Natural Remedies for Acne

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Natural remedies for acne that really work
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Natural Remedies for Acne

The other day, I was trying to find a picture of me when I was in high school to show my kids. I couldn’t find one because I was so photo shy at that time… mainly because of my acne (and regular teenage girl insecurities). At that time, I tried every natural remedy for acne I could find, and none of them worked.

Tea tree oil, slathering various types of food on my face, even natural cleansers. Nothing worked. Certainly, part of it was hormonal, but there was also something deeper going on and nothing seemed to be working.

Conventional Methods

Dermatologists suggested things like Acutane, antibiotics, birth control pills and strong facial cleansers. The only one I ever tried was the prescription strength cleaners with Benzoyl peroxide and Salicylic acid. I found that it dried my skin out but didn’t make the breakouts stop, so I just had dry skin AND acne instead.

As a teenage girl, this was devastating, and I eventually decided that nothing would work and resigned myself to a future of scars and thick makeup.

The hormonal changes of pregnancy helped my acne somewhat, making me realize that there was an internal and hormonal connection that was contributing to my skin problems.

As I often do, I started researching and decided that since I hadn’t gotten answers or help from conventional methods, alternative remedies were worth a try. I also researched in detail the gut/skin connection and how hormones affected skin.

Slowly and finally, I started to see improvement. I kept a log of what helped and what didn’t along the way, and I can now say I’m acne free (and scar free).

Skin Health from the Inside Out

One thing I learned in the process of fixing my skin, was that there isn’t an overnight solution and (at least for me) the problem was as much internal as external.

When we isolate the skin and try to treat it externally as an independent organ, we miss a tremendous number of internal factors.

I was shocked to learn that those with digestive problems like Crohn’s Disease and IBS were also more likely to have skin problems, and certain medications that helped with skin conditions were also helpful to digestive troubles.(source) One study also found that those with bacterial overgrowth in the gut were more likely to suffer from severe skin conditions like acne. (source)

At the same time, I discovered accidentally that certain foods and supplements gave me the ability to tan without burning for the first time in my life (and essentially even changed my skin tone).

I found that those with leaky gut were more likely to suffer from cystic acne and skin troubles, and as we did the GAPS protocol to heal my son’s gut problems and allergies, my skin improved too.

Though the specifics will certainly vary by individual, addressing gut problems and improving gut health are important steps to dealing with acne. The process is slow, but lasting. The specific things I found helpful in improving my gut health and inadvertently, my skin health are:

  • Taking a good quality probiotic. I’ve taken several over the years, but the one that seemed most helpful for acne was Clear Probiotics as it has a strain that helps skin health. I’ve also been taking Black mineral powder lately and while my acne is already gone, it has seemed to improve my skin.
  • Fat Soluble Vitamins: Once I added Fermented Cod Liver Oil to my daily regimen (years ago), my skin started to improve and it has continually gotten better over time. I also noticed I got fewer stretch marks when I was taking FCLO during pregnancy and using natural products on my stomach.
  • Gelatin/Collagen: I’m a big fan of gelatin and collagen powder for many reasons, but I credit these with speeding the healing of my skin from years of acne. I also often hear “You look way too young to have five kids” and I credit gelatin/collagen with these comments as well. Two great natural brands are Perfect Supplements and Jigsaw Health.
  • L-Glutamine & HCL: I also started taking L-Glutamine for leaky gut and gut health, and it seemed to have a big impact on my skin as well. I still take l-Glutamine daily on an empty stomach to help with gut and skin health. I also still take Betaine HCL to improve my digestion and skin health.

I personally found that balancing hormones was a big factor for me. Hormone balance is a moving target, especially for women, but these are the steps that helped me. Several close friends had their acne drastically improve just by removing sugary drinks and pasteurized dairy (which also make sense in light of the gut connection) so that is a great place to start if you still consume those.

Topical Remedies for Acne

As I worked to fix my internal problems that were contributing to my acne, I found that external remedies actually started to work and seemed to speed the process.

I’m convinced that these still would not have worked if I hadn’t been addressing the internal aspects too, but in combination with addressing gut health, these helped:

Science is just starting to understand the role of microbes in skin health and I suspect that we will see a rise in skin-biome related companies and products in the next few years.

The basic idea is just as we have a microbiome in the gut, we also have a microbiome in our mouths, on our skin and in other parts of the body (source). Some emerging research suggests that probiotics and other substances that support the skin microbiome can reduce skin inflammation (source), repair the skin barrier and reduce acne (source).

There is even research on probiotic and prebiotic cosmetics and face creams (my recipes for this coming soon) that would help repair the skin on a micro level (source) and scientists are studying the possibility of topical probiotic creams and treatments (source).

Ironically, my homemade makeup powder uses arrowroot, which studies are showing can work as a prebiotic to improve the life of probiotics, which might be one reason some readers noticed that it helped their acne.

TIP: For a short term way to deliver probiotics to the skin, I like mixing a tablespoon of organic yogurt with a capsule of probiotics and rubbing on the skin. I leave on for 10 minutes and wash off.

Bringing it all Together

For me, finally getting rid of my acne required a combination of the above approaches and I can’t stress enough that this is not an overnight process! For me, it took focusing on my gut and hormones before the external remedies helped and I think this is a key factor that is often ignored with acne.

The skin biome connection is just emerging, but I’m also confident that we will continue to learn more about how bacteria balance affects skin health.

Have you ever struggled with acne? What remedies or conventional treatments seemed to help you?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


98 responses to “Natural Remedies for Acne”

  1. pat alves Avatar

    Thank you very much for your article. I’m very impressed because i just started now to take the same path. I take probiotic every day , focused on my gut, don’t eat gluten, and clean my face only with a natural soap. Still I use a cosmetic moisturiser.
    And I still must say: for 20 years no doctor saw my real acne problem.

  2. Kelli Avatar

    I took all of the necessary steps to deal with leaky gut etc as described in your article. I’ve noticed significant improvements by making these few tweaks to my daily regimen and eating habits so for that, thank you!

    I’ve been doing the oil cleansing method and using the sea salt spray and apple cider vinegar recipes for toners.

    I was skeptical to try the oil cleansing method and I still am. Buying these ingredients and testing them out wasn’t cheap and now I’m more embarrassed than ever as my acne was at it’s all time time worst before trying this but has only gotten worse by the day.

    After two weeks of trying this method, my acne really is at it’s worst and I’m embarrassed to even go out in public. Before I was having issues with clogged pores, black heads, dry & excessively oily skin at the same time and a few deep rooted pimples on occasion. I have a few less blackheads on my forehead but now have more on my nose, my forehead is littered with deep, painful and rather large (dime size) red pimples that hurt.. But it doesn’t stop there, my once perfect complexion cheeks, jaw line and chin are now littered with these same pimples.

    Not sure what to do now, I guess it’s back to the harsh chemical face washes that only mildly clear up my face but at least keep me pain free and that minimizes the acne enough for makeup to hide the rest. I’m glad this worked for some.. I had high hopes it might be a miracle for me 🙁

    1. Geretta Avatar

      Hi Kelly, I sympathize with you as I have had the same thing happen. Even after changing my diet and taking Kris Kress’s suggestion on skin supplements along with supplements to help restore gut health. Nothing was working. Feeling so bad like you were and wouldn’t leave the house. I read an article on calamine lotion helping with adult acne. I thought what the heck, I may as well try it. It has done wonders to me. My face even hurt, I just wanted some relief. It was calamine lotion that did it. I then read ingredients and found out formaldehyde was one of the 2 ingredients. I have since made my own going off of Katies recipe. I couldn’t handle salt or baking soda in the mix. My recipe is: 1 ts benonite clay, 1 ts kaolin clay, 1.5 ts zinc oxide, 1 ts glycerin, 5 drops of lavender, 5 drops of chamomile, 1 drop of peppermint essential oils, add witch hazel to make a creamy consistency. I like mine a little thin. It feels so good on my skin. The plus is, the nice pink color works well as a concealer if a red spot pops up. I use it a spot treatment, mask, mix a little with my moisturizer. My skin is nearly healed in matter of days. I just wanted to cry for months now because I couldn’t get my acne under control. I hope this helps someone else out there as I know the damage it can do to your psyche.
      Thanks Katie for all your wonderful knowledge!

  3. Viktoria Avatar

    Hello lovely Wellnessmama community,

    First of all, thank you, Katie for amazing tips and trick. I love your website.

    I have never had too many problems with mi skin, but lately thanks to a lot of stress, traveling and such I ended up with horrible acne, painful and very visible. Below you can find list of Wellnessmama tips that helped me tremendously:

    – taking probiotics everyday before bed
    – B12 and vitamin D in the morning
    – warm lemon water in the morning
    – clay mask twice a week (I use Niaouli essential oil)- this is pure MIRACLE
    – in the evening before bed I do oil cleansing (with coconut oil, I tried many combinations, but this worked the best for me) and use diluted ACV as toned (applied with the cosmetic pad)
    – in the morning I use salt spray
    And that’s all! When I use make up, I use Weleda baby face cream (in yellow packaging) before applying anything.

    When it comes to eating, I eat the ‘usual’ clean diet (no refined oils, sugars, processed food and such).
    Honestly, Katie, I am so grateful for your website, everything I tried works and you inspire me everyday!

    Good luck with your work,

  4. Letika Montanez Avatar
    Letika Montanez

    We have had success by reducing dairy, using sulfer soap, and taking probiotic and garlic supplements.

  5. Ally Avatar

    Hi! I was wondering when exactly would you use the apple cider vinegar? I have just started using pure coconut oil for oil cleansing every night and was questioning if Apple cider vinegar would dry out the skin more or help it?

  6. Felicia Avatar

    I’ve been struggling with hormonal acne since my tubal ligation through my body into chaos 5 yrs ago which I later learned is common so I don’t recommend that procedure. I had success with a antibiotic but of course had to stop for the health of my gut. I follow an organic grain free/paleo diet, Amour, progesterone, Vitex (normalized my period), iodine, silver, ACV, honey, exercise, detox baths every other day, clay masks, tons of suppliments, Panoxyl soaps, Salic acid spray, witch hazel, aloe Vera, Essencial oils, you name it all feeling like I was fighting a losing battle. My thorough research led me to DHT blockers. My hair has also been oily and had noticeable hair thinning. Back, chest, jawline acne, or oily hair/hair loss can be attributed to too much DHT (bad testosterone). Try feeling like a hot mama for husband with all that going on 😉 I’ve been taking a natural DHT blocker containing saw palmetto for just the past few days (1 in AM & 1 in PM) and fabulousness! Almost completely cleared and hair isn’t disgusting. God bless and hope this helps someone 🙂

    1. erika Avatar

      Can I ask what product you are using that is a natural DHT blocker with Saw Palmetto? I have the same issue, and I was on Spironolactone for years which cured it but now I’m trying natural options. I’m currently trying spearment tea (supposedly a natural androgen blocker) and some other things…but the results haven’t been immediate. However it took about 3 months for the Spironolactone to get me to a clear complexion so it may just take some time.

      1. Felicia Avatar

        New Chapter Prostate 5LX but I have increased my dose to 2x am & 2x pm.

  7. Claire Avatar

    I was on prescription topical medications that were not friendly to my sensitive and very dry skin. I’d always have to apply according to how my skin was feeling that particular day, and that was a gamble I’d usually lose. And in the winter time I’d start losing chunks of skin on my face and I never saw real results. Two or so years ago I looked in to natural plant based oils and started using the oil cleansing method with coconut oil and that was the only thing that didn’t burn or dry out my skin but still gave me results. It worked way better than anything my doctor gave me. Within the last year I switched it around to jojoba oil or almond oil and got even better results. But in August of this year I became vegetarian and that made the biggest difference in my skin. I *maybe* get a zit once every two weeks? No conventional product ever relieved my acne and moisturized my skin better than focusing my efforts on what plants can give me and I’m pretty sure I annoy people with how I rave about plant based oils, haha.

  8. Erika Schewe Avatar
    Erika Schewe

    Katie, thank you so much for this post. I’ve been on Spironolactone for years for my very very bad cystic acne which did cure it, but I have been off of it recently since I’m trying to get pregnant. Did you use all of these methods while pregnant and breastfeeding? I will be sure to consult a doctor, but just wondering what you did. Appreciate any help I can get!! I also want to say thank you for all of your hard work with this blog – you make a big difference in people’s lives!

  9. Erin Avatar

    I just want to give you a high five!
    While topical treatments have their moments, beautiful skin is made from the inside out.
    Way to go!

  10. Caitlin Kuhe Avatar
    Caitlin Kuhe

    I do appreciate this blog and it has gotten me on to some good habits I think are benefitting me. I feel I’ve invested a lot…manuka honey, organic olive oil, tea tree oil, mineral salt flakes for bath, jojoba oil, castor oil, vitamin e oil, essential oils, endless bottles of ACV, activated charcoal, witch hazel, rose water, great lakes, vital proteins, bio-kult probiotics, blue ice fermented cod liver oil, the cookbook. Now I’m putting the new pro/prebiotic you recommend in my cart…but I’m getting weary.
    To try and make my “story” short: I’m 45, I had my two children late in life (had high FSH at 34 and after 5 years of trying, had first through egg donor, then five mos. later got preg naturally.) My children are healthy as can be. I am blessed. I’ll measure us as 75% organic and for young kids, they have decent eating habits. My habits could be better, I can’t find the strength to do the GAPS or paleo, etc. I am a life time sufferer of hand eczema. I did develop an allergy to a chemical that was in baby wipes-methylisothiazolinone. Helped when i found that out! It’s in a ton of soaps, shampoos/conditioners. But I still get inflammation on my fingers -the itch is unbearable. And last few years, being heavily perimenopausal (if that’s a thing,) I’ve had various issues crop up in the skin/face department: perioral derm, blepharitis (of sorts), acne…right now on my temples and canNOT get rid of it and it is NOT waning after a month. Just got a few more on my chin. I had been on a low dose of minocycline to treat the perioral dermatitis. I of course don’t want to be on an antibiotic, but well you know when you at your wit’s ends with uncomfortable facial skin, it’s desperate measures. Especially after exactly a year ago when I was having bad acne and dry skin all at once, and I started filling my bathroom with all the above mentioned products to try OCM, etc.
    And anyway, here I am again – uncomfortable acne and dry skin – about to fill my amazon cart with all the links on this blog. OR start a new round of minocycline (boo). As you can tell I’m skeptical….maybe I should just stand back and leave it all alone and let it run its course? Or maybe once and for all, try whole30 or paleo or GAPS, we shall see. I have spent too much time on this. Sorry for it being so long. I hope you read it. Any words of wisdom would be welcome. Thank you.

    1. Corrina Avatar

      Hi! I am sorry to hear that you are suffering from eczema on your hand. I have had the same issue for years. I get incredibly itchy blisters on my hands and feet.

      I finally figured out that it is because of allergies. I am allergic to eggs, wheat, corn, dairy and about 8 other things. When I cut that stuff out, I feel a lot better.

      I would encourage you to do an elimination diet and also have ano allergy test. My doctor was shocked by how many allergies I have.

      I hope you find relief. If you are reading this blog, you are well on your way. 😉

  11. debu Avatar

    Thanks for this information. What are your views about Diatomaceous earth? It seems that it helps with acne and other digestive issues. Also how do you decide when to take Bentonite Clay/ Black Mineral pwd/ Probiotic because its best taken in the morning in empty stomach for max benefits.

  12. Elizabeth Avatar

    There was a short period of time when my oldest son experienced acne in his late teens. While most pushed for antibiotics to clear it up we decided to take the natural route. We found that drinking homemade kefir on a regular basis helped to maintain a clear complexion and taking burdock in capsule form for those occasional flair ups. All three of them rarely had any issues while living at home unless of course they gave in to their junk food cravings. Now that they are on their own in their early twenties, I notice more instances of acne breakouts.

  13. Maraka Avatar

    Thank you for this post. I too spent most of my teen years hiding from the camera because of my skin. I tried everything and eventually went on the pill, which helped a little but it never completely disappeared. Two years ago (aged 36) I started cleaning up my diet, starting using oil for a cleanser and eventually came off the pill which made a huge difference.
    People now comment on my glow and ask what I am doing, which is lovely but I now have to watch my adorable 8 year old daughter start early puberty with is her skin has started to break out. I have her oil cleansing and taking a daily probiotic but wondered what else you would recommend for her?

  14. Pauline Brown Avatar
    Pauline Brown

    I too recommend witch hazel. My Sons friend was embarrassed by his acne so I bought him a bottle of witch hazel & some cotton wool pads . When I see him now his face is just normal. I myself use it to take makeup off & also after washing my face. I find it a very cheap & effective product. Well worth a try if you are having skin problems.

  15. Tanya Avatar

    Are you saying your scars faded, too? Because that would be awesome! I have struggled, big time, with acne since I was 16. And I have the scars to prove it. I actually did use Accutane years ago, and the huge cystic acne has stayed away. But I almost always have at least one small one and/or a regular pimple. Along with these small red bumps, that I’m not sure what those even are. My acne has improved tremendously, being in AIP 🙂 But I still have scars. I’ve heard lemon can help fade them. Did you do anything specifically for the scars?

  16. Jessie Avatar

    Thanks for this. I’ve had hormonal acne for years, and even went on Accutane in my teens. I found that the pill really helped, but about a year ago I went off it. I had breakouts around my chin about 2.5-3 months afterwards and started doing some research into hormonal acne cures. I found a blog that suggested Vitex root 2x day (morning and night with food), probiotics and a liver supplement like Burdock root. I have found an amazing improvement in my skin and only have a few small pimples before my period now. Also, my fingernails have always been brittle and for some reason they are beautiful and strong now (not sure if its connected but its the only change I’ve made).

  17. Lisa Avatar

    MY ACNE IS GONE and I can finally look in the mirror and feel pretty and like an adult!! I had very very bad cystic acne. I had a bit of acne in high school. In college it got worse. I got married and started taking birth control, and the acne went away! Which had me convinced that it had a lot to do with hormones. BUT I started reading Wellness Mama and decided I was done with hormonal Birth Control. The acne came back, worse than before. Much worse. I talked to a friend who is a chiropractor and her method worked for me. It’s been a miracle in my life. Acne is all about your ADRENAL GLANDS! Cleanse them and your liver together and you will see major improvements. This is what I did..

    – take an adrenal supplement
    – take milk thistle
    – take a quality probiotic

    do this and you will NOT regret it. I promise. Your adrenals control hormones in your body. Cha ching! 🙂

  18. Tricia Avatar

    Dairy is a huge trigger for me. When I cut it out my skin cleared up. If I overdo the dairy now I will breakout but small amounts are OK. Wish I also had this info as a teenager. I’m saving this info for my kids in case they need it. Thanks!

  19. Nichole Avatar

    Thank you so much for posting on this topic! I have had bad acne for as long as I can remember. I have Hashimoto’s and knew that it was probably related to gut issues, but had no idea where to even begin. I am currently nursing, are all of these supplements safe to use while nursing? Thanks again!

  20. Anna Avatar

    Katie, thank you for this post! I will have to try your regimen. I am also one of those saying that NOTHING helps for my acne 🙁
    Can you recommend some books about female hormones, imbalances, etc?

    1. Geretta Avatar

      Hi, for all of you out there struggling with acne, hoping thus might help you as its helped me. Not sure what kind of acne I have but I’m 50 and have struggled all my life. Some I’m sure is hormonal. I have been on a dairy free and gluten free for several months now with no great help with my acne. It has helped other things like arthritis. But I wanted to share I read an article about calamine lotion helping with acne. I have tried everything else do thought I’d try it. It works for me. Even the hard stubborn ones that hurt. I then read ingredients in calamine lotion and found the one I was using had formaldehyde in it. I have since made my own. Here’s the recipe I use:
      1 ts kaolin clay, 1.5 ts zinc oxide, 1ts benonite clay, 5 drops chamomile,5 drops lavender, 1 drop peppermint essential oils. Add witch hazel to make creamy consistency as you like. Use as a spot treatment, use as a mask. I mix a little with my moisturizer and it keeps acne in check. So happy, happy ???? to have found this. Hope it helps someone else out there that is struggling! God bless!

      1. Geretta Avatar

        Hi again, I forgot the ts of glycerin I put in my calamine lotion.

        Thank Katie for your blog. I feel yours is so much more helpful than most I’ve read. I think that’s do to you, doing all the research you have done and then relating it in such an amazing way! Thanks so much for all your work, love this site. I tell everyone about it.

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