Having to deal with acne when you’re also wrestling with the demands of toddlers, teenagers or maybe even perimenopause is just plain wrong. It’s also a particularly modern dilemma. “The majority of people used to outgrow adolescent acne,” says Richard G. Fried, M.D., Ph.D., a dermatologist and clinical psychologist in Yardley, Pa., and author of Healing Adult Acne (New Harbinger Publications). “Now about half of adults have acne in some form, and many who never had significant acne develop it for the first time.” Why are so many of us having to deal with bothersome blemishes? Pollution, new medications and hormone-pumped meats are among the potential culprits, experts say. “However, the one common denominator we see among adult acne patients is stress,” says Linda K. Franks, M.D., medical director of Gramercy Park Dermatology in New York City. “People are juggling work and family, and generally have busier lives than ever before.” The fact that women are more often affected than men can be attributed to age-related hormonal changes (which are exacerbated by stress), more oil production in the skin than ever, some birth-control options, pregnancy and menopause. Adding inconvenience to injury, an adult woman’s drier and less resilient skin can be easily damaged by some of the treatments she may have relied on during adolescence, such as benzoyl peroxide or Retin-A. Fortunately, a variety of do-it-yourself natural approaches can gently but effectively target acne.
It’s important to treat acne-prone skin gently. Wash your face twice a day, no more (and avoid harsh scrubbing); choose oil-free “noncomedogenic” moisturizers and makeup; and try the following:
How it works: Opens pores to release blockages, including oil and dead skin cells, that can lead to pustules.
How to use it: Pour boiled water over a handful of strawberry leaves, eucalyptus, thyme and wintergreen. Place a towel over your head to trap the steam and lean over the bowl for 10 to 15 minutes.
NATURAL CLAY MASK
How it works: Opens pores.
How to use it: Combine a tablespoon of kaolin clay or Fuller’s Earth with rose water to form a paste; spread it over your face, leave on for 10 minutes and rinse with tepid water.
TEA TREE OIL
How it works: Anti-microbial action fights the bugs that can contribute to breakouts.
How to use it: Apply a 15 percent solution to blemishes (unbroken skin only) twice a day.
How it works: Acts as an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory; heals damaged skin.
How to use it: Apply an herbal ointment or a tea directly to blemishes.
ALOE VERA GEL
How it works: Contains anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and astringent (poreshrinking) properties.
How to use it: Apply to skin after washing.