Struggling with acne, breakouts, pimples, blackheads, clogged pores, dark spots or scars? Here are the best natural acne treatments + products that actually work! We've personally tried and tested countless skincare products that won't damage your skin and health with toxic chemicals or harmful additives found in conventional skincare. These natural acne treatments work for various acne struggles, from oily skin, to combination skin with dry patches, and even the most sensitive skin.
I'm just going to come right out and say it: having acne sucks. No way around it. And no matter how old or self-evolved and confident in your own skin you might be, a big honking zit on your face may be one of the worst feelings ever.
As a teenager, breakouts are embarrassing because, well, everything feels embarrassing when you're at that age. But at least it's normal and more expected.
As an adult, it's another story. When my skin started breaking out from my hormonal imbalances from PCOS a few years back in my late twenties, I majorly freaked out. Though it can seem superficial or shallow, any woman who's ever suffered from pimples, discoloration, blackheads, etc. knows just how depressing, embarrassing and downright crappy it feels to look in the mirror and hate what you see. Not to mention the blemishes sometimes hurt and left scars in their wake.
Truth be told, I became obsessed with getting a clear, radiant complexion that I could feel comfortable and confident in. And today, at 31 years old, I finally feel like I've got my skin under control with more days than not with a clear, smooth and glowing complexion and an even skintone.
Side note: this included way more than just treating my skin, as attitude, self-worth and perspective were HUGE in this process.
If you're struggling with acne, it's important to know that these physical symptoms are a sign that something isn't right on the inside, which is causing distress on the outside. We're talking about our good ol' friend, inflammation. Inflammation causes all sorts of stuff, acne sometimes being one of the many not so glamorous repercussions.
That's why diet and lifestyle is the MOST important thing to address when you're struggling with any form of acne, skin irritations or breakouts. You really have to get your hormones and gut in balance since you can only do so much with topical treatments.
Plus, not only is your skin your largest organ in your body–absorbing most of what you put on it–it's also one of your main elimination organs. So when you're detoxing and healing, your face is going to show it and tell the world. Hello, pizza face!
At the end of this post, we'll address lifestyle tips for keeping acne at bay. But for now, let's talk topical treatments.
Not only do they support on the outside whatever healing you're doing on the inside, but they really can make a difference in your skin's tone, texture and hygiene, and, in turn, your confidence.
But first: what's wrong with conventional acne treatments?
What's Wrong with Conventional Acne Products?
Did you know most acne products out there could actually be making your acne problem worse? Many of these products are antibacterial, yes, but they're just drying out and irritating the surface of your skin, not actually healing the pimples and breakouts that are swollen, infected, and being caused by what is likely an internal imbalance.
We've always been told we want to dry out our pimples, but in reality, when your skin gets super dried out, it actually causes redness and irritation and will in fact make your body produce more oil to counter the dryness (which will cause more breakouts and acne). A vicious cycle!
Even worse than having a bad case of breakouts, though?
Some of these common acne lotions, gels, cleansers, scrubs, etc. could produce dangerous reactions that may, in rare circumstances, be life-threatening. Yep, you read that right. LIFE-THREATENING!
The FDA issued a warning a few years back saying that products containing the ingredients benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid–two extremely common ingredients in conventional acne products–can cause rare but serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions or intense irritation.
The reactions reported to the FDA were severe allergy symptoms like throat tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, low blood pressure, fainting, and collapse. People also reported isolated instances of hives or itching on the face or body, even on parts of the body where the product wasn't applied, as well as swelling of the eyes, face and lips. No deaths were reported, but 44% of the people who had severe reactions required hospitalization.
Is it just me, or is this *utter insanity* that these common skincare products could lead to hospitalization–and yet they are STILL allowed on the market?! What's wrong with this terrifying picture?!
Now, even if you're not having a life-threatening reaction to these ingredients, they're still also known to irritate the skin and cause side effects like redness, itching, burning, dryness, peeling and slight swelling.
And if all that weren't enough, there are other hormone-disrupting, carcinogenic, infertility-causing ingredients in conventional acne including parabens, fragrance, phthalates, formaldehyde, and more (source).
I think I've made my point for why you want to go the natural route and pick products that are made from clean and safe ingredients, yet actually work and feel amazing on your skin.
I've tried what feels like every natural acne product under the sun, so here's a roundup of my favorite picks for healing your acne, blackheads, and scars–naturally!
The Best Natural Acne Treatments: CLEANSERS
- True Botanicals' Clear line is the #1 thing that helped my acne go away. After I started using all these products in tandem, I didn't have a single breakout, the discoloration and acne scars started to fade, my skin felt silky smooth and, dare I say, really started to glow. True Botanicals is certified MADE SAFE, cruelty-free and the majority of ingredients are certified organic and wild-harvested, meaning they’re grown in their natural environment. The Clear Cleanser is super gentle on the skin and great for the morning, though I prefer other cleansers when it comes to removing makeup. For 15% off at True Botanicals, use the code Root15!
- Beautycounter Cleansing Balm: This magic in a jar not only removes makeup and cleanses your skin, it also works wonders for spot treatments (particularly for dry bumps) and as an overnight hydrating and healing mask with its radiance-boosting vitamin C. It's also great for cystic acne, eczema and rosacea.
- Beautycounter Countercontrol Cleanser: Beautycounter's Countercontrol line is made to fight acne and oily skin–all while being free of over 1,500 chemicals of concern on their ‘Never List'. This is a daily cleanser and exfoliator that I mix into my skincare routine to help keep acne away. Not only does it remove all my makeup without harshly stripping my skin of its natural oils, but jojoba beads gently exfoliate and clean out my pores.
- Leahlani’s Pamplemousse Tropical Enzyme Cleansing Oil: I am absolutely addicted to this oil that smells INCREDIBLE (with scents of pink and white grapefruit, sweet vanilla bean, and exotic plumeria flowers) and gets off all my makeup, while gently exfoliating and brightening my skin. Plus, this oil works great on all skin types!
- Beautycounter Charcoal Bar: Ideal for oily or blemish-prone skin, this detoxifying cleansing bar absorbs impurities in your skin without drying it out, resulting in a clearer, smoother, and brighter-looking complexion. This bar can be used daily on your face and body, so is perfect if you have breakouts on your back or chest. (Note: this is the only product listed here that I have not personally tried as I don't personally like bar soaps, but I hear such rave reviews about it that I wanted to include it!)
The Best Natural Acne Treatments: EXFOLIATORS
- Goop By Juice Beauty’s Instant Facial: NOTHING makes my skin as silky smooth as this, and it only takes five minutes. I usually put it on while I brush my teeth. Made with natural alpha and beta hydroxy acids, plant-based cellulose beads and 86% USDA-certified organic ingredients, it’s almost amazing how effective this treatment is!
- Leahlani Honey Love Exfoliator: This gentle microdermabrasion exfoliator dramatically improves the tone and texture of your skin without overstripping and stimulates cellular renewal. Plus it smells soo good, you'll want to eat it right out of the jar! I use it as a mask for 10-15 minutes once or twice a week, and my skin is so soft, clear and even afterward thanks to a potent blend of superfood maqui berry, tonifying hibiscus, anti-inflammatory noni fruit, stimulating clays, sweet Hawaiian nectars and microdermabrasion crystals.
- True Botanicals Resurfacing Moisture Mask: Your skin will glow after this lactic acid-based mask. Leave it on for just five minutes to help minimize pores and moisturize while you exfoliate. So gentle yet effective!
The Best Natural Acne Treatments: TONERS
- True Botanicals Clear Nutrient Toner: I alternate between two products, depending on what my skin needs. If I’m broken out, I reach for this antibacterial toner that clears acne and congestion, balancing out the oil in your skin (unlike traditional acne astringent which actually strips your skin on oils and causes it to produce more sebum, leading to more breakouts!) (Remember: get 15% off at True Botanicals with the code Root15!)
The Best Natural Acne Treatments: FACE OILS + SERUMS
I wish I could speak this into a megaphone: contrary to popular belief, oils do NOT cause you to break out! Oils are actually extremely moisturizing and soothing to the skin; they feed it naturally without adding harsh chemicals or artificial ingredients or stripping away the natural oils that your skin needs. Oils are effective at removing makeup, cleansing out impurities and coating the skin with lots of antioxidants that make your skin glow!
For acne prone skin specifically, excess sebum (the fancy name for the oil that your skin produces naturally) can clog pores and cause breakouts. This is completely different from the oils you apply to your skin. In fact, facial oils made for acne prone skin can actually help your skin produce less pore-clogging sebum, kill acne-causing bacteria, reduce inflammation, and help shed dead skin cells that clog pores and create more pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Yay for oils!
- True Botanicals Clear Radiance Oil: This balancing and moisturizing oil regulates sebum production with antioxidants and potent antibacterial ingredients, meaning it clears up acne and leaves your skin glowing! I rotate this into my AM routine.
- True Botanicals Cellular Repair Serum: #1 hands down the best and seriously one of my very favorite beauty products of all time. Nothing got rid of my acne and scarring like this (plus mixing in the Vitamin C Booster at night, more on this product in the ‘extra treatments' section)! This serum fights infection and clears congestion thanks to black willow bark extract, while strengthening and hydrating your skin with hyaluronic acid.
- Leahlani Siren Serum: At night, I use this skin-brightening serum infused with micro-algae and organic and cold pressed oils rich in Vitamin C and A that promote cellular regeneration and help to heal and protect the skin from UV damage.
- Laurel Anti-Inflammatory Facial Serum: Perfect when I have active breakouts. It’s a concentrated moisturizer, serum, and elemental defense oil in one, getting to the root cause (inflammation) of all secondary skin symptoms; including but not limited to cystic acne, rosacea, redness, broken capillaries, excessive dryness, loss of elasticity, and hyper-pigmentation.
- Beautycounter No. 1 Brightening Oil: Made from seven natural oils, this Vitamin C infused oil replenishes and brightens skin. Works great for eczema or hormonal breakouts and also helps with dark spots and scarring.
The Best Natural Acne Treatments: MOISTURIZERS
- Laurel Nightly Restore Balm: OMG I totally get why this balm is such a cult favorite. This nightly balm has the most beautiful orange hue thanks to potent, raw, unrefined botanicals, it melts into my skin, deeply repairing cellular free radical damage and restoring vibrancy. It’s one of the most advanced anti-aging products I’ve ever used and because it’s so phytonutrient dense, I wake up with buttery soft glowing skin. Tip: you can apply a heavier layer of this at night and use it as a mask. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes and rinse.
- Beautycounter Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum: This moisturizer is lightweight despite its immense moisturizing abilities and leaves my skin looking dewy and hydrated all day! Infused with two forms of hyaluronic acid (0ne of the most effective hydrating ingredients), it delivers moisture without clogging pores, plus has Vitamins C and E to fight free radicals. Can also help with eczema.
- Beautycounter Cleansing Balm: We already mentioned this above in the cleansers section, but since it's such an incredible moisturizer I had to give it a shoutout again here!
The Best Natural Acne Treatments: MASKS
- Beautycounter No. 3 Charcoal Mask: This charcoal mask is what I reach for when my skin is congested and broken out. This dark and haunting beauty deep-cleans and balances, absorbing excess oil and drawing out impurities thanks to activated charcoal, which also minimizes the appearance of pores, giving skin a smooth, refined appearance, and salicylic acid, which stimulates exfoliation. Works EVERY TIME! You can also use it as an overnight spot treatment for any breakouts.
- Leahlani Mermaid Mask: An intoxicating shade of emerald green goodness that nourishes, clarifies, purifies, softens and renews your complexion thanks to nutrient dense Hawaiian spirulina and raw honey, premium chlorella and circulation-boosting essential oils that will feed each cell, resulting in the ultimate glow. Use this superfood mask 2-3 times per week to moisturize, gently purify and help boost circulation.
- Laurel Skincare’s Honey Berry Enzyme Mask: The beauty of this cult classic lies in its simplicity. With only 5 superfood ingredients, this nourishing treatment acts as a brightening enzymatic exfoliator, a hydrator that visibly plumps and firms the skin, and an antioxidant-rich feast for an overall healthy glow. Seriously good enough to eat!
- Laurel’s Brighten Mask: What I reach for when discoloration is really bad. It’s bursting with Vitamin C and all of its vital cofactors to lighten discoloration with its delicate raw fruit acids. Its phytonutrient density works to repair discoloration damage on a deeper level, while it strengthens and firms connective tissue.
The Best Natural Acne Products: EXTRA TREATMENTS
- True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster: As mentioned above, I couple this with True Botanicals Cellular Repair Serum for the ultimate treatment. Vitamin C is the #1 way to brighten and lighten skin–this powder is the most potent form, as in liquid form Vitamin C loses its potency. It’s mixed with ferulic acid, which also stimulates collagen (read: fewer wrinkles!)!
- Mother Dirt AO+ Mist: This probiotic spray made with live AOB (Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria) is specifically designed to nurture and restore the good bacteria on your skin's microbiome. I go through phases where I spray this on my face two or three times per day, especially after washing my face or showering, or after a workout. Not only does it feel amazingly refreshing and soothing, but I’ve noticed a clear improvement in my skin. It hydrates, helps with more balanced oil production, and–as a side benefit–even improves body odor when used under your arms!
NATURAL ACNE TREATMENTS: DIET + LIFESTYLE
Alright, so as we talked about at the beginning of this post, diet and lifestyle are huge if you want to get the root cause of your acne instead of only treating the symptoms. Even with the best natural acne treatments externally, you still can't ignore what's going on internally.
Inflammation of your gut and organs like liver, kidneys, and colon all affect your body's detoxing abilities. For example, when your body is constipated and can't eliminate, it will re-introduce toxic matter back into the system. We talk tons and tons on R+R about balancing your gut and hormones, so here are a few related posts to help you heal those challenges:
- PCOS Diet for Weight Loss, Fertility + Hormone Balance
- How to Heal Leaky Gut + Cure IBS Naturally
- The Gut Microbiome: A Guide to Digestive, Skin, Immune System & Mental Health
Finally, here are five more diet and lifestyle tips specifically to help you fight and heal acne:
- Exercise. Yep, another reason to get that body movin'. When your heart is pumping, it helps to increase blood flow and gets the lymphatic system moving. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells, and also helps to carry away waste products. Essentially, it helps to ‘flush’ cell debris out of the system. I recommend having a clean face when working out, clear of makeup and sunscreen.
- Hydrate. We all know that drinking water is key. Adding a squeeze of lemon and a tiny pinch of Himalayan or Real Salt helps multifold: it keeps you hydrated and aids in digestion and elimination, which all circles back to healthy skin. Herbal teas are a great hydrating alternative when you're sick of plain water.
- Probiotics. Some people find a good probiotic helps with their skin too; you'll really just need to test this out for yourself as there is no one brand or strain or dose that works for everyone.
- Battle bacteria. Be sure to wash your pillowcase once a week. Don't hold your phone right next to your face, or touch your face with your fingers unless they're clean, and please–resist the urge to pick or scratch at your face (I know, it's SO hard, but it leaves scarring!). Also be sure to clean your makeup brushes regularly! This all helps keep the skin clear from extra bacteria that may aggravate breakouts.
- Relax. Yes, stress causes breakouts too… which, if that makes you feel stressed, contributes to a vicious cycle. If you didn't have enough reasons already, getting a massage not only helps with stress levels but also stimulates bloodflow and circulation. So many wins at the same time!
What are your favorite natural products and lifestyle tips for treating acne? Let us know in the comments below!