10 Radical Breakout Solutions
It makes some odd sort of intuitive sense that toxic ingredients might kill acne better than non-toxic ones—but nothing could be further from the truth. As anyone who’s ever treated their breakouts with harsh topical chemicals will admit, the scorched-earth approach doesn’t actually work. In fact, nothing “works” terribly well once a breakout has actually appeared; the best you can do is a cortisone injection, which generally gets rid of all traces of a breakout after two days; drying and healing with clays or essential oils takes three; blasting with intense chemical spot treatments can take three or four at least, and the latter are all but guaranteed to make the problem worse.
The best way to get rid of breakouts is not to get them in the first place—and the only way to do that is through a diligent, consistent routine that uses gentle, healing ingredients as opposed to irritating chemicals. Irritation is one of the primary causes of acne; it puts the already combustible combination of bacteria and oil on skin into overdrive.
Even with proven acne-fighters, like salicylic acid or the controversial (in terms of clean) benzoyl peroxide, it’s the milder concentrations applied all over the face every day, rather than the high-percentage spot treatments, that truly clear skin—the irritation the higher concentrations create inflames the skin and can worsen the breakout, and cause more to develop.
Soothing and calming regimens, by contrast, are far more effective at clearing skin, from the aforementioned cortisone injections, or the blue-light treatments you get in a dermatologist’s office to inflammation-tamping clays, acids (one of the reasons salicylic acid is so good for treating acne is it manages to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and exfoliating all at once) and even oils.
A super-reactive-skin sufferer from an early age, May Lindstrom designed every product in her eponymous clean skincare line to calm inflammation. “I lean heavily towards the spectrum of more nourishing care, with a focus on feeding and restoring your skin’s own natural health and vibrancy with the least amount of product dependence,” she says. “The natural balance of our skin barrier often gets compromised by treatments like retinol, acids, and peels—sometimes that results in unexpected breakouts, extreme sensitivity or dehydration/dryness that then becomes chronic and very difficult to address.”
Lindstrom’s The Problem Solver Correcting Masque, made with activated bamboo charcoal, fresh-on-contact vitamin C, and potent warming spices,is designed to stimulate our internal healing responses, to treat and prevent inflammation, irritation and breakouts, as well as spots and hyperpigmentation.
“Skin heals best when we let the body take the lead,” says Tammy Fender, whose Clarifying Dermagel is made with antibiotic thyme and anti-inflammatory myrrh to speed up healing. “That means not rushing the healing process, or being overly aggressive. When treating acne, we tend to panic, using toner containing isopropyl alcohol, for example, or harsh astringent soap, stripping away the skin’s protective barrier, which can actually lead to further breakouts, or inflammation, increasing the time it takes for the skin to heal. Instead, we want to strengthen the barrier to keep acne-causing and toxins out, while purifying and decongesting the pores.”
Beyond gentle-powerful topicals, a slow-beauty approach in general can make a serious difference, Fender says: “Stress can be a major factor in triggering breakouts, so I work with clients on bringing peacefulness into the daily rhythm. Diet, as we know, also has a big effect, especially where processed foods and sugars are concerned.” So a soothing bath before bed or a delicious plant-based bowl isn’t the worst idea, either.
Tata Harper Spot treatmentgoop, $32
Infused with healing copper, magnesium, zinc, essential oils, and powerful herbal extracts, this solution treats blemishes by neutralizing impurities and reducing inflammation on the spot (literally). Apply it directly to a blemish and it’ll look less red and inflamed instantly; at the same time, it works to heal the breakout from within. Brilliant.
Tammy Fender Clarifying Dermagelgoop, $72
Made especially for aging skin that’s experiencing breakouts, this acne-healing gel relieves redness and irritation, helps prevent scarring, and inhibits oil production without drying the skin. Infused with thyme—for its powerful antiseptic properties—and myrrh for detoxifying, as well as tea tree to purify, clear, hydrate, and balance skin, this treatment accelerates healing, treats the signs of aging, and gently restores troubled skin to health and radiance.
May Lindstrom Problem Solver Correcting Masquegoop, $100
It starts out as a powder (a blend of raw cacao, bamboo charcoal, soil nutrients, and spices), only releasing its potent healing elements once mixed with water. The resulting mousse heals blemishes, fights inflammation, encourages circulation, and visibly tightens pores pretty much instantly. Use Lindstrom’s facial treatment bowl and brush to mix the paste.
Goop by juice beauty Exfoliating Instant Facial goop, $125
The Exfoliating Instant Facial instantly brightens and softens skin to reveal a glowing, smoother-looking complexion. Natural alpha and beta hydroxy acids sweep away dead skin cells; and plant-based cellulose beads exfoliate further, while releasing soothing vitamin B5, leaving skin supple, soft, and utterly revitalized. The Exfoliating Instant Facial is formulated with USDA-certified organic ingredients and contains approximately 86% total organic content.
Herbivore Botanicals Lapis Face Oilgoop, $72
Without a doubt the most gorgeous, luxurious breakout/troubled or combination skin treatment ever: This ultra-soothing, anti-inflammatory skin solution gets its name from the Egyptian gemstone lapis lazuli, and its color from precious blue tansy oil made with azulene, a powerful anti-inflammatory/antibacterial compound that reduces redness and clarifies skin. Combination, oily, blemish-prone, or irritated complexions of any sort need this drop-dead-beautiful bottle in the medicine chest.
RMS wipesgoop, $16
These easy-to-use, easy-to-transport cleansing cloths are stealth skincare treatments. Made with cold-centrifuged organic coconut oil, which contains rare lauric and caprillic acids—found mostly in breast milk and destroyed by heat, including typical “cold-pressed” processes—these have powerful antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. They are ultra-moisturizing, yet don’t cause breakouts (and can actually help treat them), and are gentle enough around the delicate eye area to smooth away mascara. Brilliant for all skin types, from sensitive to blemish-prone, to super-dry.
Goldfaden MD Pure Start cleansergoop, $35
Perfect for all skin types, this hypo-allergenic, pH-balanced cleanser dissolves impurities, sweeps away dead skin cells and takes off makeup in a single step. Botanical extracts gently cleanse and balance skin while hydrolyzed wheat protein increases firmness and retains moisture, for a clear, smooth complexion.
It isn’t sunblock that makes you break out—it’s the known skin irritants in chemical sunscreen. Start by looking at at the “drug facts” part of the sun-protection label and avoid anything with active ingredients that other than zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Instead of acne-stimulating irritants, mineral blocks (zinc and titanium) actually soothe inflammation and help heal breakouts.
Ursa Major sunblock goop, $54
This lightweight, ultra-hydrating all-mineral SPF 18 blends in so beautifully it’s truly unbelievable. Unscented and packed with skin-perfecting vitamins, it treats your skin while leaving it smooth and protected. Sinks into skin in seconds, feels incredible—this lotion is seriously the ultimate (easy) daily anti-ager.