24 Feb A guide to herbal remedies for acne
Charlotte Gallagher explains why natural and herbal remedies for acne are so preferable to using harsh pharmaceutical drugs.
Acne is a common and often distressing skin condition that causes spots and oily skin that may be hot to the touch and sore. Generally, the symptoms of acne are concentrated on the face, although many people experience symptoms on their chest and back too.
Most of us are affected by acne at some point in our lives and will look for ways to alleviate this worrisome skin condition.
The NHS recommends a range of self-help techniques including washing the affected area with a mild cleanser, avoiding oil-based makeup and using a water-based emollient to hydrate dry skin.
If these kinds of basic treatments don’t work, you may be advised to discuss your condition with a pharmacist who will then recommend specialist topical creams, lotions and gels. These often have minimal effect and, in some cases, could even dry your skin, making it feel worse.
If you have moderate or severe acne, you may have discussed it with your GP, who can recommend prescription medicines such as topical retinoids, various antibiotics, azelaic acid, and the combined contraceptive pill.
While often effective, all these medicines carry the risk of some sort of side-effects, and as we all now know, taking antibiotics over an extended period can be detrimental to your long-term health and could mean you build up resistance.
The benefits of herbal remedies for acne
If you are looking for a more natural way to get rid of spots that doesn’t involve potentially harsh prescription medicines, there are a number of natural and herbal remedies for acne you might like to try.
Here’s my round-up of the most popular natural acne treatments.
Apple cider vinegar
Some acne sufferers swear by apple cider vinegar, or ACV for short. This is a natural product derived from apples that has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It also contains organic acids like citric acid which, when combined with zinc oxide, has been found to kill one of the types of bacteria linked with acne.
That said, many dermatologists feel apple cider vinegar is too harsh on the skin and warn it may cause irritation. If you do want to give this natural remedy for acne a go, you certainly shouldn’t apply it neat.
Dilute one part ACV with at least three parts water and apply with clean cotton wool. If you have any open wounds from your acne, even diluted ACV will sting quite a bit! Leave it for no more than 20 seconds, then rinse your face thoroughly with water.
Honey and cinnamon
Honey and cinnamon both have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Some people who have suffered with acne swear by applying the two ingredients in combination, as a facemask.
That said, the limited studies that have been conducted do not conclusively support the effectiveness of cinnamon and honey as an acne treatment. However, it’s not likely to do you any harm and will make your skin feel softer.
If you would like to try this natural remedy, simply mix two tablespoons of honey with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Apply the paste to your face and rinse off after 10 minutes.
Tea tree oil
If you’re prone to occasional breakouts, tea tree oil can work as an effective spot treatment.
You’ll find tea tree oil as an ingredient in lots of natural skincare products, but, if you want to make your own at-home remedy, simply mix one part tree tree oil with nine parts water and use a cotton bud to apply the essential oil to the affected areas. Never use it neat as it is extremely drying and could make blemish-prone skin feel hot and uncomfortable.
There have been a number of studies which show tea tree oil can have promising results for acne sufferers, even when up against pharmaceutical medications like topical and oral antibiotics.
Witch hazel is another ingredient you’ll find in lots of natural skincare products. It comes from the bark and leaves of the North American witch hazel shrub and studies have suggested it may fight bacteria and reduce skin irritation and inflammation.
Used as a topical treatment for spots, it has a reassuring clean smell and helps alleviate discomfort. If you’d like to try this natural acne remedy, you can create your own treatment solution using witch hazel bark and water, or just buy a bottle of witch hazel solution from your local chemist.
For centuries, aloe vera has been used to treat all sorts of skincare complaints from inflammation and rashes to burns and wounds. Many people believe it can improve the appearance of acne too.
This is because the gel produced from the leaves of the aloe vera plant contains both salicylic acid and sulphur – two ingredients that help reduce inflammation and dry up excess oil, the main culprits of discomfort in acne.
One thing to bear in mind is that many aloe vera skincare products contain some nasty additives and colourants which could aggravate sensitive skin. So if you’re keen to avoid these, buy pure aloe vera gel, or get the gel directly from a live aloe vera plant by peeling a leaf and applying it to your skin as a moisturiser. Do make sure you don’t include the skin of the leaf which could irritate your skin, and bear in mind that as it has no preservatives, it will only last a few days.
Burdock root and Blue Flag rhizome
We use extract from the rhizome or root of Burdock and Blue Flag as the active herbal ingredients within HRI Clear Complexion™, our licenced, herbal remedy for acne that comes in easy-to-swallow tablet form. All HRI Herbal Medicines are fully licensed by the UK regulator, the MHRA, so you can be sure they are safe to use and contain only the ingredients listed on the pack.
Both these plants have anti-inflammatory properties and have been used for centuries to treat skin conditions including spots, acne and mild eczema.
A word from fans of herbal medicine for acne
In January 2023, verified Amazon purchaser Klaudia wrote: “I decided to give this product a chance because of good reviews. The first week I felt it’s getting worse but gave it a bit more time and after 3 weeks my acne is 80% gone, when most expensive creams, solutions, cleaners, toners were not even close to that.”
Just two to three tablets a day can have dramatic results with some Amazon customers reporting improvement in just a few days.
HRI Clear Complexion™ is a herbal remedy for acne that contains none of the harsh chemicals you may be concerned about with prescription medications.
Whether you choose to try the pharmaceutical or natural route to healthy skin, remember, beauty comes from within, so try not to let your skin troubles weigh too heavily on you. If you do find that the condition of your skin is affecting your mental health, the charity MIND runs Side by Side, an online peer support community where you can talk to others who understand how you feel.