Acne is a widespread skin issue, with around 85% of young adults facing it.
While traditional acne treatments like salicylic acid, niacinamide, or benzoyl peroxide are known to work well, they can be costly and might lead to unwanted effects like skin dryness, irritation, and redness.
This has led a lot of folks to explore natural home solutions for acne. In fact, a study showed that 77% of those with acne have tested alternative treatments.
However, it’s worth noting that many of these home remedies don’t have strong scientific support, so more studies are required to confirm their efficacy. But if you’re curious about natural alternatives, there are several you can consider.
In this article, we’ll delve into 13 commonly suggested home solutions for acne.
What’s in this article
- Use apple cider vinegar - Made from fermented apple cider, it might help combat bacteria leading to acne.
- Consume zinc supplements - This essential nutrient can lessen acne when ingested.
- Try a honey-cinnamon face mask - These two combined can tackle bacteria and swelling causing acne.
- Apply tea tree oil on affected areas - This natural oil has properties to soothe and reduce skin redness.
- Rub green tea on your skin - This tea, rich in antioxidants, can regulate blood sugar, aiding in acne prevention.
- Use witch hazel - Extracted from the namesake shrub, it combats skin redness.
- Hydrate with aloe vera - This plant’s gel is a natural way to calm down skin inflammation.
- Incorporate fish oil supplements - Packed with beneficial fats, they help in cutting down inflammation and potential acne.
- Remove dead skin with exfoliation - Regular exfoliation keeps the skin fresh and clean.
- Adopt a low glycemic load eating plan - This diet strategy avoids foods causing insulin spikes, helping skin remain calm.
- Limit dairy products - Less dairy might help in managing hormone-driven acne flare-ups.
- Stay relaxed - Keeping stress in check can help in maintaining hormone levels and decreasing swelling.
- Stay active - Regular physical activity boosts blood flow, nourishing the skin and assisting in acne recovery.
What causes acne?
Acne begins when your skin’s pores become blocked with excess oil and dead skin particles.
Every pore is linked to a sebaceous gland that produces an oily matter named sebum. When there’s too much sebum, it can clog pores and lead to the growth of a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes for short.
When your body’s white blood cells target P. acnes, it results in inflammation, which manifests as acne. While some people might experience mild acne, others could have more intense breakouts with symptoms like whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.
Several elements can influence acne’s onset, such as:
- genetic factors
- the foods you eat
- emotional stress
- hormonal fluctuations
While traditional clinical methods are usually the most efficient in addressing acne, natural home solutions can also be explored. However, it’s essential to remember that the efficacy of these home remedies requires further investigation. Here, we’ll discuss 13 potential natural treatments for acne.
Try apple cider vinegar
How it works: Apple cider vinegar has organic acids that may combat bacteria, reduce inflammation, and enhance the look of acne scars.
Derived from fermented apple cider or the pure juice extracted from fresh apples, apple cider vinegar is recognized for its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
It possesses organic acids like citric acid known to target and destroy P. acnes.
Studies indicate that succinic acid, another component, reduces the inflammation induced by P. acnes, possibly minimizing scarring.
Furthermore, lactic acid in apple cider vinegar might help lighten acne scar appearances.
However, while some elements in apple cider vinegar could aid in managing acne, there isn’t enough scientific data endorsing its consistent use for acne. Some skin experts even suggest avoiding it because it might cause skin irritation.
How to apply apple cider vinegar
- Combine 1 portion of apple cider vinegar with 3 portions of water (increase water ratio for delicate skin).
- Post-cleansing, lightly dab the solution onto the skin with a cotton pad.
- Allow it to stay for about 5–20 seconds, then rinse off with water and gently pat dry.
- Do this once or twice daily as required.
Remember, direct application of apple cider vinegar can lead to skin burns or irritation. Always use sparingly and ensure it’s sufficiently diluted with water.
Suggested read: 6 health benefits of apple cider vinegar
Consider zinc supplements
How it works: Boosting zinc levels in the bloodstream might help diminish severe and inflammatory acne outbreaks.
Zinc plays a vital role in many bodily processes, including cell growth, hormone creation, metabolism, and supporting the immune system.
It’s one of the more researched natural acne remedies. Studies suggest individuals with acne often have less zinc in their blood compared to those with clearer complexions.
There’s evidence that ingesting zinc could reduce acne’s severity. For instance, a 2014 review determined that zinc was better at addressing severe and inflammatory acne rather than mild cases.
The ideal zinc dose for acne hasn’t been pinpointed. However, older studies noticed significant acne reduction when individuals took 30–45 mg of elemental zinc daily. It’s important to understand that “elemental zinc” refers to the zinc amount within a compound. Different zinc compounds have varying amounts of this elemental zinc, with zinc oxide boasting the most at 80%.
Generally, it’s suggested not to surpass 40 mg of zinc daily, which is the recommended upper safety limit, unless guided by a healthcare professional. Overconsumption can lead to issues like stomach discomfort and digestive disturbances.
Also, note that topical zinc applications might not be effective since the skin doesn’t absorb zinc well.
Try a honey-cinnamon facial mask
How it works: Together, honey and cinnamon offer antibacterial qualities that can combat the bacteria causing acne.
Both honey and cinnamon have properties that can combat bacteria and reduce inflammation, two primary acne culprits.
Research from 2017 revealed that a mix of honey and cinnamon bark extract had antibacterial actions against P. acnes. Separate studies have found that honey alone can either hinder the growth of or eliminate P. acnes.
However, this doesn’t directly translate to honey being a definitive acne solution. One research involving 136 acne-affected individuals showed that using honey after washing with antibacterial soap wasn’t more beneficial than just using the soap.
Even though honey and cinnamon have properties that might help with acne, more comprehensive studies are needed.
Preparing a honey-cinnamon face mask
- Blend 2 tablespoons of honey with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to create a smooth paste.
- Post-cleansing, spread the mask on your face and let it sit for around 10–15 minutes.
- Thoroughly rinse off the mask and gently dry your face.
Use tea tree oil as a spot treatment
How it works: Provides mild anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can assist in acne management.
Tea tree oil, an essential oil derived from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree indigenous to Australia, is renowned for its bacteria-fighting and skin inflammation-reducing capabilities.
Several studies have demonstrated the positive effects of applying tea tree oil to acne-affected skin.
In a particular study comparing it with benzoyl peroxide, which is a common acne treatment, participants using a tea tree oil-based ointment experienced fewer side effects like skin dryness and irritation. Moreover, they expressed greater satisfaction with the tea tree oil treatment.
Given that continuous use of topical and oral antibiotics for acne might lead to bacterial resistance, tea tree oil might serve as an effective alternative.
However, it’s crucial to note that tea tree oil is quite concentrated. Always ensure it’s diluted before applying it to your skin.
How to use tea tree oil for your skin
- Combine 1 part tea tree oil with 9 parts water.
- Saturate a cotton swab in the solution and dab onto problem areas.
- If desired, follow up with a moisturizer.
- Use this method 1–2 times daily as required.
Suggested read: 14 benefits and uses for tea tree oil
Use green tea for your skin
How it works: Packed with natural compounds and antioxidants, green tea can help combat acne when ingested or applied topically.
Green tea’s high antioxidant content not only supports general health when consumed but can also mitigate acne symptoms. This is largely attributed to green tea’s polyphenols, which target bacteria and inflammation, both primary acne culprits.
Though consuming green tea’s impact on acne requires further investigation, a limited study involving 80 women documented noticeable results. After taking 1,500 mg of green tea extract daily for four weeks, participants exhibited a marked decline in acne around specific facial regions, including the nose, chin, and mouth areas.
Several studies also highlighted the potential benefits of green tea in regulating blood sugar and insulin levels—factors that could exacerbate acne.
There’s compelling evidence supporting the topical application of green tea for acne. The leading antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has been shown to reduce sebum production, combat inflammation, and stifle P. acnes growth in those with acne tendencies.
Multiple studies validate the efficacy of green tea extract in significantly curbing sebum production and acne manifestations.
While green tea-infused skincare products are commercially available, concocting a homemade solution is just as feasible.
How to use green tea for your skin
- Brew green tea in boiling water, allowing it to steep for about 3–4 minutes.
- Once cooled, use a cotton ball to dab the tea onto your skin or decant into a spray bottle for a mist application.
- Leave it to settle before washing off with water and patting the skin dry.
For added benefits, the residual tea leaves can be combined with honey to create a nourishing face mask.
Incorporate witch hazel into your routine
How it works: Rich in tannins, witch hazel possesses both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a popular choice for various skin ailments.
Originating from the bark and leaves of the Hamamelis virginiana, a shrub native to North America, witch hazel is rich in tannins. Due to these properties, it is utilized for treating a plethora of skin conditions, ranging from dandruff and eczema to varicose veins, burns, and acne.
However, current research specifically targeting witch hazel’s efficacy against acne is limited.
A minor study, backed by a skincare brand, had 30 participants with either mild or moderate acne. They were instructed to follow a three-step facial regimen twice daily for a duration of 6 weeks. One of these steps incorporated witch hazel. By the end of this period, a significant proportion of participants witnessed notable improvements in their acne.
There’s also evidence suggesting that witch hazel can combat bacteria and curtail skin irritation and inflammation, common culprits behind acne.
How to use witch hazel for acne
- Combine 1 tablespoon of witch hazel bark with 1 cup of water in a pot.
- Allow the witch hazel to soak for approximately 30 minutes before bringing the mixture to a boil.
- Lower the heat to let it simmer, keeping it covered for about 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let it stand for an added 10 minutes.
- Strain the liquid and transfer it to a sealed container for storage.
- Using a cotton ball, apply the solution to a clean face 1–2 times daily or as preferred.
It’s pertinent to note that store-bought witch hazel variants might not retain tannins since they can be eliminated during distillation.
Moisturize your skin with aloe vera
How it works: Aloe vera gel contains natural elements like salicylic acid and sulfur, which contribute to skin healing and the mitigation of acne.
A tropical plant by nature, aloe vera’s leaves house a clear gel that’s often infused into various skincare products like creams, lotions, and soaps.
This gel is renowned for its therapeutic effects on the skin, particularly in treating burns, alleviating inflammation, and accelerating wound healing.
Embedded within aloe vera are compounds like salicylic acid and sulfur, both of which are prominent in acne treatments. In fact, studies have shown that topical application of salicylic acid can diminish acne.
Some research also points to the potential benefits of combining aloe vera gel with other acne-fighting agents, such as tretinoin cream or tea tree oil.
Despite these findings, it’s essential to note that the standalone benefits of aloe vera for acne need more comprehensive research.
How to apply aloe vera
- Extract the gel from an aloe vera leaf using a spoon.
- Directly apply this gel to cleansed skin, using it as a moisturizer.
- This can be done 1–2 times daily or according to preference.
When purchasing aloe vera gel from stores, ensure its purity by checking that it doesn’t contain any additional components.
Boost your diet with fish oil
How it works: Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil supplements aid in complementing a standard diet and mitigating inflammation often linked to acne.
Omega-3 fatty acids are pivotal nutrients that offer a plethora of health benefits. However, they need to be sourced externally through diet since the body cannot produce them.
Central to fish oils are two primary omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Ample evidence suggests that high concentrations of EPA and DHA can curtail inflammatory agents, potentially reducing acne vulnerability.
In a distinctive study, 45 acne-afflicted individuals consumed omega-3 supplements infused with both EPA and DHA daily. The result, after 10 weeks, was a marked reduction in their acne.
Though there’s no universally agreed daily intake for omega-3s, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advocates for adults to intake about 250 mg of combined EPA and DHA each day.
To naturally intake omega-3s, consider incorporating salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds into your diet.
Suggested read: 17 science-based benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
Prioritize regular exfoliation
How it works: By sloughing off dead skin cells, exfoliation aids in decongesting pores and rejuvenating the skin’s appearance.
The act of exfoliation involves shedding the superficial layer of dead skin cells, either through chemical means or mechanically by utilizing a brush, scrub, or similar tools.
Exfoliation might be pivotal in ameliorating acne, as it unclogs pores inundated with dead skin cells.
Moreover, once the epidermal layer is exfoliated, acne treatments can penetrate more profoundly, enhancing their efficacy.
Nonetheless, extant research elucidating the relationship between exfoliation and acne mitigation is rather sparse.
Some empirical data suggest that microdermabrasion, a form of exfoliation, can significantly uplift the skin’s aesthetic, including rectifying some manifestations of acne scars.
In an exploratory study, 38 acne patients underwent eight consecutive weekly microdermabrasion sessions. Those with acne-induced scars experienced discernible improvements post-treatment.
Yet another study deduced that a regime of six weekly microdermabrasion sessions galvanized skin rejuvenation.
While these findings seem promising, a more robust body of research is imperative to corroborate the benefits of exfoliation for acne treatment.
While the market is inundated with an array of exfoliating products, crafting a homemade scrub with ubiquitous ingredients like sugar or salt is feasible.
It’s worth noting that aggressive mechanical exfoliation using coarse scrubs or brushes can exacerbate skin irritation and inflict damage. Consequently, some skin specialists endorse milder chemical exfoliation with formulations containing salicylic or glycolic acid.
Should you opt for mechanical exfoliation, exercise caution by applying gentle pressure to circumvent skin damage.
How ot make a DIY scrub at home
- Combine sugar (or salt) with coconut oil in equal proportions.
- Employ gentle circular motions to apply the concoction to your skin, then rinse thoroughly.
- Depending on your skin’s tolerance, consider exfoliating daily or adjust frequency accordingly.
Opt for a low-glycemic diet
How it works: Stabilizes blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to decreased sebum production.
There’s a long-standing debate regarding the nexus between one’s diet and the onset or exacerbation of acne.
Emerging evidence suggests that dietary elements, particularly insulin levels and the glycemic index of foods, may play a role in acne manifestation.
The glycemic index (GI) of a food quantifies the speed at which it can spike blood sugar levels. Consuming foods with high GI can lead to a surge in insulin, which in turn may escalate sebum production, potentially exacerbating acne.
Foods that typically have a high glycemic index encompass:
- Processed goods like white bread
- Sugar-laden beverages
- Desserts such as cakes, doughnuts, and pastries
- Sweets and candies
- Highly processed cereals
Conversely, foods with a low glycemic index are:
- Whole grains or those that are minimally processed
A notable study observed 66 participants who were either on a conventional or low glycemic diet. Post a 2-week duration, those on the low glycemic regimen showcased diminished levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a hormone implicated in acne’s evolution.
Another investigation involving 64 subjects discerned that those grappling with moderate to severe acne generally consumed a diet richer in carbohydrates and possessed a higher glycemic load compared to individuals without acne.
While these initial findings are promising, indicating that a low glycemic diet could be advantageous for acne sufferers, more comprehensive and prolonged research is imperative.
Reconsider dairy intake
How it works: Aids in rectifying hormonal imbalances often linked to acne flare-ups.
The association between dairy consumption and acne has always been a topic of contention.
Milk and its derivatives are imbued with hormones, including IGF-1, which has been correlated with acne. Dairy’s inherent hormones might induce hormonal fluctuations, culminating in acne breakouts.
One distinct research encompassing individuals aged 10 to 24 discerned that the intake of whole milk thrice or more weekly was concomitant with moderate to severe acne.
Yet another study, which took into account 114 participants, revealed that those with acne typically consumed more milk compared to their acne-free counterparts.
Contrastingly, an expansive study analyzing over 20,000 adults couldn’t establish a link between milk ingestion and acne.
Given that the data from these studies was self-reported by participants, it’s pivotal to conduct further rigorous research to ascertain a definitive correlation.
Multiple literature reviews have implied a potential correlation between the consumption of dairy and acne incidence.
To summarize, while there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting a link between dairy intake and acne, this relationship warrants deeper exploration.
Reduce stress levels
How it works: Alleviating stress helps regulate hormones and gut microbiota, which can be associated with sebum production and inflammation.
Stress, whether emotional or physical, can exacerbate various health issues, including acne. When we’re stressed, the body releases hormones, notably cortisol, which can trigger increased oil production in the skin, leading to acne flare-ups.
Additionally, stress might negatively influence the balance of bacteria in the gut, leading to systemic inflammation, which has the potential to exacerbate skin conditions.
Furthermore, stress can hamper the body’s wound-healing capabilities, potentially causing acne lesions to heal more slowly.
While several studies have explored the relationship between stress and acne, definitive conclusions remain elusive due to the small sample sizes of these studies.
One particular study involving 80 participants didn’t identify a direct correlation between the intensity of stress and acne occurrence. However, it postulated that the severity of acne could be influenced by an individual’s resilience or coping mechanism against stress.
Incorporating relaxation techniques and stress-management strategies may offer relief for acne sufferers, though more substantial research is warranted.
Techniques to mitigate stress include:
- Ensuring adequate sleep
- Engaging in regular physical activity
- Embracing yoga or tai chi
- Practicing meditation or mindfulness
- Employing deep breathing exercises
Suggested read: 16 effective techniques to relieve stress & anxiety
Embrace regular physical activity
How it works: Enhances blood circulation, modulates hormonal balance, and curtails stress and anxiety, thereby aiding in acne prevention and healing.
The interplay between physical activity and acne hasn’t been extensively studied. However, exercise influences physiological processes in manners that might mitigate acne.
Primarily, exercising fosters improved blood circulation. Enhanced blood flow facilitates nourishment of skin cells, potentially aiding in both preventing and remedying acne.
Moreover, physical activity has a regulatory effect on hormones, potentially staving off hormonal imbalances that can induce acne.
Multiple studies have alluded to the beneficial impact of exercise in diminishing stress and anxiety levels, both of which are potential acne triggers.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that adults engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly, supplemented with strength training exercises on at least two days every week.
Activities encompassing this recommendation range from brisk walking and jogging to more intensive exercises like weightlifting or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Suggested read: Top 10 health benefits of regular exercise
Acne is a widespread issue with various root reasons.
Specialists believe that usual treatments such as salicylic acid, niacinamide, or benzoyl peroxide remain the top choices, but they might bother some.
A lot of folks opt for natural solutions. Most at-home acne remedies aren’t backed by science, but they’re there if you want to try something different.
However, if your acne is really bad, it’s a good idea to see a skin doctor.