If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re feeling pretty defeated about your skin. You probably feel like you’ve tried everything, you spend countless hours of your free time agonizing over your acne and researching how to get rid of it, and you’re starting to feel pretty hopeless.
As you can see, I’ve been there.
The good news is, we’re in this together. Having dealt with several bouts of acne throughout my life, I’ve scoured countless articles like this one looking for something, anything I hadn’t tried that might finally work. After absorbing so much content, I found myself feeling extremely overwhelmed.
Here’s the hard truth I eventually had to come to terms with: we’re all so different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to healing every person’s skin.
For that reason, this article is not meant to be a long list of rules for you to follow. Instead, treat it like a toolbox from which you can pick and choose a thing or two to try. Do your best not to stress out about doing all of these things perfectly (you’ll find that added stress is extremely counterproductive, especially when you’re trying to clear up your skin!).
I know it’s hard, but try to remember that your acne is temporary. You will get rid of it. And in the meantime, don’t forget that you have a beautiful, meaningful life to live. It is entirely possible to be confident and happy, even when you have acne.
Table of Contents
If you’d rather watch/listen to this information, press play on this video about my story and how to get rid of acne naturally:
How to Get Rid of Acne Naturally, For Good
Let’s get into the changes that helped get rid of my acne and radically improve the health of my skin.
**Disclaimer: I am not a doctor – this advice should not be used as a replacement for medical advice and is purely based on my own experience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through links in this post, at no extra cost to you!
Your skin is the largest organ on your body. It serves as a barrier between you and the outside world, and if it’s flaring up, it’s usually an indication that something is a little off on the inside.
That’s why I like to start with the topic of lifestyle. You can spend thousands of dollars on the best products out there, but topical treatments can only go so far.
We humans are bio-psycho-social-spiritual beings, and if we want our skin to be healthy, that starts on the inside! I started noticing a huge difference in my skin since I started addressing imbalances in all areas of my life, not just my skin’s appearance.
If you only implement one tip from this article, please start with this one! Stress has such a significant impact, not only on your skin’s health but on the health of your entire body.
I used to get angry whenever someone suggested stress could be causing my acne. It seemed unlikely to me, and it also seemed like if stress was causing my acne, it was completely out of my control.
But boy was I wrong! Stress management was one of the most crucial steps in my journey to clear skin.
Here’s why: when you’re stressed out, your adrenal glands start pumping out more cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.” Your adrenal glands are also responsible for producing other androgens, or male sex hormones like testosterone. If you’re a female, elevated levels of these hormones can lead to disturbances in your menstrual cycle and can also cause acne.
Acne can cause a vicious cycle of stress – you break out, causing you to stress out, then your stress causes you to break out more, and then you get even more stressed. The challenge here is to break that cycle.
Trust me, I know how hard this can be! But here are a few stress-relief ideas to help balance your hormones:
- Unplug from technology for an hour
- Go on a walk in nature
- Read a good book
- Meditate and/or pray
- Take a warm bath or shower
Get Regular Exercise
The benefits of consistent exercise extend to more than just your skin.
Going back to the topic of stress, though, it’s important not to overdo it when it comes to exercise. Excessive cardio can put stress on your body and contribute to adrenal problems.
After a workout, assess how you feel.
Exercise is an opportunity to relieve tension – working out should never leave you feeling more stressed than when you started. If it does, it may be time to make an adjustment.
I like to incorporate exercises that vary in intensity throughout the week – some days I’ll do yoga, some days I’ll break a sweat in a cycling class, and some days I’ll go for a walk or just plain rest. Experiment and find what works for you. The best way to make exercising a habit is to find activities that you genuinely enjoy.
Decrease Toxic Load
Alongside the stress you feel, your body also undergoes subliminal stress as it fights to eradicate toxins from your system. Your liver works to remove toxins from your blood, and it’s also responsible for filtering out excess hormones.
When there are a lot of toxins in your blood, your liver struggles to keep up, so your body needs to rely on other detoxification methods, like purging through your skin. Translation: acne!
So, how can you reduce toxins?
A simple solution is to start paying attention to the ingredients in your products. And I’m not just talking about the products in your skincare routine – every product you use, from conditioner to laundry detergent, has a toxicity rating.
Resources like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Think Dirty app make it easy to check these ratings before you purchase a product. I’ve found some great non-toxic skincare brands this way, and I’m never going back to my old commercial products!
Now, you don’t have to go crazy and empty your cupboards of all your products! Start small. The next time you run out of a product you use, check its toxicity rating and find an alternative if it’s too high.
Your body repairs itself while you sleep. And if you’re an acne-sufferer, that’s exactly what your skin needs.
In the midst of my acne struggle, I would research acne remedies late into the night, desperately looking for some new piece of information that would help me. What I didn’t realize was that while I was staring at my phone screen until 2 a.m., I was missing out on valuable sleep that was necessary for my body to heal.
Making sleep a priority helped my skin immensely. I established a boundary and stopped the screentime an hour before bed, and the quality of my sleep improved significantly. This took a lot of discipline at first, but eventually, it became a habit.
Also, I was no longer spending my final hours before bed hyper-focused on solving my skin problems, and this really helped improve my overall mindset about my acne.
Getting a good night’s sleep also helps regulate your stress hormones, which we know can help your skin out, too!
This is arguably the hardest tip to follow, but it’s an important one.
When you have acne, you’d do practically anything to get rid of it. And you want it gone yesterday. I totally get it.
Here’s the thing: getting rid of acne is rarely an overnight process, and if you want it to stay gone, it’s going to take some patience.
It might be contrary to your instincts because you want to solve this problem as soon as possible, so you feel like you have to be constantly researching and trying different things until you find something that works for you.
But if you’re frantically looking for and trying new remedies, you’re overlooking an essential ingredient in your skincare routine: time.
It’s so easy to allow our acne to consume us. It begins to eat into all of our free time, and before long, it’s all we think about. It’s on our face for everyone to see, and on top of that, it can be super painful, so it’s totally understandable that we want it gone!
But that doesn’t mean we have to wait to start living our lives until we have clear skin. Don’t let acne win. There are so many things about you that are of much greater importance. Devote your energy to discovering what those things are.
When I was a preteen and was just starting to get acne, my dermatologist never talked to me about my diet. The link between acne and certain foods remains a controversial subject, but scientific evidence is starting to support the idea that diet plays a role in skin health.
In my experience, YEAH, it definitely plays a role.
As I mentioned previously, we’re all so different when it comes to the specific ways that work to treat our acne. There’s so much contradicting information on the internet about what foods you should and shouldn’t eat to cure it.
So, rather than discussing specific foods, I want to focus instead on what you can do to find a balance with food that works for you and your skin’s specific needs.
Don’t Stress Yourself Out About Your Diet
Going back to my first tip, stress is the absolute enemy of clear skin! Having dealt with persistent acne for so long myself, I know how easy it is to start thinking you need to do a complete dietary overhaul and cut out practically every food group until you get to the bottom of what’s causing it.
I’m here to let you know that it doesn’t matter how “clean” you eat if you’re stressing yourself out in the process.
It may seem like I’m harping on the whole stress thing a bit much, but that’s only because when I had severe acne, I was constantly anxious about the food I was consuming. I wanted my acne gone so badly, I worried that every bite of food was going to trigger it.
This was obviously maddening, and I want to do everything I can to steer you away from falling into that mindset.
On top of the mental distress I was inflicting upon myself, I was also sabotaging my own efforts. When I sat down for a meal with an anxious state of mind, the stress manifested in both terrible digestion and worse acne.
Take a Food Sensitivities Test
So, you may really want to implement that last tip and stop stressing out about what you’re eating. But I understand better than anyone how hard that can be.
One practical way to get over the fear of food causing skin problems is to take a food sensitivities test. This will give you the scientific evidence to confirm or deny the existence of any intolerances, and that can greatly improve your peace of mind.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a doctor who will order a test like this from a lab. I couldn’t find any M.D.’s who were willing to take the time to help me get to the bottom of what was causing my acne, but I eventually found a chiropractor who specialized in Functional Medicine. He was a complete godsend, and he ordered tests for both food sensitivities and gut permeability. Those tests confirmed I had something called Leaky Gut, a syndrome that tends to be greatly exacerbated by the consumption of gluten.
At his recommendation, I removed gluten from my diet for 30 days, and the cystic breakouts came to a complete halt. I’ve continued to stay away from gluten since then (although I do make exceptions when I feel like it – I’m the Burrito Queen), and my skin thanks me for it!
Just because removing gluten from my diet helped cure my acne, it doesn’t mean gluten is the culprit behind your skin issues. Having a blood test done is the best way to figure out what’s going on in your body rather than going through months of trial and error following the internet’s recommendations.
Pay Attention to How You Feel After Eating
If you can’t find a doctor who’s willing to order a food sensitivity test, you can still start to pick up on your own reactions to certain foods.
Try to approach food with a spirit of curiosity – when you finish a meal, really pay attention to how your body feels. Do you get gas after eating spaghetti? Does your stomach bloat like a balloon after you eat ice cream? These reactions are all clues your body gives you about what makes it happy and what bothers it.
If you have trouble listening to your body, sign up for my free 5 Steps to Food Freedom audio course – I’ll teach you how to do it!
Start to notice and record patterns. After you have enough data, you may notice your digestive system regularly reacts to a certain food. Because the digestive tract is also the birthplace of many hormones, these foods could be affecting your skin, too.
My philosophy about products is similar to my philosophy about dietary factors that contribute to your acne: everyone is different. Just because someone who has clear skin attributes her skin’s health to the products she uses, that doesn’t mean her products are going to guarantee you clear skin.
If that was the case and there was, in fact, a combination of products that worked to cure everyone’s acne, we would have figured it out by now.
While I’ve found a skincare routine that works really well for me, the intention behind this post is not to share which products I use and encourage you to use them, too. Instead, my goal is to give you some tools to find the skincare routine that works with your skin.
I’ve learned a lot over the years from research, experience, and lots of mistakes about what to look for in quality skincare.
Keep It Simple & Go Back to Basics
When your skin is breaking out, there’s a temptation to buy the strongest, most expensive acne-fighting products on the market. Oftentimes though, what your skin needs most is a break.
Our bodies are extremely capable of healing themselves, but sometimes we need to give them the space to do their thing. If your skin is extremely irritated or inflamed, the right response is to treat it gently. That means pausing the use of all products that are marketed as acne-fighting – the ones containing active ingredients like high percentages of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
I recommend using as few products as possible when your skin is in freakout mode. When I was dealing with cystic breakouts, I even stopped using a cleanser and swapped it for a gentle facial oil to remove my makeup at the end of the day.
Although it seems counterintuitive and you probably think you need to add in new products to fight your acne, whittling your routine down to the basics can help restore your skin’s balance. A lot of cleansers and acne-fighting products strip the skin of moisture and natural oils that are essential to skin health, so stopping the use of those products could help your skin get itself back on track naturally.
This is the one outright product recommendation I’ll make in this article, and the best part? You already have it in your freezer.
Acne can be painful when it’s cystic and/or inflamed, and I’ve found that icing my skin helps to significantly reduce both the pain and redness of breakouts. I recommend icing your skin at night or in the morning, about 30 minutes before you plan to leave the house or put on makeup.
Avoid Pore-Clogging Ingredients
When it comes to actually selecting skincare products, there’s really only one thing you need to pay attention to: the ingredients list.
Skincare companies will market products to you with cool packaging and convincing claims about how their products will change your skin forever. But let’s be real – pretty packaging isn’t going to cure your acne.
The only thing that matters about the products you use on your skin is the ingredients.
So, how do you know which ingredients are safe and which to avoid? I’m glad you asked!
I’ve put together a list of pore-clogging ingredients to avoid when purchasing products. I also recommend vetting your hair care products with this list, as your hair and the products you use on it often come into contact with your face.
Vet your products with this esthetician-approved list of pore-clogging skin & hair care ingredients. Find out which of your products could be causing skin troubles!
It might take some extra effort to read every ingredient on your products’ ingredients list, but trust me, it’s worth it. I try to avoid these ingredients as much as possible, but if a product has only one of these pore-cloggers on its list, I find it’s usually okay for me to use.
Check Your Products’ Toxicity Ratings
As I’ve touched on above, another step I take before purchasing products of any kind, not just for skincare, is to check their toxicity ratings using a resource like the Think Dirty app or the Environmental Working Group (EWG) database. Both of these services give products toxicity ratings based on the safety of their ingredients.
Toxin-laden products increase your body’s toxic load and can disrupt hormone balance, contributing to acne and other hormonal problems. I’ve found some great skincare products that are non-toxic and don’t contain pore-cloggers. If you’re interested in learning about which specific products I use, you can learn about my non-toxic, cruelty-free skincare routine here.
Don’t Change Everything at Once
So, you’ve gone through the skincare products on your bathroom shelf, and now you’re freaking out a little because those products you thought were helping you actually contain some stuff that isn’t too great for your skin. What’s next?
You might be tempted to toss out every toxin-containing or pore-clogging product on your shelf and order a bunch of new products to replace them. But a word of caution – changing a bunch of different products and habits all at one time could throw your skin even more off-balance.
Remember that getting rid of acne requires some patience. I recommend starting small and replacing one product at a time, preferably as they run out. Or, if your skin is currently in full-freakout mode, stop using all products on your skin until the irritation calms down; then, add back in one gentle product at a time.
And that’s all! I hope something in this article helps get you one step closer to clear skin. But more than anything, I hope you know that even with acne, you are beautiful and deserving of a full, happy life.
Please don’t wait until you have clear skin to start pursuing the things in life that fill you with meaning and purpose. The world needs your gifts and your love far more than it needs you to have perfect skin.