Acne Treatments List
A comprehensive list of acne treatment reviews |
Below is a comprehensive list of acne treatments, ranging from drugstore products to prescription medications to at-home, holistic remedies. The pros and cons of each acne treatment is thoroughly reviewed (how it works, side effects, etc.) and includes my own experience with the treatment when applicable.
I have found that when reading acne treatment reviews, it can be difficult to get a good sense of the acne treatment since people who submit product reviews often have different skin types and acne conditions. I have discussed my skin history on Skinacea.com, so hopefully my experience with some of following acne treatments will help serve as a baseline for you to gauge whether or not an acne treatment will work for you.
I've personally tried a lot of the acne treatments on the below list as I tried to clear my skin, but I sure hope you don't have to! The below chart is just to give you a bird's eye view of all the treatment options out there, so you can make the best decision (and hopefully save some money too) about what to use on your skin. Keep in mind that with most acne products, you won't know if they will work unless you try them out yourself.
Click on the links in the below chart to jump down to the info section about each acne treatment. If there is too much to say about a particular treatment, there will be a "Read more" link to another page with full information about the treatment (so this current page won't be overly long and hard to read).
|Over-the-Counter||Prescription Only (Rx)||At-Home Remedies|
Check here for facial procedures:
Note: For information about body acne treatments, please check here.
If you've tried a certain acne treatment or have one you'd like to share that's not listed, feel free to comment below! With acne, you can never go wrong with knowing too much.
AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), such as glycolic and lactic acid, exfoliate the outer part of your skin. Many people get AHAs and BHAs confused, but AHAs exfoliate the surface of your skin while BHAs exfoliate the inside of your skin. Both, however, can be effective treatments for acne.
BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), also known as salicylic acid, help clear your skin by increasing skin turnover and exfoliating your pores from the inside. They are great for getting rid of clogged pores and blackheads, but only if formulated at the right pH, a pH of around 3. BHAs seem to be less irritating than benzoyl peroxide, another popular acne fighting active ingredient, but take longer to work.
Benzoyl peroxide (BP) is one of the most common active ingredients in over-the-counter acne treatments. It works by putting oxygen into your pores and increasing skin turnover. Therefore, p. acnes (the bacteria that causes acne) is killed (because it only survives in an oxygen-deprived environment) and pores are cleared.
Benzoyl peroxide is actually oxidizing in the long run though, which ages your skin faster, so be aware of that. Also, although most places sell 10% BP, studies have shown that 2.5% and 5% work just as well without being as irritating.
Most people will experience slight redness and irritation when they first start using BP, but a small percentage of people are actually allergic, so it's best to start with a low percentage and minimal application to gauge skin tolerance. You'll know if you're allergic if BP causes your skin to turn really red and itchy and all sorts of uncomfortable.
To keep skin clear of acne, BP has to be used long-term. Once you stop using it, the bacteria colonies come back and breakouts resume. However, unlike antibiotics, the p. acnes bacteria does not develop resistance towards BP.
BP is also a bleaching agent, so try to keep it away from your eyebrows, hair, and clothes. I remember back in high school, I always had these mysterious bleached parts on my pillow cases and T-shirt sleeves and now I know they were from BP!
(FYI, ProActiv's main ingredient is also BP.)
NOTE: Please consult this far more detailed section on retinoids before moving on.
Retinaldehyde is stronger than retinol but weaker than retinoic acid (or Retin A). For a chart comparing the different strengths of the different types of retinoids, check here.
Like retinol, retinaldehyde is available over-the-counter and also provides anti-aging and anti-acne benefits. Before using retinaldehydes, you should familiarize yourself with retinoids in order to get the maximum benefit from the product and minimize irritation.
Avene has many products with retinaldehyde as the active ingredient. A few of these include: Eluage, Ystheal (the gel form has since been discontinued), Triacneal, and Retrinal. Most of these products are only available in Europe and Asia, however some CVS stores are starting to carry them in the US as well.
NOTE: Please consult this far more detailed section on retinoids before moving on.
Even though retinol is the weakest type of retinoid, it still provides anti-aging and anti-acne benefits. Because it's weaker, products with retinol may not be as effective as stronger retinoids and may take longer to work. However, most people tend to experience less irritation when they use products with retinol compared to using products with tretinoin (or Retin-A).
Retinol is available in many over-the-counter products, mainly targeting the anti-aging market. However, just because a product has retinol in it doesn't mean it will automatically give you anti-aging and skin clearing benefits. It will depend on the percentage of retinol in the product as well as the overall product formulation.
The strongest retinol available over-the-counter is Green Cream. Green Cream comes in three different versions: level 3, 6, and 9. Level 3 is the weakest while level 9 is the strongest. When starting out with Green Cream you want to use the lowest level and follow the guidelines for how to correctly use retinoids. You can then move onto level 6 and/or 9 if you feel you need a stronger product.
Using Green Cream and other products with retinol can result in peeling, redness, and irritation. Many people also find Green Cream's alcoholic base too drying. However, the alcohol is there to enhance the retinol's penetration and make the product more effective. If Green Cream is too irritating for your skin, you could try buffering it or using another retinoid product.
Sulfur is mainly used to dry up pimples. Lots of products with sulfur as the active ingredient also don't smell that great (think rotten eggs).
Sulfur is a hit or miss for most people. Some people love it while others (like me) see no results from it whatsoever. However, sulfur has been used in the past as a beauty secret ingredient.
When I was in Japan, we went to a lot of natural thermal spas in the mountains and I remember almost every single place had a thermal pool labeled "For Beautiful Skin." And guess what was in it? Besides lots of minerals from the nearby springs, there was definitely a lot of sulfur!
Since sulfur is used to dry up pimples, using sulfur can be quite drying for your surrounding skin. Unlike benzoyl peroxide, BHAs, and AHAs, sulfur is mostly sold as a spot treatment. The others can be used as spot treatments too but a lot of times people use them all over their face as a preventative measure.
However, not all sulfur treatments are marketed as spot treatments. Sulfur is actually known to help reduce redness and acne lesions from rosacea. There are also lots of sulfur soaps and sulfur masks. For more information about sulfur-based products, check here.
Tea tree oil is supposed to be a great spot treatment and all-over antibacterial product. It is antiseptic and antifungal so it can not only be used for killing off pimples, but it can also be used for bug bites and tiny wounds.
Studies have found that 5% tea tree oil can be just as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide without all the irritation that comes from using BP. So those who are allergic to BP can give tea tree oil a try.
Be prepared because tea tree oil really reeks. You can buy products with tea tree oil in them or you can simply purchase 100% tea tree oil from Whole Foods or even Walmart. However, if you do buy the 100% tea tree oil, make sure you dilute it (in another base oil, not water) so it won't burn your skin upon application.
Lots of people who make their own moisturizers, essential oils, or oil cleansers like to add a couple of drops of tea tree oil to make their product more antibacterial. On a side note, if you do use tea tree oil, you have to make sure to use at least 4% tea tree oil or else the bacteria colonies will get used to the tea tree oil and develop antibiotic resistance.
If you have cats, keep tea tree oil away from them because it's supposed to be a deadly toxin for felines.
Nature's Cure is a 2-part system that homeopathically treats acne. (There is a version for men and another version for women, so if you choose to purchase this, make sure you buy the one formulated for your gender.) In the 2-part internal/external system, there is a month's supply of homeopathic pills, as well as a topical 5% benzoyl peroxide cream, all for around $10.
The pills are made up of herbal mixes that supposedly "stimulate your body's natural defenses" and treat acne from the inside out. In conjunction with the topical BP cream (that fights existing acne), Nature's Cure "cures" your acne both internally and externally.
This is a LED device that supposedly zaps pimples. It works by using different frequencies of light waves to penetrate the skin and kill bacteria. There are red, blue, and red/blue light settings. Red reduces the inflammation, redness, and swelling from a pimple. Blue helps to kill bacteria and red/blue (or what Lumiport calls Chroma 2 or purple) lets the two of them work simultaneously.
To use the device, you hold it close to a pimple for about 10 minutes (or however long you want to use it) and the pimple should get better/reduce in size. Lumiport is kind of like a mini-portable acne light therapy pen.
It also comes in a case along with alcohol pads for you to clean the tip of the pen. It didn't work for me though (turned pimples into two-headed pimples) and I'm glad they had a full-refund policy (within 30 days). If you don't mind wasting shipping and handling, you could give this a try. Lumiport had pretty fast shipping and pretty good service.
Please go here for more information about light therapy for acne.
Before, when there was only one Zeno, Zeno was a spot treatment gadget you could find at your local drugstore. You basically turned on the device and the tip would get hot. To treat a pimple, you would place the hot tip directly onto the spot for 2 minutes and the pimple would get better within 24 hours.
I purchased an old-school Zeno back then and it didn't work for me. I felt like the promised results within a 24 hour period were too exaggerated. However, I have not used the newer generation Zeno devices, so I can't say how well they work. Also, the main complaint of the old Zeno product was that the cartridge tips had to be replaced and those were quite expensive. The new Zeno devices seem to have overcome this issue.
There is now a Zeno Heat Treat, Zeno Hot Spot, and Zeno Line Rewind. Zeno Hot Spot is the closest to the old Zeno device and is still marketed as a spot treatment gadget, with no more replacement cartridges. Zeno Heat Treat, on the other hand, is an all-over-the-face heat treatment device to help prevent acne in general. Zeno Line Rewind jumps on the current trend to use LED lights for anti-aging benefits.
The Zeno Hot Spot is a good spot treatment alternative because it doesn't dry out or irritate your skin. Some users have complained that the tip can get too hot. Zeno doesn't work on whiteheads or cysts, but seems to work best on pimples that are just starting to form.
Differin is the mildest prescription retinoid that most dermatologists initially prescribe. It's a synthetic retinoid available in gel and cream form. The gel form is a bit stronger than the cream form in terms of penetration, although both are .1% adapalene (.3% is also available now).
Differin gel seems to be the more popular base because the cream version can be problematic for acne prone skin. However, if the gel is too drying, the cream could be less irritating.
Because Differin is the mildest prescription retinoid, its side effects (such as dryness, peeling, redness) aren't as pronounced as those for Tazorac or Retin-A. However, Differin also tends to not work as fast.
It takes a while to see results from Differin and you have to start out slow, like with all retinoids, to minimize irritation. You can try buffering Differin or even using short contact therapy, but check here for more information about retinoid use.
Retin-A is stronger than Differin but not as strong as Tazorac. Its active ingredient is tretinoin or retinoic acid. Retin-A is a natural retinoid that can be used for anti-aging, but it is mostly marketed as an acne treatment.
Retin-A is available in a variety of formulations, so people of all skin types should be able to find one that works for them. Retin-A cream has 0.025, 0.05, and 0.1% strengths. The gel version has 0.01 and 0.025% strengths. Finally, the liquid version is only available in 0.05% strength.
Most people I know use the gel formulation. Many of them also start using the Retin-A with the lowest percentage of tretinoin and work their way up. Do you have to move up to a stronger strength? No, you don't. You can if you think you need extra oomph in your routine or if the strength you're currently using isn't giving you enough anti-aging and anti-acne benefits. However, if your skin is doing just fine with, say 0.025% Retin-A, then you can keep using that strength as long as you want. If you try a stronger percentage and don't like it, you can always move back down.
Please see here for more information on Retin-A and other retinoids.
Retin-A Micro or RAM is an updated version of Retin-A. They both have tretinoin as the active ingredient. However, RAM has an oil-free base that can be less pore clogging. RAM also works on a time-release mechanism, called the microsponge delivery system.
When you apply RAM to your skin, microspheres in the product reserve and hold parts of the medication. The microspheres then slowly release tretinoin into your skin so that your skin absorbs small amounts of the retinoid over time instead of getting hit with a lot of it all at once. The microspheres themselves aren't absorbed by your skin but are merely washed off each time you cleanse your face.
This time-release delivery system helps to reduce irritation and increase tretinoin's effectiveness. Some people prefer RAM for this reason, while others dislike it because they won't be able to buffer the product. Buffering RAM may be problematic and cause it to be ineffective because buffering interferes with how the microspheres work.
RAM is available as a gel in 0.04 and 0.1% strengths. The gel actually looks like a white cream when you are applying it to your skin, but the whiteness of it comes from the composition of the microspheres.
Please see here for more information on Retin-A Micro and other retinoids.
Renova is another tretinoin prescription product. Unlike Retin-A and Retin-A Micro, which are marketed as acne treatments, Renova is more commonly prescribed for anti-aging. It has a creamier base compared to the other two and is available in 0.025 and 0.05% strengths.
Because Renova has a more emollient base, it is not as irritating as other retinoids. However, the inactives in the base may make it unsuitable for those with acne prone skin.
Please see here for more information on Renova and other retinoids.
Tazorac, also called Avage and Zorac, is the strongest prescription retinoid available. Its active ingredient is tazarotene. Tazorac is available in a cream form with 0.05 and 0.1% strengths, as well as gel form with 0.05 and 0.1% strengths.
Although Tazorac is used to treat acne and psoriasis, it is usually prescribed only after patients have had zero success with Differin and/or Retin-A.
Since Tazorac is pretty strong, it is often much more irritating than the other retinoids. The side effects from Tazorac (such as initial breakout, redness, peeling, dryness, etc) also take longer to go away. The good thing about Tazorac is that since it is a synthetic retinoid, you can use short contact therapy with it to receive its benefits without all the added irritation.
Please see here for more information on Tazorac and other retinoids.
Antibiotics are available as prescription topical products and oral tablets. They are usually prescribed in conjunction with other acne treatments to hasten acne improvement or to minimize initial breakouts associated with retinoids use.
The following chart describes both topical and oral antibiotics and explains how they work:
Retinoids are not the only prescription product available for treating acne. Azelaic acid, found in wheat, barley, and rye, is another acne treatment that dermatologists prescribe. Azelaic acid has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and exfoliating properties, making it a great treatment product for acne and Rosacea. Since azelaic acid inhibits melanin synthesis, it is also effective against hyperpigmentation and melasma.
You can only get azelaic acid products via prescription in the United States and some Asian countries. However, Australia and Canada offer it as over-the-counter treatments. Prescription products with azelaic acid as the active ingredient include Skinoren, Azelex, AcneDerm, and Finacea. Skinoren, Azelex, and AcneDerm are targeted as acne treatments, while Finacea is more for rosacea.
Aczone is a relatively new prescription topical for the treatment of acne. It is a 5% dapsone gel, used to treat inflammatory acne lesions. Aczone works best on pimples that are big, red, and inflamed.
Birth control pills are often prescribed to regulate hormonal acne. Generally, acne that occurs around the jaw line is hormonal. However, the best way to figure out whether or not hormones are responsible for your acne is to keep a diary of your breakouts. Track them for a good 3 to 4 months. If you start noticing a pattern, such as breaking out during ovulation (14 days after you get your period), before you get your period, or after you get your period, then your acne is probably hormonal. You can also get your hormone levels checked to make sure they are normal.
Accutane, known as Roaccutane in places outside the US, is oral isotretinoin for the treatment of severe and persistent acne. This serious drug should be the last resort after you've exhausted all other possible acne treatment options.
The reason why Accutane should be the last resort and why many people are hesitant to go on it is because Accutane has many side effects. Dryness of your facial skin, body skin, eyes, and lips is very common, as is an it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better phase with your acne.
The Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Toner is something you can make at home to help clear your skin or simply improve your overall complexion. Malic and lactic acids found in the vinegar help to soften and exfoliate your skin, reduce red marks, and treat acne. Apple cider vinegar also tones your skin to the proper pH. So basically, it's a wonderful beauty secret hiding in your kitchen cupboard. Keep reading and I'll get to the good part about how to make this fabulous toner.
Many people think that aspirin is a cheap way to make BHA or salicylic acid, but aspirin is actually acetylsalicylic acid. They are similar, but not the same thing.
The aspirin mask is supposed to be wonderful for reducing pimples, getting rid of red marks, and softening your skin. I find that the mask does indeed soften my skin and temporarily reduce the appearance of blackheads on my nose, however, that's all it does for me. My skin seems to glow right after I wash off the mask (because aspirin is anti-inflammatory and helps with any redness), but the glow fades and my skin quickly returns to its normal state.
Baking soda is another home remedy for acne that frequently pops up in magazines and internet searches. It is very affordable. It deodorizes and cleans well. However, it is excellent for cleaning household items, not the skin on your face. I wish people would stop recommending baking soda because it really is harsh on your skin.
Wait a minute. Isn't this the stuff for chicken pox?
Yup, except most kids nowadays are vaccinated for this unsightly pink polka-dotted plague.
Regular calamine lotion (the pink kind) has 8% calamine and 1% Pramoxine HCl as its active ingredients. The calamine itself is made up of zinc oxide (like diaper rash cream) and a little bit of iron oxide. Clear calamine lotion, like Caladryl Clear, has 1% Pramoxine HCl and 0.1% zinc acetate as its active ingredients - a little bit different from the original pink lotion.
The calamine and zinc acetate ingredients prevent infection by forming a protective seal. They also relieve itching and have somewhat of a drying effect on your skin. The Pramoxine HCl ingredient, on the other hand, is an analgesic, or pain killer. It's probably calamine lotion's drying effect that makes it an effective acne topical.
Calamine lotion can help dry up your pimples and prevent the bacteria from spreading. You can either use this as a spot treatment or an all-over-the-face mask. Some people even sleep with it as a mask at night. I definitely would not recommend using this under makeup or during the day because the seal it forms on your skin looks somewhat glossy and would probably roll/rub off under makeup or sunscreen.
As for how effective calamine lotion is for acne, I can't say that it's helped "clear" my skin, but it does have somewhat of a soothing effect. Another plus is that if it doesn't work out for pimples, at least it's cheap. It's always good to have some anti-itch cream on hand anyway for those pesky bug bites.
There is a lot of talk about using dandruff shampoos to clear up acne. The reason why dandruff shampoo can be used to treat acne is because dandruff shampoos contain ingredients, acting as a fungicides, that get to the root of the problem (no pun intended).
Ketaconazole (in Nizoral), zinc pyrithione (in Head & Shoulders), and selenium sulfide (in Selsun Blue) kill the fungus (P. ovale) that is responsible for dandruff. Just like p.acnes, p.ovale is present on everyone's skin but simply causes more problems for some people compared to others.
I've heard a lot about using diaper rash ointments as acne treatments. People claim that they help reduce redness and dry up any existing pimples.
The idea behind using this for acne is that diaper rash creams contain zinc oxide (usually around 10%). Zinc oxide, which is also in calamine lotion and sunscreens, relieves itching and reduces the possibility of infection.
However, be aware that diaper rash cream is very white and pasty (from the zinc oxide ingredient), so it's best used as a night treatment. Some ointments can also be somewhat greasy and if you don't use them regularly, the oils in them can separate.
I tried Burt's Bees Baby Bee Diaper Ointment for awhile but was sorely disappointed. I pretty much went to bed with a ghastly face and woke up with no improvements in my skin. However, for as thick and greasy the paste was, I was surprised it didn't break me out. The ointment did feel soothing though.
Diaper rash cream didn't work for me and my acne, but it could be something that works for you.
DuoDerm is a type of synthetic skin dressing used to cover surgical wounds to promote healing. Made out of a fruit pectin, it's like having a second-skin sticker to use as band-aids over any injuries.
I first discovered DuoDerm (there are other brands, but DuoDerm is the one I keep going back to) when I got my moles removed. The doctor instructed me to apply medicine to the spots where there used to be moles, cut a piece of DuoDerm, cover the wound with it, and change out the dressing twice a day or more often if it gets damp.
I was impressed with how well DuoDerm helped heal the wounds, so I wondered how it would work on popped pimples and active acne. I started cutting squares of the synthetic skin and covering up all my pimples and red marks. With consistent use, I found that the DuoDerm seemed to shorten the life of a pimple by a day and helped red marks heal faster.
If I feel a pimple about to form, I can usually prevent it from getting bigger by covering it with some synthetic skin. The DuoDerm also minimizes the urge to want to pick at pimples since they are covered up. If you get acne, DuoDerm won't make acne go away the next day, but it's pretty good as a spot treatment.
Honey is a natural antiseptic and many people use it as mask to help soothe and heal their skin. However, if you are allergic to bees, it's probably not a good idea to use this mask.
Honey is superb for healing burns and small cuts. It's also a humectant, which means it helps keep your skin moisturized. Because of all of these amazing qualities, honey is thought to treat acne as well. I mean, it's antibacterial, it helps with wound healing, and it even keeps your skin hydrated. What more could you ask for?
But of course, there is always a catch.
Honey will help clear your skin if your acne is from bacterial problems, but if your acne is from hormones, irritation, or any of the other numerous causes of acne, then honey probably won't do much at all. It could help soothe existing breakouts and heal irritated skin, which could help improve your complexion, but it won't make acne disappear and never come back.
Everyone probably has a brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) somewhere in their house. (If you're wondering why the bottle is always brown, it's because hydrogen peroxide breaks down when exposed to light and the brown bottle blocks out light to help the hydrogen peroxide remain stable.) Usually found as a 3% concentration over-the-counter, hydrogen peroxide is mainly used for cleaning wounds.
Many people (myself included) mistakenly think that hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria and encourages wound healing. However, in recent years, studies have found that hydrogen peroxide does not hinder wound healing, but does not speed it up either. So basically, researchers not sure if it does anything helpful at all. The efficacy of using hydrogen peroxide to promote healing is still controversial to this day.
Please see a detailed explanation about jojoba oil and acne here.
It has long been known that garlic possesses antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties. Because of this, rubbing raw garlic on your pimples is supposed to help kill bacteria and make the pimple go away faster.
However, I would advise against doing this. I actually tried it and it did nothing but burn, stink, turn my skin red, and make my eyes water! There may be some truth in garlic's ability to fight acne, but if it is too painful to even stay on your skin, I don't see how garlic even stands a fighting chance.
Besides rubbing garlic on pimples, another home remedy I stumbled upon for treating acne involved eating raw garlic to help your body fight acne from the inside out. The idea was that garlic was so potent that it would kill off anything that was causing you to break out. It would also strengthen your immune system, making you less vulnerable to acne.
Being the desperate person I was back when my face was extremely broken out, I actually swallowed spoonfuls of raw garlic for about 2 weeks to try to clear my skin. I smelled really bad, had really bad gas, and probably offended many friends with my constant bad breath. All of that was for nothing though because my acne was as persistent as ever.
If you want to eat garlic because it's good for you and you like the way it tastes, then go for it. But eating garlic will not clear your skin, so there is no reason to put yourself through the misery I went through as I tested out this ridiculous home remedy.
Have you ever noticed that your skin gets a little better when you go swimming in the ocean or go to the beach?
I haven't experienced this personally, but many people notice skin improvements whenever they are on vacation. It could be because they get to rest more and are more relaxed and have more fun, but it could also be the ocean itself. (Swimming in a pool is probably different because of the high and very-drying chlorine content.)
Sea salt is derived from evaporating seawater and tends to have less iodine than regular table salt. Since most people don't have an ocean in their backyard, the thinking behind using sea salt as an acne treatment is to be able to have the properties of ocean water in your bathroom basin.
This is the first thing I learned from magazines about spot treating acne. You dab the pimple with some toothpaste (paste, not gel) to help it go away faster. Unfortunately, this generally does not work. You can also tell most people don't have much success with it because if toothpaste really did work, people would be smearing tubes of Colgate over their skin instead of investing their money in other acne creams.
I actually tried using toothpaste as a spot treatment, but it stung so badly that I had to wash it off rather promptly. And after I washed it off, the pimple and its surrounding skin turned bright red. It also stung from the menthol in the toothpaste.
The reason toothpaste is recommended as an acne treatment is to use it as a drying agent for the pimple. However, if you're going to use toothpaste, you might as well go out and buy some real acne cream.
According to the bottle of Dickinson's Witch Hazel I have sitting on my bathroom counter, witch hazel:
- "Is an all natural astringent for [the] face & body"
- "Cleans & refreshes... naturally!"
- "Gently tones skin"
- "Gently cleanses and conditions skin without removing essential moisture"
- "Cleans deep down to your pores"
- "Temporarily relieves minor skin irritations due to: minor cuts, minor scrapes, and insect bites"
This is a very popular e-book floating around the internet. Lots of people have actually purchased and tried it, but I'm not sure how successful they have been.
The e-book basically claims that you can clear your acne by eating nothing but apples for three days. It's kind of like an internal cleanse type of regimen where you cleanse your system and flush out toxins. There's also something about taking a spoonful of olive oil on the last day of this regimen and after three days of eating nothing but apples, you're supposed to have wonderfully clear skin.
Yea right! As an acne-inflicted college student, I didn't have enough energy to stay awake and walk to all of my classes on just apples, so I have actually never fully completed this regimen. I doubt that it would work though. If it's operating under the assumption that cleaning your system will clear your skin, Acne Free in 3 Days wouldn't work for me because I had to go through a cleanse to prep for a medical procedure and it made no difference in my skin whatsoever.
There is another acne treatment version that is similar to this, but instead of eating apples, you eat cucumbers because cucumbers are supposed to be cleansing and cooling to the body. I tried eating cucumbers for one day but really couldn't stand it so, I can't say that I've fully tried this method either.
At any rate, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
I believe eating chicken butts for beautiful skin is another Asian thing. When all of my relatives saw how craptastic my skin had become (breakouts galore!) they all advised me to eat large amounts of chicken butts. This is considered a delicacy in many Asian countries, but it might be too weird for some Western cultures to embrace.
Anyway, hormones in the chicken butt, along with the fat and gelatinousness of it, is supposed to give your skin all the nutrients it needs to be plump and beautiful. I tried to eat this stuff but I really couldn't stomach it, so I'm not sure if it actually works or not. However, I do know this 50 year old woman who eats a bag of chicken butts everyday and she has amazingly beautiful, young looking skin. Her skin isn't the only thing clear and plump though - a daily chicken butt diet has taken a toll on her weight.
On another note, one of my cousins loves to eat chicken butts (Is there a more graceful term for this? Chicken glutes maybe?) as well but she still has acne. Maybe the 50 year old lady was just gifted with wonderful genes.
Although many researchers and dermatologists believe there is no link between food and diet, Asian dermatologists are more willing to make this connection. My dermatologist in Taiwan tells all of his acne patients to avoid sugar, peanuts, and high-caffeine foods.
You can see if diet affects your skin by keeping a food journal. Write down everything you eat and make notes for whenever you get new pimples. By keeping track of everything, you can see whether certain foods trigger certain breakouts. However, eating something that might aggravate acne won't make you break out the very next day, so diet related acne sleuthing can get pretty confusing.
On the other hand, you could simply eliminate isolated food groups from your diet one at a time. For example, you could stop drinking milk altogether to see if milk is an acne culprit. If you clear up, that proves you may have a dairy sensitivity.
I think trying to fix your acne through diet is very difficult though because it's extremely hard to maintain food restrictions. For instance, whenever you hang out with your friends, it sucks to be a party pooper and not share dessert with everyone because you're trying to cut out diary or sugar. However, having a healthy diet benefits your entire body, not just your skin.
From personal experience (and I did keep a food and skin journal), my skin didn't breakout if I ate lots of junk food, but when I wasn't eating healthy, I felt like my skin didn't look as good. Having a healthier diet made my skin look healthier, even though I still had acne.
When I was really desperate, I started searching online for at-home remedies to clear acne. Eating lots of raisins was one of the things I read and tried. I'm actually getting a bit embarrassed by posting all the weird things I have done to clear up my skin, but oh well.
The idea behind eating lots of raisins is that there is a lot of fiber and vitamin C in them. The fiber will keep your digestive system active and the vitamin C will give your skin a dose of helpful nutrients. Many people believe that a sluggish digestive system fails to remove toxins from your body quickly enough and as a result, these toxins erupt as pimples and acne lesions on your face. So, if you improve your digestive system, you will prevent these toxins from causing pimples.
I don't think I ate enough raisins because I got tired of them pretty quickly. I don't think this would really work anyway because while I tend to believe you are what you eat, I don't think eating more or less raisins could really clear up your skin.
Green tea is a drink chock-full of antioxidants and health benefits. It's anti-inflammatory and helps reduce redness. Unsurprisingly, people think drinking 2-3 cups a day or rubbing green tea bags on your skin will help with acne. I mean, lots of Japanese and Korean people have beautiful skin and it seems like the stand-out difference between us and them is that they drink a lot of green tea. However, in my experience, green tea does diddly squat both orally and topically.
If green tea helped with acne, it sure did nothing to prevent my pimples from forming because I started breaking out even though I grew up drinking tea on a daily basis. As my breakouts got worse, I started to drink more and more green tea to see if it would clear my skin and even though I was downing 7-8 mugs of this stuff a day, my acne remained disappointingly in tact. I even started to drink white tea, which is pretty much the purest form of tea with even more nutrients, but it did nothing for my skin either.
I would also keep the tea bags to wipe all over my face as a topical treatment. Sometimes I would brew very concentrated green tea to use as a toner or even mix matcha powder into a paste to make a mask. Unfortunately, none of this helped with my acne. (I later found out that green tea from tea bags does little for your skin because the green tea isn't formulated in a way where your skin can absorb and use it.)
I do acknowledge that green tea has numerous health benefits. However, I cannot honestly recommend green tea as anything more than a refreshing drink. It certainly is no acne cure. Having traveled to both Japan and Korea, I noticed that the people there aren't immune to breakouts. I suspect the majority of them seem to have really nice skin because they tend to avoid the sun.
There is a Chinese belief that eating lots of pearl barley (or Job's Tears) will give you beautiful, porcelain-like skin.
(Actually, if you've ever been to a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, herbal mixtures prescribed for acne usually include some form of job's tears and/or mung bean powder. Both cool the "heat" in your system, which in Chinese medicine is believed to be responsible for breakouts.)
To test out this remedy, I substituted pearl barley for rice for all three of my meals for about 2-3 months. Unfortunately, I didn't notice a difference in my skin. I still had acne and still had red acne marks and my face was far from being fair. The pearl barley didn't make my skin better at all, but at least it tasted good.
Acne can be as much internal as it is external. Therefore, sometimes you can improve your skin by taking a few supplements. There are many different ones out there, some that I've never even heard of before, but I listed the more popular and well-reviewed supplements in the below chart:
When topical products do not work, many people turn to holistic methods for acne treatments. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique used to balance your qi.
In laymen's terms, acupuncture basically balances all the things that need balancing to help your body heal. Once everything inside of you is balanced, there would be no reason for you to get any skin eruptions.
During acupuncture, the specialist will stick very fine needles into certain points and meridians in your body. The needles don't hurt too badly or cause you to bleed or anything, but you do have to stay still during the entire treatment process. More than one treatment is necessary for your desired results. If you get acupuncture, make sure you get this treatment from a qualified and experienced professional.
How well acupuncture works for acne is still a mystery. Some people get good results from it and others don't. For example, one of my cousins had very persistent, moderate acne. She was very into traditional Chinese medicine and refused to use any prescription topicals on her skin, so she always turned to taking Chinese medicinal herbs and getting acupuncture as treatments. She kept this up for about a year, but her skin still stayed the same. It didn't really clear anything up or prevent pimples from forming.
Though I do believe that traditional Chinese medicine and other holistic methods have their benefits, I would rather slap on some cream and call it a day.
If you've ever searched online for acne treatments, a lot of times, internal cleansing will be brought up as a method to help clear your skin. You can read more about this stuff on Cure Zone, Ask Shelley, or acne.org forums.
The gist behind internal cleansing is that you clean out certain organs (through liver flushing, colon cleansing, etc) to flush out all the toxins that are backed up in there because if there are toxins backed up in your system, they erupt as pimples and acne on your skin. If you have no toxins in your system, then you wouldn't breakout.
I had never even heard of this technique until I stumbled onto earth clinic's site. I was looking for some holistic acne remedies and discovered oil pulling. The idea behind oil pulling is that by gargling oil in your mouth, you pull out toxins in your body and clear your skin (one benefit amongst the numerous touted health benefits of oil pulling).
Reflexology is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine, where you basically massage, squeeze, or press onto different parts of the feet, hands, or ears to improve other parts of your body. The thinking behind reflexology is that each section of your foot is connected to a bodily organ or function. By massaging and pressing on certain pressure points, you can stimulate these organs and improve their function.
Does this actually work? No, not for me. If you get reflexology done by a real reflexologist, the process can actually be quite painful and cathartic. However, since I was doing this by myself based on a reflexology how-to book and probably doing it incorrectly (I did have one expensive session by a real reflexologist though), I didn't see any results. Getting multiple treatments from a professional might be different though. Who knows.
It's actually kind of funny to think that massaging and poking your feet will get rid of cysts on your face.
Lots of online places recommend sitting in the sauna or steam room to help with acne. The heat/steam is supposed to help you sweat out all of those bad toxins stored in your body and kill or deter the growth of p.acnes. It also "opens" your pores so that the gunk inside is softened and can be pushed out by your skin more easily.
However, I honestly don't think you can clear your acne by sitting in a sauna everyday. I used to bake inside the one at my gym, but it did nothing but dry me out. There was also a steam room, which wasn't as drying as the sauna, but I still didn't feel like my skin got any better.
Such extreme temperatures inside a sauna or steam room can also cause broken capillaries on your skin. In a non-steam room type of sauna, the dry heat might even aggravate acne because the heat can be irritating.
Last updated: May 6, 2013
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