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Is Garlic For Acne An Effective Home Remedy?

dr jaggi rao Reviewed by Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

In the classic comedy movie Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Mel Brooks’ character Dr. Abraham van Helsing orders massive amounts of garlic to be placed in the bedroom of the young and nubile Lucy (played by Lysette Anthony) after tiny puncture marks have been found on her neck. A competing doctor played by Harvey Korman orders the garlic removed from Lucy’s boudoir, and the next night Count Dracula emerges from an insane asylum and uses hypnotic mind control to lure Lucy to a nearby garden, where she meets a ghastly fate.

Garlic for acne
Garlic does not help fight acne.

Garlic is often portrayed as a magical tool with the power of preserving life from the forces of death. For centuries, garlic was used to protect skin from the ravages of acne. But if you don’t use garlic, will the acne vampires glamor and lead you to skin destruction?

Summary:

  • Garlic is used in traditional skin care to stimulate growth of hair rather than to treat acne.
  • Scientific tests have shown that tea tree oil, wild basil, sandalwood oil, thyme oil, and oregano oil fight acne, but garlic does not.
  • Garlic eaten as a food may modify the immune system in ways that reduce acne inflammation.
  • Other botanical ingredients are much more useful for acne-prone skin than garlic.
  • Sandalwood oil offers some benefits not found in other botanical treatments for blemished skin.
  • A complete acne treatment system is much more useful in treating acne than garlic.

Garlic and Skin Infection

Drs. Karen Martin and Edzard Ernst of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth in the United Kingdom conducted a review of clinical trials of the antibacterial properties of common herbal preparations. They found that tea tree oil and wild basil oil kill acne bacteria. Although wild basil (Ocimum gratissimum) oil is seldom found at the natural products store, Dr. Ernst’s experiments found that 5% wild basil oil was more effective for getting rid of pimples than 5% benzoyl peroxide—and it also smelled so bad that it drove away bugs.

The authors also found that tea tree oil was useful in treating skin infections—but for garlic, no such evidence was to be found. Does that mean that garlic treatment for acne is a waste of time?

How Garlic Is Used to Treat the Skin

Garlic is a traditional skin treatment in Unani medicine, still used in Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Kashmir. Traditionally garlic is used to stimulate growth of the skin after inflammation or infection. More specifically, garlic is used to stimulate growth in hair follicles rather than in sebum-producing follicles. When alopecia areata has made hair fall out, or acne keloidalis nuchae has trapped hair in pores, garlic is applied to the skin to correct the problem.

Garlic and Acne Treatment

The inflammation and irritation that make the skin break, caused by the immune system’s response to acne bacteria, can lead to scratching, which can lead to wounds.  There is some evidence that garlic can be helpful in wound healing, but it would be best to avoid this problem by being gentle with your skin.

Other Herbs That Treat Acne on Your Skin

If not garlic for your skin, then what? Here are some suggestions:

  • Tea tree oil is effective for fighting acne. Use pure tea tree oil or products that contain at least 10% tea tree oil directly on blemished skin. Redness should begin to clear up within 24 hours, and acne bacteria will be killed in about 72 hours. It make take as long as two weeks for new, unblemished skin to come in. Never take tea tree oil or any other essential oil by mouth.
  • Sandalwood oil is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, and has been supported by some clinical studies to be effective against acne.
  • Oregano oil,  and to a lesser extent thyme oil, has been shown to have a strong antimicrobial effect against acne bacteria.

Garlic is not a whole lot more useful for fighting acne than it is for fighting vampires. A complete acne fighting system, however, may be exactly what you need and Exposed Skin Care comes with a complete money back guarantee.

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