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. 


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!

My Acne Scar Struggle & Holy Grail Product- YULI Ultimate Perfecting Serum

The term “holy grail” product, as many of you Makeupally junkies know, is not one to be taken lightly. I have used lots and lots of products, but I rarely stay loyal to any brand or product, instead I always try and see what else is out there.

This post is a going to be my most personal one yet. I had really bad skin during my teens. I was in a constant battle with my face which just seemed to love breaking out to the point that by the time I entered college, there wasn’t a spot left that didn’t have a blemish or blemish scar. At my lowest point, I remember crying during a Proactiv commercial on tv because I WISHED that I could look like ANY of those before pictures. Eventually I started Accutane which helped to clear me up significantly, but left my face with the scars and pockmarks from years and years of Acne. Up until a few months ago I hid my face behind a carefully planned regimen of Foundation, Concealer, Blush, Finish powder, etc. Part of the reason I work at the beauty department is so I can have access to skincare which has allowed me to experience scar/pigmentation serums & creams like Clinique Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, Murad Pigment Lightening Serum/Post-Acne Spot Lightning Gel, Origins Weil Skin Tone Correcting Serum, Clarins Vital Light Serum, & La Mer’s Concentrate. I’ve tried clean and non-clean formulas, a variety of actives, and while they all seemed to do more than nothing— I found my skin condition never really improved in any meaningful way, which is why I kept having to look for new treatments.

During fashion week last Jan/Feb, I volunteered and was given a gift bag at one of the shows that had a Yuli Elixir (Panacea) in there. I fell in love with the minimalist packaging but even more in love with how it made my skin look and feel. I noticed that I broke out less, had smaller pores, and that my skin was better able to decongest small buildup so my recovery time from the breakouts were significantly shortened.

So when my sample ran out, I went on their website to order more and thats when I saw the Ultimate Perfecting Serum (edit: Now CELL PERFECTO PM). The price isn’t cheap but to be honest, I think most of the money went into the product since I’m told they don’t spend any money on marketing and rely on word of mouth. According to the literature, the product works to stimulate and improve the collagen structure that is sorely lacking in scar tissue. It remodels the scar this way while other actives that are known to be really healing help to regenerate the scar tissue. I really love that it works by rebuilding the damage and not how a lot of the aforementioned products burn/superficially brighten/exfoliate the skin with chemicals that sometimes irritated my face.

To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations of Yuli ‘s Ultimate Perfecting Serum since so many products had already failed me. My first time using it, I noticed there was sediment in there but their helpful customer service told me the sediment helps the serum retain activity and once massaged onto the skin, it will be activated and absorbed. This was very true. I rubbed it on my cheeks and forehead (2 drops per section), then went to bed. The next morning I noticed that the red scarring was somewhat calmed down and that my skin looked ‘rested’. So I decided to stick it out. After 4 weeks I noticed that my skin was very even toned, luminous, and that pockmarks seemed raised and the redness was faded. Recently my foundation ran out and I noticed that I no longer needed a full coverage foundation (goodbye, Makeup Forever HD) and opted for the Giorgio Armani Silk Foundation which provides a ‘sheer- better than normal’ skin feel. My friends all commented that whatever I was doing for my face seemed to be working. This serum doesn’t work ‘over night’, but you’ll feel the difference. It also didn’t irritate my skin or make me break out, instead it was very nurturing of my skin. Now I see that areas of my face that had deep pockmarks and icepick scars have rehabilitated itself to being normal tissue! The reason I know this works is that my face is completely smooth now, with just minor darkness at former spots that used to have deep scars – which I think the next bottle will take care of.

I’ve reordered another bottle of this miracle in a bottle, but I put it in my beauty closet only because I don’t really need to use it anymore. I could never imagine that my search for that perfect scarring product would ever stop so resolutely but it did, and I couldn’t be happier that the product is natural and clean. To be honest, even if the product wasn’t clean, I would recommend it based on the results, but the fact that it not only took care of my scars but also made my skin improve AND is well formulated to use only high quality, clean ingredients is just FANTASTIC!

I know that usually people won’t believe these types of posts that seem “too good to be true” and I’m not sure my experience is going to be everyone else’s experience, so let me just say I am not a paid spokesperson for this brand, rather I just absolutely love this product and what it has done for my confidence. I used to hide behind makeup, but now I’m no longer intimidated working in the beauty section with a sheer layer of tinted moisturizer. I recently changed out heavier foundations to ones from Koh Gen Do which cover very lightly and it has made me so happy to be “one of those girls”.

Although I want to be relatively anonymous due to my job, I do want to show you guys a before and after. In March, I had a bad reaction/breakout to a product that  we tested for work from a well known brand. Luckily I tested it out on my hands so all the scar tissue and redness formed there (note: this isn’t the exact same as acne scarring but I just want to show you how effective it was in treating and ‘perfecting’ my skin).

Before (raised area of red/irritated scar tissue and tiny bumps, rough texture)

After (1 week later- 6 uses of only 2 drops each time)

I think a picture speaks a thousand words so for any of you looking for a truly effective solution for your acne scarring/pigmentation problems without causing more harm to your skin, try this out!

Product Review: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Mario Badescu is somewhat of a cult status line from Manhattan that has been around for over 40 years. The core philosophy behind the line is to produce simple, gentle, effective products. Today, they have accumulated a large celebrity following and are known particularly for their products that treat problem skin. I would say that the product I hear about most from them is the Drying Lotion.

The Drying Lotion has been featured everywhere as the “miracle” acne product. As a long time acne sufferer, I have went through my share of EVERY product imaginable: Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Sulfur, Chemical Peels, Retin-A, etc. Although my acne has calmed down in recent years, I still get persistent, stubborn cystic acne breakouts from time to time. My latest flare up caused me to try out the Dry Lotion.

The Dry Lotion has what it calls a “miracle” potion, the pink stuff at the bottom that they warn is too drying to apply alone to skin. Reading the ingredients label, I think the active ingredients are: a mix of Fruit/Plant Oil (to sooth), Retinal to exfoliate, Sulfur to kill bacteria, Salicylic Acid to exfoliate, Camphor to cool, etc.

Although the formulation does seem to include all the actives you’d typically find in an acne product, I think the product is very high-quality as I’ve seen great reductions in existing blemishes without the negative side-effects. I would be careful to not apply it to fading blemishes as it can cause the skin to peel and get flaky.

I think this product is best used on developing blemishes before it develops a white-head. It generally reduces the size and severity by the next day. I don’t think it is as effective as Benzoyl Peroxide, but on the flip side, it isn’t as irritating/bad for you. If you haven’t read the literature, Benzoyl Peroxide really isn’t good for your skin in the long term (free radical generation, healthy cell death, etc).

I’ve found myself reaching for this product more than other products. Lately, I’ve been curious to try LED therapy but haven’t found that “ideal” device yet- if anyone has recommendations, let me know and I will be glad to consider it and maybe do a future review on that!