Natural Remedies for Acne

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Acne, zits, pimples, pustules, black heads, white heads... no matter what you call them or what type you have, wearing blemishes on your face can be emotionally devastating. 

If you have acne you may have tried a dozen different home remedies for acne. Often times common techniques for acne only use topical treatments that do little to address the underlying cause and permanently resolve the acne. 

This article will look at natural remedies for acne, how to prevent acne, herbal acne treatment and vitamins for acne. Rather than simply cutting and pasting information from other sites about using herbs like drugs (in a simple this-for-that manner), this article illustrates how a holistic approach can help you find the root cause of your acne so you can find a long-lasting natural solution. 

Western Medicine's Approach to Acne

Western medicine generally recommends facial treatments such as washing with soap and water or specialized products and medical antiseptics. 

Acne that becomes infected may be treated with antibiotics. 

Women with severe acne may be given birth control pills in an attempt to regulate hormones. 

Natural Remedies for Acne

Using natural remedies for acne first involves determining the cause of the acne, which may be hormonal, diet/lifestyle related or, more commonly, a mixture of these. 

Once the cause has been found, a personalized plan using diet, lifestyle, and herbs will put you on the road to restoring healthy skin. Depending on your overall health and the root cause of the problem it may take six months to a year to fully resolve the acne, although it is common to see improvements fairly quickly after the first steps have been taken. 

Causes of Adult Acne

If you are interested in solving your acne problems permanently the most important question is: what is causing the acne in the first place? While popular over-the-counter treatments have fancy marketing techniques, they never truly get to the cause of the problem, thus leaving you dependent on them for life! 

Youth and adult acne can be caused by one or both of these factors: hormone imbalance and/or a pro-inflammatory lifestyle. 

Acne Caused by Hormonal Imbalance

Women who have acne caused by hormone imbalance generally have other significant health problems related to hormones. This can include severe PMS, ovarian cysts, fibroids, etc. In general, acne that worsens in cycles that correlate to menstruation have a hormonal component to them. Acne located primarily along the chin line (sometimes called chin acne) can also point to hormonal acne. 

Many natural health practitioners and even doctors advocate taking herbs or drugs to “balance” hormones. 

One of my pet peeves is the term “balance”. Your endocrine system is an incredibly complex system that we are only just beginning to understand. Taking an herb or even a drug in an attempt to externally influence this complex system is an oversimplified approach to creating health. 

Rather than attempting to “balance” hormones, the best course of action is to restore total health through diet, lifestyle and herbs so that the body can regulate this sophisticated and complex endocrine system. 

Here’s an article about 7 ways you can support a healthy endocrine system. 

Acne Caused by Inflammation

Some types of acne are an inflammatory condition. Eating an inflammatory diet or living a sedentary lifestyle can both contribute to the underlying cause of acne. 

Foods for Acne

Because acne is an inflammatory condition it is imperative to stop eating foods that increase inflammation and increase foods that help to modulate negative inflammation. While western medicine maintains that diet does not influence acne, I have seen dietary changes repeatedly play a major role in natural remedies for acne. 

Foods to avoid include:

  • seed and vegetables oils (canola, safflower, etc) 
  • common food allergens: wheat, soy, dairy, corn
  • sugar, high fructose corn syrup
  • processed foods (things that come in a box, package or can)
  • fast food

Foods to enjoy frequently include: 

  • fresh cold-water fish (salmon, anchovy, herring)
  • dark-colored vegetables (beets, leafy greens)
  • berries (blueberries, raspberries)
  • artichokes
  • parsley
  • pasture-raised meats
  • fermented foods
  • foods and herbs high in antioxidants

Herbal Acne Treatment

Liver herbs for acne

The liver helps to filter the blood and regulate and clear hormones from your system. A sluggish liver can be responsible for a variety of hormonal issues, acne being one of them. Besides helping to support overall health, optimal liver function can promote better digestion. 

Alterative herbs for acne

Eclectic physicians thought of acne and other inflammatory skin conditions like boils as a symptom of bad blood. This essentially refers to when detoxification organs like the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs and bowels become deficient. Various alterative herbs have an affinity for various organs and can be used to help them naturally remove metabolic wastes from the body. This reduces infection and inflammation. 

Lymphatic herbs for acne

Lymphatic herbs can be considered a sub-category of alterative herbs, or those with a specific affinity for the lymphatic system. Cleaning up the lymph in the body is an important step for those with acne. One of my favorite herbs for this is Echinacea. This cooling lymphatic herb is perfect for clearing acne. 

Astringent herbs for acne

Astringent herbs and astringent herbal preparations can be used topically. Astringent herbs tighten and tone tissues. They are used to prevent infections, heal wounds and restore health to tissues. Herbal astringents are generally safer and more nourishing than medical antiseptics which can further disrupt the natural flora of the skin and cause a dependence. 

Antimicrobial herbs for acne

Antimicrobial herbs can be applied topically to help prevent or stop infections. One of my favorite ways to do this is hot facial packs which can draw out infections, heal the wounds and restore healthy skin. 

natural remedies for acne

Vitamins for Acne

Vitamins are an important part of natural remedies for acne. The best vitamins for acne come from the nutrient-dense foods you eat. Eating locally-raised vegetables and meats from small organic farmers ensures fresh, vibrant food that is full of the nutrients necessary for healthy skin. 

Here are some especially beneficial vitamins for acne: 

  • Vitamin A: best found in animal products like organic liver and cod liver oil
  • Vitamin D3: found in appropriate sunshine exposure but may be necessary to supplement
  • Omega 3s: These are best found through eating cold-water fish and pasture-raised animals. A daily supplement of DHA/EPA (3-5 grams) may be helpful. 
  • Probiotics: A high-quality probiotic formula taken in loading doses along with inulin and other pre-biotics


Diet, lifestyle and herbs can be an important part of natural remedies for acne. You will find the most success by addressing the underlying cause of these blemishes, rather than simply taking an “acne” herb. 

While a miraculous quick cure for acne is obviously desired, the reality is that it may take several months of work to see changes. The good news is that once you address the root cause of your acne you can move beyond it and restore healthy skin permanently. 

Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Healand co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  

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