Help! A Reader Struggles With Teen Skin

Oh the teenage years. The crushes. The battle with authority, limitations, and often—our own skin.

If you were anything like me between the ages of twelve and sixteen you struggled with oily skin and rude relentless breakouts. You also used harsh chemicals that promised to cure your acne but really just stripped your skin of its natural protective barrier, increased oiliness, and added inflammation and redness to the mix. Maybe you dashed into the bathroom between each class period to swab your face with extra concealer and powder, the poisonous kind. Add to that Molotov cocktail the frequent reapplication of lipstick in the uber-90s shades of coffee bean and rum raisin, which most assuredly fell under the frightening category of lipsticks that Alexandra wrote about last week. I shudder to think of the toxic load I carried around in my young, developing body. My hormones settled down, but I think often about my adolescent journey and wish I knew what I know now—that natural skincare has the gentle healing power I was seeking all that time.

The world is different than it was during my so-called life as a teen in the 90s. We have information at our fingertips, but it can be overwhelming to filter through it all and find real answers. This is why I jumped at the chance to share young Alexis’ question with you. Wise beyond her years, she knows that harsh products have caused even more damage to her delicate skin. She wants to go natural, but she’s a little overwhelmed with where to start.

Here is Alexis’ note…

I normally wouldn’t do this, and if you are too busy it’s no problem, but I’m looking for some help on creating a new skin care regimen with some natural, healthy products. I’m fifteen years old with the deadly combination of oily, acne-prone, and ultra sensitive skin, so finding products that work without hurting my skin is nearly impossible. I also am lost when it comes to natural skin care, as I’m a total newbie. I recently had a super-strange unidentifiable skin problem in the form of red, bumpy dry patches, (not unlike eczema, but definitely different), on my cheeks and other places. This led to my I Think My Skin Products Are Killing Me epiphany, so I decided it was time to switch up my generic brand skin care routine and try something that would actually stop hurting my skin (and maybe actually help it too!). I luckily came across your blog and have been perusing it for some time, but am starting to feel overwhelmed about finding new products. If you have any tips, particular helpful articles, or product recommendations, it would be so massively appreciated.

Thanks infinitely,


P.S. Also, pricing on products is no issue, as at this point I really just need something that works!

Let’s help Alexis find some simple, clean options that will get her through these tough years and allow her to establish a great self-care practice at an early age.

49 Responses to “Help! A Reader Struggles With Teen Skin”
  1. I am eighteen years old and I know how it feels like having “problem skin”. My skin is very sensitive too, that makes it even more difficult.
    What works quite well for me: is “The Clean Dirt” by May Lindstrom and “The Organic Treatment Oil” by Dr. Alkaitis.
    Another thing which works great for me is limiting my skin care. I don’t wash my skin two times a day with a cleanser for instance.
    I wish you all the best, lots of hugs and never forget to smile!

  2. Greta says:

    Oh man, I understand this completely. I definitely went through the stress of oily and acne-ridden skin when I was in high school. It led to several years of using harsh skincare products (Proactiv, anyone?), which I’m sure made my skin even worse.

    I would recommend starting over completely and doing a product detox of sorts. When I first switched to natural skincare, I started with S.W. Basics (then Sprout Skincare) because of their minimalist approach. It’s a very simple line, and I found that with my skin, fewer ingredients meant fewer opportunities for redness or breakouts. That helped immensely, and I’d say within 2-3 weeks my skin calmed down. I’m of the opinion that less is better when it comes to sensitive skin.

    I also think that avoiding makeup during the transition might help, and maybe looking into food allergens that could be causing problems. Best of luck!!

  3. Courtney says:

    Grape seed oil! Seriously. I wish I had known about it when I was 15 (quite some time ago now, but I won’t dwell). In addition to being a drier oil, It has a very high linoleic acid content, & seriously keeps pores clean. Used as a cleanser (massage a small amount into dry skin before rinsing with the help of a washcloth or emulsifier) and moisturizer as necessary (apply to slightly damp skin for better absorption), it is really wonderful. Keeps skin clean, balance, & somehow magically toned. While I wouldn’t recommend it for dry skin, it’s fantastic for oilier types.

    An occasional clay mask is invaluable too.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Hi Alexis, I just read your letter and even tough I’m 25 I still remember my horrific teenage years with acne, it was such a huge part of my life that I became an esthetician. I used to be a dairy lover in my youth and would drink milk by the gallons, there’s a study that shows that dairy has a connection with teenage acne. The hormones given to the cows actually over stimulate our own oil glands,:( so my diet had a lot to do with it!! I would drink more pop and milk than actual water, I was taken to the dermatologist and was given a million prescription oh oh my stars, my face was in so much pain!! My face couldn’t handle that intrusive of a treatment ! Although I’m still in retinol I only use it every 3 days and that works for my skin, I use a face wash that has a chemical exfoliant such as silysilic acid lactic or glycolic, I tone with an aloe Vera witch hazel toner ( fragrance free and alchohol free) and I moisturizer with jojoba oil, I have prescription benzoil peroxide but I only use it as a spot treatment, I team my face 2x a month and that did it for me, also look up face mapping , different areas of your face can breakout because a certain internal organ might not be functioning as well !!

  5. Alexis, my heart goes out to you, but I know you’ll land on the perfect clean combination for your skin, and I hope that some of the feedback you get here will help you avoid too much trial and error. Remember—less is more, especially with sensitive skin. My recommended routine:

    1. Don’t use a cleanser in the morning. Splash your face with water and perhaps use a Konjac sponge, but no cleanser. To refresh your face in the morning, also try a spritzing on a soothing and balancing hydrosol like Evan Healy’s Rose Geranium Hydrosol or Yuli Skincare’s Panacea Elixir.

    2. Despite having oily skin, it’s important to hydrate. When I was a teen, there’s no way I would have ever considered moisturizing with an oil. However, I learned so much about the balancing power of oils and that is the only type of moisturizer I use now. I have combination skin that tends to be oily in the t-zone. Using oils, like rosehip, tamanu, jojoba, argan, and grape seed, give my face the moisture it needs, have a super balancing affect on my skin, and are so healing and nourishing. There are lots of blends you can buy that are great for sensitive, oily skin, or you can go with single ingredients, like Kahina’s argan.

    3. At night, remove makeup and cleanse using the oil cleansing method. Again, counterintuitive at first to use oil on oily skin, but this will remove dirt without stripping your face—very important for controlling oil production—plus it’s gentle and you may not even need to moisturize after. You can make your own blend or buy ready made oil cleansing blends like Kari Gran’s or One Love Organics’ Vitamin B Cleansing Oil. After cleansing, spritz again with a hydrosol and apply an oil blend if extra moisture is needed. Can you tell I’m obsessed with oils? Spot treatments like the one from Osmia Organics are fantastic, gentle, natural remedies for any acne spots.

    4. Examine your diet closely. The minute I cut dairy out of my diet, my skin changed drastically. I occasionally eat cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, but I used to drink tons of milk and it was wreaking havoc on my complexion. Sugar is also really bad for your skin. When I eat a lot of it, it shows on my complexion the next day. A diet rich in vegetables like spinach will do wonders for skin. Also consider taking Evening Primrose Oil supplements, which hydrate, balance, and clear skin from the inside out.

    Best wishes finding the perfect balance!

  6. fern says:

    I feel your pain. I am in my late 20’s and I still have acne-prone skin (and have since I was about 15), but I have it largely under control with diet and clean products (it has gone from cystic to more manageable literally within the last six months or so). The things that made the biggest difference: manuka honey as a morning cleanser, SW Basics toner, Yuli Panacea Elixer, Osmia Organics Spot treatment (it really works! but so does tea tree or lavender essential oil), Yuli Skin Fuel, Kahina Argan Oil (I use this on my back for breakouts, but it wasn’t enough for my face), May Lindstrom Problem Solver mask, One Love Organics Brand New Day (very gentle face scrub) and Cleansing Oil (or the oil cleansing method) at night, and Curactin (a sulphur-based mask/spot treatment that works incredibly well). The Yuli products in particular dramatically reduce the lifespan of blemishes without irritation (Kahins’s argan oil does, too, but the Yuli works better on more difficult acne).

    I also don’t eat gluten, dairy, and soy and try to eat a plant-based diet (lot’s of vegetables and whole foods). The elimination of dairy made the most difference, with soy at a close second. My other piece of advice is to not go on the pill for acne. I did at about your age and that is part of the reason I’m still struggling with it (after going off of it). I have to balance my hormones now because I didn’t let my body figure it out when I was a teenager.

    Good luck!! :)

  7. Joy says:

    I’ve been there! Unfortunately when I was a teen, the green beauty industry didn’t really exist (pre-2000s if I might date myself a bit). I really think it’s about having a set routine (sleep, diet, exercise) because as a teen, your hormones are already more difficult to manage. For skincare if you’re on a teenage budget, SW Basics is definitely a great place to start. If you’d like really really great products, May Lindstrom’s Problem Solver is a great product to consider and you get a lot of use from that one LARGE bottle. I also think you should check out YULI skincare because their founders had similar skin issues as yourself and they have a product in each category for your skin type as a result of that, check out Panacea elixir, Skin Fuel, and Pure, this is what I’ve gifted my niece for her birthday and it did more for her skin than ProActiv ever did.

  8. Emma B says:

    I too struggled with this in my teens. There’s lots of good advice here already.
    I agree with paying attention to diet, though everybody is different and cutting out dairy didn’t really make a difference for me. Drinking plenty of water and eating lots of vegetables are safe bets in my opinion.
    I also second the recommendation for very simple skincare lines like SW Basics or Weleda Almond, and using a regular clay mask to unclog pores. I prefer the pink clay ones because they’re more gentle on sensitive skin.
    Finally, I would recommend that you implement these changes slowly, one by one. It takes time for skin problems to improve, so be patient and don’t expect skincare to be miraculous overnight. Importantly, avoid touching your face since that transfers bacteria onto it. Keep us posted on your progress!

  9. Maria says:

    Consider avoiding alcohol in products, specially if they come at the beginning of the ingredients list. Note that there are the so called fatty alcohols which are good. I’m 20, I have oily (now maybe combination :)), and when I switched to organics I used a line which had alcohol in most of the products, my skin was red and dehydrated, some weeks ago I gave up using them and started using honey for cleansing face or my mom’s cleanser and rose water toner, and the redness was gone and it’s much more clear. I noticed that if my skin is dehydrated it’s more likely to have breakouts, so you really shouldn’t worry about using very targeted acne products that perhaps will just dry out your skin.
    Consider your diet, give up cow milk (cow everything really), may a supplement would help, have oats for breakfast they are rich in zinc which is good to treat acne; also prefer sunscreens with zinc oxide instead of titanium…
    Pay attention to the way you scrub, how often and with what… You shouldn’t consider doing this for now, but if you will…. I haven’t found a scrub which I love yet, despite my mother’s….

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, Alexis, I know how this goes. I think it’s important to look at your diet, as others have mentioned. As soon as I cut out all dairy, my face cleared up on its own. My dermatologist recognized this and was quick to say that it may not work for everyone. I suggest removing all dairy from your diet for one month. See what happens. If you see no improvement, go ahead and add it back in. Also, try to cut back on refined sugar. Look to other sugars like honey and maple syrup to sweeten.

    Add in plenty of healthy omegas (eat fish once each week, take flax seed, and hemp hearts). Google ‘foods to prevent acne’ and you’ll find plenty of suggestions. Brazil nuts, arugula, and leafy greens are really good for your skin. And drink enough water daily!

    I’ll also echo the supplement idea. Talk to your doctor about zinc and vitamin e.

    Other than that, as tough as it sounds, try to relax about it. Your skin will never, ever be as bad as you imagine it to be in your head. We are our absolute worst critics. Good luck!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, one thing that I believe has really helped me? Acupuncture! I realize it may not be for everyone, but I transitioned off the pill (went on for cystic acne) and with the help of acupuncture, have gotten off with very little problems popping up on my skin.

  12. Anna says:

    Alexis, I went through something similar as a teen. If I could give one piece of advice it would be stay away from all harsh products, and all dermatologists’ “solutions”. I was on antibiotics, retin-A and all sorts of other things, and all I got was rosacea, which I still deal with. So not worth it.

    The best thing you can do is avoid all acids (glycolic acid, fruit enzymes, everything) and even retinols as they will all thin and break down your skin in the long run (despite giving good results at first). Since you have sensitive skin already, this is essential.

    Evan Healy has an anti-acne line which is supposed to be great. I use her sensitive skin products and have been happy with them. Her clay masks are amazing.

    I second Elizabeth’s recommendations on accupuncture, too, if you can afford it. I, too, find drinking cow’s milk is acnegenic. I am fine with cheese in moderation and yogurt, however, so you don’t necessarily have to cut all dairy out. Eating a well-balanced diet is best, and also getting lots of sleep and managing stress.

  13. Sydney says:

    Hey Alexis :)

    I definitely feel your pain. It’s really discouraging when you have hormonal and temperamental skin that seems to want to be completely unforgiving in every way but it’s important to remember that your skin does not hate you. I know this probably sounds weird but it’s true. As teenagers especially, we are told that we’re supposed to wash our faces twice a day with the most stripping of gel cleansers, douse our faces in alcohol filled toners, then ‘moisturize’ with an oil absorbing lotion that will most definitely make sure that no normal sign of life comes seeping out of your pores. We are made to believe that our skin is some crazy monster that needs to be tamed but the truth is that your skin wants to be as healthy and clear as you want it to be. Our bodies strive for health and skin is no different. I’ve been on a pretty long journey trying to figure my skin out and it never truly began in my eyes until I discovered the beautiful world of clean, natural beauty care. I don’t have everything figured out but I’m hoping my tips can give you some guidance and reassurance that clear, healthy skin is possible.

    *First off, I’m going to recommend that you oil cleanse. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of this before so I’ll explain the process and idea. The oil cleansing method is when you take an oil of your choice and massage it into dry skin (you can do this for about 2 minutes to however long you like) then take a soft washcloth and soak it in decently warm water, hold the warm washcloth to your face and begin to massage and wipe off the oil from your skin. One Love Organics Skin Shammy is a really good soft cloth to use. The idea is that like dissolves like. When we wash our faces with harsh cleansers, our skin is so stripped that it has to produce a ton of oil to compensate for the dryness. It turns out that we’ve just been creating more oil by accident. But like I said, like dissolves like, so oil dissolves oil. The oil cleansing method then leaves your skin more balanced over time with continued use. I’ve been oil cleansing for awhile now and I can tell you with honesty that it has saved my skin. For me, it has evened out my skin tone, balanced my oil production, and kept my skin properly moisturized. In terms of what oil to use, I’m going to recommend either almond oil or grape seed oil. Almond oil worked amazingly well with my skin and I think it could work well with yours too but grape seed oil is also a good option. I like to buy my oils online from a brand called Life-Flo. Also I should point out that oil cleansing does detoxify your skin so there may be an adjusting period and you might slightly break out but don’t worry, it’s just your skin clearing itself of the toxins :)

    *Now on to spot treatment- I’ve tried so many spot treatments (both natural and not) that I don’t even think I could remember them all and although there are some that are pretty good, I’m only going to recommend one thing…Lavender Essential Oil. It’s the best spot treatment that I have ever used. I’ve been using it for about 2 months now and it has taken care of every single pimple that has popped up on my face since then. Lavender oil is antibacterial which is really important when it comes to treating pimples. But it’s also important to remember that while lavender oil will help to get rid of the bumps, it doesn’t get rid of the scars that are left behind after they’re gone. Which brings me to my next tip….

    *Exfoliate! I’m going to recommend two different types of exfoliation… both physical and chemical…Exfoliate 1x – 2x a week using a gentle scrub. I use a homemade scrub of brown sugar and almond oil. You can do this prior to oil cleansing and should focus on areas where you have acne scars and marks. Also, I recommend using a natural chemical peel once a week. I love, love, love the Juice Beauty Green Apple peel. They have a sensitive version if you feel like the full strength one will be too harsh on your skin. This peel has reduced my acne and lightened my scars tremendously. Exfoliating is really important because it sloughs away those dead skin cells that may be clogging your pores and it also, with continued use, will help fade scars by revealing fresh skin that doesn’t have damage.

    I know that was kind of all over the place. So here’s all of what I just said formatted into a day/night routine:

    1. Oil cleanse your skin at night with a soft cloth and apply a drop of lavender essential oil onto your pimples. *I also recommend using a good clean eye cream at night, eyes tend to age so quickly so why not get a head start while you can :) I like Juice Beauty’s Smoothing Eye Concentrate*
    2. In the morning you can either oil cleanse again, splash some cold water on your face, or use some witch hazel with a cotton round to swipe your face. This is just to get rid of the excess oil/bacteria that may have accumulated on your face while you slept.
    3. 1x-2x a week exfoliate your face with a sugar scrub
    4. Once a week use a clean chemical peel like the Juice Beauty Green Apple peel.

    Alexis, I really hope that some of these tips are helpful to you. But no matter which direction you go just remember that it takes dedication and patience but it’s not impossible! I know that you’re gonna find a routine that’s perfect for you. Just listen to your skin and make healthy choices :) Also, welcome to natural beauty! You are real lucky to have had that epiphany so early in your life and your skin is going to thank you for it. If you have any questions at all don’t be afraid to ask, I’m more than happy to answer :) Good luck girl!

  14. Brit says:

    I am personally a big fan of MyChelle Products. They sell in Whole Foods and Online.

    They have a line designed for teens and have a Teen Skin Kit.

  15. kimberlyloc says:


    I’ve had acne since I was 12. I am not almost 28 and still deal with cystic acne, red pimples, whiteheads and blackheads. I used to be on RX acne treatments and bought 10% benzoyl peroxide, drying out my oily face only to have it freak out and produce more.

    My foray into natural beauty products was because I was searching for a cure after everything I tried in the mainstream and from the dermatologist didn’t work.

    Research on lead me to jojoba oil, and that was the first natural product that made a difference in my skin. I cleansed with jojoba oil, applied a light layer at night and used it as a moisturizer in the morning. It was amazing and worked wonders.

    I would strongly recommend oil cleansing with jojoba. You may experience the “purging” (aka it gets worse before it gets better), but it is worth it to stimulate your pores and clean everything out.

    Once you get used to jojoba oil, experiment with tea tree oil and lavender for soothing your pimples and skin. Dilute it with the jojoba oil.

    Finally, my miracle product that I’ve been preaching for a while now is Zum Rub in Frankinense and Myrrh from Indigo Wild. It is made with coconut oil and essential oils and it zapped my cystic acne. I actually have a cystic breakout on my jawline right now, and have applied the Zum Rub for two days. It is shrinking in size. It really works. Go to my blog (my name “kimberlyloc” is linked on my comment) and search for Zum Rub.

    I promise these two things will work! I believe simplicity is key, and you really don’t need a ton of fancy, magical products to control acne. However, a weekly mask (May Lindstrom The Problem Solver, Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel, Jurlique Enzyme Exfoliator, pure manuka honey) can help decongest your skin.

    Please keep us updated and feel free to email me about product recommendations for acne! Trust me, I know your story because I was // am also that girl.

  16. Alix says:

    I still struggle with these issues at 26, so thanks to everyone who’s provided such specific tips.

    Fern, I’m interested that Curcatin worked for you–can you elaborate more on how you use it? I wrote to NMDL to see if they had any input/reviews on it, but never heard back. Thanks so much!

  17. fern says:

    @Alix: I use Curactin as an all-over mask (applied with my fingers to damp skin – a little really does go a long way) for 20 minutes when the breakouts are really bad and as a spot treatment (applied with a Q-tip) overnight sometimes. I have used it daily for a couple of weeks, but I found it was better every other night or every third night to give my skin a rest in between – it worked better when I didn’t use it every day, which echoes the thought that you shouldn’t torture your skin. :) The ingredient list is clean except for contamination concerns with grapefruit seed extract and honeysuckle extract, I think. I find the website to be a bit over the top, too, but the product is quite fantastic, so I ignore that part.

  18. JKToth says:

    The one nice thing about having acne for so long is knowing that there is a supportive community out there for tips and suggestions!

    I am a convert to the Oil Cleansing Method (right now rice bran oil and castor, no EEs) and moisturize with a jojoba, tamanu and EE blend. I love chamomile and lavender for day, lemon for evening. My husband is even on the bandwagon! We both have such brighter skintones.

    I also agree with cutting out dairy as much as possible. I take a supplement of fish oil that helps with moisture and perform weekly clay masks. The MOST AMAZING spot treatment I have ever used is Neem oil mixed with french/green clay. Flattens pimples OVERNIGHT. I have tried Differin, antibiotics, birth control pill, Proactiv, glycolic acid, sulfur, salicylic acid, you name it. Nothing works like Neem for me. Unfortunately resolving acne is so personal; one treatment does not work for everyone.

    Good luck and hang in there!!!

  19. Julia says:

    Hey Alexis :]

    I’m 22 and have had acne since 15 and nothing has helped. I’ve tried over the counter acne treatments (Proactive) and prescription (benzoyl peroxide wash/gel/cream, doxycycline, tretinoin cream, and isotretinoin (brand names: Accutane, Amnesteem)). All of these treatments gave me very dry and sensitive skin and as soon as the treatments were finished the acne came back. I even tried taking supplements (probiotics, fish oil, vitamin D/calcium tablets). Then I tried cleaning out my skin care and makeup products.
    I started using only RMS Beauty makeup. I bought Intelligent Nutrients shampoo/conditioner. I changed my Dove body wash to Dr. Bronner’s unscented baby-mild bar soap. I stopped washing/exfoliating my face and started “cleansing” with RMS Beauty coconut oil and then wiping my face with a cloth. I also started moisturizing my face daily with the RMS Beauty oil.
    And guess what? Acne. Never. Went. Away.
    I was one pimple away from crying until my friend told me to try the Primal/Paleo diet. On this diet you mainly eat animal (beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, etc.) and plants. Grains, dairy, and legumes are eliminated. I hated this diet at first because I’m a huge sugar junky and looooove bread. After 2 months my acne slowly started going away and my skin is no longer severely dry.

  20. Sean says:

    Work to develop an awareness of how your body responds to your diet, stress levels, and hormonal changes like your monthly cycle (esp. since acne is hormonally-based). Once you can point the finger at, say, those luscious brownies that you scarfed down last night, you can choose an appropriate product or lifestyle change (sorry, brownies)! Here’s a well-researched article about the relationship between milk and sugar on acne: . Do your best to examine claims so you can know if someone (the beauty industry) is trying to pull a fast one, or has your best interests in mind.

    Like Kimberly said, you don’t need oodles of products. Try one product at a time to know if it’s actually effective, which is also cost-effective for your wallet. Spirit Beauty Lounge will sell you nine samples for $25, which is a nice way to try the beloved May Lindstrom ($$$!):

    Sugar riles up my acne so I keep consumption to a minimum (it’s better nutritionally anyhoo). Then I’ll topically apply Wedderspoon’s 16+ Manuka Honey to breakouts as often as needed. I’m 21 and fighting off the vestiges of my teenage acne, all thanks to NMDL. Read their book if you haven’t already! It’s important to know how products and their ingredients interact with your body. Otherwise, it’s just a crapshoot. Good luck, Alexis!

  21. Sean says:

    Let me try again. Here’s that elusive, well-researched article is its natural habitat:

  22. Sydney says:

    Alexis- I knew I forgot to mention something! I just wanted to let you know that I don’t recommend chemical peels for long term use. A weekly chemical peel is probably best used only as ‘treatment period’ where you are doing some intense treatments to get rid of the bulk of your acne or scars then you continue with a healthy daily skin regime. For example I have been using the Juice Beauty peel for about 3 months, roughly once every 2 weeks but once I finish the jar I won’t be continuing the treatment so I don’t overwork my skin. I’d recommend that if you do use a peel, use it consistently for maybe 2 months then replace it with weekly treatment clay masks like Acure Organics Cell Stimulating Facial Mask or even a DIY one with Aztec Indian Healing Clay and rose water.

    Just wanted to put that out there :)

  23. Silvy says:

    Loads of great advice here! I can definitely sympathize with you, Alexis, and I must echo the sentiment that simplification is best. I think finding a basic oil that your skin likes will be the best place to start- almond oil has been great for my teenage cousin, or some good recs above (jojoba may work well too, and you can experiment with adding tamanu or seabuckthorn, but would stay away from essential oils, especially if your skin is inflamed). Other than that, rose water and maybe a little bit of diluted apple cider vinegar as a night treatment couple times a week should do it! Also sleep plenty, and switch out dirty pillow cases often!

    Oh yeah, zinc oxide is fantastic for healing blemishes! I use the Badger Daily sunscreen as a morning moisturizer every day, and I’ve stopped getting even small pimples! Helped when I was younger as well. I recommend that one specifically because it doesn’t have beeswax or titanium dioxide, both of which tend to clog pores (from my experience). So, a simple oil, a flower hydrosol, apple cider vinegar, and Badger Daily zinc sun cream should be a great place to start!

  24. Eve says:

    I’ve said it before in the comments and I’ll say it here – Evan Healy is an excellent place to start.

    Her website is incredibly comprehensive, she has a few lines for all different skin types, and her products are a great introduction to the sorts of basics you will find in most clean skin care lines (gentle cleanser + hydosol + oil = magic combination).

    Also, her price point is moderate, and her stuff is readily available at most Whole Foods and Sprouts, if you have those near you.

    I’m easily overwhelmed by an influx of information so I thought it might be helpful to offer a steadfast starting point.

    Best of luck!!

  25. Alexis says:

    I just wanted to say so many thanks to everyone who has commented. This has been a *huge* help and I’m really excited to go try out some new stuff! It means so much to me how willing everyone is to help and the recommendations and tips seem spot on!
    Thanks again:)

  26. Jo says:

    I hope you read this comment too, Alexis, because there is one more thing that you should definitely try: cleansing your face with HONEY! It made a huge difference for me when I started doing it, because even though your skin feels thouroughly cleansed, it still feels really soothed and nourished at the same time. I had pretty bad skin too; oily + dry + acne… But at least now the dryness and the acne are gone! The oiliness I can live with, it’s just my skin type I guess, and hey, they say those skin types age the best any way! :-D

    (Honey also has about a zillion other skin benefits, which I won’t even get into here since it would take all day – so just Google it instead!) :-)

  27. KC says:

    Oh how I wish I had today’s natural skincare products and knowledge when I was your age! There are endless products at all price points, you may need to play around a bit to find what works for you. I’m much older than you, but have been dealing with the same issues recently. This is what has worked for me…
    Monthly professional facials with an esthetician who uses predominantly natural skincare
    Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, twice per week. I mix apple cider vinnegar and a little raw hney w/ it. (about $8 @ Whole Foods)
    Mychelle pumpkin peel, once per week ( whole foods)
    Oil cleansing at night as others have mentioned, I make mine using equal parts castor oil and grape seed oil with a couple drops of tea tea and lemongrass oil. I follow this with Rhonda Allison Beta Green Tea cleanser that has salicylic and Shea butter so it’s effective but not drying
    Thayers rose aloe witch hazel toner
    Medicine mama sweet bee magic (whole foods), I use this as a moisturizer morning and night, you need just a little tiny bit, great product with multiple uses.
    I also use a homemade serum with Argan, jojoba, grape seed, tamanu, rosehip, sea buckthorn, and lemongrass oils at night
    Skinscript glycolic retinal pads every other night
    Rhonda Allison arnica therapy, great for reducing swelling on cystic acne
    Apple cider vinegar for spot treatment

    My skin is clearer than it has been in years, glowy even. be patient with whatever regimen you choose, it takes time to see results. Hope this helps. Good luck!

  28. Lauren says:

    There are so many good suggestions here but thought I would quickly add mine. I had acne in my teens that was treated with meds and I’d been acne-free until last year (I’m now 21) when my acne returned with a vengeance much to my horror. I had already made the switch to clean products a couple of years ago, and I’ve done quite a lot of acne-specific trial and error during this past year. To cut a long story short, what has worked for me is cleansing with the Dr Alkaitis cleanser (removed with a warm muslin cloth for exfoliation now and then) followed by the Dr Alkaitis soothing gel in the evening. If you choose the Dr Alkaitis cleanser you’ll need something else to remove mascara – I use a little jojoba oil which is really effective and I think it conditions eyelashes too. I sometimes quickly cleanse my whole face with jojoba if I’m wearing a lot of makeup and then go on to use the Dr Alkaitis.

    I tend to leave my skin alone as much as possible in the morning, just a quick splash or cool cloth as this is the best way to keep it looking nice and calm. I would apply the soothing gel again if there was an active spot. That’s it really – then I’ll just use a tinted moisturizer, followed by makeup etc. I have rms products but I can’t really recommend the un-coverup for acne, in all honestly my tinted moisturizer isn’t all that clean so I won’t mention what it is. The Alkaitis has really sorted out my jawline acne, I feel confident that it’s completely under control now. I’ve tried most of the range and I don’t love the Alkaitis oil as it seems to make my skin itch a little, but my skin is very sensitive. I also don’t like the cream moisturizers from the same range that much either – but the cleanser and soothing gel are very good for me and seem to be enough. Saying that, massaging an oil (like rosehip) into any left over marks or scars before bed works well and also adds some extra hydration. I think simplicity has worked best for me. Obviously diet is an important thing to look at too – main things for me are cutting out milk and sugar as much as possible and adding in lots of raw greens (greens were hard for me at first but they *really* made a difference to my skin).

    Let us know what you decide and how you get on!

  29. Lara says:

    I cannot say enough good things about Juice Beauty’s Clear Skin kit. They have a starter kit for $40 that includes the cleanser, serum, moisturizer and a peel that you do two times a week. It’s nice because the whole regimen comes as a package so you’ll know right away if it works for you. Also, the JB oil-free SPF 30 moisturizer is amazing and doesn’t irritate the skin or make you break out. It’s an additional product to buy but totally worth it. Good luck!

  30. Joy says:

    Alexis I feel your pain! I haven’t read all the responses here so apologies if I’m repeating. I started with cystic acne when I was 12, had roaccutane at 17 which cleared it up for a whole year (!!) and then again until about a year ago when I got fed up of listening to doctors and ‘specialists’ tell me dumb things and sell me crap that made my face hurt. So I overhauled my beauty routine. I’m 24 now and I now almost get happy when I get a spot because a)it happens so very rarely and b)I can be pretty much guaranteed that it will be gone in about two days. This is crazy for me who once had a giant cyst on my cheek (of all places) for four years!

    I live in Ireland so I have no product recommendations for you. I literally just buy what I can get my hands on without having to pay a fortune in shipping (but I am a big fan of the Acure range). When I started being clean though, I didn’t use any products anyway and that is what I had the most success with really. Finding a clean routine that suits you is usually an experiment but you will get there eventually and it will be worth it!

    First of all, limit your routine. I used to be obsessed with keeping my face ‘clean’. I would wash it in the morning, after school and again at night with some medicated wash usually. When I started trying to fix my skin naturally, the first thing that went was this ridiculous habit. I started washing only at night and only with good quality manuka honey (and now I just use regular raw honey). I also made a homemade toner spray with thyme and lemon which helped a lot too. I tried to add a teeny bit of apple cider vinegar to that toner once because I’d heard it was great but I found it too harsh for my skin and went back to my old recipe. Since I usually shower in the morning, I figure a quick splash of cool water before I get out will do me for then. I made a promise not to wear any foundations or cover ups. I also, and I’m convinced this helped because I had been so ashamed of my skin for so long, told my girlfriends that I was going through a hard time with my skin and was trying something new. They were all super supportive and passed along any information they came across about clean skincare.

    Oil is not the scary thing you have probably been led to believe for your skin. I use a facial oil every night that I make myself with jojoba oil and it has helped massively with the texture of my skin and the residual scarring. The only very bad scar I have left is from that nasty four year cyst and I’ve made my peace with it, it will go in time. I usually use coconut or grapeseed oil to take my makeup off now (be careful with coconut, it breaks a lot of people out but I I usually follow it up with honey and I’ve never had an issue with it).

    I used to use a green clay mask once a week, now I use it far more rarely although that’s partially because I have to order the clay online and I get lazy about that. Green clay can be very drying but it also did wonders for my skin. I made sure to moisturise well with oil afterwards. If you buy the clay in dry form rather than a premade mask you can add some essential oils (if you’re not too sensitive for it) and get the benefits of those too.

    Diet is important but will be an experiment too! I had to cut dairy out completely at first (I’m lactose intolerant anyway so it was mostly fine but man, I love cheese) but now I can have some greek yoghurt or a teeny bit of hard cheese without any issues. Lots of people swear by removing gluten or grains in general but I never had any difference from that. Make sure you’re getting your good fats though! Avocado, nuts and flax seeds are my favourite way to add this – I swear I’ve been more glowy since I developed an avocado addiction!

    I hope we’ve all helped a bit and I hope you also know that a lot of us have struggled with stuff like this and come out the other side. It’s great that you’ve had your epiphany at such a young age too, I can’t tell you how much I wish I had known what I do now when I was fifteen! Good luck with your journey!

  31. Daisy says:

    What cured my acne during my teens was pure black soap and it cost about $3. I would wash my face with black soap and then moisturize with shea butter. I recommend a moisturizing oil instead like Argan oil or Grape seed oil. Make sure to get unrefined. They are both inexpensive. Another great investment to detox your skin is bentonite clay (The popular one is the Aztec/Indian healing clay) which is about $6. It was a very affordable and effective regimen for me. I think a lot of people are severely ignoring the price point. As a teen, when I would use a “dirty” moisturizer, it would be clinique dramatically different and at that time, I thought it was very expensive at $24 and only splurged once in blue moon.

    I also recommend oil cleansing. There are times your skin is oily but you’re getting dry patches. At those times, I’d use a honey and oatmeal mask or I’d oil cleanse. Oil cleansing sounds like it would clog your pores and do nothing but I found it hydrated my skin and really removes any gunk.

  32. Coco says:

    Best and most effective treatment I have ever used is a homemade clay mask with oil of oregano,
    its detoxifying, cooling and most importantly shows results after only two or three times.

    2 tsp of green clay
    1 tsp of neem powder
    2 tbsp of quark
    2 drops of oil of oregano (never more!)

    mix it all together with a bit of water, apply on skin for 20 minutes and rinse off.
    You can use this every day and should keep the mask in the fridge.
    All the best

  33. Rebecca Bailey says:

    May Lindstrom’s Problem Solver once a week (can use this on chest and back too, if needed)
    Evan Healy makes a neem oil, haven’t tried it but it’s part of what I have my son using
    Manuka honey
    Look into Blissoma products, their ultra-sensitive line’s Free cleanser is a great and they have many wonderful things
    Today’s review of Annmarie Gianni’s acne oil – check it out, this is another thing I got my son started on recently (he’s 12 but more like 15-16 in development)
    All the best!

  34. Linka says:

    I really sympathize. My skin in HS wasn’t great and I wish I had this website 10 years ago so I would know what to do. I over stripped with horrible chemical filled cleanser and refused to moisturize, which of course made my face 10x more irritated. I’m 26 now and still am very breakout-prone. Here is what really seems to do the trick:

    1. Green clay or May Lindstrom’s mask 1-2x per week. I feel like this is most important to unclog pores and draw all the toxins out of your skin.
    2. SW Basics toner morning and evening (or I sometimes make my own with raw ACV and witch hazel, with a few drops of tea tree oil.
    3. I don’t cleanse in the morning, just toner, but i do an oil cleanse at night to get my makeup off.
    4. I moisturize morning and evening w/argan oil, either Josie Maran or Kahina. This really keeps my skin balanced and hydrated and plump. I actually have pretty oily skin but this really keeps it happy.

    And of course you must watch your diet. Dairy & sugar are the worst. As soon as I eliminated that from my diet my skin got better. Sleep, exercise and a good diet are so crucial!

    I wish you the very best in your clear skin quest!

  35. Naomi says:

    For the people recommending lavender essential oil as a spot treatment – are you using the pure, undiluted stuff directly on the spot? I’d like to try this remedy but not sure if I need to play junior chemist before putting it on my skin… Help!

  36. stepheni says:

    Alexis- I understand your pain. I am 32 now, and in the past few years have just started to figure out my skin issues! I went on accutane as a teenager- needless to say, that was a terrible experience. I commend you for trying to take a natural approach to deal with your acne- you will be so much healthier for it in the long run! Okay, so you already hav a sea of great advice above, so I am only going to echo some of the things already said.
    1. Look at your diet. I have celiac disease (severe issues with gluten and other grains) and when I finally figured it out, my skin got way better after going gluten free. Also, I am not allergic to dairy at all, but man does it make me break out- so I avoid it mostly. You may have no food allergies, but it can’t hurt to do an elimination diet and see if anything flares up your skin when you reintroduce it- gluten, sugar, dairy and soy being the things I would focus on.
    2. Start oil cleansing. I saw that someone posted about it above- I use a 50/50 mixture of castor oil (which pulls the gunk out of your pores) to olive oil, but the castor oil may be too drying for you (I know that sounds counter intuitive, but with oily sensitive acne prone skin, you need to baby it, not over dry it), so grapeseed oil on its own, or almond oil, would probably work great.
    3. Look for a facial oil (again, I know, oil on acne?! but trust me) that is specifically formulated for problem (ie acne, sensitive) skin- I like the annmarie gianni line and the YULI line. Both are great, and have formulas that might help you.
    4. It always helps to drink more water and eat more leafy greens. Also, a burdock root or dandelion root tea (make sure they are organic) will help your kidneys and liver to detox gently, and help support your skin.
    5. My biggest tip- do not go on the pill! I started taking it for hormonal issues at 17, and had been on it since until I turned 30, and it only aggravated my hormones in the long run, and was hell getting off of it. It is best to figure out what is causing your acne and support your body then dampen your hormones by taking artificial ones (just my person opinion from my experience, has nothing to do with the preventing pregnancy aspect of it)
    Good luck! you are on the right path :)

  37. M says:

    I know these posts are supposed to be helpful, but over 30 people recommending over 30 solutions to problem skin is just overwhelming. If I was Alexis, I would not know where to start. Best to just consult a professional and get recommendations based on someone actually looking at your skin.

  38. Anna says:

    Alexis, I forgot to mention, you may want to try cutting out chocolate for a month and see if that makes a difference. Then do the same with nuts. For whatever reason, both of them can cause really bad pimples in certain people.

    Also, I see some people have recommended peels. I would be REALLY hesitant about doing this with sensitive skin. I really ruined mine using those sorts of things. The most gentle is the best! You will thank yourself a decade from now if you treat your skin gently.

  39. Sydney says:

    @Naomi Yes I use the pure undiluted essential oil on my spots. I know that a lot of people recommend diluting it with an oil and say that you should never use undiluted essential oils on skin but I find that it works best when used directly. It is slightly drying but I think that is part of why it works so well. I can use it on my spots then a couple of days later, exfoliate off the dry part that was once my blemish :) You may want to try it both ways and see what you like.

  40. Rebecca Bailey says:

    @Naomi, I use it undiluted sometimes. I’m sensitive and it doesn’t bother me, but generally speaking EOs should be diluted. Often I mix a drop or two into my clay mask to dilute it.

    @Erin, I’ve been reading about that on and off for many years, and I feel like I’m really happy using a good quality lavender on my skin. When I first found out about the hormone issue, I stopped using lavender in soaps, etc., that my family (and at the time baby son) also used.

  41. nicolem says:

    Hey Alexis,

    I actually came around to natural beauty products because already in my late 20s, my skin was/is still convinced I’m still a teenager! For me, price IS a huge factor. I also am constantly overwhelmed by keeping up with all the ingredients to avoid, so I’ve defaulted more and more to using very simple things on my body, which is just easier and actually cheaper as well. While my skin isn’t perfect, it is VASTLY better than it used to be. As a teen and adult, I had bad cystic acne, went through not one, but two rounds of Accutane and took a whole slew of various antibiotics prior to resorting to Accutane…and I think that the drugs just made things worse.

    Cleaning up my routine really helped a LOT. I was hesitant about oil cleansing, but now I absolutely adore it. (I learned to be careful about what I’m wearing when using oil though…anything with oil needs dish soap to remove the spot..) I do still wear foundation and makeup (although the foundation is beginning to be more about dark circles than covering up angry red spots!), and I have come to so look forward to slathering on my castor oil at night to wipe everything away gently and effortlessly – oil is such a beautiful make-up remover. My skin is left dewy and soft, never tight. For a while, that was all I did at night, and I noticed that I would wake up LESS oily in the morning than I used to! Sometimes I’ll spot treat with tea tree oil (I use it neat, and have never had issues, but perhaps it’s diluted somewhat because of the castor oil that I just used?), and I’ve been experimenting with rose oil as well to help with redness (diluted in Jojoba). In the morning, I simply shower as usual and just splash some water on my face. Afterwards, I just use some extra virgin coconut oil (which is pretty much amazing anywhere on the body). I’m slowly building up an arsenal of essential oils to play with for scent and also for their different benefits that I can mix in as I choose. Good luck! I hope you and your body sort things out sooner than I did!

  42. Ann says:

    I use pure thyme extract (best brand around) on damp skin, and it’s just the best thing possible. This toning mist is amazabells.
    Also experimenting with a homemade oil blend and will send it in soon.

  43. Ann says:

    and oh–if you’re having a hard time with all that “eat your greens” advice, go ahead and cheat by taking Macro Greens (of course it wouldn’t hurt to eat the actual leafies as well).

  44. Bettina says:

    Hi Alexis,

    I too suffer from the woeful combination of acneic and sensitive skin, and in my teens I tried everything under the sun to get it under control. I think all of the harsh stuff I used ultimately made my skin more reactive, so I’m glad to hear you’re taking steps toward a clean regimen. This will do wonders for your face!

    I love all kinds of products, but to be honest, the best thing I’ve ever done was ditch them altogether (even the clean ones) in favor of cleansing my face with raw honey. I use diluted apple cider vinegar for toning, and coconut oil to remove makeup. My skin has never looked better.

    Good luck!

  45. chamille says:

    I can tell you what worked for me (I have sensitive acne prone skin)…although I recommend stopping EVERYTHING you use now for a week, so your skin can detox a bit.

    – no more milk (I substitute it with yogurt) and less cheese
    – no cleanser in the morning, just water and a small sponge
    – fish oil supplements
    – no alcohol in products (some products have Alcohol as the second or third ingredient in the INCI list..unfortunately it just irritates my skin)
    – thermal waters and toners, you can never get enough
    – the best masks for skin in my opinion are KHADI (I don’t know if available worldwide)
    – no oils. Loved by many…I tried many… my skin just hates them

    Hope that helped. Also… I think that incorporating a healthy skincare regimen to a healthy life is very helpful but during our adolescent years most of our skin problems are hormonal and will sort themselves out!

    The best of luck

  46. Nina says:

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  48. Jas says:

    Hey there,
    I’m a 16 year old female reader and I’ve struggled with acne since I was 12. I used to have very bad, cystic acne on the forehead and used benzoyl peroxide to control it. However, this eventually stopped working for me. I transitioned into using pure tea-tree oil and lavender essential oil. I use these together as a powerful acne busting topical treatment. My skin is rather tough and I don’t find these undiluted oils irritating at all.
    Another really, REALLY powerful acne destroyer is a Chinese herbal oil called Hong Hua You (red flower oil). I warn you this is really, really strong but kills certain acne in less than a day. This will sting a little, so I do not recommend it for sensitive skin. It’s extremely antibacterial and kills germs in no time.

  49. LIZ says:

    I rarely used anything on my face and never had a problem – until I tried using something. Turns out most cleansers, shampoo and toothpaste has sodium laureth sulfate in it – which a lot of people are allergic to. Causes me to break out. I also get really dry skin when I have dairy.

    I’d highly recommend cutting out SLS and checking for allergies.

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