The Best Home Remedies for Acne.
The active ingredient in aspirin is salicylic acid—the same key ingredient in many topical acne products. “Crush one aspirin in water and make a paste,” suggests Debra Jaliman, MD, New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules. “Apply the paste directly to the pimple with a cotton swab and leave on for 10 minutes.” Then rinse off with warm water.
Tea tree oil
“Tea tree oil is a mild antiseptic and mild anti-inflammatory,” says Jessica Krant, MD, board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Put a few drops of tea tree oil onto a cotton pad, and then gently dab it onto your blemish, Dr. Jaliman suggests. “Leave it on for a few hours or overnight,” she says. Try Now Foods Tea Tree Oil ($11; amazon.com)
Just as ice controls swelling on a sprained ankle, it can reduce inflammation in a pimple, says Dr. Jaliman. “Wrap an ice cube in a wash cloth and hold it on the pimple for a minute,” she says. “It will vasoconstrict the blood vessels and take down the redness and swelling.
Apple cider vinegar
For a DIY toner, dilute one part apple cider vinegar with three to four parts water (use four if you have sensitive skin), and then apply all over your face using a cotton ball or pad. “It may kill surface bacteria and give a mild chemical peel,” Dr. Krant says. What’s more, adds Dr. Jaliman, apple cider vinegar contains citric acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid—added to many over-the-counter acne products. ($10; Amazon.com)
Like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice contains citric acid. It also boasts L-ascorbic acid, a natural astringent and antioxidant, says Dr. Jaliman. “Wipe it across your pimples with a cotton ball and leave on overnight,” she suggests.
You can’t go wrong with garlic (well, besides the smell). “It has mild antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which may help when applied topically, and garlic in the diet is extremely healthy, with both anti-cancer and anti-clotting properties,” says Dr. Krant. Crushed garlic also contains allicin, an antibacterial compound, says Dr. Jaliman. She suggests making a paste of crushed garlic and water, applying it directly to the blemish, and then washing it off after 5 minutes.
“Egg whites are an age-old beauty secret,” says Dr. Krant. “The protein and vitamins in egg whites help to tighten and draw oils out of the skin, which may help unclog pores and reduce inflammation.” Dr. Jaliman recommends smearing egg whites over your problem areas and leaving on 10 minutes before rinsing off with water.
Spot treat a pimple with a dab of honey, or use the sweet stuff as an all-over face mask. Leave on for 5 minutes, then rinse off with warm water, says Dr. Jaliman. But you won’t want to use the regular teddy-bear honey you probably have in your pantry. “Raw, organic Manuka honey has been shown to aid in wound-healing with its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties,” explains Dr. Krant. “Regular honey may help, but it’s not as proven medically.” Try Wedderspoon Organic 100% Raw Manuka Honey ($19; amazon.com)
This kitchen staple has many surprising beauty uses, including as an acne-clearing facial cleanser and mask. Make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water and rub into your face with gentle, circular strokes. Leave on for 5 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. “Baking soda is drying and removes oil,” explains Dr. Jaliman. “It also makes a great exfoliant.”
“Banana peel applied with the inside layer against the skin has been a reported cure for plantar warts on the soles of the feet, so there’s reason to think it may be helpful applied to pimples as well,” says Dr. Krant. Gently rub the peel over the affected area for 5 to 10 minutes, and then wash your face.
Raw white potato
Potatoes have been applied to bruises and wounds for a century; the tubers are anti-inflammatory and may also be antiseptic, says Dr. Krant. Plus, Dr. Jaliman adds, potatoes contain niacin, which may help lighten acne marks. She suggests applying shredded white potato to the skin like a mask and massaging for 2 minutes.
Ever put cucumber slices over your eyes to reduce puffiness? They may also help reduce the swelling associated with acne, says Dr. Krant. Cucumbers are cooling to the skin, hydrating, and full of vitamin C. “Take a cold cucumber slice and apply to the skin to hydrate and alleviate discomfort from acne,” says Dr. Jaliman.
Orange peel can help improve your skin’s all-over appearance, says Dr. Jaliman. Why? Because like the rest of the fruit, the peel contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that’s essential for skin regeneration. “Grind the peel with water to form a paste and rub onto the skin,” she says. Rinse off after 10 minutes.
Toothpaste may help spot-treat a pimple in a pinch, but be sure to use the kind that’s all white. “The white part has the ingredients that help heal acne, which are baking soda and hydrogen peroxide,” says Dr. Jaliman, who suggests leaving a dab of toothpaste on a pimple for a few hours. You’ll want to refrain from using this treatment regularly, though—toothpaste is made for your mouth, not your skin, and anyone with sensitive skin may break out in a rash.
Eye drops reduce redness in your eyes, and they can do the same thing for your skin. Soak a few cotton swabs in a redness-reducing drop like Clear Eyes ($8; amazon.com) or Visine ($6; amazon.com), and then store them in your freezer. Next time a zit pops up, grab the swab, apply it to the blemish, and watch the redness go away.