we developed the Exposed Skin Care line. Each of our acne-fighting products contains a combination of natural and scientific ingredients that complement each other so you can get clear skin. For instance, our Facial Cleanser contains salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin, but it also contains sage extract to prevent dryness and irritation. Together, our natural and scientific ingredients ensure an effective and safe product that treats and prevents all kinds of acne without damaging your skin. For the best results, we recommend trying our Basic Kit, which includes everything you need to get clear skin: Facial Cleanser, Clearing Tonic, Acne Treatment Serum, and Clear Pore Serum.

The Exposed Skin Care Basic Kit uses natural and scientific ingredients to fight acne without irritating the skin.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Does water help acne?

Somewhat; it really depends on whether or not you’re already dehydrated. If you’re dehydrated, your acne could increase due to dry skin, so drinking enough water to prevent dehydration can at least prevent some acne. But if you aren’t dehydrated, there’s no evidence that drinking more water helps acne.

2. Does ice help acne?

Yep! For more info, see “Natural Remedy #15: Ice for Acne.”

3. Does garlic help acne?

…maybe? There hasn’t been any research studying the direct correlation between garlic and acne, but garlic contains a few ingredients that might be able to help. First, garlic has many powerful antioxidants that could reduce free radicals and prevent the inflammation that often starts acne. Second, when garlic is crushed or chewed, it forms sulfur compounds, which can gently exfoliate the skin, as we already discussed (see “Natural Remedy #2: Sulfur for Acne). But before you start slathering your skin in fresh-cut garlic, know that it’s not a good idea for sensitive skin, and even non-sensitive skin might run into trouble. When applied directly to the skin, garlic can cause burning sensations and even actual burns. If you want to apply garlic to your skin, we recommend diluting it with water.

4. Does tanning help acne?

No, but there’s a good reason for this old acne wives’ tale! The sun delivers lots of vitamin D and infrared light to our skin, both things that can help reduce acne. Vitamin D is full of antioxidants that can prevent inflammation, and infrared light (which is invisible but felt as heat) can reduce oil production. However, tanning is not the best way to get these acne-fighting elements. Sunlight and tanning bed lights also come with lots of harmful elements like various UV rays and often cause burns, which increase inflammation. It’s better to get vitamin D through your diet and get infrared light through acne light therapy.

5. Does Vaseline help acne?

Yes, to learn how, see “Natural Remedy #14: Vicks for Acne.”