The Anti-Acne Face Balm That Nobody Knows About

Photo: Via Anakiri.
Certain beauty products — think NARS blush in Orgasm or Clinique's Black Honey lipstick — are so good, they're practically famous. While we love many of the standouts that have gained loyal followings, we've been wondering why others quietly fly under the radar. With that in mind, we've launched Cult Classics, a series in which we'll introduce you to the products you should really, truly know about (and try, like, right now). They're not brand-new, but they definitely have staying power. 

I am endlessly surprised when I lie down for a facial and I hear the words, "Your skin is dehydrated." I drink three liters of water a day, for one, and I am diligent about moisturizers and serums. I follow all of the cardinal rules of staying, for lack of a better/less disgusting word, moist. 

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At the same time I'm chided for being "dehydrated," I'm also told that I'm "congested." Then, the extractions begin — and sometimes those can get pretty damn ugly (especially on my forehead). The typical advice from professionals is that I should be using a richer moisturizer, for example, but those often end up giving me tiny zits. This winter, the problem seemed to spectacularly magnify, with dry patches manifesting, while the acne on my chin and in the corners of my nose only got more inflamed. It's the ultimate beauty catch-22: Hydrate and get congested, or use light moisturizer and not get enough moisture. 

It wasn't until I was sitting down with the lovely and truly inimitable Joanna Vargas, the woman who has been tending to my skin off-and-on for the past few years, that I finally found a product to address the solution. (This happened after, of course, the Most Epic Zit Popping Ever, during which she showed me that, in infected pimples, a teeny little grain comes out after the pus and the blood stops draining. Let's save that conversation for lunchtime, though, shall we?)

Apparently, there's this little all-natural brand called Anakiri, which mostly flies under the radar (probably due to its super-limited distribution). Joanna has been ordering what she considers to be its hero product, the Restore Propolis Balm, by the box-load ever since she opened up shop in Manhattan. She uses it after extractions, but also gives it to clients after they've had particularly rough facials. (To give a little bit of context to those who are new to my love for Joanna, she also tends to the faces of women I aspire to be/flawlessly complected actresses Julianne Moore and Naomi Watts.)

According to the doctors at NYU Langone, propolis is a product collected by bees that humans have been using for thousands of years, mainly for applying it to wounds to help stave off infection and promote healing. It has been researched quite a bit in the medical community — test-tube studies have found it "to be active against a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoans." A preliminary controlled study discovered that propolis mouthwash is effective at speeding healing time after oral surgery. And, additional test-tube studies "suggest that propolis has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-preventing properties." 

The folks at Anakiri note that propolis is also an ancient cure for acne, since it's believed to have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral characteristics. 

The ingredient is found in a lot of beauty products. But, what's interesting about Restore Propolis Balm is that it's called a balm, but it feels like a gel. It also offers a slight cooling sensation (perhaps from the tea-tree or lavender oils), and it glides over the skin and melts in easily. Unlike other balms, which are also renowned for their healing abilities, this one feels lightweight enough to wear on a daily basis. 

It's also actually effective at hydrating — without causing grease or acne. Instead, it leaves a light glow, and it behaves nicely under liquid foundation. In fact, instead of applying it just to dry or irritated spots, I used it all over my face and neck, and then applied it generously to any bumps on my upper arms or legs.

I'll definitely be keeping this around every winter, but will also have it on hand should any zits start to arise. I'm excited at the thought of naturally, and effectively, eradicating acne without drying it into oblivion, like I always do. Plus, I don't have to feel guilty about recommending it: A tube will only set you back one Andrew Jackson.

Anakiri Restore Propolis Balm, $19.50, available at Anakiri


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