Acne is one of the most frustrating skin conditions. If you’ve ever battled it, you know how desperate you are to find a cure. It’s not just during your teen years too, if you’re like me, you struggle with it in adulthood too. Hormones, dairy, sweat…you name it, it seems like everything makes me break out.
I’ve used both prescription and over the counter products over the years. But recently, I switched to more natural and safe solutions for my breakouts. The products I use now are much cleaner, but also more effective! Win win! So I’m here to share my secrets.
Let’s start with the two most popular acne treatments that are out there.
I’ll break down why they aren’t safe solutions and reasons why they could be causing your body more harm than good.
Proactiv is probably the most popular treatment for acne on the market. Especially with all the celebrity endorsements it gets. Just a quick Google search will show you incredible results people have had with it. But, you’ll also see a lot of articles written about the horrible side effects and ingredients of Proactiv.
Many people have reported their skin being overly dried out, sensitive, and even worse than it was before after stopping the use of Proactiv. Personally, anything that’s not recommended for use during pregnancy or breast feeding and bleaches your towels or bed sheets when they come in contact with your face when products are on it, isn’t something I’d feel safe using on my body.
Sadly, I couldn’t find the full list of ingredients on Proactiv’s website. I found this list from a blog and immediately saw some red flags. While the new formula has been improved, the safer ingredients are piled under
preservatives, fillers, and thickeners. Here are the 2 most concerning:
- Benzoyl peroxide. While benzoyl peroxide can be effective in small quantities, it’s very harsh and irritating to your skin. Which makes sense, because its also used in hair bleaching, teeth whitening, and textile bleaching. Does that sound like something you should use on your face or body? Side effects such as extreme dryness, peeling, and irritation is very common. It’s also recommended to avoid sun exposure when using benzoyl peroxide, validating how sensitive it makes your skin. In my experience, I’ve noticed that benzoyl peroxide will overly dry out my skin, causing my skin to over produce oil and therefore, become counter productive in fighting acne. Which is why benzoyl peroxide might be the culprit for making your acne worse when stopping the use of Proactiv.
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds).PEGs are used as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens.
Isotretinoin, or “accutane”, has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous acne medications on the market. Because of it’s harmful effects, Accutane is now only available under a special program called iPLEDGE. This program requires patients to sign documents stating that they agree to use birth control and they understand the dangers of this medication.
Accutane comes with the following warning on the FDA website: “Isotretinoin is a potentially dangerous prescription medicine that should only be taken under the close supervision of your healthcare professional and pharmacist”. It also has a long list of serious side effects, including depression and other mental health problems, joint pain, and extreme dryness and cracking of the skin.
Accutane comes in the form of capsules and contains:
- Retinol (Vitamin A). Retinol works by inhibiting oil gland function but can damage DNA.
- Parabens. The pill coating contains methyl and propyl parabens, which are preservatives that ensure the pill does not spoil or become ineffective. While these preservatives prevent the growth of bacteria and mold, parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which may alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies.
I truly can’t think of anything worse than hormone disruptors in treatments for teenage acne! Hormones are already hard enough to manage during those years. Studies have shown that parabens can mimic estrogen, which disrupts normal function of the hormone system. Parabens have also been found in breast cancer tumors.
Better, Safer (yet still effective) Ways to Fight Acne
There’s no one quick-fix for acne.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my struggles with acne, it’s that it requires a combination of treatments and habits to truly win the battle. There’s not just one change you can make that will magically solve your skin problems.
Chances are if you find a product that appears to be that magic solution, like Proactiv or Accutane, it’s not good for your body. You’ll also likely notice that the moment you stop taking it, you’re acne with come back with a vengeance! It truly requires a total lifestyle makeover or change in order to heal your acne for the long term.
I had always heard that what you eat could impact the quality of your skin and the frequency of breakouts, but never really tried to determine exactly which types of foods were causing it. Keep a food and skin journal. Write down what you eat and the condition of your skin and see if you notice trends.
Dairy is the most common acne causing type of food, but I’ve also noticed that carbohydrates and sugar can really make me break out as well. Here’s a list of other foods to avoid if you’re trying to improve your skin and heal your acne.
It’s no secret that stress causes more breakouts. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is acne’s best friend! The more ways you can find to decrease stress, the better. Exercise is the best way to do this because exercise also increases your blood circulation, sending more oxygen to your skin cells and sending cell waste away. Just be sure to shower or wash your face afterwards because sweat is another one of acne’s friends! Try other stress relieving activities too, like meditation or even acupuncture.
I first started noticing my skin becoming less prone to breakouts when I completely switched over to cleaner products for my face. Everything from the cleansers and moisturizers to the foundation and powders I was using on my face were full of questionable and down right dirty ingredients that were clogging my pores, and just overall horrible for my skin and body. So even if I had found the most effective acne treatment ever to use at night, I needed to make sure that everything I put on my skin was working together to help me end my relationship with acne.
Believe it or not, there are so many natural ways of healing acne. Not only are these much safer options, but they are also very effective without drying out your skin and all the other terrible side effects. I’ll share these in the regimen I suggest below.
Stick to a good, consistent skin regimen.
The key to a good regimen is focusing on the following 4 steps. But during the steps, it’s equally important to use natural, plant based ingredients. I’ll share some suggestions on what to use for each step.
1. Cleanse. A good acne cleanser should effectively remove oil and makeup and gently exfoliate without being too harsh and dehydrating your skin. Natural and safe ingredients that are effective in doing this include: honey for it’s antibacterial properties, Vitamin C from grapefruit or orange peel oils to help balance and refresh skin, coconut or sunflower oil for moisture, jojoba beads for gentle exfoliation, aloe vera to help soothe the skin and lessen the redness.
2. Prep. It’s important to use a good toner or astringent after cleansing. A toner will get rid of excess oil or dirt that’s leftover after cleaning. It “preps” your pores so the creams and treatments you use after a toner can be absorbed. Toner also brings your skin back to its natural acidic state. Natural ingredients to use as a toner for blemish prone skin include: apple cider vinegar, witch hazel, lemon juice, jojoba oil, and rose water.
3. Treat. This is the most important part for acne, right? Finding a spot treatment to put on overnight that will effectively clear or minimize the size, redness, and appearance of blemishes. We all want something that will work quickly! These ingredients will help: tea tree oil (it’s actually been compared to benzoyl peroxide for its effectiveness), lavender oil and honey are great for spot treatment because of their antibacterial properties, wintergreen and willow bark work as a natural salicylic acid.
4. Protect. This step is equally important as treating the acne. Protecting your skin with the right ingredients and products will help prevent blemishes, which is the ultimate goal in the battle against acne! Protecting your skin involves using products that do not contain dirty chemicals and ingredients that won’t cause excess oil production or clog pores.
Beautycounter’s Countercontrol Acne Regimen
If you’re looking for a line of products that uses many of the natural ingredients listed above, you’re in luck! Beautycounter recently launched their new acne line called, Countercontrol and it quickly became a crowd pleaser for not just being clean and safe, but for it’s effectiveness, too.
I can’t recommend the line enough and have used and loved it myself for the past 6 months. In combination with Beautycounter’s makeup and other clean products, including their facial oils and charcoal products, I feel like I have finally gotten my breakouts under control. I couldn’t write this post without sharing their incredibly effective, yet safe products!
Here’s why it works:
This regimen contains 5 products that are formulated to effectively fight blemishes without irritating skin. They provide your skin with exactly what it needs and nothing it doesn’t. No questionable fillers and thickeners that are going to clog your pores and cancel out the benefits of the natural acne fighters! The products are all vegan, gluten free, and nut free.
Step 1: Clear Pore Cleanser. This daily exfoliating cleanser effectively removes oil, makeup, and other impurities without harsh surfactants that can strip skin of moisture. Formulated without the use of carbomers, EDTA or PEGs plant derived surfactants and natural thickeners instead.
Step 2: Instant Matte Toner. This alcohol-free mattifying toner removes residual impurities, reduces excess oil, and minimizes the appearance of pores. Formulated with witch hazel extract, a powerful but natural astringent, to prep skin without causing over drying or irritation. Does not contain formaldehyde releasing preservatives and ethoxylated ingredients, which can be contaminated with potential carcinogens.
Step 3: All Over Acne Treatment. This daily all over treatment helps clear blemishes and prevents future breakouts. Formulated without the use of harsh surfactants, silicones, or irritants such as benzoyl peroxide commonly found in acne products, this treatment uses plant-based salicylic acid from wintergreen to exfoliate dead skin cells that clog pores and can lead to acne.
Step 4: OS Acne Spot Treatment. This fast-acting formula with maximum strength salicylic acid penetrates pores to reduce blemishes and clear skin.
Formulated without the use of harsh irritants and sensitizers like benzoyl peroxide and sulfur which can cause irritation, the spot treatment uses plant-based salicylic acid from wintergreen to exfoliate dead skin cells that clog pores and can lead to acne.
Step 5: Matte Effect Gel Cream. With an innovative cream-to-gel formula, this non-greasy hydrator maintains healthy moisture levels while controlling oil for up to eight hours. Formulated without the use of silicones, polysorbate, colorants and synthetic fragrances.
For more details, including reviews and ingredients, on Beautycounter’s Countercontrol line, click here.
I hope this post helps you understand the importance of being very cautious about what products and specifically what ingredients you use on your skin, no matter how desperate you are for results. Acne is super frustrating and can really kill your self confidence, but your health and body deserve better than what’s being marketed to you!
If you need a resource for knowing which ingredients you should never use on your skin, check out the Never List. You can print it and keep it in your wallet with you. Or feel free to reach out to us and ask for support, we’re here to help!