5 Common Green Beauty Mistakes for Acne-Prone Skin

Having had the distinct experience of inheriting severely acne prone skin from my parents (and treating that) and working in the beauty dept for a high-end store, I’ve seen my fair share of common mistakes people make when buying products to treat their acne. At this point, before someone even walks away with a product, I can tell if they’ll be successful or not. That’s because the vast majority of consumers make some common mistakes. With that said, green beauty consumers – those who study and carefully read ingredients lists for only clean botanicals, are in general a little more aware of what they’re putting on their skin and what it will do. However, I’ve also noticed that there are common mistakes made. Consider this list a compilation of misconceptions along with my personal advice that is gathered from trial & error and working with others:

A clean product is always better

Many people think that by switching to natural skincare, their skin is automatically going to be better. If you’ve never had a problem with your skin and have pretty good non-sensitive skin, you might notice more benefits just because the ingredients tend to be fresher. However, for acne prone skin, this isn’t always the case. If you asked me for an SPF recommendation for oily blemish prone skin, Peter Thomas Roth Max Sheer Moisture Defense SPF 30 & Ultra-Lite Oil-Free Sunblock 30 are both better options than any ‘clean’ sunscreen I have tried. It’s light, sheer, and non-greasy, as opposed to the ‘better for you’ ingredients in most clean sunscreens that are heavy, greasy, and chalky which is terrible for your pores. Yes, there are parabens in the formula and I don’t like that but guess what, parabens won’t make you break out.

Natural Ingredients are good for Acne Prone skin

So many people say “I want natural skincare to help treat my acne” and that really isn’t saying anything at all. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is right for your skin. The reason I can’t completely transition to natural skincare is because of something as simple as a moisturizing cream. If you look at the creams on natural retailer Spirit Beauty Lounge, every high-end moisturizer has at least one of the following: shea butter, plant/fruit butter, plant/fruit derived wax – these are not great for acne prone skin. Sure they’re natural, have great antioxidant properties, and truly moisturize the skin, but they’re also going to potentially clog your pores, increase your breakouts, and suffocate your skin. And that potential carcinogen in the non-clean moisturizer I like? It’s listed as the 4th last ingredient and provides just the right level of moisturizing without making my skin a mess, I think I’ll take my chances here. 

Less is always more

“I only wash my face with water in the morning because Linda Rodin (Rodin Olio Lusso) does that”, she’s also approaching her 70s and doesn’t have zits and cystic acne to worry about, you do! Just because someone you look up to in the beauty industry says one thing doesn’t mean it will work for you. Working at a retailer, I will tell you most of these ‘founders’ of brands have never really had a legitimate skincare concern in their life when compared to those of us who have been on rounds of antibiotics, accutane, etc. They don’t understand trouble skin or acne so don’t take advice about acne from them! Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser that won’t aggravate or strip your skin, deal?

I saw one post recently from a green beauty brand that taught you how to extract your own pimples, and no. Just no. Take it from someone whose self-confidence was an issue for years due to scars left over from picking at her cystic acne that lumped on top of each other. If I could go back in time, the single most important thing I’d do is slap myself silly and tie my hands behind my back so I’d never touch a single zit. Never, ever ever do it. Every time you feel the urge, just imagine me pleading with you. Also if you know what article I’m talking about, I take offense to the assertion that people who have ‘chronic acne’ have something ‘not quite right’ with their body, such a dumbass statement made by someone who truly doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Acne prone skin is a skin type, while diet and lifestyle do play a part, the severity and ease of having a blemish is often genetic. You won’t tell someone with dry skin that their body is out of whack would you? While others may have headaches or high blood pressure, those with acne-prone skin may breakout, this doesn’t mean our body is messed up, this is just how our body responds. The most powerful acne medication, Accutane doesn’t work through “changing hormones”, decreasing stress, affecting mood, or changing your diet as that idiotic article says are the root causes of acne, in fact Accutane has been shown to cause depression and you’re encouraged to eat a high-fat diet for it to take effect. How does Accutane work? By essentially changing your entire genetic disposition (you can’t be pregnant, you need to have monthly blood tests, etc because it messes up your immune system, and even the composition of your blood) – so acne prone skin is innate and not a personal failing. 

I can’t use this because it has Essential Oils

You have acne prone skin, you’re not a burn victim. Essential Oils might aggravate the most sensitive skin, and even then not all essential oils will irritate all skin types. This is what is so frustrating, people read about others saying how rosemary (or insert whatever botanical) essential oil made their skin red, and all of a sudden rosemary is BAD for sensitive skin. No, rosemary was not suitable for that one person whose skin had a reaction, that doesn’t mean you will have these experiences. If you don’t want to use ingredients that anyone has had a bad reaction to, I will sell you a skincare product that is perfect for you, it’s made out of Water + Glycerin, enjoy. Essential Oils are powerful and active, a lot of them, such as thyme, tea tree, lavender have been shown to ward off acne and yes for some people you might get irritation or contact dermatitis if the concentration you use is too pure. Just don’t swear something off because someone who essentially has to live inside a plastic bubble environment on No More Dirty Looks said so.

First Impression is the most important

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. Sometimes, especially if you’re just switching to a natural skincare regimen, your skin might start purging for a few weeks. So many people will give up right away because they think this is a “bad reaction” when really your skin just has to adjust. When you start on Accutane, the first 2 weeks are pretty much the worst your skin will ever look. The same for Retin-A, Differin, Antibiotics, etc. See the trend here? Sometimes skin needs to purge and adjust, give it time. 

On the flipside, sometimes you get a wonderful green beauty product that smells amazing and applies so well that it clouds your judgement of how good the product actually is for you. For instance, I would never use any facial oil that contained photosensitizing oils. Over time they really will give your skin brown spots and age spots. So I could never understand those people who swear up and down for something like May Lindstrom’s Youth Dew which smells AMAZING and feels AMAZING but has grapefruit oil, sweet orange oil, & lemon oil – why would you ever put this stuff on your face!? Similarly Dr.Alkaitis’ Nourishing Treatment Oil smells divine and has wonderful ingredients in there but have you seen the full ingredients list? St. Johns Wort, and various roots? It’s all good stuff for sure, but for acne prone skin it’s a little like feeding Ginseng or viagra to a college kid. Overload. If you don’t believe me, put a few drops into your mouth, you might feel a buzz – now imagine that on your skin every day and night. Our skin type already has a lot of “heat” energy, we don’t need more root herbs or energizing botanicals. Sure everything is medicinal, but even with medicine, you shouldn’t be taking it every day. 

Summary

The take away is this: listen to your own skin and not others. As ‘wholesome’ as the green beauty movement is, it is still commercial, meaning companies are still trying to sell you stuff and not everything is going to work for you. If you’re only oil cleansing every night and leaving the residue on for moisture, don’t be surprised that you keep getting breakouts. Also, have some perspective over ‘not clean’ ingredients versus automatically loving everything natural. Realize that not every natural line is going to be suitable for acne prone skin and that these two are not necessarily mutually inclusive ideas. 

I know this is a long post, but feel free to sound off in the comments!

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82 thoughts on “5 Common Green Beauty Mistakes for Acne-Prone Skin

  1. What are the clean lines you would recommend for someone with acne prone skin? I’ve tried everything for my daughter who is also in college and I’d love to know what worked for you. I have been on No More Dirty Looks trying to find answers but haven’t found the right products yet!

    • Good question, I should have probably left some recommendations. There are good products in a lot of clean lines that would be suitable for some acne sufferers. For example with toners, you’re pretty set with any brand you choose. For facial oils, definitely lighter ones like Dr.Hauschka Normalizing Day Oil, Aesop Fabulous Facial Oil, YULI ME Skin Fuel are good. For cleansing, I truly stand behind Ren’s line of cleansers because they’re so gentle but get rid of buildup without drying which is exactly what acne prone skin needs. I know I haven’t given you a lot of purist clean lines here. Another cleanser you should look at is Amala’s Purifying Gel Cleanser, it was a little drying for me but if your daughter uses a bit she should be fine. In the summer, I’m quite lucky that a facial oil is all I need for moisture, but Tata Harper’s Rebuilding Moisturizer is a good candidate if you’d like a lotion although this still has some waxes in there (but is lighter than most other clean brands).

      Across the line though, I really think you should check out YULI Skincare. They’re completely natural and clean (no iffy ingredients), and their founder was a girl who went on two rounds of Accutane herself when she was younger. I tried their Cell Perfecto PM which is amongst my holy grail of products because it faded my acne scars and made my skin so smooth and even, it truly gave me confidence back. Their Panacea Elixir is a must for blemish prone skin and I have only read good reviews about their mask which I haven’t tried yet. Across the line, their products are stellar and their ingredients are perfectly suited to help avoid all these common mistakes.

      • Thank you for this website, hallelujah. Althought im not quite sure ehat i should do then. What would you recommend for me to do? Here’s a little info about my skin. I have oily and dry skin… my face could be a slick mess and also flaky.. AT THE SAME TIME! It’s outrageous! I also have sensetive and rough skin at the same time as well. It’s acne-prone, my pores are very huge and get easily clogged and just hands down, it’s very hard to treat it. Its so complicated. I have a little on my chest and a lot on my back. Although I’m confident that my back acne will go away once I’m twenty. That’s how my sisters back acne went away. Im confident its not what im eating either, although i could go for a detox now and then. Anywho. Do you know what I can do, or use to treat it? Step by step, ex. Like washing, toning, then moisturizing, etc. Anything I can make, or buy online would be very appreciated. Thank you for reading this!

      • Hi Joanna,

        Fiestly I hope Neimans Idealist doesn’t mind me offering you some advice.
        For your skin type I would advise cleansing with an oil based cleanser which rinses off clean, followed by a PH balancing and hydrating toner followed by a hydrating serum and a balancing oil at night. My range has recently launched a facial oil which contains a gentle, natural form of retinol (samphire) which helps address both dry and oily areas, balance sebum and address clogged pores. I would also suggest deep cleansing your skin 1-2 times a week without stripping it.
        Thanks for reading. 🙂

  2. I adore this post. When I first discovered natural skincare, I tried to change everything all at once and expected it to “cure” my acne. It didn’t. In fact, my acne got worse for months. Now, I’ve found a balance between commercial and natural skincare products that seem to work for my acne (the star product of which is Tretinoin, which I resisted at first because it wasn’t “natural” — but am so so glad I bit the bullet and tried it).

    Not all natural ingredients are good for all skin types, and quite frankly, I’d rather use a “dirty” product that works than a clean product that doesn’t. And while I do try to simplify my skincare routine, like you, I can’t entirely endorse only washing your face with water. It might work for some, but for the 10+ years of my teenaged and early 20’s life before discovering skincare, washing my face with just water certainly didn’t do anything for my acne.

    May I ask what’s your favorite Ren cleanser that’s also good at taking off bits of residue makeup? I’m currently using a Garden of Wisdom Tea Tree cleanser in the morning, which is very gentle and lovely. However, in the evening, I take off my waterproof sunscreen with a double cleanse of a cleansing oil and a Shiseido foaming cleanser (very drying, admittedly) — simply because the GoW Tea Tree cleanser doesn’t seem to do a good job at taking off any residue sunscreen still left by the cleansing oil.

    P.S. Thank you for introducing me to YULI. I have started using their Cell Perfecto PM starting a month ago for my acne scarring, and am hoping to see some good results by the end of the first bottle. 🙂

    • Thank you for the wonderful comment Emy! Many parts of my skincare regimen have changed throughout the years, retinoids are not one of them! I adore them too! There are two cleansers from Ren that I would recommend: The Mayblossom T-Zone Control cleansing Gel for oily skin that has anti-bacterial properties for acne for people who have severe acne and sebum imbalances. And Rosa Centifolia Cleansing Gel for normal skin that might be acne prone but doesn’t have bad breakouts, this is just a very gentle, soothing cleanser to not aggravate skin or strip skin. I also do a double dose at night if I wear waterproof sunscreen or makeup with a cleansing oil (which I will be reviewing soon). I’ve been back and forth about this, but currently, I appreciate the cleansing oils that emulsify with water, they’re less clean but in general it leaves your skin feeling better and you’re able to use a less ‘powerful’ regular cleanser afterward since it won’t have to eat through all that residue.

      I love Cell Perfecto, it’s the one product I keep getting e-mails about from people who thank me for introducing it to them after over a year of blogging. I think when something works especially for improving the appearance of acne scars, it really leaves an impression. I have enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with people through talking about this product!

      • Yuli really is so wonderful – I actually don’t have terribly acne-prone skin but I do always have some little breakouts and bumps here and there, and often break out from new products, and I find my skin clearer the next morning after using their Liquid Courage, so it might be an acceptable product for people with acne prone skin! Also really enjoying Panacea Elixir which is surprisingly hydrating, and Modern Alchemist which is good for very dry/dehydrated skin!

      • I love the Yuli line and I agree with you, the products are all made so wonderfully and do their unique functions so well. Liquid courage is a true rescue serum for me and always helps me wake up to brighter, nicer skin. I’ve used every type of toner and there is something magical about Panacea where if I don’t have it, I feel like my skin didn’t get a treat for the day.

  3. Thank you so much for your recommendation of Yuli, I’ve been using the Panacea Elixir, Skin Fuel in the AM and Cell Food in the PM with amazing results. I’d previously tried everything from Kahina, May Lindstrom, Dr. Alkaitis, Tammy Fender etc with no real success or long term results. I can not recommend Yuli highly enough, for me at least, it’s such joy to have found my forever skin care routine. Thank you again!

    • Wonderful to hear! Yes- I love the YULI line too, they have a great quiet confidence about their products where you don’t feel like they try to market so hard and everything just works.

  4. You are always full of wisdom! I always look forward to your posts popping up on my dashboard. I have never been on Accutane, even though dermatologists and general practitioners have been urging me to try it for the past few years, due to just pure fear of what might happen to my body if I use it. I’ve had terrible (truly, mindblowingly bad) cystic acne for much of my early teenage years and it wasn’t until I discovered Retinoin last year, that my skin has finally returned to its rather clear state. I’m still left with embarrassing ice pick scars and bad discolouration, as well as a few painful cysts now and then (during my monthly periods) but I’m hoping that continual use of tretinoin cream will slowly repair my skin! Now my skincare is so so so simple, a splash of water in the morning and night, Dr Bronner’s tea tree soap to wash off my favourite Motives Liquid Powder Mineral Foundation and a tiny dab of tretinoin cream on pimples at night.

    I would love to try Yuli, but I’m afraid that my meager university budget (I’m a second year undergrad) won’t suffice. Could you recommend me a more affordable brand to help with scars and discolouration? My skin type is oily, acne-prone but also sometimes tending to dry in the winter due to tretinoin.

    Keep continuing with your inspiring, knowledgeable posts!

    Kind regards,
    Cara

  5. Hi just wanted to say a few things on the subject. While I do agree with you about the fact that just because something is natural it does not mean that it will be good for you. And what is suitable for one person might not be for another (but that is true of all skin care not just natural). And squeezing spots is a no no.
    With regards to acne there is still research going on about it and the causes are not completely known, what is known is the statistical observational data ( i.e if both your parents had acne it is likely that you will too, but it is not a necessity; it starts with hormonal changes during puberty and women are likely to get acne breakouts during period etc., acne happens with overproduction of sebum…but what causes that? Is it hormones, is it inflammation?) It is a multilateral problem which includes a lot of combinations, for majority of people diet might not be a factor yet for others eating less sugar does the trick. Also personal skin care can cause irritation that worsens acne outbreaks. Using too many products will not help with acne but could make it worse. I see you recommend dr hauschka oil it has wheat germ oil which can be comodogenic. I think if you have bad acne you should see a good dermatologist.

    On a more personal note my skin definetely reacts to what I eat and drink and to how stressed I am. Certain ingredients cause a reaction and a lot of non-natural skin care actually has botanically derived ingredients.

    Last point about purging, I was never convinced about the validity of this as I am not quiet sure of what exactly it is my skin supposedly purging? In any case if you are experiencing itching and red under skin type bumps that is more likely to be an allergic reaction than anything else.

    Apologies for such a long comment.

    • Hello Tammy,

      Acne is exacerbated by a lot of internal and external factors which can include diet (for sure fried foods tend to make me break out), stress (even if I don’t have a regular sleep schedule, it can cause a flare up), hormonal changes ,etc and they vary from person to person. However these are conditions that can exacerbate something you already innately have. It’s important to realize what are the triggers (those conditions you listed) and what the root is – genetics, that make you more susceptible to these triggers.

      Remember what I said about how some products that work for others might not for you? The Wheat Germ Oil that can be potentially comodogenic in Dr.Hauschka’s Normalizing Day Oil is also listed as an oil that fights acne on several sources including Newbeauty. So while it is included in the list (not as a carrier oil), in my experience, it is one of the lighter oils out there as an entire composition compared to others.

      Also, I never advised against seeing a dermotologist, how else did I get on prescriptions of Accutane and antibiotics? If it is anything you should have gotten from my rant on the green beauty brand writing a post on acne it’s that you should see a professional who truly understands your skin rather than listen to all these people without the educational background write from internet research.

      Regarding purging, of course your skin needs to get rid of things. This is why you shouldn’t layer on moisturizer after moisturizer at night, because then your skin cannot ‘breathe’. There is definitely a difference between purging and an allergic reaction. If you don’t know that difference for your own skin, I advise you to never go on Accutane or antibiotics because they’ll both cause your skin to get worse before it gets better.

  6. Oh I never thought that you were advising against a dermatologist, I just mentioned it because that is what I think is best to do when you have skin concerns. I was not on accutane, I did have a course of treatment prescribed by a dermatologist both internal and some topical treatments ( it was about 9 years ago so I don’t remember what it was) and I never experienced the purging effect, my skin just got better without getting worse. Again I understand that other people might have different experience just wante to share mine.

  7. Wow this is probably the best post of yours so far. I won’t sound off too much because I don’t and never have suffered from cystic acne, I just rant about my oily skin that is prone to a few blemishes here and there. But I must say you should really continue this writing style. People sometimes need the tough love realism approach and I love your neutrality. I honestly feel like you have something very special in store, especially as an aspiring apothecary owner because your genuine attention to detail and effort to advise is unmatched in personal beauty blogs. In fact, if you haven’t already, I would recommend working on writing a book on this topic. I worked in publishing long enough to know you’d have a bestseller on your hands.

    PS- Will be trying Yuli this week finally. Thanks for the suggestion!

  8. Pingback: Likewise Skincare Review - Beauty Brite

  9. Whoa, new favorite post. From reading your blog, I get the sense that you and I have very similar skin. And while I sometimes go overboard trying to buy clean beauty products, a lot of them just don’t perform well for me.
    I’m turning 30 in a few months, but I still have oily, acne-prone skin, which is getting clearer thanks to dietary changes (and Retin-A!) But now I have many leftover acne scars.
    Since everyone else is talking about Yuli, I guess I’ll chime in too. I’m about to finish my first bottle of Cell Perfecto PM and I was a little disappointed that I didn’t notice a drastic change, but rather subtle evening and softening of said scars. I suspect part of my issue is that I had laser treatment for scarring, which… resulted in more scarring. I think my skin is lazy at regenerating. Nevertheless, I ordered another bottle of Cell Perfecto because I want to keep at it. And I really didn’t think one bottle would perform miracles.
    Back to this post, I appreciate your balanced view of natural products. Part of what can get tiring reading other green beauty blogs is that most of these people probably have lovely skin and can use anything without consequence. That’s not me now and may never be. I need to remember that.

    • Thank you for leaving a comment Meredith! I agree with you, it can be frustrating to read constantly glowing reviews from people who don’t really have problem skin. I always read them “if everything works so well and everything is something you swear by, why do you keep using new things and never bring up the old products again?” After a while it’s the same adjectives used to describe the same type of products and you don’t feel like there is anything insightful. This is why I try my best to get into the ‘personality’ of the product and provide a review that will help people interested in the product.

      As for Cell Perfecto PM, something I wish I had done earlier in the process was take a picture of my skin for reference. I obsess over my skin, and depending on various circumstances, some days I will swear an acne scar is gone only to see it later. I think pictures taken at the same time with the same level of product really help you track changes over a period of time. I have recommended Cell Perfecto PM to my sister who just came off of Accutane for her skin and I managed to get some before pictures. So I’m excited to see the “after” when I am on summer break.

  10. First time commenting here. While I don’t have bad acne, I do get some cystic acne and hormonal acne every other month depending on my diet, stress level, etc. I think genetics definitely play a part, it only makes sense. Personal anecdote: my father had acne as a teen on his face and back, I’ve unfortunately inherited the “backne” but fortunately my face doesn’t get as bad. After spending much $ and effort trying to switch to my skin care routine to all organic/natural products, I’ve learnt my lesson. What you’ve said is true – not all natural/organic products are good for you and everyone’s skin reacts differently to different things. I loved Dr. Alkaitis at the start because the products smell awesome, then I did further reading and found out that some of the ingredients are known to cause a “happy” effect (to put it nicely) on the user. True enough, I ended up with clogged pores after a month. I tried a green clay mask from another indie brand that has a pretty cult following – it gave me a allergic reaction like no other – I had red bumps all over my face and neck the next day. Guess what solved it? Good old Avene, mineral oil and all. Right now, I’d say my routine is 3/4 chemical, 1/4 natural and I’m pretty satisfied. I intend to try Yuli’s Elixirs since natural hydrosols/toners seem to do only good for my skin. Thanks for your recommendations and honesty!

    • Hello JT! Welcome! I’m glad you’ve commented! It can get lonely posting to little feedback so I appreciate you dropping by and making your presence known! I’ve used 3 Dr.Alkaitis products thus far and although I didn’t end up with clogged pores, I did decide that they weren’t for me. The ‘happy’ oil also energizes skin internally which isn’t great for acne prone skin. Avene is indeed proof that you don’t need a green brand to make skin happy, their ingredients list will be unattractive especially if you’ve lived in No More Dirty Looks land for a while, but it is soothing and calming.

      The Yuli Panacea Elixir is my favorite by far, I noticed when I stopped using it that my skin just didn’t seem to be what it was when I was on it. I wouldn’t call it an addiction at this point but let’s just say I’ve written a few e-mails urging them to make larger sizes!

  11. Could you recommend a day cream that is budget friendly? Currently I’m using Acure Organics Day Cream (what do you think of it?) and it seems to be going ok, still in the initial use period so mild issues, possibly purging/adjusting have cropped up. I do love oils but I prefer them at night.

    • Hi Tori! I’ve used Acure and I always keep an open mind about all products but there is something a little off with every Acure product I’ve used and I don’t know why! I really want to like them because 1) Affordable 2) Clean 3) Good formulation, so they’d be a good staple item and allow you to splurge on fancy things, but when I use their things, it just doesn’t really seem to do too much despite WONDERFUL ingredients. I seriously don’t know what it is! For example with the Day Cream: on paper the Day Cream sounds better than Tata Harper’s Restorative Cream, what with the COQ10, Stem Cell culture, and a base of Acai Berry, Blackberry, Rosehips but my skin just doesn’t seem to respond. Even first impressions are great: wonderful texture and scent. And then at the end of the day my skin feels both dry but also looks oily – so it confuses me.

      I’m currently going through samples of the John Masters Organics moisturizers and I think the Rose & Apricot Antioxidant Creme might be what you’re looking for : it’s $28 (there is another moisturizer that is $26), and well formulated. Another product I would try is the Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Lotion, it is a no frills lotion but it probably won’t give you any irritation.

  12. Hey neimansideast,

    I commented on your older Tumblr blog about what brands I wanted to try out from Tatcha, Dr. Alkaitis, Aesop and your thoughts on them. I just received the Dr. A’s trial set and it says that acne/sensitive prone should substitute the soothing gel in place of the day and night creams, thought that was interesting.

    • Yes the soothing gel is really good for acne prone skin, it is light and sinks into skin without any weight. It’s also antibacterial which helps to kill acne causing bacteria. I like to apply that when I feel breakouts coming on and then pat some facial oil over it because it can leave a dry feeling once the alcohols evaporate.

  13. Hi, what a great post, thank you. I like your thorough research of products; I always try to do the same. I do not have acne prone skin, but rather sensitive and also really love yuli too (and omoroviza bb spf)! One thing I find interesting in your article is the definition of natural; I know that in spirit beauty land only some ingredients are allowed; but if you look at similar stores in Europe (eg. Content beauty in London), they carry lines with ingredients the former would call iffy (such as ren, oskia, nude); they are not necessarily perceived iffy here. So in terms of your non clean moisturiser (omorovicza), I would not call it super-pure edible organic, but still quite natural (when compared to mainstream brands such as clarins etc). So I guess it is also a cultural thing. Anyway, great post.

    • Hi Lara thanks for commenting! I think there is not ‘set’ definition of natural. Indeed if you look at ‘natural’ skincare selections in many stores, it will differ. This is why I prefer to use the term ‘green beauty’/clean to describe the purist lines that those on No More Dirty Looks and those who shop at Spirit Beauty Lounge would agree are truly ‘natural’. So Omorovicza like Ren and Nude are not ‘green beauty’/clean brands although they might be classified along with brands like Aesop, Jurlique, etc. as natural brands.

  14. Hi all, my personal view of treating Acne is the less is more approach, and the right natural products can work as I found out 5 years ago. A nourishing balm based cleanser which emulsifies once water is added is the key for zero residue on acne prone skins. And not using a detergent based cleanser. Double cleansing always worked for me. Once the balm was removed I would use a floral water and honey based cleansing water as a 2nd cleanse. I think an alcohol free toner is key too. I use my So Pure Radiance Flower Nectar as its contains Hyaluronic Acid to add a layer as well as attract moisture without clogging. Rather then use moisturisers which contained butters/waxes as they again tend to cause acne/congestion I would use a facial oil which contained ‘dry’ oils and absorb quickly. Not heavy oils fatty like avocado or wheat germ as they can clog the skin. I currently use my own branded oil- So Pure Skincare Anti Ageing Nutrient Elixir which contains several seed oils rich in essential fatty acids and a select blend of essential oils to balance all skins. I found this blend (for me) keeps the monthly breakouts at bay. As a weekly maintenance I will alternate with my own 2 mask treatments from line- So Pure Activated Charcoal Detox, it contains Sandalwood Powder, Pure activated Charcoal etc and it really sucks out all the grime, pollution and excess oil- most importantly without stripping. I am a big believer in not using granular exfoliants on the skin- they stimulate oil production and can aggravate any acne on the skin. Instead I use my So Pure Purifying and Enzymatic Facial with contains, Bromelain in powder form as well as 4 types of different clays. This way I get an enzymatic exfoliation without any facial aggravation as well as a deep pore cleanse essential for clog prone complexions like mine.

    Hope this helps folks. Geeta X

  15. Girl, I love your straight talk, no bullsh*t style. I appreciate it when you (politely) call out brands // bloggers // the internet on poor advice. I really appreciate the comment, too, about beauty bloggers swearing everything is their favorite — I’m guilty of being in love with a lot of brands, too, but this has pretty much inspired me to do a post on products I use without question every day and would // have repurchased again and again and again.

    To get a feel from where I come from, I’m 27.5, have had acne since I was like 8 and have really only in the past year or two been able to control breakouts better. I used to be on Tazorac and Differin, am prone to cystic acne and get red pimples, whiteheads and blackheads. YAY!

    Onto the points you made:

    A clean product is always better

    Cleaner sunscreen is hard to find. I don’t cheat on my face sunscreen, sticking to cleaner brands and finding sunscreen-infused makeup, but I do cheat with body sunscreens. It’s a convenience factor. I do believe that cleaner is better as a whole — less exposure to chemicals and for those who may want to have babies, less exposure to nasties in breast milk. But, I also get that hey, we cannot be clean beauty angels in every single department. Impossible and miserable. Pick your battles and look for what works! Clean is a bonus.

    Natural Ingredients are good for Acne Prone skin

    I agree with you on the heavier ingredients and pore-clogging. I’m not a fan of day creams // moisturizing creams // night creams because I’m just that oily. A thin layer of facial oil is enough for me for day and night, and I just prefer the consistency of a great oil. I’ve found lovely natural plant oils that do well for oily // acne-prone skin (jojoba!) and am content with just that.

    Less is always more

    I. Hate. This. Amen to the idea that you, dear readers, are not Linda Rodin! My routine consists of a good cleaning at night before bedtime (oil cleansing, sometimes a cream cleanser, sometimes a mask, toner, and acne treatment balm) and a quick cleanse in the morning shower with a cream cleanser and sometimes an exfoliant.

    I can’t use this because it has Essential Oils

    This bugs me too! Figure out the EOs that work for you, and if it irritates, don’t use it again … but yes, don’t just rule it out because it caused a reaction for someone else. Case in point: I can use undiluted tea tree oil straight onto my pimpled skin. It works like a charm and my skin can handle it. I tend to recommend to people to try it with a mix of jojoba in case they are sensitive, but for me, straight EO is wonderful. You just have to experiment.

    First Impression is the most important

    Purging. Truth. I found that when I started using jojoba oil for the first time many years ago, my skin broke out like a mutha*&^%$. But ya know what? My pores cleared pretty quickly after that. As for photosensitizing oils — totally agree, but depending on your regimen, these are fine for use at night // bedtime. I’m in love with May Lindstrom The Youth Dew, and I find that it’s easier for me to justify the price to repurchase a bottle (yes, full disclosure, I got a free sample) because it would last SO long used just at bedtime or before a night out.

    In summary, I love your posts and I adore your passion. I can’t wait for you to open your own apothecary. Get it, girl!

  16. Hello Darling! … I love your blog! it is so helpful to actually read about skin care products from a real user 😉 and expert! … Im wondering! where are you from? It is just to know at what kind of weather you are exposed and to see if we have a similar weather 🙂 (skin reactions)

  17. Great post. I fully agree that skin care is personal: what works for one person may irritate another. I’m really enjoying reading Michelle Czolba’s book on oils (you can download from the Internet). She explains the properties of each oil and whether it is a warming, cooling, or neutral oil (since most acne is an inflammatory skin issue, you would want to use cooling or neutral oils). I found this to be a very unique way of looking at the oils and treating the skin, rather than the common “one size fits all oil” attitude that is being marketed. Rosalee de la Foret also has a wonderfully holistic approach to getting to the root cause of acne issues, plus her recommendations on how to treat any underlying imbalances. Another terrific and helpful website is Ayla Beauty. Dana offers a wide selection of cleaner products and helps you choose the right ones based on the description of the skin issues you want to resolve. The problem today is that ANYONE can produce a product but that doesn’t mean they know much about skin. It’s just a question of tuning in to what’s best for your skin and some trial and error. Thanks for ringing the points you make into the light 🙂

  18. So I’m guessing you aren’t a big fan of la bella figura? I am only asking because I have thought about using their products and haven’t heard anything negative about it. You definitely seem against the post though and the brand so I was wondering if you had any negative experiences with any of their products or if it was just the post itself.

    • As brutal and blunt as I am, I hesitate to directly do public call outs because everyone is trying to make a living. My biggest pet peeve about some beauty brands is that I just really don’t like people who try to be something they’re not.

      • Okay, I understand where you are coming from. When I read the post you were referring to, I took it as you should only do this as a last resort/emergency type deal and here is a way to do it. And while I would never ever extract a pimple myself, people still do it, and do it in way worse ways so why not give advice to people who are going to do it no matter what other people say. And I didn’t think the post was intended for those with moderate or severe acne, just for those who might have 1 or 2 random flare ups that they need gone (for whatever reason) asap. But I agree with you, it should never be done period. And if you did have any negative experiences with the brand, I would definitely like to hear because their products aren’t cheap. I would rather spend my money on other expensive products that will help me because I’ve already spent so much on multiple clean beauty brands that just weren’t for me. I do see you’re a big fan of Yuli, and I just purchased one of their elixirs(I’m very excited to try) and looking to try one of their serums for acne prone skin but not sure where to start just yet. Anyway, thank you for responding. Much appreciated.

      • Ok I will try to be objective and fair, I think some products like their Daily Defense Oil and Barbary Fig Renewal Serum have great ingredients. With that said, there is nothing special that you can’t order yourself or find in an Etsy store for half the price.

  19. @neimansidealist where can // did you find barbary fig seed (prickly pear) oil? that’s LBF’s claim to fame and i haven’t really seen it around much. same with the sacha inchi in the DED oil — new to me! would love to know where you’ve spotted some of these ingredients.

    • I know that is their claim to fame. It’s also listed as Prickly Pear, Indian Fig, and I might be missing some. I first heard of it through Sunday Riley as it is part of her NV-5 complex. I think you can order this from Nopal Tunisie although I’m not one for DIY’s so I didn’t explore this. I know that other companies use this oil too but they’re less.. in your face.. about it.

      Sacha Inchi Oil is not as common as olive oil but as a South American, I have to say it isn’t as ‘exotic’ as one may think. My grandparents use this oil in their diets so we’ve always been able to track these down, the best place to get them is from Vitacost when they have a 20% off sale.

  20. My skin is irritated from acne and I have whiteheads. What do I use to prevent whiteheads and inflammation? I stopped using benzoyl peroxide because it stopped working after 11 years of use. Also, my toner contains alcohol so I used using it. Please help.

    • wow! You’ve been on BP for 11 years! That is a long time to go! I was on it for 2-3 years and I remember the dread of inadvertently bleaching towels and pillowcases. I think whiteheads are a mix of congestion and a ‘yeasty’ environment for your skin. Check out this article for recommendations for acne friendly facial oils that can rebalance your skin: http://greenderm.blogspot.com/2013/07/5-face-oils-for-acne-prone-skin.html. I used to use the Burts Bee’s toner that had alcohol and the stinging made me think it was working but little did I realize it irritated my skin even more! I now use the Panacea Elixir from Yuli and it just conditions my skin really well.

  21. Can we use Perfecto serum on active acne? I have oily skin with old scars and few acnes. I would love to give this product a try. Have you tried the MVO Vitamin C capsule? Also, what moisturizer do you recommend for oily skin?

    • Hello! I used it on my acne scars and not on active acne, I don’t think it is a blemish treatment, but rather a pigmentation treatment for the dark marks and scars left behind. I have a sample of their capsules but I don’t know which serum would be best to mix them into so I have not tried it yet. There are a TON of moisturizers I’d recommend for oily skin, are you looking for ones with SPF, night time, gel texture, cream texture, natural, semi-natural, etc?

      • Hi! Would it be safe to use the Perfecto on active acne? I have ton of scars but i still break out quite frequently.

        I’m moving away from commercial products. In past, I used Cetaphil cleanser & moisturizer. Then I tried Pai & One Love Organics. OLO didn’t suit my face, it broke me out. Pai is good but I’m looking to try others 🙂 Anything natural would do..

        Also I’m going to try the Ren cleanser for oily/acne skin which you have mentioned in your blog.
        By the way, after reading so many different organic/green/natural beauty blogs, this post is extremely helpful and informative!! i’m so glad I came across it.

      • I don’t think there is a safety concern but you should probably e-mail someone there to find out. My only thought about this is whether it’s good to use that serum now since you still have active breakouts and if it will get in the way of being effective.

        One Love Organics is good for drier skin types, I use their Cleansing Balm it in the winter as a once weekly pampering routine but besides that, the other products aren’t really appealing to me.

        It’s so nice to hear wonderful feedback about my blog and I’m so happy you’ve found this post helpful!

      • 🙂 regarding the moisturizer, what natural moisturizer do you recommend for oily/acnr skin

        On Jul 31, 2013, at 2:38 PM, neimansidealist wrote:

        WordPress.com neimansidealist commented: “I don’t think there is a safety concern but you should probably e-mail someone there to find out. My only thought about this is whether it’s good to use that serum now since you still have active breakouts and if it will get in the way of being effective.”

  22. Hi, I am a 21 year old with acne that came on out of the blue in December. I have tried everything since then to rid myself of it, commercially until recently. I tried Differin that tore my skin up, I wouldn’t even step out of the house. I tried pHisoderm cleanser and mask, Neutrogena washes and scrubs, Cetaphil (didn’t really do anything detrimentalbut didn’t cure me either), etc. I just recently have been trying to go with a more natural solution, I was using honey cinnamon toothpaste ACV masks, toothpaste masks, oil cleansing method with tea tree olive grapeseed and castor oils in different ratios and formulations, ACV alone as toner, and so on. I have stocked up on organic natural products for my body and face, some of which include Mineral from the Dead Sea Derma Repair Acneclear cleanser and lotion as well as their cleanser protective, Olive Essence Spa facial scrub and facial buffing scrub, Giovanni D:Tox line cleanser scrub mask and moisturizer, Canus facial cleansing milk, Yes to Cucumbers soothing night cream, etc along with several clean body products. I like the body products so far, they smell awesome and make my skin feel awesome, but I was hoping for your take on the products I listed for my acne prone face. I have dry skin, I’m guessing from constantly stripping it with commercial products for 10 years, do you think that the products I have bought will help? I am using the Giovanni DTox system for now with a witch hazel ACV and tea tree oil toner before moisturing with the lines lotion, and waiting until I run out to try the Acneclear duo and so on with the rest of the products.

  23. Just found this blog post after doing a google search on essential oils for acne plagued skin. I’ve scrolled down this comments list and have written down so many names of skincare brands I’ve never even heard of – this has made me so hopeful that something out there will help me and my spotty little face! I’ll be adding your blog to my favourites list and coming back for more. Thankyou!

    Holly (waiting for my oily 15 year old face to catch up with my almost 30 year old body!)

  24. Many people think that by switching to natural skincare, their skin is automatically going to be better. If you’ve never had a problem with your skin and have pretty good non-sensitive skin, you might notice more benefits just because the ingredients tend to be fresher.

    • Hello, are you looking for green beauty brands or any that are good for acne prone skin?

      For green beauty brands I recommend:

      Makeup line: Ilia, Alima Pure, Vapour foundation – RMS is good but everything has coconut oil which I don’t recommend for acne prone skin.

      Sunblock: I like Coola but I also hear a lot of good things about Suntegrity. Next on my try list is Raw Elementals.

      Facewash: If your skin is really oily, Tracie Martyn amla purifying face wash is good. If not, Yuli Halcyon is good.

  25. Hi

    I’m currently using Elta MD for sunscreen. Can you please let me know what moisturizer is good for oily/acne prone skin?

    When are you planning on doing a review for haycon? I can’t wait to read it!

  26. One thought to add: i think pai’s geranium creme has no butteres/waxes; might be an option for some who want a clean version?

    • That is such a great post am having the worst breakout and have tried everything now am taking acnovin and have not seen any improvement for one month.before the breakout i had started oil cleansing with coconut oil and shea butter as the mosturiser dint guess they could be the cause until i read your blog maybe they caused it anything you can recomend thanks

      • I’m sorry to hear you’re having the worst breakout!! I don’t know your entire routine but I definitely don’t think that cleansing with coconut oil is helping things! Shea butter, if it is done well can be good for moisturizing acne without causing breakouts but a lot are not. I like Ren in general for my skin in general, you might also want to consider Yuli whose founders have acne prone skin as well, I found that they worked wonders for me. I think making little changes can help, like changing the cleanser, etc.

  27. So my acne gets almost clear and then I break out terribly. My skin gets dry easily and irritated and red. I am currently not using any face wash. Only prescription acne medication. My skin is very unhealthy looking…almost a film over the normal smooth skin. What soap should i use?

    • I don’t recommend using a soap because they dry skin even more and don’t have the right pH for acne prone skin. The cleanser I am using now is yuli’s halcyon and it is the cleanser I would have used years ago when my breakouts were really bad because it is super gentle but gets everything out.

  28. Do you think St. Ives is a good brand? I don’t really have a way to get a hold of the products you’re recommending, I only have access to Walmart products (though some of these products might be at Walmart and I just don’t know it). I’m a teenager, and my skin is somewhat oily and somewhat dry. I believe it’s called combination skin, but I’m not too sure.

    • I have sensitive oily acne prone skin. Most face washes strip my face and dry it out really bad. I have stubborn blackheads and congested clogged pores along with a few cystic pimples. Can you recommend a good cleanser and toner? Thank you

  29. Hi – this article is amazing! I learned so much from the comments as well.

    Quick question – you stated somewhere else that Ren’s products have changed a little bit. Like many women on here, I cannot afford Yuli’s products (hopefully in the future!) but Ren’s is in my price range. Would you recommend Ren’s Centifolia Foaming cleanser now? They also have a water and milk…any particular one you would recommend over the other?

    Also, in the affordable range, is there a serum for acne prone skin that you’ve seen work well? Would love your suggestions!

    Many thanks (for answering all our questions!)

    -S

  30. You are right dear. I have an oily skin. Am very prone to acne and breakouts. I read about a stuff like adding olive oil/shea butter to your face is good. But im nt down with it bcos it might be too cloggy or oily. I prefer usin skin products for babies on my face and a mid cleanser

  31. Hi 😉 this is the perfect blog for me..would you be so kind to advice me what to do..i have been having breakouts lately and i came back in using epiduo but i ordered vered’s botanicals herb-infused toner, therapeutic balancing oil and her clarifying detox mask because there are many good reviews about it.How can i incorporate it with my epiduo gel? Do you think it will work together? I wanted to have natural regimen with epiduo at night 😦 pls help…

  32. Hi.

    Like you, I am obsessed with my skin. I have acne on my forehead that comes and goes, which is frustrating. I can’t determine what works and what doesn’t work for my skin type. I have tried natural and unnatural products, all of which have worked for a short period of time, but then my skin flares up again. I am 27, and it would be awesome to have clear skin like the rest of my friends. I am tired of spending lots of money on products that don’t work. I am not a patient person, so if a routine doesn’t show results within a week, I get frustrated and stop.

    After reading your post, I think that I am clogging up my pores by slathering homemade mixtures of Shea butter, Coconut butter, and olive oil. Being a guy, I tried that combination to make a natural shaving cream (it didn’t work. I made a mess). The brand YULI sounds interesting, but it is expensive. I am worried to try and find it doesn’t work. I’d like to find a simple routine that works with my skin type: oily. What do you think?

  33. Hi!

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but like everyone else on this chain I really, really enjoyed this post!!!! Its been so exhausting rummaging through so many natural blog posts and reading so many different and conflicting opinions; Its great to finally get some solid information that pretty much sums everything up: We’re all different etc. I would love your advice if you have a moment.

    I don’t have the chronic oily/acne prone skin described in a lot of these posts, but what I do have is easily aggravated combo skin (I get a little greasy in t-zone and have been breaking out under jaw line and around nose)… my skin is very sensitive lately (either due to hormones or b/c I recently switched to all natural products) but come to think of it its always been a little sensitive…i.e.. those tiny red bumps in those areas mentioned, occasionally a couple of those large ones under the skin and those hard -to-rid black heads on the nose. Additionally, I get a little dry around the nose area. I’ve tried lots of products with not much luck.

    I just wanted to ask your advice on what might work as a cleanser for someone with combo skin like I’ve described (one for every day and one for removing makeup and sunscreen at night like you mentioned), a good moisturizer (I’m on a constant quest to find an oil or a moisturizer that doesn’t make me greasy, with clogged pores, yet helps the nose dryness. especially in these humid NYC summers), and lastly I really really really have had a hard time finding something to exfoliate with! Could you recommend a gentle exfoliator I could use to unclog my pores with?

    Sorry for the lengthy post and multiple questions If there is anyway you could offer any advice, I would be so grateful.

  34. Hi!

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but like everyone else on this chain I really, really enjoyed this post!!!! Its been so exhausting rummaging through so many natural blog posts and reading so many different and conflicting opinions; Its great to finally get some solid information that pretty much sums everything up: We’re all different etc. I would love your advice if you have a moment.

    I don’t have the chronic oily/acne prone skin described in a lot of these posts, but what I do have is easily aggravated combo skin (I get a little greasy in t-zone and have been breaking out under jaw line and around nose)… my skin is very sensitive lately (either due to hormones or b/c I recently switched to all natural products) but come to think of it its always been a little sensitive…i.e.. those tiny red bumps in those areas mentioned, occasionally a couple of those large ones under the skin and those hard -to-rid black heads on the nose. Additionally, I get a little dry around the nose area. I’ve tried lots of products with not much luck.

    I just wanted to ask your advice on what might work as a cleanser for someone with combo skin like I’ve described (one for every day and one for removing makeup and sunscreen at night like you mentioned), a good moisturizer (I’m on a constant quest to find an oil or a moisturizer that doesn’t make me greasy, with clogged pores, yet helps the nose dryness. especially in these humid NYC summers), and lastly I really really really have had a hard time finding something to exfoliate with! Could you recommend a gentle exfoliator I could use to unclog my pores with?

    Sorry for the lengthy post and multiple questions If there is anyway you could offer any advice, I would be so grateful.

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  36. Oh no! I am on day two of my Dr Alkaitis. I love the concept and how truly holistic and biodynamic it is. Much more than other natural lines out there. However I too have been on two rounds of accutand in the past and have been through a lot! That was years ago and now my skin seems to be prematurely aged and after all the chemicals I’ve been pumped up with really want to go natural. However, my skin is tomatoe red! Dr Alkaitis says this is normal creating blood flow for the first two weeks. Now I read you article. Ugh! It makes sense. Guess I’ll wash it off;(

  37. Hi there! My name is Dana and I’m 13 years old. I’ve gotten acne ever since I was in 6th grade. I had bangs in 6th grade but them grew them out and my acne was way better. I used benzoyl peroxide for a year but it was kinda making my skin worse so I started looking for better products. Right now I have a mixture of natural and other products buts its not really working. I also tried only washing my skin with water, but now I have tiny bumps and even more scars. I’m in 8th grade now and I need to find the perfect products to use. From now on I want to have a basic routine with natural products. I don’t have too much money, but do you have any recommendations for less expensive, cheaper options for natural skincare? I have a little bumps on my forehead, scarring and the pimples. I also have scarring on my cheeks and seem to always look red and bumpy. Would lush products work? Or do you think I should just stick with my current routine? I just wash with a saylcic acid cleanser, moustrize with Eucerin and Aloe Vera gel and then spot treat with tea tree oil. When I had tried to go all natural with honey cleansing, at first there were awesome results and then a few weeks later I broke out. I think because I just washed my face with water, I got clogged pores and just ughh! please give me good advice!

  38. Actually, shea butter has a comedogenic rating of 0. It does not, in and of itself, block pores. Coconut oil on the other hand is extremely comedogenic with a rating of 4.

  39. I forgot to add – raw organic shea butter has a comedogenic rating of zero. Thus, even though it is extremely oily when you put it on, it is supposed to be one of the best all natural products out there for oily acne prone skin. If, however, the shea butter is refined and/or mixed with a bunch of other ingredients and crap like coconut oil in a standard beauty product – then yes, your pores will become clogged, but it is likely not the result of shea butter.

    • I couldn’t agree more with you Erin. 🙂
      I designed my lies Anti Aging Serum which contain shea butter and I have very clog prone skin and I have found my formulation so not aggravate or cause skin clogs.

  40. I am in my 40s, and I have been battling cystic acne for about 15 years. I don’t get many pimples, otherwise. Since discovering essential oils, I’ve been making my own serums. Much to my dismay, I haven’t had a cystic acne problem for several months, but my complection is in horrible shape. I have always had dry skin with no visible shine. Now it is very flaky, rough and red. I also have hundreds of tiny bumps that I believe are due to cocunut oil, especially the liquid fractionated kind. Question. What is the best oil for not clogging pores? Shea butter receives a low comodogenic rating, but it is so thick that I can’t see how the skin can breathe. I think my skin looked nice when I mixed organic aloe vera, hemp seed, jojoba and honey. I have tried so many things now that I am confused. So, any suggestions about oils? I just read some positives about apricot and pomegranate, but I hate to go out and buy another oil. Thanks!

  41. I’m 36 with combination skin and large pores. I’ve been using the Grapefruit Glycolic Wash from Made from Earth for about 6 months and love it. Its a gentle glycolic wash (and I have sensitive skin) and this wash has kept my breakouts to a minimum. Over use of any glycolic acid treatment can be drying – but not with this one – Ive been using daily with no problems.

    • I’m surprised that one cleanser is all you need for your acne. It’s usually more of an overall factor that includes the products you use, and lifestyle habits. I think your skin is a lot less sensitive than you think if you’re calling this a gentle cleanser as there is in addition to citrus oils, also glycolic acid, kojic acid (yikes), salicylic acid, retinol, orange peel, oregano, tea tree, clover. Goodness that’s like irritation in a bottle. Also the ingredients list means this is not a green beauty product due to many synthetic chemicals that may be harmful including phenoxyethanols.

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