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Aspirin For Acne – Does It Really Help?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

If you are doing everything under the sun to get rid of your zits, we feel your pain. Acne can be an annoying, nasty condition which has the potential to take over your life. From natural remedies to fancy and expensive medical treatments, there is an endless list of available methods to cure breakouts. One such method that is widely available1, yet not known to many, is aspirin.

Luckily, you don’t necessarily need to ingest this type of medicine in order to experience its benefits. Instead, you are able to experience its healing properties by mixing it into various masks and lathering it onto the affected area. If you make use of this medicine as a topical ointment, you may be seeing a change in your skin’s irritation in no time.

Aspirin for acne
Aspirin is anti-inflammatory and it can help you relieve your skin inflammation problems like acne.

The Benefits of Aspirin

Many people take aspirin to help reduce fever, pain, and inflammation, but it can be applied topically to your skin to help reduce acne as well. This is because of the chemical makeup of aspirin. Aspirin is made of acetylsalicylic acid2, which might sound a little familiar if you’ve been dealing with acne for a while. You might recognize salicylic acid as a popular acne treatment ingredient. When you dissolve aspirin in water, it will break up into acetyl acid and salicylic acid, making it a great home remedy for acne.

Salicylic acid is great for acne because it helps exfoliate the skin. This means removing any excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria that could be contributing to your acne. However, salicylic acid should only be used in concentrations of 2% or lower. When you buy a salicylic acid product from the store, the concentration is listed on the product, but when you make a salicylic acid treatment out of aspirin at home, it’s hard to tell exactly what the concentration is. For that reason, we recommend you test any home acne treatment containing aspirin on a small section of your forearm before applying it all over your face.

What Kind Of Aspirin Should You Use?

Make sure to get aspirin that doesn’t have a coating. Avoid capsules and similar packages and go straight for the uncoated type. If you are worried that there may be some other components within the pill you are using, just scrape off the top layer – this is where additives are usually placed. You can also easily scrub the pill with running tap water until it no longer feels smooth in your hand. This means that anything that is not essential has gone down the drain and what remains is pure aspirin.

Making Your Own Aspirin Mask

If you want to make your zits diminish, and ultimately, disappear, then you might want to try this super simple mask recipe! All it takes is some aspirin, a bit of water and a Q-tip. Take a small cup and pour a tiny teaspoon of water into it. Add two or three aspirin pills and crush them well until you obtain an even paste. Add some witch hazel or aloe vera in order to maximize the mask’s soothing effects3. These additional components may even help you mix it all up better. Spread the mixture on your acne with a Q-tip, after you have made sure that your face is thoroughly cleansed. You don’t want to merely be spreading dirt around the inflamed region.

Let the mixture sit for a quarter of an hour at most. Why should you make sure to not exceed this time? It is not entirely clear, as not much research has been done on the topical application of aspirin. However, ingesting aspirin does result in thinner blood4, especially if taken in large amounts. Indeed, your skin is able to take the aspirin in, so chances are that it may be entering your blood in this way. For that reason, keep the product on your skin for a limited amount of time. When it is completely dry, take it off with water or, if it has hardened too much, with a disinfected, wet towel.

Aspirin Mask For Severe Acne

Is your acne more extreme than usual? Use five or six aspirin pills, instead. Crush them up in a small amount of water and add a little apple cider vinegar. Not only will your irritation be calmed but your pores will be thoroughly cleansed, as well. You might even want to mix in some honey for an extra soothing effect5. Moreover, depending on your skin type, you can pour some egg whites in – if your skin is normal. If your complexion is more on the dry side, pour in some olive oil for hydration.

The paste should be as even as possible, so stir for as long as it takes. If this gets tedious, keep your eyes on the prize – think of the marvelous results for your skin that this mask will bring you. When your concoction becomes soft and malleable, clean your hands thoroughly, take small portions of it and massage it into the affected areas. As always, avoid your eyes.

Likewise, let this mask sit for no more than a quarter of an hour, especially if your mixture is mostly made of aspirin. Take the mask off using a damp towel and apply some toner or moisturizer. Don’t forget this step, as you just put a whole lot of drying product on your face. It is not necessary to repeat the process too frequently, so stick to doing it one time per week. You will be pleased with the results even after just one try!

Tired Of Masks? Make Your Own Toner

Perhaps you have been battling acne for so long that you are completely sick of sitting around for a long time with sticky, hardening layer all over your face. Fret not, as you are also able to create your own toner, which is a much simpler task that will take up less of your time, too. Take a bottle of water and drop two or three pills of the medicine in it. You might like to pour in some additional, beneficial components, so that your skin benefits as much as possible from the treatment. Don’t hesitate to add the incredibly soothing tea tree oil, some green tea or the aforementioned vinegar and witch hazel. If your aspirin begins to gather up at the bottom of the bottle, simply shake it up! It will dissolve right back into the mixture. The best part about this toner is that you can use it any time you like, and as many times as you like. Just grab your trusty bottle, shake it up and apply a small amount all over your face. Rejuvenated skin, here we come!

Avoid Aspirin Scrubs

Although making skin scrubs is fun, it’s important to avoid using any kind of aspirin scrub. Crushed up aspirin has many sharp edges that are likely to damage your skin. It might not feel like much, but facial skin is sensitive, and irritation can lead to inflammation, which then leads to more acne. If you’re looking to exfoliate, the salicylic acid in aspirin will do the job all on its own, no need to scrub at your skin as well.

References:

  1. Bubna A.K. Aspirin in dermatology: Revisited. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. 2015:6(6):428–435.
  2. Kern D. Do aspirin masks or other forms of topical aspirin work to clear acne? Acne.org. 2019.
  3. Surjushe A., Vasani R., Saple D.G. Aloe Vera: A Short Review. Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2008;53(4):163–166.
  4. Schrör K. Aspirin and platelets: the antiplatelet action of aspirin and its role in thrombosis treatment and prophylaxis. Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis. 1997;23(4):349-56.
  5. McLoone P., Oluwadun A., Warnock M., Fyfe L. Honey: A Therapeutic Agent for Disorders of the Skin. Central Asian Journal of Global Health. 2016;5(1):241.
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