9 Celebrities With Acne Reveal Their Top Remedies for Clear Skin

Learn celebrities' acne-busting secrets.

Getting a pimple is one of the most universal human experiences. But thanks to Photoshop and filters, it’s easy to believe that celebrities are immune. 

In reality, breakouts can and do happen to the most famous among us. And many of them have spoken out about their own struggles with acne. From actors to singers, they've shared their stories of dealing with problem skin and how they’ve learned to cope.


And in this post, we look at what celebrities with acne use to clear up their skin and minimise breakouts.

1. Rihanna


Singer and billionaire businesswoman Rihanna is candid about her skin problems.

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In a 2020 Instagram post  - her first selfie in a decade - a zit is visible. When a follower offers to pop the pimple, the singer replies:


“let her have her shine, PLEASE.”


The owner of Fenty Beauty also regularly shares her skincare routine. Rihanna once told Elle she skips alcohol and ups her water intake to fix her skin:


“When I feel like my skin has had it, I cut all the alcohol completely and overdo the water.”


Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar, Rihanna added that diet played a key role in skin health.


"A healthy diet, people from the best, most exotic islands with access to the best ingredients and stuff like that and the best environment, climate, and humidity—their skin is so beautiful. I try to implement a lot of those ingredients into my skincare line."


She adds that she’d spend the most on a good moisturiser.


Research shows certain foods, like dairy and hyperglycaemic foods, may worsen acne. Hyperglycaemic foods raise your blood sugar levels quickly. Examples include sugary drinks and white bread.


In addition, a study published in the 2022 International journal of women's dermatology suggests that following an anti-inflammatory diet can improve acne. 


And Rihanna’s recommendation to invest in moisturiser is backed by science: some evidence shows hydrating the skin may improve acne.


2. Cameron Diaz


Actress Cameron Diaz admits she’s been self-conscious about her “terrible skin”.

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Per The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body, Diaz wrote (per Radar Online):


"I mean, I had terrible, terrible, skin.


"It was embarrassing, and I did everything I could think of to make it go away. I tried to cover it with makeup. I tried to get rid of it with medication: oral, topical, even the harshest prescriptions. Nothing helped for very long."


Like Rihanna, Diaz believes in the power of diet for acne. Diaz said she saw massive improvements in her skin once she cleaned up her diet.


"Looking back, I realize that I hadn't needed those prescription drugs, those vials of potions and creams…I hadn't needed to be angry at my skin or feel bad about myself. I had just needed to LISTEN TO MY BODY. … acne was my body's alarm system, it was (a way) of telling me to stop eating fast food."


Personally, I saw a major change in my skin when I eliminated fast food. I also replaced sugary drinks and juices with water and sparkling water. These changes led to lasting improvements in my skin, particularly when it comes to hormonal acne. My experience with prescription medication, like hormonal birth control, was that it helped in the short term but didn’t address the root cause of my acne.


3. Alicia Keys


These days singer Alicia Keys is known for her make-up-free look, but she battled with skin issues for years.

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Like Diaz, Keys also credits diet with clearing up her skin, reports Elle:


'It took me forever to get this skin. I mean, I know how it feels to have a face full of bumps and pimples. I lived through that in the public eye. But when I first got pregnant [six years ago with her son, Egypt] I started to eliminate dairy from my diet and drank a lot more water, which made a huge difference to my skin.”

While there’s no firm association between dairy and acne, dermatologists recommend paying attention to your breakouts and watching whether they seem worse after you consume a specific food or beverage. 


4. Keira Knightley 

English actress Keira Knightley starred in blockbusters like Love Actually and Pirates of the Caribbean.

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And though she looks flawless during her red carpet appearances, the actress admits she’s been self-conscious about her acne, as she tells Vogue:


“I’m incredibly self-conscious about the fact that I get bad skin.


“Well, if you’re using your face, if you’re selling it, then you’ve become so aware of the flaws because people tell you. And they do so brusquely. So then you start seeing it.”


For Knightley, a more minimal approach helped rid her of acne.


‘I had really bad skin until I was 24 and up until then I did everything under the sun to it…Then one day I thought I would try to leave it and that's what suited it better. That's also why I always want to wear as little make-up as possible when I am not working. When I'm filming, I always have a breakout as we have to cake the make-up on. I think it needs a break every now and again to be able to breathe.”


Per the American Academy of Dermatology Association, makeup can cause a type of acne called acne cosmetica:


“If you have acne cosmetica, you’ll likely have many tiny bumps on your face. These bumps usually appear on the cheeks, chin, or forehead. Many women develop whiteheads that rise above their skin slightly. You may also notice some pimples.”


5. Zendaya


Singer and actress Zendaya is known for her flawless skin, but she suffers from regular breakouts, too.

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Zendaya viral on Twitter when she shared her frustration with hormonal acne:


Beauty Crew reports on Zendaya’s simple skincare habits and the actress is serious about sticking to a routine.


"I think it's so important to take care of your skin and pamper it before you go to bed."


Each night, Zendaya removes her makeup and applies a toner. She also likes to keep her skin hydrated with a serum.


Vanessa Marc, Zendaya’s aesthetician, tells Glamour UK that one of the best things you do for your skin is to keep it hydrated:


“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Everything we do always takes hydration out of our skin. Makeup, cleansers, sweating, drinking alcohol and the sun all take moisture out of our skin so it's super important to drink water and use hydrating products. Make sure to invest in quality moisturisers and cleansers that do not dry the skin out more. And remember to moisturise over damp skin to increase the efficacy.”


Marc adds that retinol could also help with tone and texture.


According to the 2020 Molecules journal,  pure vitamin A, or retinol, is effective for treating a number of skin conditions.


“At low concentrations, it is a powerful antioxidant and neutralizer of free radicals, and it has skin-softening effects by improving the synthesis of collagen and elastin, which contributes to the hydration and luminosity of the skin.”


Research authors add: 


“...retinol is frequently used as an active ingredient in many skincare formulations to reduce photoaged and aged skin, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, psoriasis, among others.”


6. Mindy Kaling 


Mindy Kaling, writer and co-executive producer of the Office, keeps things real on social media.

Case in point: Kaling once took to Instagram to share an image of her wearing zit cream.


Kaling also wrote about her struggles with acne in a post for the blog, reported People:


“Yeah, guys, I still get zits. Nothing like a good old whitehead on dark brown skin.”


At the time,  Kaling credited a blue light therapy device with curbing flare-ups. Blue light therapy uses light to destroy bacteria that may cause acne. A systematic review published in the Sensors journal suggests limited evidence for blue light therapy:


“Studies have shown significant improvements in the overall picture of acne. It is concluded that despite the great potential in its use in the treatment of acne, there is a need for more detailed trials on the effect of blue light on the treatment of inflammatory acne.”


7. Sza


Singer and songwriter Sza discusses her skin battles in a relatable way.


On Twitter, she wrote


"I wake up everyday crying about my skin lmao . If u have acne or any type of skin issue that ain’t solved by “stressing less, drinking water, and washing ur face”. I FEEL YOU . I LOVE YOU . We gon work it out.”

In a recent interview, she revealed that her go-to beauty look consists of a simple face wash, moisturizer, and lip balm. 


In an interview with Refinery29, Sza revealed that her skincare routine consists of natural products.


"I have this weird feeling that the apocalypse is upon us, so I have to choose products that I can find in nature. I have cystic acne, so I use a Manuka honey mask to combat it and hemp oil to smooth out the surface of my skin. I also use a Vitamin C serum and black soap, and that's it. If I go to the dermatologist and get a peel, she prescribes me shit after, but I don't use it. My skin goes crazy, and I break out."


Sza adds that everyone’s skin is different  - what works for one person may not work for another. Yet, she said you should stay encouraged even if it's hard.


"Don't get discouraged with your skin when it doesn't do what you want it to do and you feel like, f*** this product. Give it some time. Some of that s*** takes a month to break through."


8. Lily Reinhart

Riverdale actress Lily Reinhart opened up about her cystic acne on Instagram, reports People.

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She posted pictures of her skin in a series of stories to show her fans that it is okay to have acne.  Reinhart said:


“I have a cystic breakout on my forehead currently. And I had to do a photo shoot all day long.


“I’ve had cystic acne since I was 12. And it has caused major self esteem issues ever since. I had to put my biggest insecurity on display. There was nowhere to hide. 20+ people were studying my face on the camera monitor at any given time during the 11 hour shoot. And all I could think about when I was in front of the camera were the pimples on my forehead.”

Reinhart also encouraged her fans to embrace their own skin, regardless of any imperfections.

“My breakouts don’t define me. To anyone out there who feels embarrassed or ashamed by breakouts… I feel you,” she says.

One of Reinhart's best picks to deal with her acne is a clay mask. And clay has long been used as a remedy for a whole range of skin problems. Board-certified dermatologist Ryan Turner tells Allure:

“Bentonite clay helps to control sebum production, creates a matte finish, and minimizes the look of prominent pore.”

Bella Thorne

Former Disney star Bella Thorne is honest about her skin journey, including her experience with prescription medication. 

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In an interview with Refinery29, Thorne explained that she first turned to Accutane, or isotretinoin, to deal with her acne.


"(At one point) I was just riddled with acne...I had to go on Accutane for almost two years, which was definitely one of the times that I have been the most depressed. It's a journey. I literally just tweeted how I don’t have a breakout, then I got a breakout. I jinxed myself!"


Thorne then switched to gentler treatment options:


"Right now, I am using this Sisley plant-based cleaner; it’s really light and doesn’t irritate my skin, it’s very calming. I can’t use cleansers for treating acne, because I think they just make the acne angry, so I try to use calming stuff, then treat it with spot treatments.” 


The brand Accutane has since been pulled from the market after some research suggested it may cause inflammatory bowel disease. But isotretinoin is still a popular medication for severe acne. One analysis showed Tik Tok videos discussing isotretinoin attracted 18 million likes and 137 000 comments.

If you're thinking about using isotretinoin, be sure to know potential side-effects. Apart from severe birth defects, isotretinoin has been associated with raised cholesterol,  liver toxicity, and depression, reports the Los Angeles Times.

These stories are a reminder that acne is a common problem that everyone has to face.

And no matter who you are, acne can be a difficult thing to deal with. Problem skin can wreak havoc on our self-esteem and confidence. Fortunately, there are many treatments available that can help improve acne - from over-the-counter products to prescription medications to lifestyle changes.

As we’ve seen, everyone is different. I know my acne was a symptom of my untreated PCOS, and I experienced regular breakouts until I fixed my hormonal imbalance.

Featured image: Image by SIGMA under a Creative CommonsAttribution 3.0 Unported license