As many as 50 million Americans struggle with acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, making it the most common skin disorder in the nation. It’s not just teenagers who are affected by it, who often suffer from embarrassment, depression and lack of self-esteem because of it, but one in five adults in the U.S. struggle with it too – many of which also face challenges like low self-confidence, social withdrawal and isolation.
Acne can cause painful and unsightly outbreaks on the face, back, chest and the arms. If left untreated, it can even lead to scarring, so it’s no wonder that so many are desperate to clear up their skin. When traditional topical treatments aren’t effective, those who continue to suffer are often grateful to be able to fill a prescription for an acne medication. But unfortunately, those dangerous drugs can cause more problems than they had in the first place.
Isotretinoin, better known by its former name “Accutane,” is considered to be one of the most dangerous drugs ever made, yet more than a half-million people around the world have been given a prescription for it. A dermatologist in the U.K., Tony Chu, told the BBC that it’s “grossly overused,” noting, “I’ve seen patients who have been to see a local dermatologist to treat four of five spots and still been offered it … If you read the guidelines it should only be used for people who have severe acne.”
The drug has been linked to a number of severe side effects, including inflammatory bowel disease, major depression and suicide. A study in 2004 took brain scans of patients on the medication and found they had a 21 percent decrease in activity in the area of the brain known to mediate depression systems. The researchers believe that could explain depression as well as suicidal and aggressive behavior, which some users of Accutane had reported.
Is banishing your acne really worth risking all of that?
We don’t think so, especially when there are rather simple recipes you can put together at home that are not only found to be effective, but they come without those potentially devastating side effects.
1. Gentle Acne Face Wash
Eliminating those stubborn zits, blackheads and whiteheads begins with a gentle but thorough cleansing. This recipe calls for raw honey, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, tea tree oil and probiotics for the ultimate homemade cleanser.
Honey is well-known for its ability to eradicate acne and soothe the skin, as well as treat a number of other skin conditions. It acts as a natural antibiotic to kill bacteria-causing acne, and it also has an osmotic effect, absorbing water in the wound and releasing hydrogen peroxide, an excellent antiseptic which kills bacteria and clears acne. Its acidity also helps to prevent the growth of bacteria, and anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce redness associated with acne. As it has a natural sticky consistency, it also works to pull out dirt and grime that can clog pores.
Apple cider vinegar is a potent antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral substance capable of keeping bacteria at bay and pimples from forming. Its antibacterial properties help keep acne under control, and its malic and lactic acids work to soften and exfoliate skin, reduce red spots, and balance the skin’s pH.
Coconut oil may sound like it would be counterproductive as an oil, but it’s actually very effective for treating acne for a number of reasons, including two antimicrobial powerhouses, capric acid and lauric acid, which help fight off microbial infections, and without a microbial infection, acne cannot develop. It’s also packed with vitamin E to keep the skin healthy and ensure proper functioning of sebum glands, which means that it helps to get to the root cause of the problem.
Tea tree oil is famous for its ability to fight acne. It’s incredibly effective because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties that are known to reduce inflammation that can lead to swelling of the skin. Research conducted by the Department of Dermatology at Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, found that when comparing the effectiveness of tea tree oil to benzoyl peroxide, a common acne medication, that “5% tea-tree oil and 5% benzoyl peroxide had a significant effect in ameliorating patients’ acne.”
Probiotics are arguably best known for helping to balance gut bacteria, as they contain good bacteria, preventing an overload of bad bacteria. But when applied topically, they have been found to help clear the skin, reduce inflammation and redness, and even improve the appearance of fine lines.
Now that you know why all of these ingredients are used, here is how to make your own gentle and effective homemade acne wash (click on the link to go through to Amazon where you can buy each product):
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 20 drops tea tree essential oil
- 2 capsules live probiotics
Simply mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and blend well using a hand blender. Pour the mixture into a container and store in a cool, dark place.
When you’re ready to use it, moisten your skin with warm water and then massage it into your face and neck. Rinse well. It can be used in the morning and in the evening, though you shouldn’t use it more than twice a day as it could irritate the skin and lead to an overproduction of oil.
2. Acne Face Mask
Using an acne face mask once or twice a week is a great way not only to prevent breakouts, but to get rid of acne and eliminate scars.
This easy recipe calls for both honey and apple cider vinegar, like the face wash above, taking advantage of both of its many benefits. It calls for sugar as well, which, when used in this recipe, acts as a natural exfoliant to break up scar tissue and unclog pores.
It also includes green tea which is known to be an effective acne fighter for many reasons:
- It inhibits the production of sebum by 50%, according to scientific research. One study found that it was even more effective than benzoyl peroxide for battling acne.
- Its antibacterial properties help kill bacteria that causes acne
- The catechins in green tea help to prevent cell damage and protect against free radicals that cause acne
- Green tea contains a host of antioxidants and vitamins (A, C and E), as well as minerals like chromium, zinc, selenium and manganese that are important for healthy skin.
To make the acne face mask, you’ll need the following (click on the links to see these products on Amazon):
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. If you’d like a thicker consistency, add a little more sugar. When you’re ready to use, spread the mask across your face, using your fingers or a cotton pad. Massage it in, using a circular motion, for several minutes to boost circulation and remove dead skin cells. Leave it on your face for about 10 minutes before rinsing well with cool water.
3. Acne Face Scrub
A face scrub helps to exfoliate the skin, which is necessary for removing buildup – clogged pores and dead skin cells contribute to acne, which means if you skip this step, your acne may be happy, but you won’t.
This DIY scrub is really a must for fighting acne and keeping your skin clear and looking fresh. Using brown sugar, olive oil and honey, it exfoliates while providing a more youthful glow. It also helps to absorb excess sebum on the skin and moisturize oily skin. Drying out oily skin serves the opposite purpose of what you probably think it would as it leads to an overproduction of oil. The scrub is able to eliminate dead cells on the surface of the skin while removing those unsightly skin peels that are common with acne.
Brown sugar is a natural humectant that moisturizes and lubricates skin, and also removes excess oils from deep within the skin’s pores, thanks to its gritty texture. As brown sugar is a natural glycolic acid, which is part of the alpha-hydroxy acid family, you’ve probably seen it regularly listed in store-bought exfoliators as it’s well known to help break down dead skin cells so that they can easily be washed away. Plus, as it easily dissolves in water, you won’t have any trouble rinsing it off, and it won’t leave any residue. Of course, brown sugar smells good too, so you can enjoy the aroma, instead of having to hold your nose like you would with some chemical ingredients.
Olive oil is naturally antibacterial, which means it kills the bacteria that can cause acne, and, its potent antioxidants help to reduce the appearance of acne scars as well as reducing swelling, redness and inflammation. Its moisturizing and its essential fatty acids help to heal damaged skin, while its vitamin E content works to restore the skin’s natural oil balance, preventing acne from occurring in the first place.
To make, you’ll need (below ingredients have links to each product on Amazon):
Combine the brown sugar, honey, and olive oil in a small bowl and mix well. Using clean fingertips, massage it onto your face, working from the chin up in a circular motion. Allow it to sit for about two minutes and then rinse thoroughly with warm water. Follow by a splash of cold water to help close the pores.