Just when you thought it was safe to put the benzoil peroxide away for good, a crop of angry red pimples erupts on your chin. Adult acne simply doesn't play fair! What was Mother Nature thinking when she decided humans should enjoy battling both whiteheads and wrinkles all at once? Fortunately, Mother Nature showed enough mercy in her infinite wisdom to provide us with ways to do battle with acne without further aging our skin. Adult acne needs special TLC, but chances are, you'll find much of what you need to get smooth and glowing skin right in your pantry.
Words: Kate Harveston
1. Wash with Witch Hazel
Acne forms when oil, dirt and dead skin cells become trapped in pores. The first step in any natural anti-acne regimen involves choosing a mild astringent to gently absorb extra shine. Enter witch hazel. The magic in witch hazel stems from both the astringent and anti-inflammatory properties of this wild shrub valued by Native Americans for its skin-soothing benefits. While alcohol-based astringents can strip skin too harshly, which ironically prompts the sebaceous glands to produce even more oil to bring things back into balance, witch hazel works gently without over drying.
2. Treat with Tea Tree Oil
It may seem counter-intuitive to treat acne with oil. However, despite the name, tea tree oil boasts some serious acne-busting properties! Tea tree oil comes from the melalueca plant native to Australia, and when it comes to skin cleansing, tea tree oil provides an anti-microbial punch. Tea tree oil busts acne-causing bacteria on the skin's surface that lead to breakouts. To use, simply use a cotton ball or swap to dab a few drops of tea tree oil directly on blemishes after first cleansing skin. The concentration of oil you use matters, with clinical studies showing a 5% solution to be most effective in combating pimples. Higher concentrations may irritate skin, causing a rash.
3. Nosh on Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Most of us remember hearing the old wives' tale that eating chocolate causes acne. While a direct link between consuming chocolate and developing acne has yet to be found, research indicates switching to an anti-inflammatory diet may alleviate breakouts. Aim for a diet rich in unprocessed grains, fresh fruits and veggies and lean proteins such as fish (as an added bonus, fish contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids vital to skin health). Avoid processed flours and refined sugar. If you keep chocolate on the menu, opt for antioxidant-rich dark chocolate over sugary milk chocolate.
4. Expand Your Knowledge of Nutrients
Like any other organ, our body's largest organ, the skin, needs proper nutrition for optimal health. In particular, skin benefits greatly from foods rich in vitamins A, C and D and minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium. Zinc particularly benefits acne-prone skin with its PH-balancing properties, so nibble on plenty of zinc-rich foods, such as eggs, nuts and beans.
5. But Know What to Avoid
As critical as proper nourishment is, refraining from or at least practicing moderation in consumption of certain trigger foods also helps alleviate adult acne. Any food that causes blood sugar spikes can aggravate breakouts, so avoid snacks such as donuts, cookies or white flour pastas which give a quick energy boost followed by a crash. Dairy, too, often contains a great deal of simple sugar and can contain pimple-provoking hormones used to stimulate growth in cattle, so switching to a plant-based alternative, such as almond milk, can help smooth skin.
6. Sweeten Skin with Honey
While consuming sugar aggravates adult acne, when used topically, sticky sweet honey remedies the redness. To gently exfoliate skin and remove pore-blocking dead skin cells, make a gooey paste from honey and ground almonds. For best results, use Manuka Honey rich in vitamins B and C. Let the paste sit on your skin for five to ten minutes, then scrub away using a damp cloth. The ground almonds slough away dead, dull skin cells and the honey leaves your skin with a healthy glow.
7. Get ‘Dirty’
Natural clay masks make for wonderful acne treatments, particularly if you are prone to blackheads. Many beauty experts swear by Rhassoul clay for busting blemishes by pulling oil and skin debris to the skin's surface where it can be washed away. Simply apply, allow to fully dry, then gently wipe away the clay with a steamy hot cloth and watch your blackheads go down the drain!
8. Make Sure to Moisturise
Even oily, acne-prone skin needs moisture, especially as we age and wrinkles become more of a worry. Seek out natural moisturizers that contain either sunflower oil or argan oil as a base. Both sunflower and argan oil infuse skin with essential nutrients and moisture without clogging pores.
Like paying taxes, adult acne remains one of life's more annoying frustrations. Luckily, adult acne usually responds better than teen acne to gentle treatments that also prevent premature aging. Mother Nature has given us all the tools we need to bust breakouts and face the world with glowing skin!