Let’s face it: acne isn’t just a problem for kids. Zits, pimples, whiteheads—whatever you want to call them—are also a common skin concern for adults, too. Caused by an overproduction of oil that clogs pores and attracts bacteria, acne vulgaris is linked to a range of factors, including genetics, hormones, stress, diet, and—you guessed it—cosmetics and skin care products.
It’s definitely important to consider holistic treatment of acne, including dietary changes (eat less dairy and sugar) and hormonal balance (a naturopathic doctor can help), but most of us run for the beauty counter the minute we spot an angry red pimple peering back at us in the mirror. The problem is that most conventional acne treatments depend on one of two controversial ingredients: benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. The former can cause burning, peeling, over-drying, and irritation of the skin, in addition to generating free radicals, which foster premature aging and a decrease in the skin’s natural healing abilities, and have been linked to cancer. Salicylic acid, while a naturally occurring beta hydroxy acid, causes sun sensitivity (the U.S. FDA recommends extra sun protection when using products containing salicylic acid) and can accumulate in the body and affect organ toxicity. And Environment Canada has found salicylic acid in major water bodies like the St. Lawrence.
Fortunately, there are a few gentler means to achieving calmer, smoother skin. Enter thyme, tea tree oil, aloe vera, clay, and witch hazel. Researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University discovered recently that herbal preparations of thyme could be more effective at treating acne than prescription creams. In fact, the study revealed that thyme tincture has a greater antibacterial effect than standard concentrations of benzoyl peroxide.
Because tea tree oil has antiseptic and antifungal properties, it helps kill bacteria that cause acne and other skin and nail conditions. But proceed with caution: Tea tree oil is very strong and should never be applied directly to the skin unless diluted properly with a carrier oil that suits your skin type.
Aloe vera can be used to help reduce any swelling, inflammation, and redness associated with acne. You can use skin care products that list aloe vera among their ingredients or even extract the sap yourself from an aloe vera plant.
Another effective natural treatment is clay. Rich in minerals and enzymes, its drawing power will clean and open up pores, extracting excess sebum. Clay also has exfoliating properties.
No need to blow your budget on expensive toners—witch hazel, extracted from the leaves and bark of the witch hazel shrub, has strong astringent and antioxidant properties. The tannins in witch hazel help tighten pores and reduce inflammation, and it’s a great gentle and non-drying alternative to conventional alcohol-based toners.
If you're not keen on turning your kitchen into a chemistry lab, try the following Fresh Faced products the next time a breakout has you freaked out.