There is a wide range of plant and natural ingredients that can help improve the appearance of blemishes (acne and scars). I have listed several of my favorite ingredients and products that are common (easy to find), and usually available in most health food stores or many regular supermarkets too. You may have many of them in your cupboards already! All of these ingredients can be used to create your own luscious DIY (Do It Yourself) recipes. Or if you don’t want to DIY, look for natural skin care products made with these ingredients. Many of the vendors found here on the ‘All Natural Beauty’ website, as well as stores in the ANB Mall sell excellent products for blemished skin. A few of the ANB vendors also sell ingredients.
Different ingredients work for different people. So you may have to try a few ingredients to see which one or combination of ingredients works the best for you. Please note, that when trying new ingredients, some ingredients may cause initial, temporarily purging of the skin. In addition, it takes time for ingredients and products to work, and it may take a few weeks or months for your skin to rebalance itself.
Honey is an excellent ingredient for acne. I highly recommend using it as a spot treatment. Honey can also be used as a mask, or in serums, lotions, creams, and balms, etc. Use it as a facial cleanser too. You can use any kind of honey in skin care, but manuka honey is especially effective for blemishes. Personally I recommend using plain honey for wash off products (like cleansers and masks), and manuka honey for leave on products (like spot treatments, serums, or creams). But if you can’t find manuka honey, then use regular honey in leave on products. Plain honey is still great for helping blemished skin!
One product you may want to try is (real) soap. A well formulated soap will gently cleanse the skin and remove excess sebum without over stripping it. Most of the commercial ‘soaps’ sold on the market are really detergents and not true soaps. Real soaps are made with natural fats (like carrier oils or butters) and an alkali (such as lye. After the lye reacts with the fats to create soap and glycerin, there is no lye left in a properly made soap).
There are many different kinds and types of soaps, made with a wide variety of ingredients (such as bar soap, liquid soap, cold process, hot process, melt & pour aka ’glycerin’ or ‘translucent’ soaps, African Black Soap, etc. Please note that some melt and pour soaps are real soaps while others are made with detergents). Be sure to use a soap that is super fatted (contains extra oils or butters), and that contains herbs or other ingredients that are good for blemished skin. You may have to try a few different soaps to find one that you like.
In my experience, (real) soaps are well tolerated by a wide range of skin types, and by most people (once they have found a well crafted formulation that works with their skin type and conditions). When I had acne over eleven years ago, soap was one of the products that helped clear my skin, and it helps keep my skin clear today. Soap has helped the majority of my customers and many others that I have helped with skin care over the years. But there are some people whose skin may prefer a different type of cleanser (like a cleansing oil or honey). Experiment and see what works best for you!
Essential oils are some of my favorite ingredients to use for blemished skin. There are many essential oils that help improve the look of acne and scars, but the two best known, easiest to find, classic aromatherapy recommendations are lavender and tea tree essential oils. Be sure to dilute the essential oils well before use to prevent possible sensitivity, allergies, and sensitization.
Although a few (but not most) essential oils can be used undiluted or neat for short term use and emergencies, in my personal opinion, it is best to dilute essential oils for acne (and general skin care) to prevent possible sensitivity. I recommend diluting lavender and tea tree essential oils when using them for acne, because in most cases people use acne products frequently and usually for long periods of time: at least twice a day for anywhere from several days to weeks or months. In addition, in my experience most people use several different facial products at a time (so they are most likely using a few products with essential oils in them, and it quickly adds up). Essential oils are highly concentrated substances: a single drop is akin to several ounces to pounds of plant matter: so a few drops diluted in a carrier are extremely potent and effective. Remember, in the case of essential oils: less is usually best!
Dilute essential oils to a total concentration of ½ to 1% concentration for facial use (which is around 3-6 drops per one ounce of carrier), and 1-2% for body use (6-12 drops per one ounce of carrier). For spot treatments you can make the concentration a little stronger, if using the spot treatment for only a few days.
Please note this is the total concentration of all essential oils in the product, and not the concentration for each individual essential oil (so whether you use one or twelve different essential oils, use only a total of 3 to 12 drops of essential oils). Use creams, lotions, serums, carrier oils, or butters, as your carrier.
Research essential oils well before use (I suggest researching a minimum of at least 7 to 10 different sources since there is a lot of misinformation). Although I have listed general concentrations above, there are many essential oils that shouldn’t be used above a certain concentration due to their potency (certain essential oils may be potentially irritating or potentially toxic if not diluted properly). In addition there are many essential oils that aren’t recommended for the facial skin or for skin use.
Moisturizers, Carrier Oils, And Water Rich Ingredients:
Often when people have acne, their skin has an imbalance in either their sebum or moisture levels or both. It is very important to give your skin both water rich ingredients and carrier oils (or butters): the combination of waters and oils/butters will moisturize your skin.
It may sound ironic but if you give your skin a little oil, often your skin will rebalance itself: whether your skin is too oily or very dry, oils can help normalize your sebum levels.
Many carrier oils are useful for blemished skin. Different oils work for different people, so try a few to see which ones you like the best. You can use oils as a cleanser (cleansing oil or oil cleansing method), to help seal in moisture (apply 1 to 5 drops to damp skin), as a spot treatment, or as an ingredient in your DIY creations (like creams, lotions, serums, masks, scrubs, etc).
Many people with blemished skin like grape seed oil. Grape seed oil is often recommended for oily skin (since it is a little astringent), but some people with dry or dehydrated skin like it too. If you buy grape seed oil read the label carefully; most grape seed oil on the market is solvent extracted and highly refined. I suggest buying cold pressed or expeller pressed grape seed oil (which is usually sold by a few online vendors). Make sure it is unrefined or only partially refined using natural methods and not solvents. Grape seed oil extracted with these methods cost more than the more common solvent extracted, highly refined kind, but it is worth every penny!
You may also like jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is really a liquid wax, which is similar to the skin’s natural sebum. Jojoba is suggested for both oily and dry skin. A lot of companies use solvent extracted and refined jojoba; try to get one that is cold pressed or expeller pressed, and unrefined. And organic, if possible.
In my opinion, cold pressed, virgin, unrefined, certified organic coconut oil is one of the best ingredients you can use for blemishes. I have been recommending it for acne for many years, and it really works for most people! One of my best sellers is made with cold pressed, virgin, unrefined, certified organic coconut oil and essential oils; it is a very effective spot treatment for acne (plus coconut oil has so many other uses too!). I don’t recommend using refined or solvent extracted coconut oil though.
There are many excellent water rich ingredients and products that are helpful for acne, including aloe. Aloe is one of my favorite remedies for skin clarity. It is nutrient rich and is often used on blemished skin (for many people it can help improve the look of both acne and scars over time). The simplest way to use aloe: use it as a toner or apply it to the skin a few times during the day. You can also add it to masks, scrubs, cleansers, or use it as the water phase of creams or lotions. I highly recommend buying organic aloe since organic brands usually have the least amount of fillers and additives. Many cosmetic companies use aloe in their skin care.
Vinegar toner can greatly improve the appearance of blemished skin. Natural and lab acids are often recommended for acne; vinegar contains natural acetic acid. Vinegar toner helps rebalance the pH of the skin, tighten the pores, and very mildly exfoliates the skin. I typically don’t recommend daily exfoliation but vinegar toner is one of the exceptions that is safe to use daily, by most people. If you use vinegar toner daily, you may or may not need to use less of other exfoliations. It really depends on your own skin.
Many infusions (aka teas) are great for acne! They hydrate the skin, many of them tone the skin, and many herbs help improve skin clarity and the look of blemished skin. Here are a few infusions you may want to try!
Natural Acids And Enzymes:
Many natural ingredients are rich in natural acids and enzymes that are great for acne. I personally prefer using natural acids and enzymes still in their ‘whole food’ form (instead of their lab derived or lab concentrated counterparts), such as vinegar, sugar, strawberries, pumpkin, etc.
These are only some of the amazing plant and natural ingredients that can help improve the appearance of acne. There are many more ingredients than what I have listed, that I love using when formulating all natural skin care. I hope that you find some natural ingredients and products that you love using on your skin!
Here are a couple of posts from Earth Alkemie’s (my all natural skin care and perfumery company) forum on how to figure out which ingredients or products work for your skin:
How to balance the skin:
Here is one of my Eco Living articles, which includes instructions on how to use honey as a cleanser, mask, and spot treatment (many of the ingredients in the article are great for year round usage!):
All-Natural Soap –
Here is a recipe from my personal eco blog (Solarkat’s Eco Blog) for melt and pour soaps, which includes a recipe for a simple lavender soap:
Skin Care Help –
Here is my recipe for a ‘Pimple Juice’ spot treatment from my personal eco blog:
My list of resources for good books for skin care, including aromatherapy books:
Natural Moisturizers –
For more information on oils, water, and moisturizers please read my Eco Living article on all natural moisturizers:
Here is a post I wrote on my (Earth Alkemie’s) forum on the difference between oil based products and water based products:
Here is one of my recipes from my personal eco blog on how to make basic oil based facial serums: http://solarkateco.blogspot.com/2006/09/facial-oilsserums-scars-and.html
Vinegar Toner –
Here is a thread from my forum on vinegar toner (includes a recipe and several posts that contains lots of good information):
Herbal Infusions –
Eco Living article on strawberry leaf infusion:
Chamomile and lavender infusion:
My green tea toner made with green tea, honey, and aloe (you can use white tea too):
Natural Acids & Enzymes –
Here is my recipe for a sweet strawberry scrub that has honey, sugar, and strawberries (you can use defrosted frozen strawberries during the winter):
SharAmbrosia’s recipe for a pumpkin scrub (SharAmbrosia is Sharon Houghton’s company. Sharon is also the Founder & Director of all three ANB websites):
Li Wong has a B.A. in Environmental studies/biology and an M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy. She has studied a wide range of ecological and plant related topics including biology/botany, ethnobotany (the cosmetic and medicinal uses of plants in indigenous cultures), conservation, and organic standards in cosmetics. Other environmental interests include mammals, urban wildlife, public