Breakouts + Hormonal Acne: Natural Remedies That Really Work

In this new series (inspired by you guys!) we’re spilling the skin-ny on common skin conditions that our customers experience. Our inbox is consistently flooded with questions concerning rosacea, eczema, hormonal acne, aging, melasma and more, so all month long we’re tackling our top skincare FAQs. Check out Post 1 for Natural Remedies for Rosacea, Eczema + Sensitive Skin and Part 2 for Natural Remedies for Melasma + Hyperpigmentation.

But before we get started, there’s something I should mention: This series is not an end all be all or an exhaustive explanation of these skin conditions (or possible remedies) or a diagnosis. It’s simply intended to help guide you in getting to know your skin, what’s going on below the surface and offer some helpful, holistic suggestions. Our largest organ is extremely complex (which makes my job as a Holistic Esthetician challenging and rewarding all at the same time!) and the journey to establishing balance internally + externally may require a few detours, discovering new paths along the way and ultimately, developing a more mindful relationship with your body and skin to find the most supportive remedies for YOU.

Next up: breakouts, blackheads and hormonal acne. Feel free to scroll to the condition you’re struggling with or skim to find the best remedy to fit your skin’s needs. But do be sure to make it to the bottom for a little reminder as you take steps to support + heal your skin, holistically. 🙂


If you’re still battling breakouts, yet it’s years after graduation day, you’re not alone. The majority of adults (especially women) actually experience acne. Acne is a complex skin condition with multiple causes stemming from our external and internal environments – and, surprisingly, it’s not so much about dirt, bacteria or clogged pores as we were once led to believe.

Let’s start with a little Skin Anatomy 101: one of the skin’s main functions is excretion (aka eliminating waste + toxins), so the skin is actually a key organ in detoxing the body! The reality is, a clear complexion actually starts below the surface. More than a bacterial problem, acne is a detox response and inflammation is a result – revealing itself as papules (solid, raised bumps) or pustules (inflamed bumps filled with fluid), which are the 2 most common signs of inflammatory acne on the skin.

There can be countless factors that contribute to an inflammatory response in the skin, which makes acne one of the most difficult conditions to treat – and it really does require a whole-person approach to get real results. Our tissues, organs and systems are all interconnected, so while it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of an acne flare-up, we can trust that our skin is trying to tell us something.

Here are some common causes + underlying conditions that can contribute to acne:

  • Diet
  • Gut health (candida can be a big one)
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal fluctuations (including monthly cycle + birth control)
  • Medication/Antibiotics
  • Weakened immunity
  • Health condition/infection
  • Harsh topical products/excess exfoliation
  • Stress (always a contributor to skin conditions!)

With chronic, inflammatory conditions like acne, the skin’s barrier function, microbiome, and pH levels all play a part when it comes to breakouts. Unfortunately, typical acne treatments like Accutane, antibiotics, birth control or harsh topical products can actually wreak havoc on your gut health, hormones, immunity and skin’s microbiome (even your mental well-being) – which are exactly the areas of health that we need to support + strengthen to create truly clear skin.

So while taking a holistic approach may take a bit more time and intention than traditional methods of clearing up acne, you’ll feel a positive shift in your body and mind, too. Sounds like a pretty powerful acne treatment to me. 😉

We’re talking long-term solutions today rather than quick fixes to support holistic acne healing – but don’t worry, there are a couple of topical ingredients that can help minimize the appearance of redness, inflammation and acne (and sometimes, almost overnight!).


Here are my top lifestyle tips and non-toxic product picks to help:

  • Lymphatic drainage: I can’t stress enough how essential lymphatic drainage is for a clear complexion! The lymphatic system is our body’s natural cleansing system and helps to detoxify the skin + body. But when this system is blocked or becomes stagnant, it can cause toxic buildup in tissues – leading to blackheads, congestion, acne and other inflammatory skin conditions. My favorite way to optimize lymphatic flow, minimize blackheads and help breakouts heal even faster is with Gua Sha (an ancient practice rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine).

    Watch this tutorial to learn the best acne-clearing tips with your regular Gua Sha ritual to detoxify skin, drain lymphatic fluid and boost blood flow to help your complexion get clear – and stay clear (hint: it starts with the neck!). Or try this Yellow Nephrite Roller to optimize lymphatic flow on the go!
  • Cleanse with oil: Swap conventional cleansers that can strip skin + aggravate acne for oils! The oil-free myth has finally been debunked and Cleansing Oils utilize expertly-formulated skin-loving oils to purify pores, dissolve buildup and keep skin balanced. And of course, the oils are so great (even for oil-rich skin states), but the facial massage component is where the magic really happens. Not only is this step crucial for proper cleansing, but consistent facial massage promotes that healthy lymphatic system we just talked about!

    Make the Oil Cleansing Method a part of your nightly skincare ritual and check out this video tutorial to find out exactly how to do it!
  • Stress less: Easier said than done, sometimes. 😉 Pressures to perform, to produce more, to be perfect, to please the people in our life… stress comes in all forms (and can even stem from these types of beliefs we often live by) and can be one of the biggest contributors to imbalanced skin. Chronic stress creates a spike of cortisol (our body’s primary stress hormone) which spikes inflammation within the body and makes skin more susceptible to breakouts – and it takes a serious toll on your gut health, immune system + body’s resiliency (key things for clear skin).

    Prioritize daily stress-relieving practices like spending time with loved ones, deep breathing + meditation, epsom salt baths, removing toxins from your environment (not a typical de-stressing practice but an important one!), learning to say “no”, and keeping a gratitude journal. Also, as much as possible, remember to surrender + let go of control when unexpected circumstances/challenging situations come along. Stress can be an inevitable part of life, but it doesn’t have to take total control of your cortisol levels.
  • Turmeric: Aka nature’s acne treatment. Turmeric is incredibly potent in anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties to help heal inflamed/active breakouts. Studies have even shown that curcumin (the main chemical compound in turmeric) helps to repair acne scarring and visibly brightens the complexion. Not only does this ancient remedy help to visibly calm breakouts, but once it heals you won’t know it was ever there. 😉

    The Clarifying Serum + Clarifying Mask are packed with Turmeric and a potent dose of vitamin C from whole plant sources. Apply the serum morning + night and mask during your epsom salt bath or meditation to detox + de-stress, inside and out.


Acne can show up in different parts of the face depending on the root cause – and it’s a pretty well-known fact that the lower part of the face is often linked to hormonal acne. Often appearing along the jawline, lower cheeks, chin and neck, it can be more nodular/cystic acne residing deeper below the skin’s surface. Although this type of acne doesn’t always raise its (white) head, the discomfort is definitely felt.

While dreaded bouts of deep-seated cystic acne or that breakout you can expect to reappear every single month seem to be linked to hormonal fluctuations within the body, here’s the thing: it’s not just because your hormones are out of whack or it’s “that time of the month”.

Of course, it does have something to do with your hormone health (because every part of our health is connected), but acne, in almost every case, is caused by toxins.

One of the key culprits of an endocrine system out of balance is the burden of our toxic diets + environments. The majority of toxins that cycle through our bodies actually mimic estrogen and disrupt our natural hormonal balance – and often, the more of these toxins you’re exposed to, the more chronic cystic acne you may experience around the lower half of the face (which is where these estrogenic toxins typically purge).

Estrogen-mimicking toxins (aka xenoestrogens) like

  • parabens
  • preservatives (in food and in products)
  • pesticides
  • plasticides

interfere with the body’s natural hormonal processes, negatively impacting the immune system, gut, brain, reproductive system and of course, the skin. Essentially, these endocrine disruptors are putting your body in a state of confusion and creating quite a bit of chaos along the way.

And on top of that, if vital organs (like our liver and kidneys) are being overworked or overloaded with toxins from chemical-laden products, processed foods or artificial hormones, it relies on the skin for support in filtering out waste and toxins. Enter: acne – no matter how old you are.

So to sum it all up, hormonal acne often occurs as the body attempts to correct this imbalance. But that’s good news ( kind of 😉 )! Because it means we actually have more control over our choices and lifestyle habits to help minimize toxins in and around our body.

Taking steps to eliminate toxins (from the water you drink and your diet to your air quality and products) is the most powerful way to treat acne. Plus, prioritizing lifestyle habits that help to expedite the healing process and support the skin’s detoxification will dramatically help to minimize acne – and even the potential of scarring that can plague the complexion long after the breakout has healed.


Here are my top lifestyle tips and non-toxic product picks to help:

  • Eliminate toxins: Now that we know that acne can be a detox response and is closely linked to toxins in our bodies + our environments, creating a living/work space that’s free of toxic chemicals, artificial fragrances and other dangerous ingredients that wreak havoc on your skin (and your hormones + overall health) is a MUST to help relieve acne in the long-term. The environment we create within the home can significantly add to the toxic buildup in our bodies (remember, the skin is a key organ in detoxifying the body!), so consider all of the products you use in your home on a daily + weekly basis and start by replacing just 1 toxic home product at a time.

    Swap air fresheners, artificially-scented candles and conventional cleaning products with safe options to help minimize toxins + inflammation, inside and out.
  • The food factor: Okay, you detoxed your external environment, now it’s time to detox your internal world! Focus on adding in more foods that boost immunity, balance hormones, support gut + liver health and help fight inflammation internally – and these types of food will also help support your body’s natural elimination process more regularly (if you know what I mean!). Try eliminating dairy, sugars, and processed foods + oils (like canola, cottonseed, and soybean). For most people, dairy is difficult is breakdown/digest and can contribute to mucus buildup, congestion and those pesky blackheads. And sugars can feed bad bacteria (such as candida) in the gut leading to an inflammatory response in the skin.
    • Go organic – this eliminates pesticides from your diet and xenoestrogens from your body.
    • Get pasture-raised – this also ensures you’re feeding your body with animal products that do not have added growth hormones, which can confuse your body further and create a cascade of unwanted hormone shifts.
    • Sip bone broth – let sipping a mug of gut-healing + collagen-boosting bone broth become a nightly ritual.
    • Add adaptogens – these powerhouse herbs help the body adapt to stressors and have an incredible balancing effect on hormones (and acne-prone skin).
  • Avoid toxic topical products: Sadly, typical topical acne-fighting products (benzoyl peroxide being one of them) not only strip the skin on the surface, but contribute to toxic buildup within the body. The majority of skincare on the market is made with cheap, toxic ingredients that actually aggravate acne and is one of the biggest contributors to our toxic load.

    Steer clear of chemicals like propylene glycol, fragrance, parabens, DEA/TEA, phthalates, and sodium lauryl sulfate in your skincare products – which are, unfortunately, ingredients that are often the go-to clear skin protocol. As a rule of thumb, if it’s harmful to your skin, it’s harmful to your health.
  • CBD: I’m not exaggerating when I say, CBD is an answer to prayer for hormonal acne. As you focus on balancing your internal health, treat your breakouts topically with this skin superfood. It visibly minimizes inflammation and diminishes discomfort associated with deeper, cystic breakouts. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals + amino acids, it has the perfect ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids and the highest amount of Gamma Linoleic Acid (a potent anti-inflammatory) than any other plant source. Plus, it helps to inhibit the buildup of dead skin cells to keep breakouts away.

    Alternate the Clarifying Serum with this CBD Serum to powerfully soothe hormonal acne – and almost overnight!

While acne can really take a toll on our emotional health + self-confidence, the beauty of breakouts (okay, hear me out!) is that it’s an invitation to do some deeper healing that will ultimately lead to a healthier you, inside and out. This is where I love to shift my perspective in how I view acne – and even give gratitude for the messages my skin is sending me so I can take a step back, evaluate my lifestyle habits and move forward with a fresh plan that will not only help clear up my skin but serve every aspect of my body and being. So there’s one really positive way to rethink that breakout. 😉

And although I just unpacked a few of the acne issues we get asked about all the time, sometimes these conditions can reveal themselves differently depending on the person. And although I shared a few holistic tips to help alleviate these conditions, different remedies may work better for some than for others. But ultimately, I want to encourage you to tune in to your skin (and seek medical advice + attention if needed) and incorporate the remedies + rituals that resonate with you.

While it may take time and possibly some trial + error, I hope that as you start to implement these holistic lifestyle suggestions and natural topical solutions into your daily life, you will begin to experience a positive shift within – and remember, the skin is a reflection of exactly that.

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Courtney O’Connor

Courtney Joy O’Connor is Primally Pure’s In-House Holistic Esthetician and Content Curator. Being in the beauty industry for over a decade, her experience + expertise with pure products, the healing power of touch and holistic skincare rituals are at the core of all she creates. She has trained extensively with industry experts across the country to offer her community the most educational content and transformative treatments. Courtney lives at the beach with her plant babies and loves road tripping, blending superfood bliss balls and exploring our big, beautiful world.