There's no shortage of skincare products on the market for tackling zits and acne, which can be a problem whether you're 14 or 40. But many of the lotions, creams, scrubs and gels—prescription and over the counter, budget and high-end—are crammed with harsh ingredients that can irritate and inflame the skin. Benzoyl peroxide and topical retinoids, for example, can cause skin redness, peeling and burning, which can end up looking worse than the pimples you're trying to get rid of.
Happily, there are products out there that are tough on zits but kind to skin. We've tracked down five 100 percent natural formulations that target acne without the usual nasties.
The right tree
100% Pure Tea Tree Oil, $8.90 (0.34 fl oz)
Tea tree oil, derived from the Australian tree Melaleuca alternifolia, is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It's been found to be just as effective as benzoyl peroxide for reducing acne, but with fewer side-effects.1 This 100 percent pure tea tree oil from Australian company Thursday Plantation can be applied directly to individual pimples or added to water or an oil like jojoba to make a spray.
The bee's knees
Manuka Honey Gel, $27.50 (1.7 fl oz)
Containing active Manuka honey and Manuka oil from New Zealand, both of which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties,2 this potent gel is ideal for fighting pimples and healing broken skin. Other ingredients include bacteria-busting tea tree oil, hydrating flax gel and antioxidant vitamin E.
Take the tube
OY! Clear Skin Purifying Serum, $25 (1.01 fl oz)
This 88 percent organic formula contains tea tree oil and black willow bark extract, a natural source of the widely used anti-acne ingredient salicylic acid, which has antibacterial and pore-cleansing properties. Since salicylic acid can sometimes cause dryness and irritation, this serum also contains soothing aloe vera juice, calming chamomile and marshmallow extracts and a moisturizing blend of olive, sunflower seed and rosehip seed oils.
On the spot
Spot-On Serum, $29 (2 fl oz)
www.odylique.com; tel: 617-500-8271
This 95 percent organic, Soil Association-certified serum features antimicrobial essential oils of lavender and tea tree, soothing herbal extracts of Calendula and Echinacea, repairing coconut oil and aloe vera juice powder, and anti-inflammatory zinc oxide, a popular topical treatment for acne. The concentrated formula is also great for treating bites, stings, rashes and minor wounds.
Tea Tree & Willow Clarifying Astringent, $39 (4 fl oz)
This alcohol-free toner is packed with anti-acne ingredients like tea tree oil, willow bark extract, witch hazel and turmeric root extract, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory activity against acne-causing bacteria.3 Despite its astringent nature, it's non-drying and non-irritating, thanks to soothing honeysuckle and burdock root extracts as well as hydrating sodium hyaluronate.