Using Lemon Juice to Cure or Reduce Acne
Millions of people who have acne around the world can attest to the healing properties of lemon juice, both applied directly to the skin and drunk as a beverage without sugar. Undiluted lemon juice, however, can be irritating to sensitive skin.
- Lemon juice used on the skin can fight inflammation and cause inflammation.
- The effects of lemon juice are sometimes nearly immediate, especially when the basic problem is oily, clogged pores.
- Lemon juice works by killing acne bacteria.
- Lemon juice also works by stopping signals to the immune system to cause inflammation.
- The effects of lemon juice are intensified by exposure to the UV-A rays of the sun.
- People who have dark brown or black skin should use lemon juice, and all other skin treatments, with caution.
What People Who Have Acne Say About Lemon Juice
There are some acne sufferers who tried everything else and found their skin care solution in lemon juice. Here are some typical testimonies. A man in his mid-20’s writes:
“For the last six years I have been battling moderate to severe acne. It had reached the point that I was 24 years old, just graduated from college, and dreading not just job interviews but even going outside the house.
I tried everything I could buy over the counter. I used scrubbing cleansers, vitamin E, vitamin C, exfoliants, humectants, moisturizers, antiseptics, and even deep ocean sea water that cost $120 an ounce.
Then I heard about lemon juice. I was afraid to try it because eating fruit makes me itchy, but I found out that it’s OK when I put lemon juice on my skin. I start with a skin cleanser, and then I lay a warm moist cloth on my face to open up my pores. Then I squeeze two lemons onto second warm, clean, moist cloth, and let it stay on my face for 5 or 10 minutes.
I can’t believe the difference! It took about three months for my pimples to go away, but now I have nearly acne-free skin!”
Another testimonial might go on the lines of this from a 30-year-old woman:
“I tried every treatment I could think of. I used Oxy, ProActiv, Neutrogena, facial waters, and even green tea and honey. Nothing got rid of my pimples, and I started getting these nasty little knots just below the surface of my skin.
Then I decided to try lemon juice. Twice a day I wash my face with Dr. Bronner’s skin cleanser. Then I squeeze two lemons into a clean bowl. I dip a cotton ball into the lemon juice and blot fresh lemon juice all over my face. I wait 15 to 30 minutes, and then rinse my face with warm water.
Lemon juice started to work right away, and the results were amazing! All those knots in my skin started to come to the surface, and most of them would come loose with just a gentle nudge. (The writer is referring to exceptionally large whiteheads.) I knew lemon juice was drawing out the zits, but I had no idea what was underneath the surface.
My face looked totally different after about a week. I’ve been using lemon juice with great results for six months now—and it only costs me about $5 a week.”
Lemon juice is easy, it’s organic, it’s highly unlikely to cause any side effects, and it works—both inside and out. Here’s why.
What Lemon Juice Does on Your Skin
Lemon juice, as we all know, is acidic. Sometimes the whole problem in acne care is that the skin is not acidic enough1 for all the other treatments we do to work.
Although it’s popular to talk about alkalizing the interior of the body for health (actually it’s only your urine that needs to be alkaline, the rest of your body is in a very right range of pH balance anyway), the surface of the skin is actually healthier when it is acidic, with a pH between 4 and 52. That’s about the pH of lemon juice.
Lowering the pH of the skin makes it a lot less comfortable for bacteria. The skin needs some bacteria as part of its natural “clean up crew.”3 Acne bacteria in small numbers perform a useful function by consuming excess sebum. But lowering skin pH makes the pores a lot less hospitable to the bacteria, without causing them to send out the chemicals that trigger an immune reaction that result in inflammation4 and redness on the skin. Korean scientists studying Korean citrus fruits have confirmed that applying lemon juice to the skin causes acne bacteria to send out less of the chemical messenger that tricks the human immune system into destroying skin cells (and giving the bacteria an escape route to the surface) by releasing a compound called interleukin-8, or IL-8.
Japanese scientists have discovered that a compound called nobiletin, which is also present in oranges, stops excess production of sebum5, at least in lab animals. Bitter orange, blood orange, and sweet orange juices (that is, juices from sweet oranges such as those consumed in most the world outside Asia, not orange juice with sugar in it), can also be useful on oily skin.
Lemon Juice Can Sting
Many users note that lemon juice stings when it is applied to “active blemishes,” that is, when it is applied to pimples. Normally, anything that causes stinging of the skin is not a good thing if you have acne. Lemon juice, however, causes a stinging6 that also slows down inflammatory processes, so that the net effect on the skin is good.
Are There People Who Should Not Use Lemon Juice?
There is one group of people who should not use lemon juice to treat acne. Lemon juice is not beneficial for acne on dark brown or black skin. The reason not to use lemon juice on dark skin is that dark skin contains many melanocytes, cells that make pigment. Lemon juice stimulates melanocytes to make antioxidants that protect the skin. When they make these protective antioxidants, they also make extra skin pigments. It is possible that lemon juice, like nearly any other “stinging” skin treatment, can cause long-term or permanent darkening of already-dark skin.
Any darkening of the skin caused by lemon juice will be more severe when the skin is exposed to the sun. Lemon juice compounds are especially active in the melanocytes when they are activated by the UV-A rays of sunlight. Dark skin will not burn, but it will darken even more when exposed to sunlight7 after lemon juice treatment.
Lemon juice does not work for everyone. If you would like to try a more traditional acne treatment with a money-back guarantee, consider Exposed Skin Care.
- Schürer N. pH and Acne. Curr Probl Dermatol. 2018;54:115-122. doi: 10.1159/000489525. Epub 2018 Aug 21. Review.
- Lambers H, Piessens S, Bloem A, Pronk H, Finkel P. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2006 Oct;28(5):359-70.
- Cogen AL, Nizet V, Gallo RL. Skin microbiota: a source of disease or defence?. Br J Dermatol. 2008;158(3):442–455.
- Mahmood NF, Shipman AR. The age-old problem of acne. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2016;3(2):71–76. Published 2016 Dec 2.
- Sato T, Takahashi A, Kojima M, Akimoto N, Yano M, Ito A. A citrus polymethoxy flavonoid, nobiletin inhibits sebum production and sebocyte proliferation, and augments sebum excretion in hamsters. J Invest Dermatol. 2007 Dec;127(12):2740-8. Epub 2007 Jun 28.
- Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013;4(2):143–146.
- Choi JY, Hwang S, Lee SH, Oh SH. Asymptomatic Hyperpigmentation without Preceding Inflammation as a Clinical Feature of Citrus Fruits-Induced Phytophotodermatitis. Ann Dermatol. 2017;30(1):75–78.
To be your most trusted ally in your pursuit of clear, healthy skin.