Acne is a common skin problem that has a lot of stress and frustration. Home remedies are often chosen, despite many proven treatment options. In the blog below, the 8 most common home remedies are reviewed and advice is given to make an informed choice about your skin care. More about acne
1. Touching up pimples with toothpaste
Videos often come around on social media claiming that toothpaste is effective for treating acne. There are people who have indeed reduced their acne by using toothpaste, but it is important to know that toothpaste can damage the skin. The ingredient in toothpaste that can reduce acne is triclosan, according to a study by (Dall’Oglio et al., 2015).
Triclosan is an ingredient with an antibacterial effect. In 2016, triclosan was banned as an ingredient by the European Parliament due to negative health effects. Due to the ban on this ingredient, toothpaste no longer contains ingredients that can reduce acne.
In addition, toothpaste contains ingredients such as chlorhexidine, which can irritate and damage the skin. In addition, toothpaste contains ingredients such as chlorhexidine, which can irritate and damage the skin. We therefore advise against using toothpaste to treat acne.
If you do consider using toothpaste, we recommend that you first do an allergy test by applying a small amount to the wrist. In addition, never use toothpaste on sensitive or damaged skin.
2. Drinking buttermilk
Buttermilk contains lactoferrin and the lactobacillus bacteria, both of which are beneficial against acne. This has emerged from the study by Podgórska et al. (2021). However, a high dose of lactoferrin was used in this study, which you will not take in quickly. In addition, buttermilk contains lactic acid. Lactic acid can help exfoliate the skin and reduce inflammation. However, these effects have only been shown by applying lactic acid directly to the skin, which is why it is also used in peels. Whether drinking lactic acid has the same effect has not been proven.
There is evidence that drinking dairy products, including buttermilk, can actually contribute to the development of acne (Meixiong et al., 2022). This may be because dairy products contain hormones such as androgens, estrogen and progesterone (Kolok et al., 2018). These hormones can actually contribute to the development of acne.
The sun can help reduce sebum production and reduce the bacteria that cause acne. In the short term, the sun can therefore contribute to reducing acne. However, sun exposure for a longer period of time causes the skin to thicken. Due to thickening of the skin, blockages occur more quickly in the drainage of the sebaceous gland, which in turn causes acne. In addition, prolonged sun exposure can also have many other adverse consequences such as skin cancer.
It is therefore very important to use a sunscreen when you are exposed to the sun. The downside is that certain chemical sunscreens are comedogenic and cause inflammation. We therefore recommend using mineral sun filters for acne-prone skin. An example of a mineral sunscreen is zinc oxide. In addition to protecting against both UV-A and UV-B radiation, zinc oxide also has an anti-inflammatory effect (Azad et al., 2014). More about UV-A, UV-B rays
4. Dabbing with apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Theoretically, apple cider vinegar can indeed reduce acne. However, apple cider vinegar is very highly concentrated. It is so acidic that it can disrupt the skin’s pH balance, irritate the skin and even cause chemical burns. We therefore strongly advise against the use of apple cider vinegar as a treatment for acne.
5. Dab a cotton pad with citric acid on the skin
Lemon juice contains citric acid and ascorbic acid. These acids work both antibacterial and exfoliating. Acne wordt deels veroorzaakt door het ophopen van huidcellen in de talgklieruitgang. By exfoliating the skin and thus removing these dead skin cells, acne could indeed become less. However, just like the above home remedies, lemon juice is also concentrated with a high acidity, which makes it more likely to cause skin irritation. We therefore advise not to apply citric acid to the skin yourself, but to opt for a peeling with citric acid from one of our skin therapists (more about Peelings). You can be sure that you are treating with a safe concentration.
6. Apply salt water to the skin
Salt water naturally has an antiseptic and antibacterial effect, helping to remove sebum and skin cells. However, there is no medical evidence that salt water has a positive effect on acne. The downside of applying salt water to the skin is that the skin becomes very dehydrated. Dehydration of the skin can lead to excessive peeling of the skin, which in turn clogs the drainage channels of the sebaceous glands and increases acne.
7. Painkillers – Paracetamol & Aspirin
Paracetamol is not antimicrobial or anti-inflammatory. Paracetamol only reduces pain and fever. Applying paracetamol to acne is therefore not an effective treatment either. Aspirin, on the other hand, contains the substance acetylsalicylic acid, which is very similar in composition to salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is an agent that is actually used to treat acne. However, applying aspirin to the skin would be much more concentrated than the concentration of salicylic acid used in acne treatment, causing the skin to dry out more quickly.
8. Brewer’s yeast tablets
There are no approved health claims for brewer’s yeast according to the European Food Authority. It is true that brewer’s yeast naturally contains B vitamins, such as vitamins B2, B3 and B8.
The study by Podgórska et al. (2021) has shown that B vitamins have a beneficial effect on acne. B vitamins namely inhibit sebum secretion and reduce the colonization of the P.acnes bacteria, which is responsible for causing acne.
In addition, an old study by Weber et al. (1989) investigated the influence of brewer’s yeast on acne compared to a placebo. The result of the study was that more than 80% of the patients experienced an improvement in their acne. In the placebo group this was only 26%. So there is some evidence that brewer’s yeast has a positive effect in treating acne, but more and more recent research is needed to fully confirm the positive effect.
So there are a number of home remedies that could theoretically reduce acne, however, due to the high risk of adverse consequences, we still recommend the use of approved remedies. For example, think of benzoyl peroxide, which is also available at the drugstore without a prescription.
This blog was written together with Jamy van den Brink
Dall’Oglio, F., Tedeschi, A., Fabbrocini, G., Veraldi, S., Picardo, M., & Micali, G. (2015). Cosmetics for acne: indications and recommendations for an evidence-based approach. Giornale italiano di dermatologia e venereologia, 150(1), 1–11.
Henrich, E. W., & Baumann, T. (2006). De beoordeling van cosmetische ingrediënten aan de hand van de INCI-benamingen.
Kolok, A. S., Ali, J. M., Rogan, E. G., & Bartelt-Hunt, S. L. (2018). The Fate of Synthetic and Endogenous Hormones Used in the US Beef and Dairy Industries and the Potential for Human Exposure. Current Environmental Health Reports, 5(2), 225–232.
Podgórska, A., Puścion-Jakubik, A., Markiewicz-Żukowska, R., Gromkowska-Kępka, K. J., & Socha, K. (2021). Acne Vulgaris and Intake of Selected Dietary Nutrients—A Summary of Information. Healthcare, 9(6), 668.