More and more women are switching to natural skincare. For me, struggling with breakouts and hating the harsh treatments available sent me searching for solutions, and that may be why you are here too.
Saving a heap of money, having way too much fun 'making potions' as my kids call it, and reducing the toxic load on my family have made me a true convert. Plus, my skin has never been clearer and healthier. If you are looking for a chemical-free solution read on, because this is the ultimate HONEST guide to solving your skin problems easily and inexpensively using natural products and pantry staples.
You'll learn simple step by step recipes for acne-fighting masks and ultra healing treatments, serums, toners and cleansers that you can easily create yourself, as well as scrubs and spot treatments. Basically, everything you need to replace chemical laden, expensive products with your own natural skin care! Plus- you'll learn exactly WHAT causes pimples and acne, HOW to treat it and WHY these simple ingredients will give you the best skin you’ve ever had- no chemicals needed.
Did you know your skin absorbs almost 60% of the chemicals it touches? Skincare companies claim the chemicals they use to increase a product's shelf life, fragrance and appearance are harmless. Did you snort a little reading that? Yep, I did writing it. We all know better these days and no, those chemicals aren't harmless. They disrupt hormones, increase the toxic load on our bodies and increase our risk of disease. Going straight to the source (and the exact same place the big companies get all their inspiration) saves money, cuts out the chemical nasties and empowers us to take back control of our health.
Do home remedies really work?
Yes, home remedies really do work. There’s a belief that only cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies can produce successful skincare, and we've all kind of forgotten women have been taking care of their own skin for a few thousand years. Even the top pharmacological companies still take their inspiration from nature, while adding in a few chemicals we can't pronounce and simply don't need.
Take a look at the current top 3 buzzwords in skincare...notice anything?
Glycolic acid (from sugar cane), Lactic acid (from yoghurt), Malic acid (from apples), Citric acid (from citrus fruits), Tartaric acid (from grape wine)
Salicylic acid is a BHA is derived from willow bark, is a key ingredient in aspirin and a well-known acne fighter.
Vitamin A derivative, found in carrots, mangoes, raw spinach, apricots, papayas, raw tomatoes, eggs and broccoli.
A few years ago I was so sick of struggling with my skin, and spending way too much money on pretty jars of empty promises. I started experimenting and researching, and quickly realised I wasn't the only one. There are thousands of websites, bloggers and stores creating gorgeous handmade skincare, without the chemicals OR the cringe worthy price tag. The more I learnt, the more determined I was to take control of my skin permanently.
This Ultimate Problem Skin Guide is the practical guide I wish I had in my first years of DIY skincare.
The masks, serums and cleanser recipes I've included are truly amazing, but I strongly urge you to experiment, adjust and explore! That's the best part of making your own, if one blend doesn't give you the right result, or feels too oily, smells too strong... change it. Unlike a store bought cream, there's no waste if you aren't into it, no guilt over wasted money and definitely no putting up with it just because you don't want to throw it out. You are in complete control.
Now...you can jump ahead to the fun part or (if you're a secret science nerd like me) stick with me and find out exactly how and why we develop pimples and acne.
Acne and pimples are often confused. The simple answer? Acne is the disease and pimples are the symptom.
The good news? Once you debunk the myths and understand what acne is, you can methodically eliminate each cause until all you are left with is clear, glowing skin you won’t want to cover up!
So let’s start by debunking some of the common myths about acne and pimples.
- You’ll grow out of it.
Nope. Adult acne is surprisingly common. A survey of over 1,000 adults published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 50% of women between 20 and 29 years old, 35% of women between 30 and 39 years old, and 26% of women between 40 and 49 reported having acne. More women than men report adult acne, possibly due to hormonal surges.
2. Pimples are caused by dirty skin.
Unless you wash your face once a month, it’s unlikely you are suffering due to dirty skin. Cell regeneration is a natural process that pushes the oil and debris out of your pores, keeping them clean. When that doesn't happen quickly enough, your pores can collect a buildup of oil, pollutants, debris and protein. Encouraging the skin cells to renew is a key step in fighting acne. Washing too frequently and with harsh soaps will make it worse.
3. Popping a pimple makes it go away faster.
NO! Just no. Never pop your pimples, the trauma done to the skin can cause scarring, inflammation and infection. (I know it’s immensely satisfying but try and resist…) Included in this article are some powerful and fast acting spot treatments for pimples.
Here are the top 20 most powerful acne fighting ingredients- and you already have most of them!
1. Raw honey has potent antibacterial and antimicrobial agents, and soothes nasty flare-ups fast. Make sure you choose a good quality RAW honey that hasn’t been heat treated, a little goes a long way so this is a great investment.
2. Cinnamon is a powerful anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral agent. Slight tingling feeling? Skin looking plump and glowing? That’s the oxygen rich blood being drawn to the surface of the skin to help heal, renew and regenerate healthy skin cells.
3. Apple cider vinegar contains magnesium, potassium, acetic acid and enzymes that destroy surface bacteria on the skin. It tones and purifies the skin naturally and is an important (and inexpensive) step in your new skincare routine.
4. Oatmeal...no problem skin remedy could be complete without oatmeal! This humble pantry staple contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and folate, which are essential to skin cell regeneration. It has modest amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium which help to regulate oil production and assist hormonal balance.
5. Coconut Oil is going to be your most versatile staple. It’s main strength is in its high level of lauric acid. In a study conducted by the Californian Department of Nanoengineering, the lauric acid found in coconut oil demonstrates the strongest bacterial activity against acne caused by bacteria, entering the bacterial membrane and killing it. Coconut Oil is a fantastic carrier for some of the more potent ingredients, providing essential moisturisation.
6. Infused Oil may not be a pantry staple, but is so simple to make. Pick a carrier oil such as grapeseed or jojoba, add skin healing dried herbs and leave it in your pantry to infuse for a few weeks. Herbs I love to infuse are calendula, chamomile, lavender and rosemary.
7. Natural Yoghurt is an easy source of lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that breaks down dead skin cells and gently exfoliates. Add to that the ability to balance the Ph level of your skin and moisturize it makes a great mask base.
8. Basil has two very effective uses. Topically it acts as an antiseptic, helps clear acne-causing bacteria, and improves skin circulation. Taken internally it helps regulate stress hormones, is anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants.
9. Matcha Green Tea Powder is another dual-purpose ingredient. Full of of natural antioxidants and nutrients, matcha has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-aging properties that can help detox the body, improve skin structure and hydration while reducing inflammation of the skin.
10. Papaya contains lycopene, papain and chymopapain, two enzymes with anti–fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Papain breaks down and removes damaged skin cells while Chymopapain (the exfoliating enzyme) unclogs pores by dissolving dry, dead skin cells. Lycopene promotes anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.
11. Tomatoes contain salicylic acid, a common ingredient in commercial acne products, to cleanse and exfoliate and assist in restoring the skin’s pH balance. High in vitamins A, C, K, E, B1, B2, B3, and B6, to help tighten pores and nourish skin, tomato gives your skin a smooth polished glow. Used on the skin and added to your diet, the common tomato fights acne from the inside out!
12. Egg whites are another simple pore tightening tool. It also contains lysozyme, an enzyme that kills acne-causing bacteria by digesting their cell walls.
13. Baking Soda acts as a ultra-fine exfoliator for the skin. It helps remove dead skin cells and with its mild anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, it is an effective and versatile pantry staple. Can be made into a paste for a super-fast spot treatment. Balance skin afterwards with a diluted apple cider vinegar toner.
14. Clary Sage Essential Oil is a highly effective essential oil used to balance hormone levels and has beneficial properties in skin care. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research found that inhalation of clary sage oil had the ability to reduce cortisol levels by 36%, had an antidepressant effect and improved thyroid health in women.
15. Brown Sugar makes an effective skin stimulating scrub, and is cheap. Mixed with coconut oil and cinnamon this is an edible olfactory orgasm in a jar. You'll never buy 'luxury' scrubs again.
16. Tea-tree Essential Oil is nature's most powerful antiseptic, revered for centuries by indigenous tribes. It’s bacteria destroying abilities are similar to benzoyl peroxide, making it the perfect natural alternative. Remember to always dilute essential oils before topical use.
17. Rosehip Oil can’t be beat for healing the damage of chronic acne, rich in essential fatty acids like oleic, palmitic, linoleic and gamma linolenic acid (GLA). When absorbed through the skin, these fatty acids convert to prostaglandins (PGE), which are involved in cell renewal and tissue regeneration. High in vitamin E, vitamin D and B-carotene and extremely high in Vitamin C, this humble oil is a powerful but gentle healing tool.
18. Frankincense Essential Oil is another skin superstar. It is a powerful astringent, helping to protect skin cells, minimise acne scarring and the appearance of large pores, assist in the prevention of wrinkles and firm skin. Frankincense can reduce stress and promote relaxation. (Perfect to add a drop to a face mask while you soak in the bath!)
19. Aloe Vera either fresh from the garden or in concentrated powder form. Soothing, healing and non comedogenic, aloe is a real skin saver. Use for sunburns, masks and hydration.
20. Bentonite Clay is formed by volcanic ash, and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, internally and topically. When the clay meets a liquid (usually water) it activates its superpower- an electromagnetic charge that seeks out and binds to toxins and heavy metals, drawing them out of your pores. Bentonite Clay is full of minerals (magnesium, silica, calcium and iron among others) and is safe to ingest.
With some or all of these simple ingredients in your new beauty toolbox, you can make gorgeous smelling skincare to rival the top brands!
All of these masks use simple, highly effective and easy to find ingredients. If you don't have one on hand, go back to the list above for a substitute and have fun experimenting! I adjust and play with combinations constantly, but these five are the fastest and most effective I've found. My advice is start simple, and add ingredients as you feel comfortable. If you create an amazing new blend drop us a note, we love hearing about new recipes that have worked for you!
Remember to start with a cleansed face and clean hands.
Cinnamon & Honey Mask
Benefits: Bacteria killing cinnamon and honey gently cleanse and exfoliate the skin surface. The cinnamon gives a cell renewal boost by stimulating oxygen rich blood to rise to the surface. Tea tree and clary sage are fantastic for acne-prone skin, but all essential oils have different properties so experiment, research and use whatever works well for you!
Ingredients: 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp raw honey. Optional- 1 drop clary sage, tea-tree or frankincense essential oil
Method: Mix all ingredients together to a thick paste and smooth over face and neck, massaging gently with fingertips. Leave on for 15-30 mins. To rinse, wet fingertips with warm water and massage gently for 30 seconds to loosen and exfoliate, then rinse. Pat dry and apply serum.
Charcoal & Clay Detox
Benefits: Purified, clear pores. Draw out all the gunk, toxins and unclog pores with this smoothing and refining detox mask. Adding tea-tree kills bacteria within the pores and helps to clear blemishes.
Ingredients: 1 tsp Activated Charcoal, 1 tsp Bentonite Clay, 1 tbsp water and (optional) 1 drop tea-tree oil.
Method: Mix dry ingredients with water to a smooth paste, then blend oil of your choice. Apply evenly to face and neck, leave to activate for up to 30 mins. To rinse, dip fingertips in warm water and massage gently or wet a clean face cloth with warm water and press over your skin until mask softens. Rinse and tone with ACV gentle toner.
Oatmeal & Honey
Benefits: Helps regulate oil production, kill bacteria, soothe inflammation and gently exfoliate for super smooth, soft skin.
Ingredients: 2 tbsp oatmeal, 1 tsp raw honey, 1 tsp natural yoghurt
Method: Pound oatmeal to a rough powder then blend all ingredients by hand to a thick, creamy paste and smooth over face and neck. Leave for up to an hour for very inflamed skin, or 20 minutes for an express treatment. Dampen with lukewarm water and gently massage for 30 seconds before rinsing clear. Follow with a diluted ACV toner or cold water, and a gentle serum.
*I use a mortar and pestle but you can pop your oatmeal into a ziplock bag and bash it with anything hard.
Benefits: Papain breaks down and removes damaged skin cells and unclogs pores by dissolving dry, dead skin cells. Basil acts as an antiseptic, helps clear acne-causing bacteria, and improves skin circulation. Infused Oil is extremely healing and naturally antibacterial. The result is smoothed, pure, glowing skin.
Ingredients: Small handful fresh basil, heaped tbsp papaya, 1 tsp raw honey, 1/2 tsp Infused Oil/Hempseed Oil or Jojoba.
Method: Blend or pound basil and papaya till smooth, add honey to make a sticky paste. Smooth over cleansed skin and relax for 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
*If papaya is unavailable, substitute strawberries. The salicylic acid in strawberries removes dead skin cells and is fantastic as an acne treatment.
Matcha Purifying Mask
Benefits: An anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-aging mask that can help improve skin structure and hydration while reducing inflammation of the skin. Lemon juice contains ascorbic acid, vitamin P, and phytoncides to help inhibit the reproduction and growth of bacteria. An added benefit of this mask is the appearance of smaller pores and reduced discolouration from scarring and age spots.
Ingredients:1 matcha green tea bag, 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp raw honey.
Method: Cut open tea bag and mix powder with lemon and honey to a smooth texture. Apply in a thin layer over face and neck and leave for 15-30 minutes. If you feel anything stronger than a medium tingling sensation, wash off and replace lemon juice with tamanu oil next time, or dilute lemon juice to the level your skin is comfortable with. Rinse with warm water and pat dry. Follow with ACV toner and a healing serum.
Scrubs, Serums & Spot Treatments
More delicious skin care? Yes please! Unlike the masks, this collection can be made in bulk, perfect for daily use and gorgeous gifts for friends.
You'll need a couple of basic carrier oils, so to choose which is best for your skin type. I've put together a handy guide to the best carrier oils. Look for pure cold-pressed oils as the extraction process can compromise the quality, shelf life and effectiveness of your oil.
- Almond Oil
Benefits- Highly moisturising, won't clog, calms skin, multipurpose oil with a mild, nutty scent.
Uses- Hair, skin, massage, scrub base.
- Coconut Oil
Benefits- Natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, will not clog pores, long shelf-life, multipurpose oil.
Uses- Hair, skin, scrubs, cleansing.
- Apricot Kernel Oil
Benefits- Softens and smooths skin, anti-inflammatory, moisture retaining. Ideal for sensitive and aging skin.
Uses- Skin, massage, scrubs.
- Castor Oil
Benefits- Dissolves sebum, anti-inflammatory, cleansing oil, ideal for acne prone skin.
Uses- Oil cleansing, skin care.
- Jojoba Oil
- Argan Oil
Benefits- Deeply moisturising, dissolves excess sebum, non-irritating, reduces wrinkles and scarring, easily absorbed.
Uses- Hair, skin, nails, massage, serums.
- Rosehip Oil
Benefits- Deeply moisturising and regenerative, reduces scarring and wrinkles, ideal for dry, aging skin, anti-inflammatory.
Uses- Serums, skin, massage.
- Olive Oil
Benefits- Fast absorbing, rich in antioxidants, moisturising, multi-purpose, readily available. Mild scent.
Uses- Hair, skin, cleansing.
As you can see, there are a huge variety of carrier oils available. Coconut and olive oil are the most common and these are absolutely fine to use as a base. I am addicted to Rosehip Oil as a base for serums, apricot is my favourite for massage blends while coconut and grapeseed oil are my go-to for scrubs. Since starting the oil cleansing method, caster oil is now a must have in my cabinet as well. Experiment until you find the ones that work for you.
The Top 3 Scrubs for lips, body and face.
Plumping Lip Scrub
Mix 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp coconut oil. Massage into lips, remove with a warm, wet cloth.
The cinnamon stimulates while the scrub slightly irritates, drawing blood to the surface and temporarily plumping lips. You can use 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper if you dislike cinnamon and are feeling brave!
Coffee & Brown Sugar Scrub
Mix 1/4 cup coffee grounds, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup coconut or tamanu oil with optional 2 drops cinnamon essential oil. Scrub in the shower, this gets messy! The result is silky smooth, clean and moisturised skin. Plus a serious coffee craving.
Will keep for around 6 months in a clean sealed jar in the shower so go ahead and increase the quantity
Combine 2 tsp baking soda with 1 tsp raw honey (slightly warmed if it is too thick) and lightly massage paste into your skin, avoiding the eye area. Using your fingertips only, concentrate on small circular motions for 30 seconds-1 minute then rinse with lukewarm water. Use a toner to rebalance skin afterwards- baking soda is very alkaline and can dry skin excessively. Use once a week max.
Spot Treatments- clear pimples fast!
There's nothing worse than waking up to an eruption on your face, especially the inflamed kind. Sadly there is no magic potion to zap a pimple instantly, but we can reduce the redness, shrink the swelling and kill the bacteria pretty quickly. Here are the top 3 spot treatments i've EVER found, plus some alternatives and combinations if like me, you love mixing up recipes.
- Tea-tree oil & Basil. Crush a basil leaf with 1 drop of tea-tree oil and gently massage into the spot. Basil reduces inflammation fast, while the tea-tree kills the bacteria and reduces the size of the spot.
- ACV & Clary Sage essential oil. Dilute 1 tsp ACV with 2 tsp water and 1 drop Clary Sage. Use a cotton bud to dab on the spot as often as you like. Can be diluted by half again and used as a toner for the whole face after cleansing.
- Aspirin & Tea-Tree oil. Crush 1 aspirin and mix with 1 drop tea-tree and just enough ACV to make a paste. Apply thinly only on your spot and wash off after 10 minutes. The salicylic acid in aspirin is a fast acting pimple treatment and most people have some buried in their medicine box.
Alternative Ingredients- lemon juice, papaya skin, oatmeal, strawberries.
Simple DIY Serums
Serums are amazing things, packed with concentrated fatty acids and pure vitamins, easily absorbed and highly nourishing. Also...very expensive! Luckily serums are another easy to make home remedy, and you get to be in control. Choose the perfect ingredients based on your skin needs, mix and store. You need a small glass bottle with a dropper for convenience, your choice of base (carrier oil) and essential oils. See our guide below to see what oils suit your skin type.
Serum for Acne-Prone skin
Half fill a 10 ml glass bottle with Jojoba (or your preferred carrier oil) then add...
- 1 drop Tea-Tree Essential Oil
- 2 drops Lavender Essential Oil
- 2 drops Frankincense Essential Oil
- 20 drops Pure Rosehip Oil
Top up with Jojoba or Argan Oil, seal and gently roll to combine.
This serum is very gentle on the essential oil ratios. If your skin is comfortable with this, feel free to add a little more! If i'm close to my period, I add a little Clary Sage as this works wonders on my hormonal breakouts.
If my skin is feeling a bit dry and dull, I increase the ratio of Rosehip and Frankincense.