10 Home Remedies for Acne

woman applying a face mask at home

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Acne can be a psychologically and physically challenging condition. It affects up to 50 million Americans each year, with 85% of those aged 12 and 24 experiencing at least mild acne.

The most common area where acne can flare is the face, but it can also occur on the back, chest, shoulders, or other areas. Many people experience mild acne with a few pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads while others will have a moderate case with inflamed papules. Some even experience severe acne including nodules and cystic acne.

The severity of your acne will determine how it can be treated. Severe acne will likely require intervention from prescription or over-the-counter medications or products. Mild acne, and some moderate cases, may see benefits from home remedies.

Mild acne is a form of acne characterized by some smaller pimples and blackheads. You may experience some papules or pustules, but not in excess. Mild acne also does not cause deep, painful breakouts like nodules or cysts. Mild acne is the most likely to respond to over-the-counter or home remedies.

Causes of Acne

 Acne occurs when the hair follicles become blocked and inflamed. The individual causes of acne are unique for each person and can include:

  • Hormones: Fluctuating hormones increase oil production, leading to increased breakouts.
  • Medications: Some medications alter hormones called androgens and can lead to breakouts.
  • Stress: Stress increases the hormone cortisol, which can lead to breakouts.
  • Genetics: Acne may be more likely to occur if your family members also experienced it.
  • Environment: Humidity and air pollution can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
  • Cosmetics: Makeup or skin products that block pores or irritate the skin can lead to acne.
  • Diet: Inflammatory foods, dairy, or high glycemic foods may increase the chances of acne.
  • Smoking: Smoking may increase your chances of having acne, especially in older adults.

"Acne is typically driven by hormonal factors, which is why we get more acne during puberty," says board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell, MD. "The 'androgen' hormones that spike during puberty drive oil production."

Dr. Campbell indicates that the acne-causing bacteria, C. acnes, tends to overgrow in oil-rich environments. Dead skin cells, oil, and acne-causing bacteria clog the pore, which the body objects to by sending inflammation to the site. This inflammation results in whiteheads and more cystic acne lesions, she says.

Home Remedies for Acne


Although there are plenty of effective over-the-counter products that help treat acne, some people prefer to treat acne at home with natural remedies and lifestyle changes. Not all home remedies have been proven effective, especially when compared to ones you can find in stores or through a prescription. However, if a more natural do-it-yourself approach is appealing to you, here are some methods that may help.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains citric acid, which may help destroy the bacteria C. acnes which causes breakouts. It also contains acetic acid, which is known to be antibacterial and antifungal. 

It is crucial that you dilute apple cider vinegar before applying it to your skin to avoid potential burns. You can try adding 1 teaspoon to a sink full of water to wash your face.

Be sure to rinse off afterward. More research is needed to confirm whether apple cider vinegar is effective for treating acne.

Honey

Honey has long been used to treat various skin conditions, including acne, due to its apparent healing and antibacterial properties. Manuka honey, in particular, has been used extensively to heal wounds and infections.

Caren Campbell, MD

Anything that works well for acne addresses either the hormones—blocking excess androgen hormones like birth control or spironolactone—or dries up oil and results in dryness of the skin initially, is anti-inflammatory, or kills the acne-causing bacteria.

— Caren Campbell, MD

You can try applying honey directly to the skin. Leave on for the desired amount of time and then rinse well. Another option is to add cinnamon to your honey treatment. Research shows that combining cinnamon and honey may reduce or destroy acne-causing bacteria.

"Anything that works well for acne addresses either the hormones—blocking excess androgen hormones like birth control or spironolactone—or dries up oil and results in dryness of the skin initially, is anti-inflammatory, or kills the acne-causing bacteria," says Dr. Campbell.

Garlic

Garlic is used to develop potential acne bacteria causing remedies. It has been widely recognized as antimicrobial and, as such, is used as a home remedy for acne.

There is not enough evidence to say that garlic can reduce or cure acne, but it may help prevent the growth of the bacteria that causes it. People who use garlic to treat acne rub the cloves on their face.

Grape Mask

Grapes are highly nutritious and contain many compounds that are good for the skin. One such compound is resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes. Resveratrol has been shown to fight acne-causing bacteria. 

Try squishing some red grapes in a dish and applying them to your skin like a mask. Leave on for a few minutes before rinsing. 

Cucumber Mask

While cucumbers may not directly treat acne, the vegetable provides soothing hydration that may help reduce the appearance and inflammation of pimples. Inflammation of the sebaceous skin glands is a cause of acne and cucumber may be able to reduce this inflammation to calm skin. Try blending cucumber and applying it to your face alone or in combination with another remedy.

Clay Masks

Clay has been used extensively throughout history to treat wounds and infections. Its antimicrobial and potential anti-inflammatory properties make it an ideal candidate for a home remedy for acne. Clay masks can be a soothing form of self-care and are fun to make at home.

Mix clay of any type with a bit of water or other liquid and apply it to your face. Allow the mixture to dry before rinsing off. Many people like to combine clay with additional skin-friendly ingredients to make a unique mask.

Green Tea

Green tea is high in antioxidants and is often touted as a health tonic. There are compounds in green tea that may also help fight against acne-causing bacteria. Moreover, green tea offers a more gentle remedy for acne than some of the traditional treatments like retinoids.

Brew some green tea and allow it to cool. Apply it to your face with a cotton ball and leave it on for as long as you like before rinsing. You can also use green tea as the liquid in your clay mask or combine it with another remedy.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel solution is used as an astringent, which helps to reduce oil on the skin. It is also known to be anti-inflammatory while being gentle on the skin, helping to calm inflamed areas and soothe the skin. 

You can find witch hazel preparation at most drug, big box, and beauty stores. It is typically applied with a cotton pad and left to dry. You can also combine it with other remedies or use it as the liquid in a clay mask.

Jojoba Seed Oil

Jojoba seed oil is a moisturizing oil that is also anti-inflammatory and has been used to treat a wide range of skin conditions and boosts wound healing. Research shows that treatment with jojoba oil and clay facial masks can reduce the occurrence of breakouts including pustules, papules, cysts, and comedones. Jojoba oil can be added to clay masks or applied directly to the skin.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an essential plant oil that has long been used to spot treat acne. Research backs up its popularity as well, showing that tea tree oil products significantly improve mild to moderate acne without side effects.

Tea tree oil is one of the most studied natural remedies for acne, with several backing up the evidence that it helps prevent and clear acne.

Often, tea tree oil is applied directly to the skin. Most people do not experience any adverse effects, but some may find skin peeling or redness, which typically resolves on its own. If this bothers you, you can add tea tree oil to another remedy, such as jojoba seed oil, or add it to a carrier oil like coconut oil.

A Word From Verywell

Acne can be a frustrating condition that affects your self-esteem. It also can be irritating and even painful. Fortunately, there are many options for treating acne, including prescription, over-the-counter, and home remedies. It is important to discuss your options with a dermatologist to determine which option is best for you. 

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