Home Remedies For Acne – How To Treat Acne at Home
If you are looking for home remedies for acne, you are not alone. There are many options when it comes to treating acne, but millions of people prefer to go with a home remedy. Often times this is because they would like to save money, use products they already have on hand, or they want to avoid particular ingredients. When you make your own home remedies, you have more control over what you are using and what goes into it. This often means that your treatment will be more affordable, as well as safer. Plus, recent research suggests that the right home remedies for acne are just as effective as over-the-counter and prescription options.
- Home remedies for acne give you more treatment options and can save you money. Plus, when you use these options you will have more control over what is used on your skin.
- Choose the best home remedy that suits you and your unique variables, including your skin type, acne type, and the amount of effort you want to put into it.
- Some home remedies that you can use to treat acne include apple cider vinegar, honey, tea tree oil, face masks, and probiotics.
- Not all home remedies are actually good for your skin. Be sure to avoid treatments like toothpaste, baking soda, sugar scrubs, and coconut oil.
- In addition to the home remedies, you can use some top-rated acne treatment products to help successfully eliminate acne, and prevent it from coming back.
What Causes Acne?
If you’re looking for home remedies for acne, you are not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health¹, around 80 percent of people who are between the ages of 11 and 30 will have acne at some point. The good news is that understanding what it is and what causes it will help you be more successful in addressing it.
There are many different things that contribute to acne, some of which you have no control over. For instance, there was a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology² which reported that genetics have a major influence on acne. In fact, this is the case for most of us with acne. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to get clearer skin. You can still take measures to treat some of the other factors that contribute to acne.
Sebum is a thick, oily mixture produced by our sebaceous glands, and even though we need a fine layer of it to protect our skin from damage, too much sebum can often become a problem for acne-prone skin. When we produce excess sebum, it builds up in our pores, causing everything from blackheads to pimples. Bacteria, specifically propionibacterium acnes or p. acnes, can also play a role in acne formation, though they don’t always. P. acnes only cause acne when they get trapped in the pores and multiply very quickly, causing a minor infection which turns into a pimple or cyst. The final cause of acne is inflammation, which is a slight swelling that causes the pores to constrict, thus trapping sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria below the surface. This is how most acne starts, so some of the best home remedies are gentle rather than harsh, to prevent the irritation that causes inflammation.
Home Remedies for Acne
When it comes to treating acne, there is no one size fits all. Just as people are different, so too are their skin types, budgets, preferences, allergies, and so on. To successfully treat your acne with home remedies, you need to determine which option will work best for your unique variables. Consider the amount of time you want to put into it, the budget you have to work with, the type of skin that you have, and what appeals to you. With those variables in mind, you can choose an option to try and see how it works for you.
Most people have a lot of success with home remedies, you just need to be patient. If you try a home remedy and it doesn’t give you the clear skin you want, be sure to keep using it consistently for four full weeks before switching to a new home remedy solution. Because acne is caused by so many different factors, it takes time for it to go away completely, so just because a treatment doesn’t work right away, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you in the long run. Below, we’ve listed some of the most popular home remedies for acne based on different skin types, acne types, and time commitments. Feel free to mix and match, and let us know what works for you.
Top-Rated Acne Treatment Products to Consider
If you aren’t overly interested in doing the research to find the best ingredients for skin care, and then taking the time to drive to the store, and then concocting a sticky, messy brew in your kitchen, then there is a good short cut: at-home acne products. There are many over-the-counter acne products that are simple to do at home and don’t require a dermatologist visit. Here are three of our favorites:
Exposed. The Exposed Skin Care treatment system offers everything you need to clear up acne prevent future outbreaks, and to have clear, beautiful skin. In fact, 98% of users have reported that within 30 days they saw results. This complete acne treatment system comes with a probiotic, to help put good bacteria into your gut, as well as a microfiber cloth for gentle exfoliating. The system has everything you need to clean, treat, and moisturize your skin, saving you money, and putting you on the right path to great skin.
Essy. Users give this acne treatment cream great reviews, keeping it one of the top-rated products. Essy contains a mixture of natural ingredients, including ginseng and aloe. Not only is it powerful at helping to address acne, but it will help restore skin to its natural beauty.
Replenix. These acne face pads contain the powerful ingredients glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Working together, they are able to clear up acne quickly. They unclog pores, eliminate dead skin, and provide a gentle exfoliating. Those who have used these cleansing pads report that they also helped with acne scarring.
For Oily Skin: Try Diluted Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most popular home remedies for acne, and it is some powerful stuff. Even diluted, it’s too strong for most skin types, but if you have oily skin, apple cider vinegar may be the best way to reduce your excess sebum buildup, plus it might help kill p. acnes bacteria. Apple cider vinegar contains a large amount of acetic acid, which is why it can help with oily skin. Acetic acid is astringent, meaning it absorbs moisture, allowing it to dry out excess oil.
If most of your acne is made up of pimples or cysts, which is often the case for those of us with oily skin, the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may be able to help on that front as well. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine³, acetic acid has antiseptic properties, meaning it can kill certain types of fungus, bacteria, and other microbes. So far, there’s no definitive proof that it can kill p. acnes bacteria specifically, but it’s still worth a shot.
To use this home remedy for acne, purchase a bottle of apple cider vinegar that is with the “mother,” which are the cloudy particles floating around in the bottle. In a glass container, mix one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water. Yes, this is very diluted, but trust us, that’s the way you want it. Undiluted apple cider vinegar is very likely to irritate your skin and actually cause more acne, and in some cases, it has even been known to cause chemical burns. You can use cotton balls or swabs to dab the mixture onto the area with acne. Start by doing this twice daily for the best results, but if you notice your skin getting red and irritated, reduce your usage to just once per day and try diluting it with more water.
Takeaway: Apple cider vinegar is a natural substance that is affordable and easy to use. It’s one of the most popular home remedies for acne.
For Dry Skin: Try Green Tea
Green tea is a great natural remedy for acne in dry skin because it contains powerful antioxidants that help fight inflammation. Dry skin doesn’t produce enough sebum to protect itself from irritation, so it is often inflamed and this inflammation often leads to acne. To prevent this, you can apply green tea to your skin in various ways, or you can even drink it.
Antioxidants are great for fighting acne because they help reduce something called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a natural process that occurs when oxygen molecules lose an electron and become volatile and aggressive. While trying to find a new electron, these oxygen molecules cause damage to the cells around them, and this damage leads to inflammation. Antioxidants help prevent this damage and the ensuing inflammation by lending oxygen molecules a spare electron. According to a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology4, the antioxidants in green tea can significantly reduce oxidative stress, which makes it a great option for preventing acne in dry skin.
There are all kinds of ways to incorporate green tea into your skin care routine, but the two basic options are either drinking it or applying it to your skin. Drinking green tea helps reduce oxidative stress throughout the body, but because the benefits are distributed throughout the whole body, it will have a lesser effect on the skin specifically. Applying green tea directly to the skin provides antioxidants exactly where they’re needed to help reduce acne, so you may see better results by gently rubbing a well-saturated green tea bag on your skin.
Takeaway: The antioxidants found in green tea help reduce oxidative stress, which helps reduce the inflammation that commonly causes acne in people with dry skin. You can get these antioxidants through drinking the tea or applying it directly to your skin.
For Blackheads and Whiteheads: Try Witch Hazel
Witch hazel combines the best qualities of apple cider vinegar and green tea extract to make the perfect treatment for chronic blackheads and whiteheads. Witch hazel extract is taken from the Hamamelis virginiana plant commonly found throughout North America, and according to a study published in the Journal of Inflammation5, it has both astringent and antioxidant properties. This means that for most skin types (sensitive skin excluded), witch hazel can dry out excess oil, remove blackheads, all without causing excessive irritation or inflammation.
The astringent properties of witch hazel allow it to absorb excess sebum and absorb the moisture in the skin cells, shrinking the pores and removing many blackheads and whiteheads. Many home remedies contain astringent properties, like apple cider vinegar, but they tend to be too harsh for most skin types. Witch hazel is gentle enough for everyone except those with sensitive skin because, in addition to its astringent properties, it also contains a large amount of antioxidants. Like green tea, these antioxidants reduce inflammation, which also helps remove blackheads and whiteheads from the pores.
Takeaway: Witch hazel is one of the best natural home remedies for removing blackheads and whiteheads due to its ability to absorb moisture without inflaming the skin.
For Pimples: Try Honey
One of the biggest struggles when it comes to treating pimples is finding ways to kill the p. acnes bacteria without drying out the skin and causing inflammation which will just go on to cause more acne. This is an especially big issue for people with both sensitive skin and pimples. The answer? Honey.
Honey has all the right properties for treating acne: it’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and it can even help promote wound-healing, which could help prevent the formation of acne scars. Any type of honey can be used to treat blackheads and whiteheads or prevent scarring, but for the best results in treating pimples, you’ll want to use a specific type of honey called Manuka honey. Manuka honey is made specifically using the pollen from the Manuka bush found in Australia and New Zealand and according to a study conducted at Massey University6, it can effectively kill p. acnes bacteria specifically, which is huge for a home remedy. Many home remedies are known for their antibacterial properties, but they haven’t been proven to kill p. acnes specifically, meaning we can’t say for certain that they’re an effective acne treatment.
Regardless of whether you try regular or Manuka honey, make sure you get raw honey. This just means that when you check the ingredient label, the only item listed is honey. Even seemingly harmless ingredients like fructose or water are often a sign that the honey has been processed in a way that will make it less effective in treating your acne.
Takeaway: Raw honey can be a powerful home remedy for treating all kinds of acne, but Manuka honey is the most effective option for treating pimples.
For Cystic Acne: Try Tea Tree Oil
If you’re looking for a home remedy that has substantial research to back up its effectiveness, tea tree oil is the remedy for you. Many studies have proven that tea tree oil can help reduce excess sebum, decrease inflammation, and kill p. acnes bacteria.
Cystic acne forms when the infection caused by p. acnes spreads inward, creating large, deep, painful cysts instead of normal pimples. These cysts are notoriously difficult to treat, especially without the use of prescription medications, but tea tree oil may provide a powerful solution. Tea tree oil is an essential oil, which is the highly concentrated “essence” of a plant. All essential oils have different properties, and the properties of tea tree oil make it especially well-suited for treating cystic acne.
According to a study published in Clinical Pharmacology: Advances and Applications7, a cream containing 3 percent tea tree oil reduced the amount and severity of acne significantly more than a prescription antibiotic cream often prescribed for cystic acne, and another study published in the Medical Journal of Australia8 demonstrated that a gel containing 5 percent tea tree oil was just as effective in killing p. acnes as a popular over-the-counter gel containing 5 percent benzoyl peroxide, and the tea tree oil caused fewer side effects. Tea tree oil is one of the most thoroughly researched home remedies for acne, and we highly recommend it, as long as you dilute it properly.
To properly use tea tree oil for cystic acne, add 10-12 drops to an ounce of a non-pore-clogging carrier oil like jojoba oil or hemp seed oil. If you have sensitive skin, try adding 5-7 drops instead of 10-12.
Takeaway: Tea tree oil is an affordable home remedy that effectively treats cystic acne, one of the trickiest forms of acne, with fewer side effects than other products like benzoyl peroxide.
For Low-Maintenance Acne Care: Try a Simple Face Wash
Something many people forget to take into account when choosing their acne care routine is how much time and energy they’re willing to put into it. Some people love skin care and are great at sticking with routines, but others are more forgetful or don’t have much time in the mornings or evenings to apply 14 steps. If you’re a low-maintenance person, it might feel like you’ll never find a skin care routine that actually works and is simple enough for your tastes. We’re here to say that just isn’t true. For many people, simply washing your face each morning and evening can make all the difference.
If you do nothing else to treat your acne, make sure you wash your face twice a day. Without this simple step, sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells can easily build up in the pores and cause acne. If you want to go extremely simple, you can use plain water and still see positive results, but your skin will likely improve more if you add an acne-fighting ingredient suitable to your skin type. Fresh green tea leaves, a little witch hazel, or a drop or two of tea tree oil can make all the difference in your acne face wash.
Takeaway: You don’t need a whole complicated skin care routine to improve your acne. Simply washing your face can make a huge difference in your skin.
For In-Depth, Creative Acne Care: Try Face Masks
If you’re willing to put in the time and energy, there are a lot of fun, creative home remedies for acne, like face masks. You have probably seen people on television wearing face masks, but you may not have tried them yourself. They are easy to use and can serve a wide variety of functions. With the right ingredients, you can make a hydrating mask perfect for dry skin, a brightening mask perfect for exfoliating the skin and removing blackheads, or an antibacterial mask to help get rid of pimples and cysts. Interested? We’ve included the recipes for each of these masks below.
Hydrating Mask for Dry Skin:
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 teaspoon of freshly steeped green tea
Dry skin needs additional moisture and protection from irritation and inflammation, and a biweekly hydrating face mask is a great way to accomplish that. Honey and green tea both reduce inflammation, plus honey is a humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the deep layers of your skin up toward the surface where it can better protect your skin. Simply combine your tablespoon of honey and teaspoon of fresh green tea, mix thoroughly, and apply in a thin layer all over the face. Because both ingredients are so gentle, you can let this mask set for as long as you want as long as it stays on for at least 20 minutes. When you’re ready to remove the mask, simply wash your face with cool water and gently rub the mixture away. Be careful not to scrub or scratch at your skin, as that will only irritate it and undo all the great work the mask just accomplished.
Brightening Mask for Exfoliating the Skin:
- 1 teaspoon of witch hazel extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel
If you’re dealing with lots of blackheads or whiteheads, exfoliation is a great way to remove them and brighten your skin. To do so, we recommend combining witch hazel, lemon juice, and aloe vera gel. Lemon juice should never be used on its own because it’s far too harsh, but when diluted with other ingredients, its naturally acidic nature makes it a great exfoliator. Studies have found that aloe vera gel doesn’t do much for acne on its own, but it can help other ingredients absorb deeper into the skin, which is why we recommend using it for this mask. It should help remove those deep, stubborn blackheads. Mix thoroughly, apply evenly, and let it set for 20-30 minutes. Then gently remove the mask with cool water and gentle motions.
Antibacterial Mask for Pimples and Cysts:
- 1 tablespoon of Manuka honey
- 2 drops of tea tree oil
Honey makes a great base for all kinds of acne face masks, but if you’re looking to make a mask to address pimples and cysts specifically, we recommend using Manuka honey in particular. It is more likely to kill the p. acnes bacteria involved in pimples and cysts, especially when combined with a few drops of tea tree oil. Combine, apply, and allow to set for 20-30 minutes, then rinse and remove with cool water.
For a Systemic Treatment, Try Probiotics
Adding a simple probiotic to your daily schedule can be one of the most effective home remedies for acne. Probiotics are live micro-organisms that provide a range of health benefits. Many people take them regularly to help with their overall health, their gut health, and other conditions linked to gut health. You can take them in a pill form as a supplement, or you can add them to your diet by eating things like yogurt, and drinking things like kombucha, which is a fermented tea.
In a study published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology9, researchers looked at how probiotics can be used to help with acne, among other health conditions. They reported that there have been clinical trials that have shown probiotics used topically are helpful in treating acne. They suggest that probiotics may improve acne from a systemic and mechanistic level. Overall, they concluded that the evidence supporting the use of probiotics to treat acne is mounting, making them a great option to try as a home remedy.
Takeaway: Probiotics can be purchased at health food stores and online, and they have been found to be effective at clearing up acne. Give them a try and see the host of health benefits that they provide.
Home Remedies for Acne to Avoid
Even though there are countless home remedies for acne that work wonders, there are also plenty that don’t work, and even some that could make acne worse. Unfortunately, many of them are very popular, despite their ineffectiveness. Some home remedies to avoid include toothpaste, baking soda, sugar scrubs, and coconut oil.
Toothpaste is a popular DIY acne spot treatment, but the truth is, toothpaste is much better suited for treating your teeth than your skin. Toothpaste contains all kinds of harsh, drying ingredients that might help minimize a pimple in the moment, but it will also likely dry out your skin, causing irritation, inflammation, and more future acne.
Baking soda is another popular home remedy, but we definitely don’t recommend it. Baking soda is alkaline and our skin is supposed to be acidic. Applying an alkali to your skin can throw off its pH, which could lead to irregular sebum production, clogged pores, and inflammation.
Sugar scrubs and scrubbing brushes and devices sound like they would be great exfoliators, but in reality, they only serve to irritate and inflame your skin, causing more acne rather than less. In general, it is always better to be gentle with your skin, not harsh.
Finally, we strongly recommend keeping coconut oil far away from your skin. It’s true, it contains great fatty acids for protecting your skin, but it is incredibly comedogenic, meaning it very easily clogs pores, leading to more acne. If you’re looking for a good oil for protecting your skin, we recommend hemp seed oil or jojoba oil instead, since they are far less likely to clog your pores.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the best of the home remedies for acne?
A. There is no one best option when it comes to acne home remedies, but there are several great options to choose from. Evaluate the options to determine which would work best for you and then give them a try.
Q. Are these home remedy option for acne safe to use?
A.Yes, most are safe to use. However, you should exercise common sense and caution when using anything new on your skin. If you see it causing irritation, you may need to stop using it or dilute it more.
Q. Can you make home remedies yourself or do you have to buy them all?
A.There are home remedies you can buy, as well as ones you can make at home to use. However, even making ones at home will still require you to purchase the ingredients to do so.
Q. What is the advantage to using home remedies for acne?
A. Some of the advantages include saving money, having more control over what goes into your remedy, and trying products that are usually natural.
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- Bataille V., Snieder H., et. al. The influence of genetics and environmental factors in the pathogenesis of acne: a twin study of acne in women. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2002;119(6):1317-22.
- Compound summary: acetic acid. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2019.
- Peluso I., Serafini M. Antioxidants from black and green tea: from dietary modulation of oxidative stress to pharmacological mechanisms. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2017;174(11):1195-1208.
- Thring T., Hili P., Naughton D. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells. Journal of Inflammation. 2011;8(27).
- Wu Q. Antimicrobial effect of Manuka honey and Kanuka honey alone and in combination with the bioactives against the growth of Propionibacterium acnes. Massey University: Theses and Dissertations. 2011.
- Mazzarello V., Donadu M.G., et al. Treatment of acne with a combination of propolis, tea tree oil, and Aloe vera compared to erythromycin cream: two double-blind investigations. Clinical Pharmacology: Advances and Applications. 2018;10:175-181.
- Bassett I., Barnetson R., Pannowitz D. A comparative study of tea‐tree oil versus benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of acne. The Medical Journal of Australia. 1990;153(8):455-458.
- Kober M., Bowe W. The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. 2015;1(2):85-89.
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