If you've ever agonized over acne
, chances are you know that there are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications for treating it. Many of these products really work and are often the best choice for serious cases. (See the iEmily article All About Acne
to learn more.) But sometimes you may want to go the more natural route—such as when you get side effects from a chemical product, or if your blemishes really aren't that bad.
For times when you'd like to let nature take its course, here are some herbal zit-zapping remedies—along with other natural tips for saving face. back to top
Touch up with tea tree oil
Tea tree oil
comes from the leaves of a tree that grows in Australia. Australians have long used tea tree oil to fight skin infections, and lately this herbal remedy has gotten a reputation for improving acne. One scientific study compared tea tree oil gel to a similar strength of benzoyl peroxide
(an ingredient found in many over-the-counter acne medications). The study found that while tea tree oil acted more slowly, it did the job just as well as benzoyl peroxide and caused fewer side effects such as dryness, itching, and redness.
If you're interested in trying tea tree oil to treat acne, you should be aware that it has a strong smell, kind of like Pine Sol. Also, it's a good idea to do a test first to make sure you're not allergic to it. Moisten a cotton swab with pure tea tree oil (which you can buy in a health-food store) and dab a small amount on your arm. If your arm doesn't become red and irritated, you're probably not allergic and you can experiment with one of the forms below. Whichever form you choose, try gently rubbing it on your blemishes two or three times a day. It will fight infection and may speed healing.
The case for calendula
- Mix it up. Many people find that pure tea tree oil is too strong to use directly on blemishes. One solution is to dilute tea tree oil with grape seed oil (also available in health-food stores), using one part tea tree to one part grape seed oil.
- Go for the gel. Because tea tree oil is an oil, and oil can clog your pores, some manufacturers have come up with a gel-based tea tree product that usually contains 5% tea tree oil. (Don't confuse tea tree face gel with body-wash gels, which are usually not good to use on your face.) It's a bit hard to find tea tree oil gel in the United States, but not impossible. Try asking for it at a health-food store or searching for it on the Internet. back to top
The bright orange flowers of calendula
(also known as "pot marigold") have long been used by herbalists to help heal skin wounds and prevent them from getting infected. Today, some people use calendula products to treat acne as well as other skin conditions, such as sunburn and chapped hands.
An easy way to make calendula part of your skin care routine is to use a calendula-based soap, which can often be found in health-food stores. Some people prefer to use calendula gel (again, don't confuse body-wash gels with facial gels) to dab on their blemishes. Another very
natural option is to brew your own calendula "tea" to use as a face wash, using dried calendula flowers that you buy in a health-food store. back to top
Switch to witch hazel
One problem with some commercial acne products is that they can dry out your skin. Astringents and toners
, in particular, often contain alcohol, which is a key culprit in sapping the oils from your skin. If you'd like to experiment with an alcohol-free skin toner, consider witch hazel, a natural astringent whose healing powers were introduced to settlers by Native Americans. You can even customize your own witch hazel skin toner to your skin type by adding the right essential oils. To learn how, click here
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Steam-clean with herbs
Try treating your face to some soothing steam to help open your pores and draw out dirt and toxins. Even better is to add some fragrant herbs, such as lavender, which not only fights bacteria but also helps ease stress. Check out iEmily's custom steam-cleaning recipe
. Note that steaming your face may draw acne to the surface as it heals, so you may not want to do it on days when it's important to look good. back to top
is an essential mineral found in animal foods such as oysters, crabmeat, red meat, chicken, and eggs. For most people, getting enough zinc to stay healthy is not a problem. But vegetarians and vegans who avoid animal products may have a zinc deficiency. Low zinc levels can lead to skin disorders such as acne and eczema
. If you're a vegetarian
, taking a multivitamin containing zinc is an easy way to be sure you're getting your daily quota of this mineral. To learn more, check out the iEmily article Vitamins for Vegetarians
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Lessen the stress
Have you ever noticed that you tend to break out more when you're feeling stressed? (A wonderful development when what you're stressing about is impressing your date!) Experts agree that it's important not only for your skin, but also for your overall health to keep your stress
level down. A good way to do that is to learn a relaxation technique that you can practice daily. While doing a stress-reduction exercise won't make your pimples vanish today, it may make it less likely that you'll have an eruption in the future. Some simple ways to reduce stress include listening to calming music, meditating, and practicing yoga
. To learn two other powerful relaxation techniques, check out the iEmily articles on breath control
and progressive relaxation
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