Does the caveman regimen for acne work?
If you’ve tried everything to get rid of your acne and still those damn pimples won’t leave you alone, you may be tempted to try the caveman regimen, too.
And why not? The caveman regimen is all natural, low maintenance, and won’t literally cost you a penny. Plus, hundreds of people swear it helped them cure their acne once and for all.
But a few also swore it made things worse… It’s not unusual to go through a purging period when you embark on this new regimen… or even to have your acne flare-up worse than ever.
What’s the deal here? Does the caveman regimen work only for some acne sufferers, like teenagers with hormonal acne? Is it just placebo? Here’s what the science says:
- What Is The Caveman Regimen For Acne?
- How To Do The Caveman Regimen For Acne
- But, Wait! Can You Use Makeup, At Least?
- What’s The Theory Behind The Caveman Regimen?
- Does The Caveman Regimen For Acne Work?
- Does The Caveman Regimen Work For Acne Scars?
- How Do You Explain The Caveman Regimen Cured Acne For A Lot Of People Then?
- What Skincare Ingredients Make Acne Worse?
- Can The Caveman Regimen Make Your Acne Worse?
- What Are The Best Alternatives To The Caveman Regimen?
- The Bottom Line
What Is The Caveman Regimen For Acne?
The caveman regimen is the Paleo diet of skincare. Just like Paleo lovers follow the same diet as our cavemen ancestors, this acne regimen copies their skincare routine… or better yet, their lack of it.
That’s right. Our cavemen ancestors didn’t have a skincare routine. Whether their complexion was flawless or riddled with acne, they let their skin be. No interference.
The caveman regimen for acne follows the same philosophy. Followers use NO skincare products. NOTHING is allowed to touch their face. Not even plain old water.
I’ll let that sink in for a minute…
If you’re following this regimen, you CAN’T wash your face for MONTHS. Are you ok with that?
Related: Her Skincare Secrets: An Interview With Natural Acne Fighter Tracy Raftl Of The Love Vitamin
How To Do The Caveman Regimen For Acne
Lately some people came up with water-only versions, but the original protocol forbids even that. Purists won’t let anything come in contact with their face for fear of triggering another breakout.
For 30 days, you do absolutely nothing to your skin. No moisturiser. No serum. No sunscreen. No cleanser. No water.
After that, you can start reintroducing occasional washing into your skincare routine. But you need 2 more months to fully test out this regimen. Can you go without washing your face for so long? (I personally cringe at the thought.)
Related: 6 Simple, But Often Ignored, Cleansing Tips
Need help to create a skincare routine that tackles both acne and aging? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the “Acne + Aging Skincare Routine” cheatsheet:
But, Wait! Can You Use Makeup, At Least?
Did our cavemen ancestors have makeup? Nope. You can’t use anything. That includes skincare AND makeup products.
That’s right. You can’t rely on full coverage foundation to hide your pimples or a touch of red lipstick to distract the eye from forehead acne. You have to let the world see your bare skin.
There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re beautiful either with or without acne. Your beauty shines from within. It comes from your kindness, your sense of humour, your gentle nature. Don’t let anyone or anything ever make you feel otherwise.
But I know that going makeup free can be very uncomfortable at first for acne sufferers. If this is a dealbreaker for you, don’t feel bad. There are better ways to deal with acne, anyway.
P.S. Even if you’re tempted to cheat and apply a thin layer of foundation, how are you gonna wash it off? You can’t use a cleanser, remember? Ewww.
Related: The Best Foundations For Acne-Prone Skin (Without Salicylic Acid)
What’s The Theory Behind The Caveman Regimen?
It’s quite simple, really. If you stop interfering with your skin, it will heal itself.
The longer version: acne sufferers often have a damaged acid mantle. It’s a protective layer that sits on the top of your skin, keeping it safe from germs, bacteria, and other enemies.
This mantle is delicate. Here are just a few things that can damage it:
- Air conditioning
- Harsh skincare products, like scrubs and soaps
- Harsh weather
- Skin diseases like eczema
- Unprotected sun exposure
If you’ve been washing your face 3 times a day in the hope of getting rid of all that excess oil or benzoyl peroxided the crap out of your pimples, chances are your acid mantle is damaged all over the place.
The caveman regimen fixes this damage by… doing nothing. You just let sebum (your skin’s natural moisturiser) do what it would normally do without human interference, correcting any imbalances on its own.
Related: Acid Mantle: What It Is And How To Repair It
Does The Caveman Regimen For Acne Work?
There is NO scientific proof the caveman regimen work for acne – any type of acne. Cystic, hormonal, adult, teenager… Whatever you’re dealing with, I could find no study showing this minimalist regimen helps.
Nothing to suggest that quitting your skincare products or not washing your face is beneficial for acne. Heck, dermatologists recommend you cleanse every morning and night even if you have acne!
And why not? Would you go without a shower for a month? I know, gross. Your skin ain’t no different. Do you really want to leave all that excess oil, grime, and pollution particles on your face for a whole month? That doesn’t strike me as a good idea…
Plus, acne ain’t a modern phenomenon. People have suffered from it for millennia. And they didn’t have benzoyl peroxide or other harsh acne medications back then…
Related: Adult Acne: Why It Happens And How To Deal With It
Does The Caveman Regimen Work For Acne Scars?
No, the caveman regimen does NOT work for acne scars.
There’s no way that allowing sebum and your skin to do their natural thing can heal acne scars. Heck, even topical skincare products can’t do anything for them.
If you have acne scars, do your skin a favour and visit a dermatologist. They have plenty of tools at their disposal to treat any type of scars.
Related: How To Treat Acne Scars: The Complete Guide
How Do You Explain The Caveman Regimen Cured Acne For A Lot Of People Then?
A quick Google search turns up plenty of forum threads where people swear the caveman regimen cured their acne. How is this possible?
The caveman regimen doesn’t provide any medicinal or miraculous ingredient to get rid of acne. In fact, it doesn’t add anything!
Instead, the caveman regimen works by subtraction. If you were using a harsh cleanser that was destroying your acid mantle or a rich moisturizer loaded with comedogenic ingredients, taking them off your skincare routine is bound to improve your skin.
In other words, your skin doesn’t heal because you’re following the caveman regimen for acne. It heals because you stopped using whatever was causing your acne in the first place!
What Skincare Ingredients Make Acne Worse?
Here are a few culprits that are likely to cause or worsen acne:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Essential oils
- Isopropyl Myristate
- Isopropyl Palmitate
- Most oils
- Harsh surfactants, like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Rich butters, like shea
FYI, just because a harsh or comedogenic ingredient is in a product, it doesn’t mean it’ll make you breakout. It depends on the concentration of the said ingredient and what else is in the formula.
Take coconut oil. If it’s the second ingredient in a moisturiser, it’ll likely give you acne. But if there’s only a drop of it in the bottle, it won’t do you any harm.
Bottom line: if that skincare product you’re eyeing has a huge dollop of these ingredients, leave it on the shelf.
Related: The Complete List Of Comedogenic Ingredients In Skincare
Can The Caveman Regimen Make Your Acne Worse?
Yes, it can. Let me explain…
It’s not unusual to experience a breakout when you first embark on the caveman regimen. The reason is simple: when you quit your skincare routine, you didn’t just quit the ingredients that were aggravating your acne. You also quit the ingredients that were keeping your acne under control.
Without salicylic acid to unclog pores or benzoyl peroxide to kill acne bacteria, your pimples can now thrive.
Of course, everyone is different. If your moisturiser was the only cause of your acne, going on the caveman regimen can help. But if it has an underlying cause, quitting your skincare routine completely can do more harm than good.
Related: 3 Little-Known Anti-Acne Ingredients For Clearer Skin
What Are The Best Alternatives To The Caveman Regimen?
I recommend a gentle skincare routine that tackles your acne without destroying your skin’s acid mantle. Here’s how to create one:
Opt for a gentle, pH-balanced foaming cleanser that removes excess oil without disrupting the skin’s acid mantle. Anything with a pH higher than 6.5 is bad news for skin.
- Corsx low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ($11.00): A gentle pH-balnced (5.5) foaming cleanser that removes dirt and makeup without drying out skin. Available at Sokoglam and YesStyle.
- Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser ($18.00): A pH-balanced (5.5) cleanser for oily skin that removes dirt, excess oil, and impurities. Available at Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice.
Related: Why You Should Switch To A Low pH Cleanser Now
SALICYLIC ACID EXFOLIANT
Salicylic acid is your new BFF. This oil-soluble exfoliant gets inside the pores to remove all the excess oil and dead skin cells that are clogging them up and giving you acne. While it’s at it, it also exfoliates the surface of the skin and soothes redness. For best results, use it every other night. Overexfoliating skin can inflame skin (inflammation is the #1 cause of acne).
- Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): It has salicylic acid to unclog pores and glycolic acid to fade away the dark spots that pimples sometimes leave behind. Available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00): My go-to for acne, it unclog pores and treats blackheads and whiteheads. The texture is a little sticky, but it works. Available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic and Paula’s Choice
- The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (£9.99): A simple, no-frills exfoliant to unclog pores and treat acne for those on a budget. Available at Cult Beauty
Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin
Choose a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer that hydrates your skin without adding more oil to it. Oil-free moisturisers use humectants, like Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid that draw moisture from the air into your skin, keeping it hydrated for longer. Bonus points if your moisturiser has niacinamide. This multitasker helps treat acne, soothe inflammation, hydrate skin, and brighten the complexion.
- Boscia Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturiser ($38.00): A lightweight, oil-free moisturiser enriched with powerful antioxidant green tea to fight free radicals. Available at Dermstore, and Ulta
- Paula’s Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer ($29.00): An oil-free moisturiser enriched with niacinamide, a powerful active that hydrates skin, treats acne, and fades away dark spots. Available at Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice
- Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment & Moisturizer ($39.00): A lightweight moisturiser with salicylic acid to unclog pores. If you choose this option, use this moisturiser every other night in place of a BHA exfoliant. Available at Ulta
Related: Oily Skin? Here’s Why You Need An Oil-Free Moisturizer
I know it’s tempting to skip sunscreen. It’s so thick. Greasy. Pore-clogging. But you’ll never have clear skin without it. Here’s the deal: nothing inflames your skin like UV rays. And guess what acne is? An inflammatory disease! Do I need to say more? Experiment until you find a lightweight formula that doesn’t make your skin a greasy mess. The picks below all fit the bill.
One more thing: UV rays can penetrate through clouds and windows and even be reflected on snow. Don’t think you can skip sunscreen just because it’s gloomy and you can’t see the sun. If you’re serious about fighting acne (and wrinkles!), use it every single day, all year long.
- EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): One of my fave sunscreens for oily skin, it has a lightweight texture that sinks in without leaving a greasy, white mess behind. Plus, it provides excellent sun protection. Available at Dermstore and Walmart
- Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection SPF 50 Sunscreen + WetForce For Sensitive Skin & Children ($42.00): Lightweight and waterproof, it provides excellent broad spectrum protection even for sensitive skin types. Available at Ulta
- Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 ($34.00): A tinted, mineral sunscreen with a lightweight texture that provides excellent sun protection even on hot summer days. Available at Blue Mercury and Dermstore
Related: The Best Sunscreens For Oily Skin
When a pimple rears its ugly head, use a spot treatment to banish it, pronto. Both benzoyl peroxide and sulfur have anti-bacterial properties that can kill P.Acnes, the bacteria that’s making your life hell. They’re both harsh, so use them on pimples only! Brands will tell you that sulfur, in particular, can be used as a mask all over your face. Don’t buy it! Unless you want to dry out your skin and cause more damage, use sulfur only on pimples – and ditch it once your acne has healed.
- Epionce Purifying Spot Gel ($38.00): A powerful spot treatment with sulphur that gets rid of pimples in a matter of days. Available at at Dermstore
- Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide ($18.00): A spot treatment with acne-killer Benzoyl Peroxide to get rid of acne. Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice.
Related: Is Sulfur The Best Treatment For Acne?
The Bottom Line
Given the lack of scientific evidence, I can’t recommend the caveman regimen for acne. Plus, most people do need skincare products to help them keep their acne under control. If you suspect your skincare routine is making your acne worse, identify the culprit and replace it with a gentler alternative.
Have you tried the cavemen regimen for acne? Share your experience in the comments below.
“There is NOW scientific proof the caveman regimen work for acne – any type of acne.” Is this a typo? It doesn’t fit with the text that follows it.
Karen, oops it was a typo! Thank you for letting me know. I’ve fixed it.
I couldn’t handle not even using water on my face, so I tried this but with rinsing my face with water twice a day for 3 months. I had had acne on my chin, around my nose and on my forehead for 10 years and was desperate to reduce it. This regimen did lead to the reduction of my acne, because I discovered my skin type was different from what I had believed! I was told I had oily skin so I spent all those years using products and acne treatments for oily skin, but after this 3 month period it was obvious that my skin was actually sensitive and dehydrated. I had been making my skin look worse by using the wrong products! I am sure I wouldn’t have found that out without attempting this regimen. The acne on my forehead turned out to be 80% due to constantly irritating my skin with the wrong products. I stopped this 8 months ago. Since then I have been trying products that are designed for my real skin type and this time my attempts to treat my nose/chin acne are actually showing positive results.