If there’s anything we’ve learned from this gigantic, culture-wide battle against breakouts, it’s that there is no panacea for acne. There is no miracle cure or wonder drug. No magic potion or perfect pill. Everyone’s skin is different, and acne is the result of a lot of compounding variables.
This range of possible causes is often what makes treating acne so difficult, and the epidemic so widespread. It’s estimated that 70-90% of young adults suffer from acne at some point, and the misery doesn’t end there. Adult acne is becoming increasingly more common, especially among women. This is a frustrating and embarrassing situation of life that so many people have to suffer through. Whether it’s an occasional flare-up, or a constant irritation, acne can really wear on a person’s self-esteem.
There are, however, some very effective remedies that minimize, restore, and sometimes even rid skin of those uncomfortable blemishes. It’s important to first identify what the root cause of a particular case of acne is. Causes of acne range from the basic comedogenic acne, which results from pores being clogged with excess dirt, oil, dead skin and bacteria, to hormonal changes, genetics, poor diet, poor sleep habits, and certain medications.
Why Conventional Acne Products Don’t Work
People will turn to almost anything to try to fix their face. Hundreds of products make claims of cures that generate a lot more revenue than they do results. Harmful chemicals and products are scrubbed and lathered onto the skin in desperation. In almost all cases, this rubbing and scrubbing is actually part of the problem.
Exfoliation is important in a skin care routine, in order to gently remove dead skin cells, but too much scratching and beating actually strips skin and bothers it so that it overproduces sebum (that natural oil in your skin) to try to protect itself from the damage. Other products and chemicals similarly strip skin, turning what might have been a momentary problem into a chronic issue and this results in scarring that will long outlive the original flare-up.
Some products work in the short-term, but really just drive the issue deeper under the surface. Even more of them may help with acne, but they are so harsh that they lead to premature skin aging and wrinkles, requiring a dozen more unsuccessful products later down the line.
Trying a Natural Approach
The better option when fighting acne is to try a wide variety of natural options that are good for your skin to begin with.
Not every method will work for each person, but how exciting it is when you find one that works for you! Some of these methods include oil cleansing, a yogurt or honey mask, apple cider vinegar or witch hazel toners, and essential oils! In this respect though, not all essential oils were created equal. They all have different properties and purposes and are far from interchangeable.
The Best Oils
So if you’re tired of the recurring acne and ready to try a more healthy and natural path, here are the best essential oils to incorporate into your experimentation:
1. Tea Tree
If you’re only going to try one, then make it this one. Tea tree oil comes from an Australian plant that has traditionally been used by Natives to treat all sorts of skin infections. The extract has antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it ideal for treating the bacteria present in acne. It also has very small particles and a low molecular weight, meaning it can penetrate deep into skin and dissolve blockages caused by built-up oil and debris. It opens up clogged pores and disinfects them.
Tea tree oil has actually been tested and shown to perform just as well on acne as benzoyl peroxide, a leading chemical in synthetic acne medications, and almost six times better than a placebo in other studies.
Direct consumption of tea tree oil is dangerous to humans and pets. If you apply this with your hands, then make sure to wash them before petting animals or handling food.
Lavender is everyone’s favorite essential oil. It’s just delightful. It’s also great for your skin! Like tea tree, lavender oil is an antimicrobial bacteria buster. But it’s more than that. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make it ideal for soothing angry irritation. It calms down red and inflamed skin, making it appear more even and level while also breaking up and disinfecting clogs.
Lavender oil is also a proven stress-reliever and stress and acne can be related in some people. Stress produces a hormone called cortisol, which can cause skin to kick into overdrive producing sebum. Lavender oil, either diffused in the air or absorbed topically, helps to lessen cortisol production and the symptoms that follow.
Lavender is also considered one of the most gentle of all the essential oils and several drops can safely be used on the skin.
3. Clary Sage
Clary sage is a wonderful essential oil to use for acne, because it not only kills bacteria, but it also regulates sebum production so that your skin stops overproducing oil. This makes clary sage a great tool for fighting skin infections and painful inflammation.
This oil, like lavender, has also been proven to reduce stress and the production of cortisol in the body, making it an especially good balancer for women with stress related acne. Clary sage is also good for your overall skin health, and will reduce scaring and future wrinkles caused by past, ahem, acne ‘cures’.
Clary Sage is an oil that improves mood and kills bacteria? What more could you want!
Many people swear by oregano oil as an acne remedy. Thought of by most people primarily as a kitchen spice, the oil extracted from oregano is very potent. The phenol in oregano oil is a wonderful disinfectant, killing germs and detoxifying pores.
But that same phenol can also cause irritation in sensitive skin. Because of this, oregano should always be diluted and is best used as a spot-treatment overnight. Mix a drop with a tablespoon of coconut oil or jojoba oil and then use that with either a Q-tip or your finger to tackle the tough spots.
There are other oils that work for acne as well, such as lemon, frankincense, geranium, and bergamot. These oils work well as natural astringents, disinfectants, and moisturizers, but the four listed above are by far the most effective. Whichever one you choose, simply drip a little onto a cotton pad and wipe onto the affected spots. For a larger area, dilute the oils into a carrier oil and massage them into your skin. For acne on hard to reach areas, such as backs, pour a few drops into a hot bath and soak for a few minutes.
However you use them, individually or in a blend, you are bound to see a benefit from using essential oils to fight acne. They really will do wonders for your face right away, and they’ll protect it for the future too.