Q: Just ask anyone in the greater Savannah area: If there are two things that this Southern belle and mother of three prides herself on, it’s a placid constitution and a clear complexion. However, during the holidays both of these qualities seem to go straight out the window as I morph into a high-strung despot with little red dots all over my face. As far as the acne goes, I know it’s caused by a perfect storm of rich foods, swinging hormones, less humid air outside and stress that I mostly blame on “the beast living in the basement” (aka my difficult mother-in-law who swoops in from Marietta and terrorizes our home for a two-week minimum during the holidays).


That said, I don’t think my acne outbreaks are dermo-worthy (if they were, believe me I’d be there in a heartbeat) but I would obviously like to make them go away. I’ve taken several preventive measures — using non-oily cosmetics, exfoliating, yoga, visiting a firing range to get out all that pent-up mother-in-law aggression — but the little buggers always seem to reappear from around Dec. 1 though Jan. 2. In terms of treatment, do you have any suggestions for natural and inexpensive pimple remedies? I’d like to avoid harsh, chemical drugstore products if possible and try something that is a little bit esoteric and a whole lot of effective. 


Jena, Savannah, Ga.


Hey Jena,

So sorry to hear about your holiday-induced adult acne affliction — it’s the gift that unfortunately keeps on giving. And yes, I do have suggestions on how to treat those unsightly craters without resorting to harsh, chemical solutions, but keep in mind that I’m not an M.D. (nor do I play one on TV). If your seasonal acne blues are truly getting you down, I would visit a dermatologist so he or she can give your pores a full professional assessment. 

It sounds like you’re taking the right preventative measures: Steer clear of oily facial products, continue to clean and exfoliate (but don’t overdo it or you’ll further aggravate/dry out your skin) and work on coping with the stress of that bad, bad woman who has taking up temporary residence in your home. Also be sure to get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of water to flush out any toxins lingering in your system. And I wouldn’t sweat the greasy/rich food thing too much. Pizza and chocolate don’t directly result in the formation of pimples (this is somewhat of a myth), so if eating these items makes you feel better and, in turn, alleviates stress, by all means have them.

While we’re on the topic of food, let’s have a walk through the kitchen, shall we? There are several edibles in your cupboards and fridge worth smearing and squeezing on your face. First off, I recommend rubbing halved lemons on your mug. The citric acid in lemon juice flushes out the pores and acts as an antiseptic that kills bacteria, one of the primary causes of acne. And if you have any leftover juice, wipe down your kitchen counter with it. Another popular in-the-kitchen folk remedy for all sorts of skin issues is oatmeal. Find a peaceful moment and whip up a skin-conditioning, oil-absorbing oatmeal acne mask. Add tea tree oil for an additional antiseptic boost. Have a couple of extra eggs after cooking your dear mother-in-law a delicious and nutritious breakfast? Concoct a pore-tightening egg white face mask. If the thought of smearing raw egg on your face gives you pause, opt for a honey mask and add in other ingredients such as aloe vera juice, table salt, cinnamon and, umm, crushed aspirin.

Moving on to the laundry room, two popular, old-fashioned home acne remedies are Colgate’s Octagon Soap, a versatile bar soap that you can also use to remove clothing stains, clean your stove, wash your hands, and repel deer and rabbits from your garden, and Fels-Naptha, a bar laundry soap also used to clean paintbrushes and soothe bug bites. If these laundry room staples fail to clear up your skin, at least you can use ’em for 101 other things around the house.

Whenever I start to break out, I reach for Mario Badecu’s Drying Lotion. This salicylic acid-based miracle worker (it also contains calamine, zinc, talc and camphor) may not have cheap and eco-friendly folk remedy appeal but I can tell you the stuff works and will last you a long time. Simply dab a little bit of the pink stuff on whiteheads and surface pimples before bed and you’ll wake up a new woman. I’ve never woken up as a new woman, just zit-free, after using Mario B Drying Lotion, but if I did I suspect it wouldn’t be sold at Nordstrom.

Hope these suggestions help, Jena. And I can’t stress it enough: Get thee to a dermatologist if none of these solutions works or if they make things worse.

— Matt

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Got any natural acne remedies?
Matt Hickman has found a few zit zappers in the kitchen and the laundry room. (No, it's not bleach.)