If scientists can decipher the human genome, you’d think they could find a way to eradicate acne. No such luck. It’s up to you to deal with the outbreaks that can damage your pride of appearance long after teenage angst is past. When a pimple rears its ugly black, white, or red head, over-the-counter products can help. But so can simple remedies from Mother Nature’s medicine chest.
Your first options against acne
• The first avenue of assault is an over-the-counter cream or gel formulated with benzoyl peroxide. It works by mildly irritating the skin, which encourages dying skin cells to flake off. This helps reopen clogged pores. Benzoyl peroxide also kills the bacteria that infect clogged pores.
• Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic acid, slough off the outermost layer of skin, which helps keep pores clear and unclogged. Opt for a cream, lotion, or gel that contains 8% glycolic acid.
• At the first hint of a pimple, wrap an ice cube in a piece of plastic wrap and hold it to the area at least twice a day—every hour, if you can, but for no longer than five minutes each time. The cold will reduce the redness and ease the inflammation.
• Pop an aspirin or two. Taking one or two 325-milligram tablets four times a day can help calm an acne outbreak by reducing inflammation. (Check with your doctor before taking aspirin regularly.)
Try alternative acne treatments
• Three times a day, dab a drop of tea-tree oil on blemishes to discourage infection and speed healing. Research has found that 5% tea-tree oil is as effective against acne as a 5% benzoyl peroxide solution.
• For acne that flares at that time of the month, drink one to two cups of chasteberry tea a day. Some studies show that this herb helps regulate female hormones. Give the herb two or three months to work. And don’t drink copious amounts of the tea to hasten the results—it may make your skin look worse.
• Dab vinegar or lemon juice on pimples. All vinegars contain acids that can help flush out pores—so does lemon juice.
• An old folk remedy for healing pimples is to use a mixture of spice and honey on them. Combine 1 teaspoon powdered nutmeg and 1 teaspoon honey, and apply it to the pimple. Leave on for 20 minutes, then wash off. There’s no proof that this helps, but honey does have antiseptic properties.
• Apply aloe vera. One study found that 90 percent of skin sores were completely healed with aloe vera within five days.
• Think zinc. People with acne tend to have lower than normal zinc levels. Zinc supplements produce visible improvement in about a third of people who take them. You’ll need high doses, though—between 200 and 600 milligrams daily—so take it only under your doctor’s supervision.
The power of prevention
• If you keep skin free of dirt and excess oil—the thinking goes—perhaps your pores will never get clogged. But over-cleansing can cause acne by making your sebaceous glands produce more oil. Forgo granulated cleansers. And avoid washcloths; they are abrasive and can accumulate bacteria if you reuse them. Instead, use a disposable cleansing cloth.
• Make a skin-cleansing solution to help clear up blackheads. Add one teaspoon of epsom salt and three drops of iodine to one half-cup of water and bring it to a boil. Let cool. Dip in a clean cotton pad and use it to clean the pores.
From 1,801 Home Remedies (Reader’s Digest)