Welcome to the final part of our acne series! In Part 5 we will explore natural skincare solutions to help find balance and ultimately clear skin. If you have not read part 1, 2, 3 or 4, I suggest doing so!
So what is balanced skin? It is clear, hydrated, healthy skin with normal sebum production. Everyone can return their skin to a healthy balance, but doing so requires tuning into oneself on a daily basis, or at least seasonally, to determine how your skin and body might be out of balance. Once you learn to understand the signs that your body is giving you, you can help your body maintain a healthy state and even cure acne holistically through varying techniques.
Where is your imbalance stemming from?
Hopefully, after reading part 1 through 4, you now are starting to understand how the above-mentioned causes of imbalance can affect your skin. As a recap:
Hormones due to menstruation, genes, adolescence, stress, etc, can lead to excessive or reduced sebum production, as well as creating a situation where pores clog more easily.
Could your microbiome be out of balance because of the overuse of harsh cleansers and antibacterial skin care products, or possibly because of poor gut flora/health? A microbiome imbalance could mean your natural good bacteria is not in tip-top shape, so your skin is unable to fight off bad bacteria, making you susceptible to acne.
Do you have dry skin, flaky skin, or redness/inflammation? Skin barrier damage could mean your skin is probably either dry and/or inflamed, which in turn means your skin cannot defend itself against bad bacteria and cannot function properly.
How is your skin state?
Once you have determined what may be causing an imbalance, tune into your skin and how it looks and feels.
Is it dry at all?
Do you have normal to oily sebum production?
Is your acne chronic, or cyclical? If it is cyclical, is it because of hormones or the seasons?
If you think it will be helpful, write down your current skin state and probable cause. Keep in mind that this can very much change on a weekly, monthly or seasonal basis, depending on diet, weather, stress, etc.
Addressing the imbalance
Addressing any imbalance is a personal journey and each will have their own unique solution. Based on the causes of your imbalance and your current skin state, what are the appropriate measures to take? Your ideal skincare ritual will fluctuate as your skin needs do. Here is a list of what an ideal skincare ritual would do:
- Promote a healthy skin microbiome
- Very gentle exfoliation on a daily basis (with ingredients like willow bark or sugar extract) to keep pores clear
- Deeper exfoliating 2-3x per week to keep pores clear and promote a healthy skin barrier. If your breakouts are cyclical, this may be something you do around the cycles, whether it be hormonal or seasonal.
- Hydrate the skin
- Properly moisturize the skin. The ideal product for this will vary significantly depending on your skin’s sebum production (dry vs. oily), season, etc.
- Gently assist your skin in fighting bad bacteria
- Gently assist your skin in fighting inflammation
- There may be a need for an internal portion of your ritual through supplements or dietary changes.
A good skincare ritual would not:
- Make your skin feel dry and/or become dry
- Cause breakouts
- Cause inflammation or redness
If your skin is out of balance, consider what a good skincare ritual should do and compare it to your current ritual. How can you improve your current skincare ritual to better care for your skin? Increased hydration? More frequent exfoliation? Or maybe you are over cleansing and need to help promote a healthier skin microbiome?
A recommended skincare ritual for breakout-prone skin
Here are some skincare tips and a skincare ritual to help to address the imbalance that leads to breakouts. Consider this a backbone to start from, and adjust this ritual accordingly to meet your personal needs.
Step 1 - Cleanse
One thing you want to avoid at all costs is over-drying the skin. Use a gentle cleanser in the morning that won't strip the skin and leave it feeling dry. If your skin is normal or dry, skip the traditional cleanser and use an alcohol-free toner or facial mist with a cotton pad instead. This will prep the skin for step 2 and 3, but won’t strip the skin of beneficial oils or disrupt your skin’s natural PH.
Step 2 - Tone
Before getting into toners, we wanted to quickly talk about oils vs. creams. As a moisturizer, we recommend using a facial oil (more on this below) and for this reason, we highly recommend using a toner or water-based serum in your routine before applying your oil. Why? Because a toner is water based and will hydrate the skin (which is different than moisturizing), and will provide highly beneficial ingredients deep within the skin that oils won’t. So mist on baby!
We recommend our Neroli Clarifying Toner with Green Tea and Vitamin C for this task. It is hydrating, alcohol-free, and contains beneficial ingredients like vitamin C and vitamin B3 which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and the occurrence of breakouts. It also gently exfoliates with willow bark extract. We’re talking gentle enough for 2x a day use, but beneficial enough to help keep those pores clear! It doesn't hurt that green tea is full of antioxidants and has been shown to help balance sebum production.
Step 3 - Moisturize
We prefer oils over cream because oils work, and they don’t contain pore-clogging waxes or emulsifiers. Paired with a good toner (see above), and you get all the benefits of creams but none of the negatives.
Find a lightweight facial oil with oils that are both high in linoleic-acid and that contain anti-inflammatory and gentle antibacterial oils. Our favorite oils for acne-prone skin are tamanu, sea buckthorn, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, and linoleic-rich safflower oil. This step is where we love to really mix it up depending on how our skin is feeling (dry, clogged, etc).
Step 1 - Cleanse
Do a deep cleanse in the evening. If you wear makeup, try an oil cleanser first. Then follow with a facial cleanser that doesn’t dry the skin and that doesn’t contain any harsh antibacterials. Try something with gentle and natural antibacterial ingredients like neem oil and/or thyme ct linalool essential oil.
Step 2 - Tone
Mist the same toner as in the morning to hydrate, gently exfoliate, and deliver water-based skin-healing and nourishing ingredients.
We recommend our Neroli Clarifying Toner
Step 3 - Moisturize
In the evening, use something a little “heavier” or "potent" to help your skin recover from the day's stresses while your sleep. We love using oils that contain sugar extract to help keep pores clear by gently exfoliating. Using an oil with prickly pear oil, anti-inflammatory essential oils, and coQ10 are also great ideas, as this will help reinforce the skin barrier.
If you have a bout of dry skin, try using a blemish-friendly face balm instead of an oil. Since balms usually contain wax, find one with beeswax as beeswax won’t clog pores and is non-comedogenic.
2-3x per week
Exfoliate. Exfoliate. Exfoliate. No matter the reason for your breakouts, keeping pores clear is part of the solution. Gentle exfoliating will really help! The key is not to over-exfoliate and irritate the skin. We have 2 preferred way of exfoliating.
These are great for doing a deep clean, especially after a facial steam which opens up the pores. The downside of clay masks is that they can be a bit drying if your skin tends to be on the dryer side. Clay gently exfoliates and also absorbs oils and impurities from the pores and skin. Find a dry clay mask and mix with chilled green tea, chilled chamomile tea, organic yogurt, or try mixing with our Neroli Toner.
Fruit acids and honey
The acids naturally found in fruits and honey gently exfoliate the skin without drying the skin barrier. This is a great option if you tend to have dryer skin or even if you have oilier skin and just want a gentle exfoliating treatment. Honey also has antibacterial and healing properties.
Try our Hibiscus Exfoliating Mud.
Additional Skincare Tips
- If a product leaves your skin feeling too taught or dry, or irritates your skin in any way, don’t use it.
- Make sure to stay hydrated. Dehydration from the inside will lead to dehydrated skin.
- Try to eat mostly whole foods, and cut processed foods and sugar out of daily life (an occasional treat is okay!).
- Eat fermented foods or take daily probiotics.
- Try to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Exercise promotes healthy circulation!
- If you have chronic acne, try including in your daily diet foods high in zinc (like spinach and pumpkin seeds!) and omega-3 (flaxseeds, sea vegetables, and walnuts)
Still aren't sure which products are best for you? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help you decide!
Important note: I want to clarify that this post and products mentioned in this post are not intended to help diagnose or cure any disease. This post is meant for educational purposes only.
All photos by Naomi Huober