Break-Out Products for Acne-Prone Skin

By Nora Zelevansky / August 15, 2015

Oily, blemished, sensitive skin may not seem fair, but the question is, what can you do about it?


Photo credit: Beth Segal /

Organic skincare products tend to be luscious and nourishing, emollient and rich, with creamy bases like shea butter, nut oils and vitamin E.

And if I get them anywhere near my face, it’s blemish city.

Even now, in my 30s, my skin leans toward moderately oily, acne-prone and sensitive. That has always struck me as unfair: to be plagued with wrinkles and blemishes at the same time? And redness to boot?

Part of the challenge is that today’s marketplace is all about anti-aging technology, from hydrating serums to heavy overnight treatments and creams. People like me often end up relying on products with harsh ingredients that clear up or prevent breakouts, but also act as irritants due to synthetic retinoids, alcohol bases and peroxide.

What’s a girl to do? Seek out the best of the best in natural acne products, that’s what!

As it turns out, if you take the time to dig a bit, you’ll uncover a bounty of gentle and natural acne- and oily-skin targeted options based on the principle of guiding the skin to self-heal. “More often than not clients come to me with skin that is overstressed, highly sensitized and exhausted. Acne is definitely a common issue, along with inflammation from eczema to rosacea,” explains May Lindstrom, a self-proclaimed “skin chef” and founder of the eponymous luxury artisanal skincare line.

“It is our responsibility to provide abundant nutrition and hydration, to be gentle in our care and to get out of our own way,” says Lindstrom. “By limiting exposure to harsh chemicals and extreme treatments, we open up to kinder methods that do not interfere with our personal rhythm or damage our ability to repair from within.”

Ingredients need not be chemical or synthetic to bear results, and natural skincare companies tend to be more transparent about how they work. For instance, Lindstrom relies on cayenne pepper to stimulate blood flow and to enable oxygen and nutrients (like antioxidant carotene, flavonoids and vitamins A and E) to reach the cells and reduce inflammation.

It doesn’t stop there: “Nutmeg and clove are both antifungal and antibacterial. Cinnamon facilitates the synthesis of collagen in the skin, the breakdown of which is partially responsible for the skin’s appearance as we mature,” she continues. “Activated bamboo carbon charcoal has been used for centuries in many parts of Asia to deeply and gently cleanse pores, absorbing minerals, toxins, impurities and other harmful substances from skin. It addresses everything from acne to eczema with grace and ease.” Lindstrom also cites silver, witch hazel, raw honey, pure plant oils and clays from the earth as great acne-fighting tools.

So, without further ado, we have unearthed (yes, pun intended) some of the best natural products for acne-prone skin, ripe for the picking from some of the best natural lines.


What Blemish Cream spot treatment

Why Clears up blemishes

How When it’s too late for prevention, it’s time for this acne spot treatment, which offers coverage and includes blemish-busting ingredients (often plucked from the company’s organic Australian farm) like calendula, witch hazel, tea tree oil and clay.

Dr. Hauschka

What Clarifying Toner

Why Unclogs pores

How Designed to tone, balance and calm oily skin, this certified NATRUE product—from a company that’s been all about natural medicine since 1967—harnesses daisy and nasturtium to minimize blackheads and blemishes.

breakoutproducts_inline4Dr. Spiller

What Alpenrausch Soft Peeling

Why Exfoliates pore-clogging dead skin and impurities

How Certified organic by COSMOS, this amazing product contains apricot-seed powder, antiseptic lavender and tonifying rosewater, with anti-inflammatory edelweiss and St. John’s wort extracts to stimulate healing.


What Rosemary Oil-Reducing Moisturizer and AHA Purifying Night Serum from the Clarify & Rebalance line

Why Recalibrates

How CEO Barbara Close is all about “skin-loving” ingredients. In her oily skin moisturizer, that means hydrating hyaluronic acid, plus antiseptic and pore refining rosemary oil and alpine willow. In the serum: exfoliating acids, plus soothing aloe.

Earth Tu Face

What Nourish + Balance Blue Chamomile + Carrot Seed Serum

Why Soothes

How For oily-skinned folks, the concept of applying more oil to the face may seem counterintuitive, but—as we’re all coming to understand—products like this inflammation-fighting serum (created by California herbalists Marina Storm and Sarah Buscho, with wildcrafted and non-GMO ingredients) can be calming and nourishing without over-moisturizing. (Thanks to ingredients like ylang ylang and rose geranium, it smells amazing, too!)


What Purity Solution Deep Cleansing Oil

Why Nourishes and cleanses oily skin

How Based on the principle that oil cuts through oil, with a blend of argan, moringa and olive fruit oils to balance, hydrate and cleanse the skin of oil, dirt, makeup and bacteria.

Tata Harper

What Resurfacing Mask for instant glow

Why Refreshes

How This beta-hydroxy peel created at the natural skincare guru’s Vermont Farm decongests surface debris and sloughs off dead skin with pore-minimizing pomegranate enzymes, detoxifying French pink clay and cell renewing white willow.

breakoutproducts_inline6May Lindstrom Skin

What The Problem Solver correcting masque and The Clean Dirt cleansing clay

Why Deep cleanses

How These handcrafted powder formulas (in beautiful, sleek black boxes) are activated by adding water. The masque purifies, bolsters circulation, detoxifies and fights inflammation with antioxidant-rich raw cacao, bamboo charcoal, soil nutrients and more, while the cleanser harnesses clays, spices, healing salts and vitamin C to exfoliate and boost cellular regeneration.



Nora Zelevansky

Nora Zelevansky

Nora Zelevansky is the author of upcoming novel, Will You Won't You Want Me?, and Semi-Charmed Life. Her writing has appeared in ELLE, T Magazine (The New York Times), Town & Country, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair, among others. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York.
Nora Zelevansky

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