Get Rid of Acne Naturally

Acne medications might stop breakouts, but they can also cause dryness, discoloration, and skin irritation. Beyond the unwanted side effects, they're just expensive! Stick with these scientifically proven natural remedies, and save some money by using ingredients you might already have around the house.


Steam Cleaning Your Face

  1. Ready your face for steam cleaning. If your hair falls into your face, pull it back and secure it with a hair tie, head band, or bobby pins. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser — either a non-oil-based product or a plant-oil-based product. Many dermatologists recommend using glycerin, grapeseed and sunflower oils, as oils are best to absorb and dissolve other oils.[1]
    • Use your fingertips instead of a washcloth or sponge that could further aggravate your skin.
    • Massage the cleanser into your skin for about a minute using a gentle, circular motion. You're not trying to scrub, just help the cleanser loosen and absorb dirt and oils.
    • Rinse your face thoroughly with lukewarm water.
    • Pat your skin dry using a clean, cotton towel. Never rub a towel over your face, as this could further irritate your skin.
  2. Choose your essential oils. The oils listed here all have either antibacterial or antiseptic properties, meaning they can kill the bacteria that cause acne and prevent the formation of new pimples. You can choose based on personal preference (which one smells best?) or based on your unique situation. If you tend to be anxious or depressed, use the lavender. If you have some pimples (usually bacterial), in addition to blackheads, use an herb with antibacterial properties. If you are battling an upper respiratory infection, use thyme to both treat the infection and break up the congestion with heat.
    • Spearmint or peppermint oils may be irritating to some, so pre-test your skin by putting a single drop of it on your wrist and waiting for 10-15 minutes. If there is no irritation, you should be able to use the oil. Start with 1 drop per quart of water. Both peppermint and spearmint contain menthol, which has both antiseptic and immune-boosting properties.[2]
    • Thyme boosts the immune system and has antibacterial properties. It also increases circulation of the blood by opening up blood vessels.[3]
    • Calendula accelerates healing and has antimicrobial properties.[4]
    • Lavender is soothing and can help with anxiety and depression. It also has antibacterial properties.[5]
  3. Prepare your steaming water. Fill a 1-quart pot with water and bring it to a boil for a minute or two. Once the water has been steaming for a couple minutes, add 1-2 drops of any of the listed essential oils.
    • If you don’t have the essential oils, substitute with ½ teaspoon of the dried herb per quart of water.
    • Once you have added the herbs or oils, let the water boil for another minute.
    • After a minute, turn off the heat and move the pot to a comfortable area for steaming. Make sure you won’t have to hunch awkwardly over the pot, as you’ll have to hold that position for a while.
  4. Test for skin sensitivity.[6] Always be aware that you can develop sensitivity to an herbal oil. Even if you've successfully used oil in the past, retest it every time you steam your face with it. Try each oil for about a minute, then take your face away from the steam for 10 minutes. If you're not sneezing and you're skin isn't reacting poorly, reheat the water and proceed with the steaming.
  5. Steam your face. Place a large, clean cotton towel over your head. You'll use this to create a sort of "tent" to trap the steam around your face. Once you've made your towel-tent, lean over the steaming put to put your face in the steam.
    • Keep your eyes closed during the steaming process to protect them from steam damage.[7]
    • Keep your face at least 12 inches away from the water so you don't burn your skin. You want heat to dilate blood vessels and open up pores, but you certainly don’t want to damage your skin with heat.
    • Breathe normally and relax! This should be a pleasant, soothing experience.
    • Keep your face over the steam for about 10 minutes.
  6. Care for your skin afterward. Rinse your face well with lukewarm water and pat it dry with a clean cotton towel, remembering not to rub your skin. Moisturize your skin with a non-comedogenic lotion or cream that won't clog pores and worsen acne. Look at the packaging to make sure it's a non-comedogenic product.
    • “Non-comedogenic” products don't promote the formation of acne like comedones, blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples.[8] Any product you put on your face — from lotion to cleanser to makeup — is likely produced in a non-comedogenic formula for people with acne-prone skin.
    • One skin moisturizer is coconut oil. You can use plain coconut oil or garlic coconut oil mixture: squeeze the juice of one clove of garlic into 1 jar of coconut oil and stir well. The shelf life is about 30 days in the fridge. Sparingly rub this into your face once or twice per day. Both garlic and coconut oil kill acne germs. The medium chain fatty acids liquefy comedones and keep your skin pores open. The garlic gives it a bit of garlic smell; if you do not like that you may want to just use plain coconut oil instead.[9]
  7. Repeat this procedure until you see improvement. At the beginning, you can steam your face twice a day — once in the morning and once in the evening. After two weeks or so, you should see some kind of improvement in your skin. When you see improvement, reduce the frequency of your steam treatments to once a day.

Applying Herbal Masks

  1. Learn why herbal masks work. The mask ingredients described here have astringent properties that clean, tighten, and help heal skin while treating pimples. Astringents can dry out skin, so don’t apply it to already dry areas.[10][11] However, if you have oily skin, a mask with astringent properties will help normalize your skin’s moisture level.
  2. Mix your herbal mask base. In a bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 egg white, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. These ingredients have natural properties that will help heal your skin. For example, honey has antibacterial and astringent properties.[12] The egg whites not only thicken the mask, but also act as an astringent, and the lemon juice is both an astringent and a natural bleach/whitening agent.[13][14]
  3. Add an essential oil. Once you've made your mask base, mix in 1/2 teaspoon of any of the following essential oils:
    • Peppermint
    • Spearmint
    • Lavender
    • Calendula
    • Thyme
  4. Apply the mask. Using your fingertips, spread the mixture over your face, your neck, or wherever you're having a problem. This process might get messy, so make sure to do it in an area that can be easily cleaned, like a bathroom. Don't glop on so much of the paste that it will drip off your face or take too long to dry.
    • If you don't want to apply an entire facial mask, you can use the mixture to spot-treat problem areas. Simply use a Q-tip to apply the mask directly to pimples.
  5. Allow the mixture to dry. Depending on how much of the mixture you applied to your face, drying time may vary. However, it should take somewhere around for 15 minutes. Be careful not to let the mask drip everywhere while you're waiting for it to dry.
  6. Rinse your face. After the fifteen minutes have passed and the mixture has dried and had time to work on your skin, it's time to wash it away. Rinse it off completely using lukewarm water and your hands. Don't use a washcloth or sponge that might further irritate your acne skin. Pat your face dry with a clean cotton towel, making sure not to irritate the skin by rubbing.
    • Apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer to finish.

Using Sea Salt

  1. Learn how sea salt treats acne. Experts don't actually know exactly how sea salt reduces acne. It may be that the high salt concentration helps kill off bacteria or that the sea salt replenishes minerals that help heal the skin.[15] Sea salt may also be helpful in dissolving sebum.
    • This method, has helped many with mild-moderate acne and will not interfere with any medications used.
    • Still, it's always best, if you are seeing a dermatologist, to let them know what you are doing at home to help yourself.
    • Be careful not to over-use sea salt, as it can dry your skin and stimulate sebum production that might cause a breakout.
  2. Ready your skin for treatment. Always cleanse your face first with a gentle non-alcohol based cleanser. Place the cleanser on your fingertips and use gentle, circular motions to loosen any dirt. Wash for about a minute, then rinse with cool or lukewarm water. Pat dry with a clean towel and use one of the sea salt methods given below as an after-cleanse treatment.
  3. Mix a sea salt mask. A mask is useful if the acne you want to target is on your face. Stir 1 teaspoon of sea salt into 3 teaspoons of hot water. The water should be hot enough to dissolve the sea salt completely when you stir it together. To this solution, add 1 tablespoon of one of the following:
    • Aloe vera gel (to help heal)[16][17]
    • Green tea (for antioxidants)[18][19]
    • Honey (for its antibacterial actions and to promote healing)[12][20]
  4. Apply the mask. Spread the mixture over your face with your fingertips, making sure not to make too much of a mess. Avoid getting the mixture near your eyes. Leave it on for 10 minutes, but no longer. Sea salt draws water out and can dry your skin out too much.
    • After 10 minutes, rinse the mask off with cool to lukewarm water, and pat your face dry with a clean towel.
    • Apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer to finish.
    • While you may be very tempted, use this bath or facial wash only once a day. Otherwise, you may dry out your skin too much, even with a moisturizer.
  5. Make a sea salt spray as an alternative to a mask. The ingredients for the spray are essentially the same as for the mask. However, use 10 teaspoons of sea salt in 30 teaspoons of hot water, and 10 tablespoons of the aloe vera gel/green tea/honey. Once you've made your solution, pour it into a clean spray bottle.
    • Store this mixture in the refrigerator to preserve it.
  6. Spray the mixture onto your face. Every time you treat your skin with anything, you should always wash it with lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser. Close or cover your eyes to protect it from the sting of salt water, then spritz the mixture onto your face and neck.
    • Just as with the mask, you don't want to leave it on your skin for more than 10 minutes, after which you should rinse thoroughly with cool to lukewarm water.
    • Pat your skin dry, then finish with a non-comedogenic moisturizer.
  7. Soak in a salt bath for a “whole-body” method. If you have outbreaks of acne on large portions of your body, immersing your whole body in treated water might be a better option than a mask or spray. While regular table salt won't hurt your skin, it also won't offer all the benefits of the other minerals found in sea salt: calcium, magnesium, sodium, chlorine, iodine, potassium, zinc, and iron.[21] The bath won't really be worth it if you're using regular table salt.
    • Add 2 cups of sea salt to very warm-to-hot water as it is filling the tub. This helps the sea salt to dissolve.
    • Soak in the water for up to 15 minutes, but no more. Longer than that might over-dry your skin.
    • If you have pimples on your face, soak a washcloth in the tub water and place it over your face for 10-15 minutes.
    • Rinse off the sea salt water with cool water.
    • Pat your skin dry and apply a moisturizer to your body to prevent the sea salt from over-drying your skin.
    • Don’t bathe more than once a day in sea salt.

Using Homemade Natural Cleansing Solution

  1. Learn how acne is formed.[22] Sebum is a naturally produced oil that, when overproduced, clogs up your pores, causing blackheads and whiteheads. When the skin is also infected with the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, pimples, pustules, cysts, and abscesses form.
  2. Familiarize yourself with natural acne-fighting theory. Sebum, the most direct cause of acne, is an oil. Based on the principles of chemistry, the best way to dissolve oil (and dirt, cell debris, dirt, bacteria etc,) is to use another oil.[23] We've grown used to thinking that oil is always bad for the skin, so we use cleansers with (often) irritating chemicals. We forget that the natural oils on the skin are there to protect, moisturize, and keep the skin healthy. Oil has the ability to not just break down dirt and unwanted oils, but also to prevent the stripping of the skin that you see with soap.[24]
  3. Choose your primary oil. Choose oils wisely, making sure to avoid sensitivities and allergies. If you have a nut allergy, for example, you won’t want to use hazelnut oil. The following list of oils is varied — some are more expensive than others, some are easier to find than others. However, all are non-comedogenic, and will not clog the pores and contribute to the acne problem:[25]
    • Argan oil
    • Hemp seed oil
    • Shea nut oil (Shea olein)
    • Sunflower oil
    • Alternative oils that you can use (that are non-comedogenic for most people) include olive oil and castor oil. Castor oil can be drying for some people, while for others, it is moisturizing.
    • Coconut oil is different from the other oils in that it contains medium chain fatty acids. It kills bacteria including Propionibacterium acnes. It counters the long chain fatty acids in sebum that block the skin pores.[9]
  4. Decide on a second, anti-bacterial/antiseptic. The herbal essential oils on this list are known to have properties that will help minimize the presence of P. acnes bacteria. Many of these oils have pleasant aromas, so you might choose an oil based on personal preference. With all oils you put on your skin, always remember to try them on a small area of skin first to determine if you have a sensitivity to it.
    • Oregano: antibacterial, anti-inflammatory[26]
    • Tea tree: antibacterial, antifungal[27]
    • Lavender: antibacterial, calming and soothing.[28]
    • Rosemary: specifically antibacterial against P. acnes [29]
    • Frankincense: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial[30]
  5. Mix your oil cleanser. You can make as much or as little of your cleanser as you'd like. It may be more efficient to make larger batches and store them somewhere cool and away from light. The ratio you should maintain for all batches is:
    • For every fluid ounce of primary oil, add 3-5 drops of secondary herbal essential oil.
  6. Use your natural cleanser. Pour a small amount of the oil mixture into the palm of your hand and apply it to your face. Never use a washcloth or sponge, which might further irritate your acne. Using small, circular motions, gently massage the oil into your skin for 2 minutes.
  7. Wash your face. A simple rinse will not be as effective as usual, since water does not dissolve oil. To remove the oil cleanser from your face, place a washcloth soaked in warm water on your face for 20 seconds. Slowly and gently wipe of the oil, then rinse the washcloth in warm water. Repeat this procedure until you've wiped all the oil from your face.
    • Use a cotton towel to pat dry your face.
    • Use this method twice a day and after heavy sweating.

Developing a Good Cleansing Routine

  1. Make washing a regular part of your routine. Wash your face at least twice a day — once when you wake up to clear away oils that accumulate on the skin during sleep, and once before sleep to wash away the day's accumulation.[31] Beyond that, always wash your face after periods of heavy sweating, whether you've gone to the gym or just been outside on a warm day. Take a bath at least once a day, and consider taking an extra shower after heavy sweating.
    • Always use either a non-comedogenic product or your homemade oil-based cleanser.
    • Use sea salt as directed. Overexposing your skin to drying sea salt could dehydrate your skin, causing a flare-up of acne.
  2. Use proper washing technique. You may be tempted to use a washcloth or exfoliating gloves to wash your face, but your best tools are your fingertips. Especially if your skin already has acne on it, you don’t want to irritate it with abrasive surfaces. Massage cleansers into your skin in gentle, circular motions for about 10 seconds. [32]
    • Don’t exfoliate blemished skin, as it could pull away skin that’s not ready to come away yet. This is like pulling off a scab that’s still working to heal your skin, and will leave behind scars and discoloration. .[33]
  3. Do not pop your pimples.[34][35][36] No matter how bad acne looks, you need to understand that those pimples and pustules are actually keeping harmful bacteria contained. The pus that comes out of a popped pimple is full of the P. acnes bacteria. It may be satisfying to see it leave the skin, but all you’re actually doing is exposing your other, healthy skin to the bacteria that was previously contained in the pimple. This could potentially lead to acne spreading, rather than your pimple disappearing. Popping zits can also cause scarring and discoloration.
  4. Protect your skin from the sun. A popular myth suggests that a tan can help treat and prevent acne, but scientists have found no evidence to support that.[37] In fact, both the sun and tanning beds damage your skin and raise your risk for cancer. Be aware that some acne medications or other types of medication can actually make your skin even more sensitive to the sun. These drugs include antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, tetracycline, sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim; antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benedryl); drugs used to treat cancer (5-FU, vinblastine, dacarbazine); heart drugs like amiodorone, nifedipine, quinidine and ditiazem; Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen and the acne medications isotretinoin (Accutane) and acitretin (Soriatane).

Adjusting Your Diet

  1. Eat foods with a low glycemic index (GI). Skin specialists tell us that despite stories you may have heard about milk and chocolate, diet doesn’t directly cause acne. However, recent research examined diets of indigenous populations around the globe where there was no acne in the teenage subpopulations. When diets were compared between the controls in the US who had more than 70% acne and the indigenous teenagers without acne, it was clear that milk products in combination with too much sugar were missing in the diets of the acne free teenagers, but present in the US controls.[38] This explains why for some people, certain foods including dairy products and diets high in processed sugars increase the risk for acne. These foods increase inflammation and provide an environment where bacteria can flourish.[39] Studies have indicated that low glycemic index foods (GI) reduce the severity of acne.[39] Low glycemic index foods are those foods that release sugars into your blood more slowly. The lowest GI foods are:[40]
    • Bran cereals, Natural Muesli, rolled oats
    • Whole wheat, pumpernickel, whole grain breads
    • Most vegetables except beetroots, pumpkin and parsnips
    • Nuts
    • Most fruit except watermelon and dates. Mango, banana, papaya, pineapple, raisins, and figs have medium GI.
    • Legumes
    • Yogurt
    • Whole grains are low- to- medium GI. The lowest GI are found in brown rice, barley, and whole grain pasta.
  2. Fill out your diet with Vitamins A and D. Along with eating foods low in GI, you should also make sure that you're introducing the appropriate nutrients for skin health into your body. The vitamins that appear to be most important for the skin are vitamins A and D.[41] Work the following foods into your diet:[42][43]
    • Vegetables: Sweet potato, spinach, carrots, pumpkin, broccoli, red peppers, summer squash
    • Fruit: Cantaloupe, mangoes, apricots
    • Legumes: Black-eyed peas
    • Meat and Fish: beef liver, herring, salmon
    • Fish: Cod liver oil, salmon, tuna
    • Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese
  3. Get Vitamin D through sun exposure. Though many foods are fortified with Vitamin D, it doesn’t exist in abundance in the foods we eat. While you can try to increase your Vitamin D levels through eating, the single best way to get Vitamin D is to expose your skin to the sun 10-15 minutes a week. Sunlight triggers Vitamin D production by the skin.[44] Do not wear sun screen, and leave as much skin exposed as you feel comfortable with.
    • Do not over-expose your skin to sunlight without sun screen, as it is very dangerous and could lead to cancer.[45]
  4. Increase your omega-3 fat consumption. Studies suggest that omega-3 fats can benefit those with acne.[46] Omega-3 fats limiting the body’s production of leukotriene B4, which increases sebum production and leads to inflammatory acne. Sebum is a natural oil produced to moisturize the skin, but when it's over-produced, it clogs the skin and causes acne. By increasing the omega-3 fat in your diet, you can help control your acne. Foods you should look for include:
    • Seeds and Nuts: flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, chia seeds, butternuts, walnuts
    • Fish and Fish oils: salmon, sardines, mackerel, whitefish, shad
    • Herbs and Spices: basil, oregano, cloves, marjoram
    • Vegetables: spinach, sprouted radish seeds, chinese broccoli


  • Use a clean towel on your pillow every night (or just turn the same one over so you do half the amount of washing!). Oils and bacteria from your face and hair stay on the pillow for a long time. Try this out to stop bacteria spreading - this is an effective method to help combat acne breakouts.
  • Try using a single treatment at a time to see what works and what doesn't. You'll be able to deduce one at a time which of your methods is the most successful at reducing your acne growth.
  • Wash your face with a soap bar, then apply a paste of water and baking soda. Finally, splash your face with water. Do this twice a week.
  • In women who have severe acne there may be a hormone imbalance that could be part of the causation of acne. For instance, when women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are tested for hormones by doing saliva tests their estrogen level may be too high and the progesterone level too low. This condition is called “estrogen dominance” and is treated with bioidentical progesterone cream. Any naturopath would be able to treat this effectively. The women who have this condition will notice that the associated acne will improve at least by 50%, if not more using the progesterone cream. But not every case of acne is caused by hormone imbalance.
  • If you have tried all these methods and there is still no improvement you may want to see your physician for a referral to a skin specialist (dermatologist).
  • Aloe Vera will help destroy pimples.


  • Don’t place dry sea salt directly onto your skin, as it can sting quite a bit and is a case of “too much of a good thing”

Related Articles

Sources and Citations

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  3. Fournomiti M, Kimbaris A, Mantzourani I, Plessas S, Theodoridou I, Papaemmanouil V, Kapsiotis I, Panopoulou M, Stavropoulou E, Bezirtzoglou EE, Alexopoulos A. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils of cultivated oregano
  4. Efstratiou E, Hussain AI, Nigam PS, Moore JE, Ayub MA, Rao JR.Antimicrobial activity of Calendula officinalis petal extracts against fungi, as well as Gram-negative and Gram-positive clinical pathogens.Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2012 Aug;18(3):173-6.
  5. Sienkiewicz M, Głowacka A, Kowalczyk E, Wiktorowska-Owczarek A, Jóźwiak-Bębenista M, Łysakowska M.The biological activities of cinnamon, geranium and lavender essential oils. Molecules. 2014 Dec 12;19(12):20929-40.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D.: “The Coconut Oil Miracle”, 5th edition,2013, Penguin Books, NY 10014
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  15. Quist, Sven R., et al. "Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Topical Formulations Containing Sea Silt And Sea Salt On Human Skin In Vivo During Cutaneous Microdialysis." Acta Dermato-Venereologica 91.5 (2011): 597-599. Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 June 2015.
  17. Murphy, K. (2010) Reviews of articles on medicinal herbs. Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism, 22(3), 100-103.
  19. Goldfaden, R.,Goldfaden, G.(2011) Topical Resveratrol Combats Skin Aging. Life Ext. 17(11), 1-5.
  20. Hanley, K. (2010)Immunity superstars: the 10 best foods to fight off colds and flu. Nat. Solutions. 130; 50-54.
  24. Wexler, S. Problem Solved!. Prevention [serial online]. January 2014;66(1):54-57.
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