If you’re suffering from acne, chances are you’ve been given a vast amount of confusing and sometimes contradictory advice. Maybe you’ve been told by one anti-acne brand that you absolutely must use their acid peel, while you’ve been told by another brand that their super clarifying toner is the only way to go. Then there’s the baffling cornucopia of prescription facial gels and lotions that you may have dabbled in, the online ecosystem of advice and how-tos, and the well meaning comments from friends and family who share their tried n’ true pimple banishing strategies.
While there’s no one size fits all (skin types) solution, it’s important to be able to distinguish between good advice, and counterproductive ‘acne myths.’ The myth we’re busting today is that you can’t use a natural face cleanser for acne.
Yes, yes you can use a natural face wash for acne.
In fact, opting for natural plant chemistry when it comes to battling acne is a smart approach that will help you avoid super stripped, dried and irritated skin, which can ultimately make your acne look and feel worse. Many conventional acne products rely on harsh compositions and alcohols. These aren't the answer. They’ll often leave you with a compromised lipid layer, and vulnerability to more impurities and bacteria entering into your pores. Drug store formulas are often far too harsh for sensitive skin on the face, causing inflammation, broken capillaries, and excessively dry skin. Exfoliating beads you’ll find in scrubs meant to ‘slough’ away pore plugs can be similarly damaging. They’re often comprised of beads that are too large and too rough, effectively producing micro-tears in your epidermal layer. And alcohol based toners of yesteryear seriously dry out your skin, ultimately encouraging your pores to excrete more excess oil in order to stay hydrated and protected. Dryness and discomfort are the result, plus breakouts in the T-zone that come from sebum overproduction.
In other words: it’s not the natural stuff that you need to steer clear of. It’s the super harsh drugstore facial cleansers and exfoliants that you should be nixing from your daily routine.
That said, finding the right cleanser is absolutely essential. Washing your face daily is probably the single most important ritual for smart acne care. With the right formula, an AM and PM wash will remove debris from clogged pores, dead skin cells, bacteria, and pollutants. Regular face cleansing is also super key for helping your epidermal layer absorb active ingredients and hydrants, which you should be applying post cleanse. If you’re applying a moisturizer or serum before you’ve adequately cleansed, you’re not going to experience absorption, or reap the benefits of the product.
Then there are the pH and lipid factors. Keeping your skin gently cleansed allows it to work at its optimal equilibrium, with the right pH balance and acid levels, and healthy amounts of lipids that keep your dermis protected but not too greasy. To check all these boxes, try our favorite everyday cleanser for acneic skin: the super nourishing Nopal Cactus Cleanser. The organic aloe water base is great for reducing redness and inflammation, and the nopal cactus extract contains skin-loving vitamins E and K (both key for skin cell turnover) and linoleic acid (known for its skin brightening properties). Other allstar natural ingredients in the formula are cedarwood bark oil (antibacterial), bergamot fruit oil (full of vitamin C), and green tea leaf extract (for antioxidants).
While washing is super important, it’s also important not to overdo it. Over-washing is something we’re all guilty of, in part due to the misconception about what clean skin feels like. The term ‘squeaky clean’ is misleading. Skin should not feel squeaky, taut, and raw after you’ve cleansed it. It should feel refreshed, but definitely should still have a ‘skin’ texture to it (yes, that means some natural oil should remain). Knowing your skin’s red flags and limits is important in avoiding this ‘squeaky’ scenario. Over-washing can cause rashes, which you should take as a sign that your skin barrier has been compromised. Acne in unexpected places is another sign you might be over-cleansing. Without your skin’s essential oils, it can’t adequately slough off dead skin, which builds up and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
To keep things gentle but still effective, try opting for a natural sponge to apply your nightly cleanser with. Manual exfoliation action is a key prong to any anti-acne regime, effectively stimulating circulation, loosening debris in the pores, and unclogging hair follicles and early stage blackheads. Using a natural facial sponge will reveal the smoother and more radiant layer of skin that’s hiding beneath the dull and tough outer layer. It can be more effective than fingers alone, which also run the risk of transferring bacteria from your hands to your face.
To really amp up your cleanse, try a konjac sponge or natural sea sponge. They’ll help you build up a ‘lather’ of product ( sans sulfates) and are incredibly soft for extra gentle exfoliation that won’t cause inflammation. They’re generally softer than the range of silicone brushes that are available at drugstores, and are also an effective alternative to super high price point cleansing brushes. Our verdict is that sponges come out on top when it comes to exfoliating acne, but cleansing with your hands can also be effective if you’re looking to go the route of facial massage. This can be great for lymphatic drainage and reducing swelling around the eyes.
What does this all add up to? Being kind and gentle to your skin! Battling acne doesn’t actually have to be a battle, and using soothing ingredients and methods will actually get you to clearer skin way more effectively then taking the aggressive route.
Give it a try - you’ll be pleasantly surprised.