My Acne Story
I've always struggled with acne (even as an adult), but it turned into cystic acne about 4 years ago. I have used antibiotics and birth control to manage this until a year ago when I decided I didn't want to be on any drugs. My face got really bad after going off of my antibiotics even though I did slowly (I had already been off birth control for over a year). It was at it's worst last month (it's finally a little better now).
I found out last year that my acne was due to the hormone disorder PCOS, and started to do diet (low GI diet) and lifestyle (increased muscle and lost fat by weight resistance exercise) changes to help. It worked, nearly all my symptoms went away except for basically my acne. I was hoping that starting on progesterone cream (with the help of my gynocologist) would help eventually with this last symptom. It has not yet. My gyno actually said it could make it worst, but I still believe that progesterone cream can help, since basically PCOS is caused by a lack of progesterone due to not ovulating.
My Skin Care Routine Last Year
I hadn't been really worrying about skin care at all, since I was treating the root cause of the problem, and I know that most over the counter acne products just dry out your skin making the problem worst. I was just using a basic cleanser with no sodium laurel sulfates (since it dries out your skin and might actually be a dangerous chemical), and Jason ester-c face lotion mourning and night, ex foliating weekly with my Neutrogena microdermabrasion. So no specific acne skin care products.
I was getting acne but not anything I was concerned about especially since I thought it was temporary, and I wasn't getting any cysts. But eventually I started to get zits before my scars healed. This resulted in a face full of scars, a few zits, and one huge cyst last month. That's when I got really serious about skin care. While I still see skin care for acne treatment as treating the symptom and not the root cause. I do think it is necessary as support for while you are treating the root cause (which is usually hormonal), especially since this can take a long time. I have been studying skin care like crazy from all angles (plastic surgeons, dermatologist, astheticians, holistic drs, and individuals with acne) and will be posting a lot on what I've found and my progress this year.
How Does Acne Form?
Dermatologist treat acne on the symptom level. They basically try to eliminate one of the things needed to create acne. Acne is created by 4 stages. The stages are:
- Dry cells mixed with sebum and block the pores;
- Sebum ballon builds up behind the clog;
- Bacteria infect the build-up
- Curative inflammation spreads the condition.
Why This Treatment Works
So basically to effectively treat acne on the symptom level you want to eliminate as many of the above listed steps in the creation of acne. The way my acne spot treatment works is by helping to balance your oil production (steps 1 and 2) and kill bacteria (step 3). If you have acne you have an overabudance of P. acnes bacteria do not confuse this with the cause of your acne (your not dirty or infected) it is really just a side effect of the intial formation of the acne, the same as inflammation is a side effect of the process as discussed in the above stages of acne. The root cause on the skin level is skin cells mixed with sebum blocking pores (step 1) or in other words your producing too much oil due to hormonal problems. With that said it still is helpful to try to keep p acnes under control as well as inflammation. If you want to learn more about how acne forms in the skin The Science of Acne has a great article.
I have been trying to be careful to keep things that touch my face sterilized (makeup brushes, pillow cases, wash cloths, hats, scarves, etc) and adding tea tree oil to my skin care products. I do believe keeping your bacteria under control helps because my worst acne right now is on the side of my face that I sleep on. While I do have acne on other spots of my face, it is clearly worse where I sleep, literally a line right where I place my head on the pillow. And I was only switching my pillow case out once a week before. For the last month I have been flipping my pillow case over and changing it every other day for the last month and I have had no new acne in this area and it has healed some since last month.
I created this recipe to replace my Burt Bee's spot treatment, because it stung for awhile after applied. In other words beyond irritating and drying. The first ingredient is alcohol, so no wonder. I wanted to create a similar treatment without the sting and some moisturising properties as well. I decided to use a high percentage of tea tree oil since it's well tolerated in a carrier oil of jojoba.
I must say I'm quite pleased with the difference from my Burt Bee's spot treatment. It has only stung when applying on a rare occasion (only when I applied it to broken skin by accident). And I like that it can act as a moisturizer/ treatment if needed. I tend to use it as a preventative treatment in areas I break out in most often and on existing acne. So far it seems to help, but it's hard to tell because I'm doing a lot of other new things at the same time so it's hard to tell what is helping my acne.
Why Tea Tree Oil?
Distilled from the leaves of an Australian shrub, tea-tree oil contains antibacterial and anti-microbial compounds called terpenoids that help kill the bacteria that, when trapped behind oil in a plugged pore, lead to acne breakouts as well as decreasing the inflammatory response.
Benzyl peroxide, helps with acne by killing bacteria and helping to slouch off dead skin cells, but it has side effects. It can dry out your skin and irritate it, which in my opinon can aggrevate acne. Even if it doesn't make your acne worse do you really need any new skin problems? A good natural alternative is tea tree oil. One study carried out by researchers at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia,found that a 5% concetration of tea tree oil was as effective as a 5 % concentration of benzyl peroxide with less side effects it just took a little longer for the tea tree oil to work.
A smaller, randomized study published in 2007 used a gel containing 5 percent tea tree oil and the other given placebo for 45 days. The scientists found the tea tree oil worked far better than placebo in reducing acne. A study published in The British Journal of Dermatology in 2002 involving 27 subjects reached a similar conclusion on tea tree oil’s anti-inflammatory effects.
So in conclusion I have become a huge fan of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil helps acne by killing bacteria and reducing inflammation (steps 3 and 4). It is something I would not go without. I initially bought some to use as a natural preservative in skin care products that I make and found it was kind of cool to have around as a natural antiseptic for first aid, now I've found that I can actually add a few drops to my favorite lotion to turn it into an acne treatment. So you don't only have to look for products with tea tree oil in it and you can have whatever percentage you want in the product. Another cool thing is tea tree oil actually kills not just bacteria but also fungus and even mites that live on your skin.
Where Can You Find Tea Tree Oil
I now purchase mine from Amazon as I've found it to be much cheaper than in stores. You can purchase the same tea tree oil I'm purchasing this week from our Amazon store here. It's the cheapest I've found anywhere. I initially bought mine at a local store. You can find it at your local health food store, drug store, and even grocery stores. If you want to hear how tea tree oil has helped others check out reviews on Makeup Alley for tea tree oil.
How Jojoba Oil Helps Acne
As you can see from the steps that cause acne listed above the root of the problem of acne is an abundance of oil (due to an hormonal imbalance). While it's easy to think that if the problem is too much oil I'll just wash my face more and avoid all oil. The problem with this is that by drying out your skin you actually cause your skin to overproduce oil, the last thing you want! So it actually helps to make sure that you are keeping your skin hydrated by drinking lots of water throughout the day, make sure that the air in your home or office has humidity in winter and in summer when your using air conditioning, and moisturizing your skin with either no oil moisturizers or moisturizers that use noncomedemic (notlikely to clog pores) oils (sunflower, safflower, castor, and jojoba are great options). Check out this great resource for finding out the likelyhood of ingredients causing you a breakout.
Jojoba oil is also actually not an oil but a botanical extract. What's interesting about jojoba oil is that while it's very unlikely to cause a breakout, it also the closest oil to our own sebrum (our bodies own oil) so it absorbs the easiest and it's theorized that using it can help balance your own skin's production of oil. While this is just a theory, the fact that it's possible and jojoba oil is noncomedemic and absorbs fast makes it a no brainer for me.
Where to Find Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil can be found at health food stores or online. I compared the price at my local coop and found it to be way cheaper through Amazon. So I purchased mine there. You can find it for the same price I paid in our Amazon store.
Jojoba and Tea Tree Acne Spot Treatment
- one glass roller container (preferably a dark container) this is the same one I got at my local Whole Foods store
- tea tree oil extract (40%)
- jojoba oil (60%)
- Take the cap off of your roller.
- fill your container with tea tree oil until about 40% full
- Then fill the rest with jojoba oil (should be about 60% in volume) and shake, and roll on to any area of your face you'd like.
- Store in a cool dark area.
Update This works as a great Gentle Exfoliator, Moisturizer and Preventive Acne Treatment too!
Since using this product for the last few months I noticed another added bonus. I once tried to use it all over my face not just as a spot treatment but as a preventive treatment. I gently massaged my face to evenly disperse the treatment all over my face with my finger tips and in doing so I noticed I had dry skin coming off my face. Meaning this also works as a great gentle exfoliator that also hydrates your skin and by removing the dead skin cells the tea tree oil can get even more into your pores. Which is great because I always have some dry flaky skin on my face that makes it hard to wear make-up. Which is essential is your a female suffering from acne! Also dead skill cells in your pours can cause your pores to get clogged when oil hits it. As discussed in the above section How Does Acne Form (step 1). So used in this manner I believe this recipe to be even more affective in helping to prevent acne. I have been using this as an all over preventive acne medicine, moisturizer, and exfoliator about every other day with good results (I sill get occasional small zits but have not had a major breakout or cyst in over 1/2 year now).
As an all over preventative acne treatment, exfoliator, and moisturizer First make sure to test as a spot treatment first in case your skin doesn't respond well to tea tree oil. I haven't heard of any problems with jojoba oil or tea tree oil but it never hurts to be safe since it is your face we are talking about and every one is different. You could easily use this once a day after you wash your face in place of a moisturizer if you want to. Just roll some on various areas of your face (chin, cheeks, forehead, etc) and then with your fingers rub the oil all around your face gently keep rubbing gently (like your giving your face a nice relaxing massage) until you feel that there is no more dead skin to remove. If your are rubbing your face gently for awhile and do not feel any dead skin cells, you likely don't have any dead skin cells sitting on your skin (remember this is a non abrassion exfoliator so it will not remove any dead skin cells not already sitting on top of your skin), so stop before your start to irritate your skin. Leave on as long as desired. Remove dead skin from your face with a towel, tissue, or by washing your face.
As a Spot Acne Treatment
This can be used by applying directly on an exsiting pimple only if the skin is not broken. Or it can be used as a preventative acne treatment in an area that you often break out. one of the reasons you often get zits in the same place is there are higher levels of bacteria where you have already had a pimple from the bacteria feeding on the
Caution: Be careful to not get this product anywhere near your eyes or the gentle skin around it, or broken skin since it does have a powerful active ingredient.