Battling Acne Breakouts with Non-toxic Products
There is a Wide Range of Cruelty-Free Acne Treatments. Find Out Which One Are Best for Your Skin’s Unique Needs.
I’ve literally been dreaming of clear skin since the age of 14 or 15. For one reason or another, it’s something that has been difficult for me to completely eliminate. Hormones, stress, environment, and food sensitivity are all factors for me. My skin is very sensitive, so even products marketed as “for sensitive skin” will break me out. It’s brutal.
I will say though, my skin situation is 95% better now than ever before! When I break out these days, it’s usually because of things I have very little control over (ie: environment or hormones.) I am working on coping with stress better, but I do occasionally struggle with it still and I will get a smattering of small pimples on my lower face, neck, and chest. (Any suggestions for stress management are welcome! Let me know in the comments sections below.)
Dealing With Acne
Alright, let’s get into the fun stuff: How do you deal with that large, painful Texas-sized pimple popping up on your chin? Or when you are blessed with a rash of small zits around your jawline? The size and amount of breakouts can vary depending on what the actual underlying cause is. Thankfully, most of the items here should be helpful to you regardless of what type you are trying to tame.
Read on for some of my go-to cruelty-free faves for dealing with acne, acne scarring, and pesky bumps! Let’s start with the more gentle items first and move into the heavy-duty ones towards the bottom. (By heavy-duty, I mean aggressive and effective. If you are dealing with a single pimple, you can stick with the more gentle products.) Good luck!
All of the following products are vegan unless noted otherwise.
Read This First: Rule Out Dietary or Environmental Triggers
Before you turn to products to solve your skin dilemmas, take a good critical look at other factors that may be causing your body to react with breakouts.
A more recent “ah-ha!” moment happened at the age of 27. It finally dawned on me that the day after I would eat pizza or anything with the combination of highly processed carbs + cheese + grease, I would wake up with angry pimples forming. There’s something about the magic trifecta of processed white wheat, dairy and bad oils that make my body freak out. And there’s probably a good reason for that: all three of those things are difficult for the human body to digest.
After much trial and error, I realized that although each of those is probably not so good for my body (duh), it was dairy that really made my digestive track angry. *stomach gurgles in agreement* Sayonara cheddar cheese, omelets, and ice cream! Hellooo delicious gourmet vegan cheeses, delicate tofu scrambled eggs, and mouthwatering coconut-milk or frozen banana ice creams (or “nice-creams” as some people refer to them.) A pleasant upside to this dietary change: I no longer have to scramble for a logical excuse to bolt from weekend brunch because my intestines are full of liquid burning magma. (aka: the huevos rancheros I ate 25 mins ago…) Sorry… not so lady-like. But it’s ugly the truth. My body was telling me for years that dairy was not compatible with me, and I failed to clue in and listen.
You can read more about how my body changed when I cut dairy out of my diet on this post.
Check in With Your Body Before Turning To Products to Solve Your Problems
Each person is different, so what causes my flare-ups may be different than yours. I have a friend who breaks out all over her body when she consumes sunflower oil and another who gets pimples from anything but the mildest soaps, creams, and detergents. Be sure you check for other external or internal triggers that may be the source of your spots. Detergents, shampoos, conditioners, treated fabrics, stress, hormones, sweat build up and even dehydrated skin can cause acne.
Image: Province Apothecary
// Province Apothecary – Clear Skin
Good for: Gentle, everyday treatment of acne-prone sensitive skin. Can be used long-term, under or over daytime and nighttime skin routine. Not drying on my skin, though for some skin types this is a known side effect. (My skin tends to be on the oily side.) The Province Apothecary website advises to use only as a spot treatment, but I’ve used this across my forehead and my jawline to relieve redness and swollen spots. For myself, I didn’t see a dramatic transformation of large angry pimples, but is an excellent option for those who don’t want to dry out their skin.
What to expect: A lovely smelling, light-weight oil-based spot treatment that naturally reduces swelling in breakouts and calms redness. It feels like you are wearing nothing!
Image: Andalou Naturals
// Andalou Naturals – WILLOW BARK PURE PORE SERUM
Good for: Treating large areas affected by acne. I use this for on-going blemish treatment if I feel a spot may be brewing under my skin. If you have jawline, forehead, shoulder, chest or lower torso acne, this gel is fantastic! I am on my second bottle. Andalou Naturals is available at Whole Foods in their natural beauty section, in most major green-beauty stores, and sometimes you can score it discounted at Winners. The entire line Clear Skin line from Andalou is great.
What to expect: A medium-potency gel serum that shrinks swollen pimples and prevents small pimples from getting larger. A non-drying formula, which is essential for those needing constant acne maintenance!
Image: Indie Lee
// Indie Lee – Blemish Stick
Good for: Immediate size reduction of swollen pimples. This solution will sting a bit and immediately start drying up the blemish. Because it is completely clear, you can wear it during the day with no one being the wiser. This is one of those acne treatments that will keep reducing the pimple’s size over the course of few days until it’s flat, dry and flakes off. Sweet!
What to expect: An easy to use, immediate results spot treatment. The wand applicator makes this a cinch to use. Hold the applicator tip on the blemish for up to 20 seconds to really penetrate the skin and start zapping the zit. It will burn. A lot. But, like, a good burn. Use it 2 – 3 times a day to more aggressively shrink a spot. It’s easy to toss in your bag and use on-the-go.
Image: May Lindstrom
// May Lindstrom – The Clean Dirt
Good for: Transforming acne prone skin with a combination of acne-calming ingredients and gentle physical exfoliation. This luxury face mask is more on the pricy side, but I find it very effective and it leaves my skin baby-fresh. Also, it’s pure product with no additives. Meaning unlike conventional mask treatments you buy at Sephora or other beauty shops, it does not contain water or preservatives. So you are not paying for water weight or fillers, which is great. It’s also one of the more affordable items from the May Lindstrom skincare line, so if you are looking for an introductory product from the brand, and you have acne-prone skin, I would start with this mask.
What to expect: A beautiful bottle full-to-the-brim of high-quality, exotic smelling clay and spices. You will need to add a teaspoon or more of the mask powder to a bowl and add a little water, then mix into a rich, whipped paste. Be careful to not add too much water! If you do, just add a little more powder to even out the texture. The product smells like an expensive spa treatment and works just as well as single-use treatments I’ve paid more than double for. Your skin will be soft, smooth and refreshed after using this delicious mask.
Image: Indie Lee
// Indie Lee – Blemish Lotion
Good for: Over-night reduction of swollen pimples. This works very similar to the Blemish Stick, but a little more concentrated. This “lotion” is great for treating those deep, painful pimples. You know the ones that you can’t quite see, but you can feel simmering and seething beneath the surface? Yeah… those ones. Any concentrated acne treatment is great for those. Use this one by Indie Lee only when you won’t be leaving the house, as you will have little pink clay spots on your face while the treatment is on.
PS: this is an exact dupe of the Kate Sommerville Blemish Lotion, but cruelty-free of course. I used to use that one for years to treat “the big ones” that surface occasionally on my face.
What to expect: Although labeled a “lotion,” it is not quite a lotion at all. It is a concentrated treatment liquid with a pink clay base. And they are MEANT to stay separated. Do not shake the bottle to combine the ingredients! It’s supposed to have the clear liquid on top, and the pink clay at the bottom. To use, drip a clean q-tip past the clear solution and into the clay, then pull straight up and apply to a blemish.
Image: Andalou Naturals
// Andalou Naturals – BLEMISH VANISHING GEL
Good for: Best for active, medium to large-sized, red pimples. It gets the job done! I save this little tube for when I have a really angry looking pimple that has a wide footprint. Meaning, the swelling is affecting the surrounding skin and causing the whole situation to look worse than it actually is. This brings the swelling and redness down in about an hour. This spot treatment is also very reasonably priced. And again, Andalou Naturals has a great acne-focused skincare line that can be found in Whole Foods and many other natural beauty shops.
What to expect: An intense spot treatment that can sting a bit when you apply it. I do find this very drying on my skin, so it is best to apply after a light moisturizer to prevent the spot from turning into a flaky bump. Using a moisturizer or hydrating serum will ensure that your spot is flat and smooth in the morning.
Image: Kiva on Amazon
// Raw, organic honey *non-vegan option
Good for: Calming existing acne, thoroughly cleansing the skin, and drying up pimples naturally, and on a budget. This was my go-to skin mask when I was in University because it really works! I have been trying to switch to vegan products, and this is obviously not suitable for those who follow a vegan lifestyle. But it is efficient, natural, super cost-effective, and tastes great! Just scoop right out of the jar with a clean spoon or knife, and smooth onto clean, slightly damp skin. Leave on for 8 -15 minutes, then wipe away with a damp washcloth or warm water. Just be aware that the whole process can be a bit messy & sticky, so be careful where you drip. (Clothing, surfaces, hair etc.)
Also follow up with a moisturizer, as this can be drying to the skin. Dry, tight skin can cause more little bumps, so don’t skip this!
What to expect: A relatively effective acne-treatment mask that smells amazing and won’t break the bank. Buy it at your local organic foods shop. DO NOT buy processed/squeezable honey, that’s not the same thing and will have absolutely no benefit for your skin! If you want the best, go for raw Manuka organic honey. For what it’s worth, researching the source will let you know which brands demonstrate goals for bee sustainability and bee re-population.
// pixi – Glow Peel Pads
Good for: Intense nighttime treatment of blemishes, bumps, uneven skin tone, large pores, and acne scars. This stuff is Heavy. Duty. It contains 20% Glycolic Acid to gradually increase the skin turnover of the top layer of the epidermis. (Translation: it’s a peel, as the name suggests.) Glycolic acid stings like all hell when it comes in contact with any type of bacteria or makeup residue. Which is great because it dissolves skin buildup immediately! These Glow Peel Pads are a miracle when I’m dealing with a full-on acne attack: various pimples in multiple locations. Ugh. Especially those little ones that come in like a rash along my jawline, chest, and shoulders when the seasons change. (Does anyone else get that…? Is it just me?)
What to expect: Immediate pimple size reduction, drying, and gradual skin resurfacing. Running one of these glycol pads over active acne spots will burn quite a bit, but it will shrink them and eat away any surrounding bacteria. I like to use these pads to help acne scars fade faster and to keep my skin sterilized when I have a breakout.
Note: You MUST rinse this treatment off THOROUGHLY after 2 -3 minutes. I recommend only using this treatment at nighttime since the glycolic acid will leave your skin sensitive to sun damage. Your skin may also be temporarily a little red and angry, but this will subside.
This treatment is also extremely drying. Make sure you follow up with a nourishing serum and moisturizer. Dry skin will only cause more breakouts, as your skin will produce more sebum (oil) to try to lubricate the parched outer layers of your skin. Be preventative, and apply a moisturizer after you use any treatment that strips your skin or causes dryness.
Tell me, have you tried any of these cruelty-free acne-fighting products? Do you have any favourites I missed?? Let me know below 🙂