Natural Remedies for Acne

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Natural remedies for acne that really work
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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. Jimy Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    Love you blog! I have a leaky gut and addressing this issue with diet and supplements has improved my skin so much!
    I have been taking my Green Pastures Fermented Cod liver oil for a while now, I am curious how many capsules you take each day? Also, if I understand correctly you take your L-Glutamine on a empty stomach but right before breakfast, correct? There is very conflicting info about intake with full or empty stomach.
    Thank so much for helping us in our journey to wellness!

  2. Veronica G. Avatar
    Veronica G.

    Thanks so much for replying and sharing your previous post on your vitamin regimen. That’s exactly what I was looking for. Congrats on the new bundle of joy!

  3. Veronica G. Avatar
    Veronica G.

    Katie, I love your blog! I’ve been following for a while, but I haven’t seen an article on your daily/weekly or even monthly routine. This article alone had lots of info on supplements, but certain supplements have rules on when/how to take; I would love to know what your regimen is. If you’ve already written this, could you please point me in the right direction? Again I appreciate your research and trials to find these very helpful natural methods. Keep up the great work!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      Thanks so much, Veronica! This post needs updating as it was written several years ago, but it’s still the gist of our daily routine (but add some kids and more homeschooling 😉 )

  4. Jamie Avatar

    I’ve been struggling with cystic acne for years and have gone through all of the hoops and meds (both internal and external) for correcting my face, but as you said, none of these provided long term solutions for my face.

    I plan on taking your advice and integrating many of the above things into my regimen. If anything, I have found that alkalizing my body every morning with warm lemon water, and taking at least 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar each day has slowed the cysts–along with cutting out my beloved coffee, and consuming more probiotics.

    I do have major scarring along my jaws and cheeks, so I’m eager to try what has worked for you. My dermatologist recently recommended Accutane and that was the last straw… what they don’t ask you is about your *health* and in my specific experience, they have just sought to suppress the symptoms.

  5. Anna Avatar

    I have struggled all my life with acne and have passed it on to my children. My daughter is 11 and is struggling with it now. I would like to try the things you have listed, what do I need to adjust for her age?

  6. Christine Avatar

    I am having acne at 47. After speaking to my doctor and doing some internet research I finally learned this ‘type’ of acne pops up in women heading nearing menopause.

    I found Evening Primrose Oil to be extremely effective.

  7. artista Avatar

    I have a very sensitive skin & pro breakout & have a lot of dark spots due to acne scars. One of my concerns, aging skin around my eyes. I used the Citrus Clear Skin Repair Moisturizer and after 2-3 days – the lines that’s been bothering me for quite a while is lessening & the dark spots on my cheeks start to lighten! my friends saw me & said you look blooming! that’s only 2-3 days of using the Citrus clear moisturizer.

  8. Celine Schlesser Avatar
    Celine Schlesser

    As someone who is suffering from acne outbreaks DermalMD Acne Serum has helped me to get rid of my acne easily and effectively. It is easy to use and works great. The best part of this product is it helps to prevent any acne from coming out in the near future by stopping the oil production and that is something other products that I have tried do not do.

  9. Ann Avatar

    Would this help with Rosacea?
    I take Cod Liver Oil, Probiotics, and Bone Broth daily, but the Rosacea is the same.

  10. Christine Avatar


    Thank you for these suggestions. I am currently dealing with mild to moderate acne and choosing to go the natural route. I just ordered the Fermented Cod Liver and looking to try another probiotic. From your experience, when would you say is the best time to take the fermented cod liver oil? Should it be in the morning on an empty stomach or with a meal? Thank you!

  11. Carly Avatar

    Thank you for sharing with us! Many of your suggestions I have never heard before so I am very excited to try some of them. Thank you!!!!!!

  12. Geretta Avatar

    Hi, can I ask what Citrus Clear Cleanser you are speaking of? I’ve looked back and can’t seem to find where Katie mentioned it. Thank you!

  13. Diana Avatar

    Along with my aging skin, I’ve been battling some nasty cystic acne for way too many years. I’ve also been using Citrus Clear like you mentioned – I’ve been using this daily for the last 2 weeks and all’s good! No breakouts and no dry skin. The Citrus Clear cleanser doesn’t irritate my skin. It doesn’t foam as much as I hoped it would but that’s not a deal breaker.

  14. Nicole Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    Thank you very much for posting those acne remedies. I have a mild to moderate acne mainly on my chin and cheeks and before going to my doctor, first I want to try out the most effective home remedies available.

    So far I’ve tried a few including remedies with coconut oil, jojoba oil, baking soda and apple cider vinegar and results were rather average than good. Now I want to share something that might be of help to your readers as it helped me. I found an ebook on Amazon called “Unique Bulgarian Home Remedies for Acne”. It has has a total of 28 remedies some internal and some topical. The author claims that these are remedies from some of the greatest Bulgarian healers and herbalists.
    I’d like to write down a short recipe from the book that relieved my acne symptoms significantly. I still haven’t tried any of the remaining 27 remedies.

    Before bedtime, on your face apply a cotton towel, soaked in water in which lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), soapwort (Saponaria Officinalis), and black elder (Sambucus nigra) was boiled – in equal portions.

    What I do is I just soak the bottom of the towel in the herbal infusion, and wrap it around my head – where the wet part covers my chin and cheeks. I keep it on for about 1 hour, while watching TV before going to bed, and that’s it! I am eager to try some of the herbal ointments written in the book as well, but so far so good.

    Anyhow, thanks again for the helpful post, and hope my share was of help too!


  15. robyn Avatar

    The Betaine HCI-is that a food enzyme? I take a combo from Nature’s Sunshine FOod Enzymes and it’s great!

  16. Cheryl Avatar

    Thanks for the very informative article! Many of your suggestions are ones that I’ve never heard of before and am anxious to try. Thanks again!

  17. Pauline Brown Avatar
    Pauline Brown

    Hi Steph , try the Witch Hazel,don’t know where you are but in the UK it’s less than £3 a bottle & would last you a while. Worth a try.

  18. Steph H Avatar

    Ladies I am encouraged by this article. I am an adult in my 30s with acne and scars. I have tried everything and spent a lot of money in the process. I was on the verge of going to a medical spa to get a chemical peel. I would love to begin this natural healing process. I am a little overwhelmed by the fact that this is still an expensive process. I can’t afford to spend the money monthly that Katie has recommended. I’m still a bit discouraged…

  19. Debbie G Avatar

    Love your website, love the solutions you given me to keep in my kitchen and my medicine cabinet. I would love any feebies that your site keeps promising me, but prevents because I’m already singed up. Thank you for bringing so many wonderful things into my inbox.

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