The British refer to them, rather charmingly, as “spots.” We call them, somewhat less charmingly, “zits.” Either way, those blackheads, whiteheads, blemishes, bumps and breakouts—which attack us at the most self-conscious stages of young adulthood, flare up during hormonal fluctuations and basically just sabotage us any time they see fit—suck.
Unfortunately, what sucks even more are the intensely harsh and harmful chemicals that go into the most widely used topical acne treatment products. Like triclosan, an antibacterial agent associated with endocrine disruption, organ-system toxicity and, ironically, skin irritation. And polyethylene, a binding and bulking agent that’s also a known organ-system toxin and skin irritant. As for parabens and fragrance—two of the biggest baddies on our Big List—there’s hardly a conventional acne wash, scrub or topical treatment that isn’t loaded with ‘em.
It just doesn’t make sense to us that clear, blemish-free, healthy skin would come from products laden with known skin and organ irritants and toxins. Or maybe it does, if you’re selling products to consumers that create the exact problem you’re claiming to solve, thus creating a perpetual market for what you’re selling. This process is also known as “manufactured demand,” as our hero Annie Leonard so aptly points out in her new “The Story of Bottled Water.”
But we digress.
Fortunately, we’ve found plenty of skin-care experts who share our view, and are creating kinder, gentler acne-control and treatment products that actually work! Here are our top picks, categorized to help you choose the ones most suited to the skin you’re in.
PMS … AND THE OTHER PMS
A lucky handful of us get to kiss acne good-bye forever when we grow up. The rest of us, not so much. Particularly during periods (pun intended) of hormonal flux, we suddenly find ourselves beset by breakouts. For PMS and perimenopausal (the 10 years or so preceding menopause) pimples, there’s The Answer, a vitamin- and antioxidant-rich skincare line that responds specifically to hormonal blemishes, which tend to be deeper than adolescent zits and require intense detoxifying to defeat. The Answer’s PMS products include a non-drying Face Wash, organic-argan-oil-infused Balance Lotion and organic licorice root Detox spot treatment for stubborn bumps.
WEEK OF 7.19 ONE ECOSTILETTO MEMBER WILL WIN THE ANSWER’S $26.95 PMS STARTER KIT FROM CARENONLINE.COM!
Gluten Free Beauty founder Kristen Campbell didn’t overcome her acne problems until a diagnosis of gluten intolerance made her realize that it wasn’t just the gluten in her food, but in her hair and skin products, that was sabotaging her complexion. Her Gluten-Free Facial Moisture Serum is designed to help others who share her plight. Oil-based and pH-balanced (with no added fragrance or color of any kind), it restores elasticity and retrains skin to quit overproducing oil, which is the single best way to beat breakouts.
WEEK OF 5.24 TWO MEMBERS WILL EACH WIN A $45 ONE OUNCE GLUTEN FREE BEAUTY FACIAL MOISTURE SERUM!
We here at EcoStiletto love our honey. We love it in our organic rooibos tea, we love it on our whole-grain toast, we love it to lick it off our sweetie’s fresh-washed skin (oops, did we say that out loud?), and now we love it as an acne fighter. One of the oldest known acne treatments, honey is a natural and powerful antibacterial, antioxidant, antifungal and exfoliant. And one of our newest blemish-busting faves is Rand Hill Naturals’ Deep Cleansing Honey Mask, which blends raw orange blossom honey with oat powder and essential oils such as rose geranium and neroli. This mask is super thick (soaking the container in hot water will soften it), and takes a little work to apply smoothly, but it’s worth the effort for the soft, smooth, noticeably clearer skin that results.
WEEK OF 7.26 THREE ECOSTILETTO MEMBERS WILL EACH WIN A $33 RAND HILL NATURALS COMPLEXION ESSENTIALS GIFT SET!
Honey may be tastier, but as an acne-preventer, clay, too is sweet. We especially love Kimberly Sayer of London’s Deep Cleansing French Clay Mask, with French Montmorillonite green clay, which contains magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper to detoxify, purify and balance our blemish-prone skin. Use this lightweight mask once or twice a week for spa-beautiful skin, or dab directly on blemishes before bedtime to dry them up overnight.
WEEK OF 7.26 ONE ECOSTILETTO MEMBER WILL WIN A $94 KIMBERLY SAYER OF LONDON CUSTOM SKINCARE SET!
The Yoruban descendants of ancient Egypt first formulated so-called “black soap” to fight off common skin infections. Now Shea Terra Organics continues that tradition with its Fair Trade, African artisan-made skincare products. For skin that easily succumbs to breakouts, the Anti-Acne Facial Cleanser & Mask, with black soap, antibacterial aloe ferox and honey, is effective but gentle enough for daily use.
WEEK OF 7.26 TWO ECOSTILETTO MEMBERS WILL EACH WIN A $50 SHEA TERRA ORGANICS SHOPPING SPREE!
At Marie Veronique Organics, acne treatment is all about using fatty acids to restore antimicrobial activity on the skin’s surface. That’s why its oh-so-fabulous Acne Relief Kit includes not just an Exfoliating Cleanser and hydrating Gentle Mist, but also a replenishing Treatment Oil (with jojoba, apricot kernel and red raspberry seed oils) to break up congestion at the surface and stabilize the skin’s lipid barrier. Trust them (and us)—treating oil with oil really does work.
WEEK OF 7.26 ONE ECOSTILETTO MEMBER WILL WIN A $157 MARIE VERONIQUE ORGANICS ACNE RELIEF KIT!
There’s lots to love about the many great acne-fighting tools in the Arcona arsenal. Our favorites include the antibacterial Raspberry Acne Bar, which combats breakouts while reducing inflammation with raspberry extract. We like to follow up our cleansing with a swipe of an Arcona Raspberry Clarifying Pad—a blemish-reducing toner pad that beats breakouts with totara and tea tree extracts, shrinks enlarged pores with witch hazel, and clarifies difficult skin with flavonoid-filled raspberry extract.
WEEK OF 5.10 ONE ECOSTILETTO MEMBER WILL WIN A $164 CUSTOM ARCONA SKIN CARE BUNDLE!
Using ingredients from its Colorado organic farm (pictured below), veteran natural skincare maker Lily Organics crafts gentle, powerfully antibacterial cleansers, toners and moisturizers that are an acne-prone ecoista’s dream come true. We swear by the Seaweed Balancing Facial Cleanser, which uses tea tree and rosemary to banish blemish-causing impurities, and seaweed to hydrate and nourish troubled skin. And nothing heals our problem skin better than a once- or twice-weekly slathering of Lily’s Rejuvenating Enzyme Mask, with papaya and pineapple to dissolve dead skin cells, mint to draw blood to the skin, and antioxidant vitamins to kick free-radicals where they count.
WEEK OF 5.17 THREE MEMBERS WILL EACH WIN A $30 LILY ORGANICS REJUVENATING ENZYME MASK!
There’s hardly a face that escapes adolescence without acne of some kind or another. That’s partly due to hormones, but often exacerbated by the, shall we say, less-than-meticulous hygiene habits of most teens. Do the teen in your life a favor and start her skincare routine off right. We recommend Good For You Girls, because, well, it really is. GFYG’s own list of “Yuck!” ingredients is right in line with ours, and its’ eco-packaged, teen-friendly washes, toners and moisturizers exfoliate and unclog pores with organic botanical extracts and natural astringents like black tea and witch hazel.
WEEK OF 7.5 TWO ECOSTILETTO MEMBERS WILL EACH WIN A GOOD FOR YOU GIRLS $37 SKIN CARE TRIO OF HER CHOICE!
Also expressly for blemish-prone teens, MyChelle Dermaceuticals Clear Skin Teen Anthology Kit reduces oil and unclogs pores with totarol (a natural antimicrobial and antioxidant) and soothes irritation with willow bark. A daisy-and-willow balancing cream leaves teen skin baby-smooth.
WEEK OF 7.12 ONE ECOSTILETTO MEMBER WILL WIN A $44.95 MYCHELLE DERMACEUTICALS CLEAR SKIN TEEN ANTHOLOGY!
CLEAR SKIN FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Nourish your body properly and your skin will show its appreciation. Even acne-prone skin. Especially acne-prone skin. Studies have shown that a diet high in protein and in carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (including legumes and whole grains) can reduce the frequency and severity of acne breakouts. Add to that the skin-nurturing properties of antioxidants, which destroy collagen-damaging free radicals, and you’ve got a recipe for a clear, healthy complexion. Get yourself a copy of Elizabeth TenHouten’s “Cooking Well: Beautiful Skin” (Hatherleigh, 2009), and you’ve got more than 75 recipes for great skin, along with more than 75 “Beauty Bytes,” handy DIY remedies and topical treatments for many skin problems, including—you guessed it—acne.
WEEK OF 5.31 10 MEMBERS WILL EACH WIN $12.50 COPIES OF THE COOKING WELL: BEAUTIFUL SKIN BOOK!