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Acne Remedies Throughout History

Have you ever seen a classic portrait of someone with acne? Why is it that paintings from 300 plus years ago exclude those troublesome bumps? Did our ancestors know something about acne treatment that we don’t know? Did painters look past these blemishes and use the first form of picture editing? Here are some acne home remedies that have been known throughout history1.

Surprising Acne Home Remedies
Acne home remedies that may surprise you.

Sulfur And The Egyptians

The Egyptians were among the many other cultures that treated acne with2 sulfur. These early dermatologists were on to something. Sulfur is a natural mineral that dries out existing pimples. Sulfur exfoliates the skin, as well as reducing the oily sheen that your face can sometimes get. Of course the Egyptians were not right about everything. They also believed that if you were breaking out, it was because you were telling lies.

Urea – Surprisingly Helpful For Acne3

A less appealing home remedy that has been used throughout a lot of human history is urine. Not only did people use urine centuries ago, but believe it or not, it some people still use it as an acne treatment today. It goes without saying that you should keep it away from your eyes and mouth, but putting a Q-tip in urine and dabbing it on your face can help prevent breakouts. Urine has urea, which helps exfoliate and break down the keratin in your skin4. Many people also find that using urine as a cosmetic product brings out a natural glow in their skin.

Spot Treating With Honey

Honey is another product that has been used for hundreds of years as a natural acne remedy5. The Egyptians used honey as a spot treatment. Honey works as a natural cleanser, and gets rid of the bacteria built up in the pores. Honey is packed with antioxidants, which can help reduce the inflammation that is associated with acne. Masks today stay on from about ten to fifteen minutes, and pullout all the dead skin and bacteria. Honey works much quicker6 because it is already sticky, so it pulls out the grime once it is removed.

Tee Tree Oil vs Benzoyl Peroxide7

The Australians have used tea tree oil for years. Tea tree oil has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties that help it fight stubborn acne. In 1990 there was a study that showed a solution of 5% tea tree oil was just as effective at reducing acne as a solution of 5% benzoyl peroxide. Asa Hershoff, author and dermatologist, says that tea tree oil does take longer than benzoyl peroxide, but does not cause as much itching, scaling or irritation.

Garlic For Acne

Garlic is not just for enhancing your food. It can be used as a great spot treatment8, too. Garlic has many antibacterial properties9 that help get rid of the bacteria clogging up your pores. Along with its antibacterial properties, it has antifungal and antiviral benefits that will hopefully get rid of your acne. Make sure to dilute the mashed garlic with water.

As you can see, products like Proactiv and Accutane are the new kids on the block. There are natural and effective acne fighters that we have easy access to and have been used for centuries. If your ClearPores or Exposed Skin Care treatment is working than keep at it, but if you’re still struggling with breakouts give these age-old techniques a try.


  1. GRANT RN. The history of acne. Proc R Soc Med. 1951 Aug;44(8):647-52.
  2. Keri J, Shiman M. An update on the management of acne vulgaris. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2009 Jun 17;2:105-10.
  3. Celleno L. Topical urea in skincare: A review. Dermatol Ther. 2018 Nov;31(6):e12690.
  4. Totri CR, Matiz C, Krakowski AC. Kids These Days: Urine as a Home Remedy for Acne Vulgaris? J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2015 Oct;8(10):47-8.
  5. Eady EA, Layton AM, Cove JH. A honey trap for the treatment of acne: manipulating the follicular microenvironment to control Propionibacterium acnes. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:679680.
  6. McLoone P, Oluwadun A, Warnock M, Fyfe L. Honey: A Therapeutic Agent for Disorders of the Skin. Cent Asian J Glob Health. 2016 Aug 4;5(1):241.
  7. Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barnetson RS. A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust. 1990 Oct 15;153(8):455-8.
  8. Pazyar N, Feily A. Garlic in dermatology. Dermatol Reports. 2011 Apr 28;3(1):e4.
  9. Bayan L, Koulivand PH, Gorji A. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Jan-Feb;4(1):1-14.
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