Home Remedies for Acne: The Facts
Without a doubt, dealing with acne is frustrating, especially if you feel like you’ve tried just about everything—and nothing works. So, when you come across information on the Internet about a solution to get rid of your acne that’s as simple as mixing together a few ingredients in your kitchen, it’s hard not to find it appealing.
The issue, however, is that most of these home remedies don’t take into account the science of acne and how it works. Here’s a look at some of the most popular DIY anti-acne solutions, and an explanation as to why they are not the miracle fixes they’re claimed to be.
The DIY Details
Coconut oil—While coconut oil might be gaining steam online as a “do-it-all” product for just about everything, one benefit it doesn’t have is getting blemishes under control.
DIY advocates have touted coconut oil as a solution for acne based on its fatty acid content, specifically lauric acid, claiming that it can fight some of the causes of acne. While coconut oil does have some minor properties in this regard, the research showing its benefit is at best lackluster.
Also, the saturated fat components in coconut oil can clog pores and make oily skin feel even oilier.
Honey—Honey absolutely has its place in skincare. It contains amino acids, antioxidants, and peptides, and has long been known for its ability to soothe and protect skin. There is even some evidence that topical use of honey can help with cuts and scrapes. Acne, however, is not the same as cuts and scrapes—fighting acne is about what is happening inside pores.
Apple cider vinegar—Read any number of online articles and you’ll see apple cider vinegar mentioned as a cure-all for just about any ailment. And, sure enough, one of the conditions it’s supposed to take care of is acne. Any number of claims are made about this ingredient, along with explanations about exactly how it’s supposed to help, ranging from being able to fight the causes of acne to dissolving dead skin cells.
None of these claims is backed up by solid science. Apple cider vinegar does not kill the sources of acne in the pore, and it’s only minimally effective as an exfoliant for surface skin cells. More important, apple cider vinegar can sensitize skin, making acne worse. If you’re looking to exfoliate dead skin cells, there are more effective and far gentler ways to do it.
Homemade scrubs (almost all of them)—We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating—you cannot scrub acne away. Harsh, abrasive scrubs, containing everything from sugar, salt, ground-up walnut shells, to apricot kernels or coconut shells, are going to hurt your skin and make your acne worse.
These manual scrub ingredients abrade skin and cause micro-tears, making skin more sensitive and causing it to flare up. If you’ve ever had acne, you know that red, flared-up skin is the last thing you want, but that’s exactly what these scrubs can cause.
Essential oils—Lavender oil, citrus oils, and mint-derived oils smell lovely, but their effect on skin is anything but. All of them can sensitize skin, and when skin’s surface is aggravated, it can start a chain reaction that makes oily skin worse, possibly triggering more breakouts. You can read more about sensitizing ingredients and the issues they cause for skin here, where we also provide a more extensive list of oils to avoid.
What Really Works
First, and most important, treat your skin gently. Tackling acne is all about soothing skin and making it calm down. The best way to do that is to use products, in all the steps of your skincare routine, that are fragrance free, free of drying alcohol, and packed with skin-beneficial ingredients.
At Paula’s Choice Skincare, we know personally about what a struggle acne can be (it’s a big reason why Paula started our brand in the first place), so we formulate our products—based on research—to effectively take care of acne. Our CLEAR line for acne-prone skin features a gentle cleanser, along with a regular-strength system and an extra-strength system. Both systems include products formulated with benzoyl peroxide, which is extremely effective at tackling the subsurface causes of acne, and with salicylic acid (BHA), a gentle and soothing ingredient that exfoliates deep into pores to fight acne and excess oil.
In addition to our products, one of the missions of Paula’s Choice Skincare has been, and always will be, to provide consumers with well-researched advice. We know that solutions to fight acne are not one size fits all, so we present a wealth of information, available at your fingertips, to let you know what will work best for you. Whether your concern is acne and dry skin, acne and aging skin, or how to deal with post-acne marks, we have information that can lead you to clearer skin sooner. We invite you to read these articles, as they represent a broad base of knowledge that will get you on the right track! You can find a full list of acne-related articles here.
References for this information:
The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, March 2015, ePublication
Journal of Dermatological Sciences, January 2015, pages 28–36
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2014, pages 379–385
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, October 2012, pages e143–144
Clinical Dermatology, May-June 2012, pages 257–262
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135
Food and Chemical Toxicology, February 2008, pages 446–475
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, pages 789–798
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!