Waking up to a face full of acne can be a devastating sight early in the morning. You may become conscious of your looks and resign yourself to layers of makeup in a bid to hide those zits. You may be tempted to pick on your pimples too to demolish its presence and end up leaving a scar on your face.
These pimples, or pustules, that usually occur on the face as red spots are termed as acne. These may be filled with pus and can also be present in the chest, neck, and back.
Mostly people between the ages 12 and 25 are affected by this condition.
A study conducted in 2013 and published in Pediatrics states that acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States. It affects almost 85 percent of the young population that lies between the ages of 12 and 24 years and affects 40–50 million individuals each year in the United States itself.
What Causes Acne?
Acne occurs when there is a buildup of dead skin and oil on the skin surface, which acts as a breeding ground for bacteria. Acne can be triggered by many factors:
- Fluctuation in hormonal levels due to factors such as the onset of puberty, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause or any condition that causes hormonal imbalance
- Use of contraceptive pills
- Certain medications such as those for epilepsy and depression
- Heavy cosmetic makeup
- Friction on the skin caused by bike helmets, sports equipment, or backpacks
- A family history of acne
What are the Types of Acne?
Acne can manifest itself as:
- Solid raised bumps called papules
- Pus-filled surface bumps called pustules
- Cystic acne that occurs as a result of cyst formation
- Deep firm pus-filled bumps called nodules
- Large deep pus-filled pockets called abscesses
- Whiteheads, which are caused by a blockage of tiny hair follicles by sebum and dead skin and are formed at the tip of every pimple
- Blackheads, which are formed when a hair follicle is blocked at the surface of the skin
How is Acne Diagnosed?
Acne can be diagnosed by examining your body parts. The severity of your condition is determined by the number of acne spots, degree of inflammation, and intensity of pain.
Acne can be categorized into four grades:
- Grade 1 is the mild form of acne, which is restricted to whiteheads and blackheads, with a few papules and pustules.
- Grade 2 is the moderate form of acne, which encompasses the face with multiple pustules and papules.
- Grade 3 acne is characterized by multiple pustules, papules, and inflamed nodules extended to the back and chest.
- Grade 4 is the severe form of acne marked by large painful nodules and pustules.
What are the Conventional Treatments for Acne?
Several over-the-counter topical creams and ointments are available to treat acne. Usually available in topical forms, these treatments work by eliminating the excess oil from the skin and reducing the appearance of new pimples.
Standard treatments for acne include topical and oral medications containing:
- Hormonal agents
What are Simple Ways to Deal with Acne?
Although there is no definitive cure, there are many simple and easy natural remedies using common ingredients found in your pantry and refrigerator to prevent or minimize the problem.
Instead of shelling out a fortune on beauty products and side-effect-laden expensive treatments, try to include natural solutions in your skin care routine and see your pimples fade away.
Check out the most tried-and-tested remedies to wipe away acne from your skin.
1. Give Your Skin a Gentle Oatmeal Rub
Oatmeal is beneficial in reducing acne as it cleanses your skin pores and absorbs excess oil. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nature helps clear the acne away.
An added perk is it can exfoliate your skin and help in scraping away the dead skin cells.
A study published in 2012 in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology supported the effectiveness of oatmeal on various dermatologic diseases caused by inflammation such as atopic dermatitis, acneiform eruptions, pruritus, and viral infections.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of honey and the juice of half a lemon in 1/4 cup of cooled cooked oatmeal.
- Gently rub this mixture on your skin.
- Leave it on for 30 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Do this once or twice a week.
2. Apply a Paste of Aspirin
This chemical compound can reduce inflammation and shrivel the pimple eventually.
- Crush one aspirin in enough water and make a paste.
- Use a cotton swab or Q-tip to apply the paste directly onto the pimple.
- Rinse it off after 10 minutes with warm water.
- Repeat once or twice a week.
3. Try Lemon Juice
The acidic property of lemon can be very useful in treating acne. Lemon cleans out the dirt that has accumulated in the pores and hardens the sebum. You can use it on your skin daily, but if it is too drying, then use it every 2 or 3 days.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Physics stated that lemon juice inhibited the growth of Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis, which can cause acne.
- Rub a slice of lemon on the affected area and leave it for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing your face with water.
- You can also mix lemon juice with rose water in equal amounts, apply it on your face and then rinse it off after 15 minutes.
4. Dab Tea Tree Oil
Another popular natural treatment for acne is tea tree oil. Tea tree oil acts as an antiseptic and disinfects the pores.
A 2007 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology found that topical 5 percent tea tree oil is an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne vulgaris.
In addition, it helps kill the bacteria that cause acne.
- Just apply 1 drop of tree tea oil mixed with 1 drop of coconut oil or jojoba oil to the affected area three times a day.
- If the application of tea tree oil causes skin irritation, redness, or excessive dryness, then use tea tree oil diluted in water or mix it with aloe vera gel and then apply.
5. Apply Aloe Vera Gel
A study published in the Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that oral intake of aloe vera juice may be helpful in patients with mild to moderate acne vulgaris by decreasing the non-inflamed and total facial acne lesion counts, but this beneficial effect is not significant when compared with that of the controls.
- You can buy aloe vera gel from the supermarket or grocery store or get pure aloe vera gel by cutting a leaf off an aloe vera plant and scooping the gel out of it. Apply the aloe vera gel to the affected areas twice daily for 20 minutes.
6. Put an Ice Pack
Using an ice pack can constrict your pimple by decreasing the blood supply to it. Applying an ice pack can help reduce the inflammation by reducing the swelling and redness associated with it.
- Wrap 2–3 ice cubes in a washcloth or paper towel and place it on the affected areas for a while.
7. Use Basil
Basil is a renowned herb used in traditional medicine to treat a host of maladies.
This is due to the fact that basil abounds in potent antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help get rid of various skin and health conditions such as acne, rashes, eczema, fever, and sore throat, to name a few.
A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Sciences supported the efficacy of formulations containing sweet basil oil over those containing holy basil oil against P. acnes.
- Consume basil tea to avoid acne that is a result of hormonal imbalance.
- You can use holy basil tea as a topical solution to spritz on your skin as a toner.
- Alternatively, you can add basil essential oils in your homemade face masks, exfoliating scrubs, or cleansers.
8. Apply a Speck of Toothpaste
The toothpaste that you use regularly to clean your teeth can also help clear up an acne problem. This is, in fact, one of the easiest home remedies for acne. The toothpaste will reduce the swelling and dry out the acne.
- Apply a small amount of white toothpaste on the affected area before going to bed. if you have somewhat sensitive skin then you can rinse it off after 5 minutes, else you can leave it on overnight. Within a day or two, you should see significant improvement.
9. Rub Garlic
The topical application of garlic can help clear away the acne on your skin.
The antibacterial compound in garlic called allicin gives it its antiseptic properties that help fight the bacteria in your skin.
A 7.5 percent concentration of garlic juice has anti-acne activity towards Propionibacterium acnes.
- Directly apply half a garlic clove on the blemish. Wash it off after 5 minutes. Be careful not to apply fresh garlic near the eyelids, lips, or sensitive skin areas.
- Alternatively, you can make a paste of garlic and rub its juice directly on your pimples.
10. Smear the Paste of Turmeric
Turmeric has been a part of the skin care routine of South Asian women for a long time.
The bioactive component of turmeric, curcumin, is a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound healer.
With all that it offers, turmeric has therapeutic effects on acne-prone skin.
- Use 1 teaspoon turmeric and enough coconut oil to make a paste. Alternatively, you can mix ¼ teaspoon of turmeric and 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel to make a paste.
- Apply this paste on the acne-prone skin and the surrounding areas.
- Let it sit for 15 minutes. Wash it off thereafter.
- Apply this paste for three to four times a week as needed.
11. Use Green Tea
Green tea contains an abundance of phytochemicals, namely, flavonoids and tannins. These biomolecules can help fight inflammation and bacteria and reduce the production of sebum, which can cause pimples and acne.
Green tea also contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which can help counter the production of sebum, inflammation, and the production of P. acnes in people with acne-prone skin.
It has also been found that the topical application of 2–3 percent green tea extract on the skin can curtail the production of sebum and pimples in people with acne.
Green tea has made it in the beauty industry in the form of body washes, face washes, creams, and lotions.
You can prepare your own green tea solution to care for your acne-prone skin.
- Put a green tea bag in boiling water for 3–4 minutes. Let it steep.
- Allow it to cool.
- Take a Q-tip or a cotton ball and dip it into the solution and apply it on your skin. Alternatively, you can pour the solution into a spray bottle and use it when needed.
- Let the green tea solution dry. Rinse your skin with clean water and pat it dry.
Drinking green tea to cure acne still requires further research.
12. Slather Honey
Honey is an age-old remedy that treats a number of skin conditions.
- Clean your hands. Using a finger or a cotton pad, drizzle a little honey onto the pimples.
- Additionally, you can also add honey to your face masks.
14. Use Powdered Orange Peel
- Keep some orange peels in the sun and let them dry out completely.
- Grind the dried peels into a powder and add water to make a paste.
- Apply the paste on the affected area and leave it on for 10–15 minutes. Then, wash your face with warm water.
15. Mask It Up with Fenugreek
The herb fenugreek can also be used in the treatment of acne due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiseptic properties.
- Mix fresh fenugreek leaves with water to make a smooth paste. Apply the herbal paste on the affected area and leave it on for about 10–15 minutes. Then, wash your face with warm water. Repeat the process for 3–4 days to allow the acne to heal.
- Alternatively, grind 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds into a fine powder and add a little warm water to it to make a paste. Apply this paste on the affected area. Leave it on for about 20 minutes or overnight, and then rinse it off. Do this two or three times a week.
16. Apply a Paste of Indian Lilac
Indian lilac, also known as neem, can be used for the treatment of various skin problems. It contains antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that help kill the bacteria that cause acne. Also, it soothes the redness and inflammation of skin breakouts.
- Make a paste of tender Indian lilac leaves by adding a little water. Add some turmeric powder to the paste and then apply it on the affected area. Leave it on for 20 minutes and then wash it off. Do this at least twice a week.
- You can also apply neem oil a few times a day until you see improvement.
Tips to Follow During an Acne Outbreak
These self-help techniques may be useful:
- Use a very mild cleanser or soap to wash the affected areas. Use lukewarm water. Extremely hot or cold water can worsen your condition.
- Avoid washing your face frequently. This can cause irritation.
- Avoid picking on your acne. This can worsen your condition and result in scarring.
- Avoid using makeup and cosmetics when you are experiencing an acne breakout. Use noncomedogenic products that are water based and are less likely to block the pores on your skin.
- Make sure to remove your makeup before bedtime.
- Always take a shower soon after your exercise routine to avoid an accumulation of sweat that can cause acne.
When to See a Doctor
Every 8 in 10 teenagers are affected by acne in the United States. It may happen in mild forms in most cases. However, an estimated 70 percent of the cases of acne may be severe enough to seek treatment. It can take about 4–5 years for an untreated acne condition to settle down by itself.
Consult a doctor if your acne:
- Has appeared in a cluster with cysts and redness
- Is worsening
- Is not improving even after months of care and use of over-the-counter medications
- Is causing your face or body to form scars
These simple and easy-to-follow natural treatments for acne can solve the problem to some extent. For best results, you must also live a healthy lifestyle. If you cannot successfully treat your acne with these home remedies, you should consult a dermatologist.
- Basak SA, Zaenglein AL. Acne and Its Management. Pediatrics in Review. https://pedsinreview.aappublications.org/content/34/11/479. Published November 1, 2013.
- Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Kazerouni A, Feily A. Oatmeal in dermatology: a brief review. Indian journal of dermatology, venereology and leprology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22421643. Published 2012.
- Arif T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4554394/. Published August 26, 2015.
- Lekakh O, Mahoney AM, Novice K, et al. Treatment of Acne Vulgaris With Salicylic Acid Chemical Peel and Pulsed Dye Laser: A Split Face, Rater-Blinded, Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of lasers in medical sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4688384/. Published 2015.
- Decker A, Graber EM. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments: A Review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366450/. Published May 2012.
- Ahmed ME. The study of Bacteriocin of Pseudomonas fluorescens and Citrus limon effects against Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis in acne patients. Journal of Physics: Conference Series. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/1003/1/012004/. Published 2018.
- Malhi HK, Tu J, Riley TV, Kumarasinghe SP, Hammer KA. Tea tree oil gel for mild to moderate acne; a 12 week uncontrolled, open-label phase II pilot study. The Australasian journal of dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27000386. Published August 2017.
- Enshaieh S, Jooya A, Siadat AH, Iraji F. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Indian journal of dermatology, venereology and leprology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17314442. Published 2007.
- Yousafzai A, Saleem S, Javed F. Extraction of Active Components of Aloe Vera to Treat Acne/pimple in Population of Quetta City. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321044287. Published January 2012.
- Surjushe A, Vasani R, Saple DG. Aloe vera: a short review. Indian journal of dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763764/. Published 2008.
- Forest JM, Rafikhah N. Aloe vera Juice and Acne Vulgaris: A Placebo-Controlled Study. Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://scialert.net/fulltextmobile/?doi=ajcn.2014.29.34. Published 2014.
- Does Ice Help to Heal Acne? Acne.org. https://www.acne.org/does-ice-help-to-heal-acne.html. Published March 6, 2019.
- Shweta Kapoor, Swarnlata Saraf. Topical Herbal Therapies an Alternative and Complementary Choice to Combat Acnenal journal of cosmetic science. Research Journal of Medicinal
Plants. https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=rjmp.2011.650.669. Published 2011.
- Viyoch J, Pisutthanan N, Faikreua A, Nupangta K, Wangtorpol K, Ngokkuen J. Evaluation of in vitro antimicrobial activity of Thai basil oils and their micro-emulsion formulas against Propionibacterium acnes. International journal of cosmetic science. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18492147. Published April 2006.
- Dharmikpreeti, Gomashe A. Anti-Acne Activity of Toothpaste – An Emerging Pimple Treatment. Academia.edu. https://www.academia.edu/35129130/. Published 2014.
- Jaiswal S, Tiwari S, Chaturvedi M, Gupta R. FORMULATION, DEVELOPMENT AND EVALUATION OF HERBAL GARLIC LOTION FOR ACNE. Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics. http://jddtonline.info/index.php/jddt/article/view/1627. Published 2017.
- Saptarini NM, Herawati IE. DEVELOPMENT AND EVALUATION OF ANTI-ACNE GEL CONTAINING GARLIC (ALLIUM SATIVUM) AGAINST PROPIONIBACTERIUM ACNES. Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research. https://innovareacademics.in/journals/index.php/ajpcr/article/view/19271. Published August 8, 2017.
- Turmeric – an overview .ScienceDirect Topics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/turmeric.
- Huang H- Y, Liu C- H. In Vitro Anti-Propionibacterium Activity by Curcumin Containing Vesicle System. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/cpb/61/4/61_c12-01043/_html/-char/en. Published April 1, 2013.
- Turmeric as Medicinal Plant for the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris. PharmaTutor. https://www.pharmatutor.org/articles/turmeric-as-medicinal-plant-for-the-treatment-of-acne-vulgaris.
- Bhat YJ, Latief I, Hassan I. Update on etiopathogenesis and treatment of Acne. Indian journal of dermatology, venereology and leprology. http://www.ijdvl.com/article.asp?issn=0378-6323;year=2017;volume=83;issue=3;spage=298;epage=306;aulast=Bhat. Published 2017.
- Nasri H, Bahmani M, Shahinfard N, Nafchi AM, Saberianpour S, Kopaei MR. Medicinal Plants for the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris: A Review of Recent Evidences. Jundishapur Journal of Microbiology. http://jjmicrobiol.com/en/articles/56552.html. Published December 1, 2015.
- McLoone P, Oluwadun A, Warnock M, Fyfe L. Honey: A Therapeutic Agent for Disorders of the Skin. Central Asian journal of global health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5661189/. Published August 4, 2016.
- Julianti E, Rajah KK, Fidrianny I. Antibacterial Activity of Ethanolic Extract of Cinnamon Bark, Honey, and Their Combination Effects against Acne-Causing Bacteria. MDPI. https://www.mdpi.com/2218-0532/85/2/19. Published April 11, 2017.
- P RS. NUTRITIONAL AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF ORANGE PEEL. Pharma Research Library. http://www.pharmaresearchlibrary.com/nutritional-and-health-benefits-of-orange-peel/. Published May 28, 2013.
- Mahesh KS, B S, Mj N. Herbal remedies for acne. NOPR. http://nopr.niscair.res.in/handle/123456789/8119. Published August 1, 2005.
- Seviar, Ros S. Antimicrobial Properties of Fenugreek Seeds against Skin Infection Causing Bacteria. INTI Institutional Repository. http://eprints.intimal.edu.my/951/. Published 2017.
- Miglani A, Manchanda RK. Azadirachtaindica in treatment of acne vulgaris-an open-label observational study. Indian Journal of Research in Homoeopathy. http://www.ijrh.org/article.asp?issn=0974-7168;year=2014;volume=8;issue=4;spage=218;epage=223;aulast=Miglani. Published 2014.
- Vijayan V, Aafreen S, Reddy KR. Formulation and characterization of solid lipid nanoparticles loaded Neem oil for topical treatment of acne. Journal of Acute Disease. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2221618913601444. Published October 18, 2013.
- Tabassum N, Hamdani M. Plants used to treat skin diseases. Pharmacognosy reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931201/. Published 2014.