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NOW READING Are These Top 10 Home Acne Remedies Risky? – A Dermatologist Weighs In
February 5, 2021

Are These Top 10 Home Acne Remedies Risky? – A Dermatologist Weighs In

Before you grab that toothpaste or lemon juice, we asked a leading dermatologist to advise on 10 of the most popular home remedies for acne and which ones to avoid.


If you’re anything like me, your medicine cabinet resembles that of a drugstore pharmacy shelf, chock-full of hard-to-pronounce creams, moisturizers, and gels to combat those pesky acne flare-ups. But what if the cure (or at least a quick fix) can be found in your pantry? Or even your refrigerator?


Home Acne Remedies Risky?


We’ve heard many ‘old wives’ tales about all-natural pimple remedies, from toothpaste and lemon juice to tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar, but do these easy-to-find ingredients actually work? Maybe, at least according to NYU Langone dermatologist Dr. Evan Rieder, MD, FAAD. “While home remedies might seem like an easy, natural option to treat acne, most have no evidence backing them and can actually do more harm than good,” he says. “The best option is to consult with a board-certified dermatologist to get expert advice on both over-the-counter and prescription regimens.”


But if convenience is of the utmost importance and you want to give an at-home remedy a shot, it’s important to keep risks in mind before experimenting with any dermatological endeavors.


We break down 10 of the most popular home acne remedies below, caveats included.


Lemon Juice 


Lemon juice as acne home remedy


There is no scientific evidence that lemon juice can help acne,” says Rieder, but studies of lemon oil have shown to decrease acne through its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. But don’t rush to set up a lemonade spa—err—stand any time soon. “Side effects including skin irritation and rashes are possible if your lemon juice skin is directly exposed to the sun,” warns Rieder.




toothpase as acne home remedy


If you’re looking to dry out a pimple in no time, toothpaste’s ingredients of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide have long been touted as quick overnight fixes; however, “the risk of skin irritation far outweighs the very slim potential benefits,” says Rieder, so leave that tube of Crest for your pearly whites and not for your whiteheads.



honey as acne home remedy


While the sticky, sweet stuff may be deemed a “gift from the gods,” it certainly has no place on your face. “[Honey] has antimicrobial properties that help with cuts and wound healing, but no evidence [suggests] that it can kill acne’s bacteria or be effective for the treatment of acne,” says Rieder.


Apple Cider Vinegar 


apple cider vinegar, acne home remedy


Apple cider vinegar’s immunity health benefits have turned it into a certifiable superfood. The delicious salad topper also has the ability to “exfoliate skin, improve texture, and absorb oil”—the characteristics we look for in effective acne treatments—but many DIY attempts result in redness, irritation, blisters, and burns, says Rieder. “I would never tell anyone to put it anywhere near their skin.”


Tea Tree Oil 


tea tree oil as acne home remedy


It looks like we have an acne-fighting winner with delightfully pungent tea tree oil…for the most part. “It’s generally well-tolerated,” says Rieder. “The evidence that is out there suggests it could help mild acne with its anti-inflammatory with antimicrobial properties.” That being said, the research is minimal, so experimenting with the popular at-home treatment should be limited.


Coconut Oil


coconut oil as acne home remedy


“While this might be an okay product to help moisturize and treat the mildest of acne, the greasiness of the texture and the tendency to clog pores might do more harm than good,” cautions Rieder. Ultimately, you’ll want to avoid using the trendy pantry item on your face, but go crazy with it in keto brownies.


Green Tea 


green tea as acne home remedy


Tea continues to reign supreme with the good ol’ green variety boasting catechins: a natural antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and antibiotic traits. “Unlike the rest of these [at-home remedies], there is some evidence that green tea can help with mild acne,” says Rieder. “I would recommend using a topical [treatment] rather than an oral green tea product and doing a test spot, twice daily for a few days on another part of your body to ensure that you don’t develop a reaction before putting [it] on your face.”


Aspirin Paste 


aspirin paste as acne home remedy


The theory is that the active ingredient of aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, is similar enough to a known acne treatment, salicylic acid, and that it should be helpful for treating acne, says Rieder. Unfortunately, the evidence is just not there. “Often, it can just dry out the skin without touching the acne.”




ice as acne home remedy


For immediate relief, ice may be a great option for temporarily soothing an inflamed pimple. “But the pimple will likely come back pretty quickly,” claims Rieder, making it a futile effort in combating acne for the long-haul.


Aloe Vera


aloe vera as acne home remedy


“Aloe Vera is a hydrator and exfoliant that doesn’t have much evidence in the treatment of acne,” says Rieder.  “It can soothe the skin, sometimes calm redness, and may help acne medications like retinol work better, [but] it’s not likely to make a substantial impact on acne at all on its own.” That being said, it’s still a fantastic skin remedy to calm the itch and sting of a sunburn. Unsurprisingly, its most effective application is straight from the source by slicing a leaf from the plant in half to collect its “miracle gel.”


Which home acne treatments have you experimented with?

Joey is a writer/editor, TV/radio personality, lifestyle expert, former entertainment publicist and author of Basic Bitchen. He was most recently editor-at-large of CBS Interactive’s Chowhound and his work has also been featured in major outlets like Food & Wine, People, CNET, InStyle, Yahoo!, Travel + Leisure, Lonny, and BuzzFeed. In addition, he is the host of Awesomeness TV’s Dish This and has appeared on Wendy Williams, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, HLN, NBC, CBS, and SiriusXM. Currently based in New York City, in his spare time Joey enjoys volleyball, worshipping Beyonce, fine dining, writing depressing poetry, interior design, and perfecting his stand-up comedy routine. You can find him on Instagram @joeyskladany.




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I was getting ready to attend the Cowboys vs Browns game and suddenly I had a breakout on my chin! I read the book on Apple Cider Vinegar-which I drink a shot of daily. I applied a cotton ball soaked in the vinegar to my chin and "POOF" my blemish shrunk almost instantly. I also tried fresh lemon juice to hair strands to get that sun-kissed look for the summer season. Seem's to work best on blondes rather than brunettes.


My coach actually recommended toothpaste when I was younger, but I think it largely depends on what kind of toothpaste you use. It was somewhat effective.... but I think we have enough viable alternatives at this point that many of these home remedies might not be as necessary.


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As a teenager, I was fortunate in the skin department. My breakouts were minimal, so I never experimented with anything. I simply used tinted Clearasil. I've never been a DIY girl since I recognize that certain things are out of my realm of expertise. Now, as a skincare writer and reviewer, if I get the occasional pimple, I use an exfoliating cleanser (preferably Restorsea Reviving Cleanser 200g) and wait for the blemish to open. Then I slap on a COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch (ADF Hydrocolloid Dressing) and use anything and everything with centella... Read more


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I had to read this when I saw the picture of the girl picking at her face. I know how horrible that habit is and how addicting it is! It took me years to stop picking and I still have slip ups where I “go to town” on my face and so deeply regret it. It causes scarring, bleeding, scabbing and looks a million times worse than the blemish ever did. The patches for zits are one way to keep me from touching zits. This is aside from the healing purposes of a patches and diminishing the zit, it literally... Read more


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I am guilty of putting toothpaste on my breakouts when I was young. Back then, I'd also saturate a piece of cotton with astringent and put it on a freshly picked pimple. The more it stings, the more I felt like it is dissolving my pimple. Thinking about it now just gives me anxiety! LOL. Now I am so happy acne patches were invented. I literally just rely on COSRX pimple patches to do the job.


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Yikes! I remember seeing all these trends for dealing with acne. I haven’t tried any of these beside the aloe Vera on some redness on my face. Acne is so tricky to treat because so many things can factor into why someone is breaking out .


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I was lucky to don’t have acne all my life including my teen time. And the secrets🤫 of this miracle came from my grandma:
1) healthy diet ( lot of veggies and fresh cooked food, honey, green tea, goat milk - every day);
2) wash face 2 time per day with mild cleanser or grape juice from real grapes ( my grand parents had small winery in Rumania );
3) don’t dry face with regular towels- only use facial tissue or nothing, just air dry;
4) change pillow cases every other days.
I understand that genetic play roles to have acne. If this is... Read more


Change your pillow - a must!


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When I was in high school way back then I tried the aloe Vera and the ice method it was satisfying, (you know the coldness and the jelly thing--it's soothing) but it doesn't remove my acne, I used astringent and creams and went to a facial salon. It is better to ask help from the pro :-)


I'd say always be very careful with acne self-treatments. I know so many people with scars from it, but these natural low invasive hacks are super interesting!


I have oily skin and tea tree oil has definitely been most effective for me. But I'm now tempted to try green tea after speaking with him!


Me too! Great story, Joey.