Those eyebrows, that ring, this corduroy jacket. My skin was the least of my high school problems.

Those eyebrows, that ring, this corduroy jacket. My skin was the least of my high school problems.

I am one of those assholes who never had skin problems. Oh, I had hair problems, butt problems, all kinds of other problems – but even as a teenager I always had clear skin. Before you hate me, though, rejoice in the fact that sometime around February of last year all of that changed in the worst possible way.

All of the sudden, at 34 years old, my jaw and neck exploded with painful, angry lumps. For months I fought them with every gnarly acne medication I could get my hands on, and the more a fought, the more clusters of awful red bumps popped up. It got so bad that the whole shape of my face got swollen and distorted.

I finally made an appointment with a dermatologist only to discover that this was hormonal acne, normal for a woman my age, but not super common because so many 35 year old women are on the pill, which can help to keep the hormones that cause this particular type of acne at bay. Of course the typical treatment is – you guessed it – hormonal medication, which I cannot use.

My doctor prescribed adapalene, which is a retinoid. It was effective, but also very drying, which is a bummer on aging skin. So I started looking into the causes of hormonal acne, and experimenting with some holistic treatments.

zitsThere are the obvious things to keep in mind – first of all, if you have access to a dermatologist it’s worth consulting with one to be sure that your acne is not being caused by any underlying health issues. Also, it’s just good practice to keep your skin clean – wash off your makeup at night, try not to touch your face too much, keep your hands clean, don’t pick at pimples, drink plenty of water, yadda yadda. Oh, and I always look for natural, vegan products. Sometimes an ingredient slips by me – so if you spot something not vegan or not all that natural in my picks feel free to call it out in the comments, but please don’t rudely vegan police me because no one likes that. 

All that being said, here are the other weapons in my arsenal that have worked for me:

Sea Buckthorn berry oil – I’m not sure why more people don’t know about sea buckthorn oil because it’s an incredible vegan source of omega’s 3, 6, 9, and the rare omega 7 that many people take fish oil for. It’s also rich in skin-friendly Vitamins A, E and C. Now, you can take it internally, and I will probably talk more about that in a future post, but right now, I’m talking about using sea buckthorn berry oil for your face. A few drops as part of your bedtime skincare routine can:

  • soften and strengthen your skin
  • reduce inflammation, thus breaking the inflammatory acne cycle
  • help to heal scarring from previous breakouts


Some of my faves chilling in my bathroom aka The Poop Cave.

Some of my faves chilling in my bathroom aka The Poop Cave.

Moringa oil – I worked for a company that cultivated moringa oil for cosmetic use, so believe me when I tell you I know more about it than you will ever need or want to. Long story short, like sea buckthorn, moringa can be used both externally and internally. In additional it’s many anti-aging properties, a few drops of moringa on your face can:

  • clear blackheads and pimples
  • fight skin infection with its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties
  • repair damaged skin cells with Vitamin C

Vegan Omega-3 DHA – Omega-3 (aka eicosapentaenoic acid) regulated oil production in your body – and a lack of this essential fatty acid in the American diet has driven many people to take fish oil supplements. I did my research, though, and found a good vegan Omega-3 supplement derived from algae. I keep mine on my desk at work so I remember to take one daily.

Tea tree oil, witch hazel and all that other stuff you tried in high school

There’s a reason why everyone’s hippy aunt recommends tea tree oil and witch hazel for acne – it works. But it can be tough to figure out how much and how often. For that reason, I really like Tone It Lightly from Balanced Guru. It contains a blend of these, and many other holistic skin care ingredients in a light mist. I spritz it on in the morning before my moisturizer for just enough of all that good skin witchcraft.

When you want to feel like you’re “doing something”

One thing I’ll say for harsh acne treatments, they give you that satisfying feeling that you are actively killing pimples. Whether it’s a chemical smell, a burning sensation, or that feeling of super tight facial skin after you apply a detox mask – sometimes it’s just nice feel like you have a little control. Natural, gentle products are totally effective, but sometimes you want to feel like you’re doing something extra. That’s when I like to bust out the facial masks. You smear some crud on your face, lay back for 15-30 minutes while it does whatever, and then you rinse it off and feel like you just treated yourself. For these times, I turn to a brightening & clarifying Berry Boost Face Mask from Thesis. It’s 100% natural, so I’m not undoing any of the good I’ve done with the rest of my routine, but it contains a blend of natural clays that give you that nice feeling of really detoxifying and purifying your pores – and an excuse to lay around with stuff on your face once or twice a week.

Moisturizing – Seriously, Do It 

Most stock images for skincare are terrifying, which is why I don't use them.

Most stock images for skincare are terrifying, which is why I don’t use them.

When you’re battling acne, psychologically, you may feel compelled to zap the moisture from your skin. Applying oils and lotions might feel counter-intuitive. But dry skin will trigger an excess of oil production as your skin tries to compensate for the oils harsh cleansers and acne treatments can strip away. The truth is, well-hydrated skin is healthier and therefore, better equipped to bounce back from acne. I’ll outline my exact routine below, but I like to use a very gentle, basic moisture cream at night. The best I’ve found is Blissoma Sensitive Skin Soothing Complex. I received a sample in my Petit Vour box and I’m sold on it’s clean ingredients and super-moisturizing effects.

My Personal Routine

Everyone’s skin is different, you know the drill. But when I was researching natural treatments for hormonal acne I read a lot of random product recommendations and found myself wondering how and when these products were being used. So this is my own personal routine. If you decide to follow it you’ll likely want to adjust things here and there to suit your skin.


  • Remove makeup with a gentle cleanser*
  • Place a dime-sized dollop of Sensitive Skin Night Creme in my hand
  • Mix in 2-3 drops each sea buckthorn berry oil**, moringa oil
  • Using one finger, dot the mixture all over my face and neck, then use gentle circular motions to massage the mixture in.
  • Once or twice a week I also apply a pea-sized amount of adapalene, which was perscribed by my dermatologist. As I mentioned, this chemical is very drying, and I avoid using it unless I feel a big breakout coming on. So far I’ve been able to keep my skin clear using 95% holistic treatments and using this only in emergencies.
Me now. Do I really need to tell you to stay out of the sun? Stay out of the sun!

Me now. Do I really need to tell you to stay out of the sun? Stay out of the sun!



  • Apply Berry Boost Face Mask for 15 minutes
  • Take lots of selfies and #dogselfies and try to keep in mind that it looks a lot worse to me than it does to other people

*My derm recommended CeraVe and in my desperation, I’ve been using it. It’s fine, but I’m still looking for a very gentle, effective cleanser with natural & vegan ingredients. **This is naturally orange in color, but the color on your skin dissipates in about 20 minutes. If you’re going straight to bed it could rub off on your pillow case.

I hope this helps some people out with their own acne problems! Questions? Suggestions? Ideas for my next post? Leave them in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation. However, I only recommend products I have tested myself and approved of.