Five Home Remedies to Get Rid of Acne That You Probably Shouldn’t Try

A promise of a quick fix has an inescapable allure. It’s easy to fall into the promise of home remedies. Every time you see a new one, it’s like a sudden realization. ‘Bananas!’ you shout. ‘I have bananas! I can’t believe that the solution to my problem has been sitting on my counter all this time!’

For those of us with acne, it’s particularly appealing to cover your face with household products and hope. Unfortunately, many home remedies for zits that are touted on the internet do more harm than good.

5. Neosporin

The Theory:

Neosporin is an ointment containing three antibiotics: Bacitracin, a cyclic polypeptide that interferes with the production of a bacteria’s cell wall; Neomycin, an aminoglycoside that binds to the bacterial ribosome (Intro to biology reminder: the ribosome is the primary place of protein synthesis. Thus, binding here interferes with protein formation.); and Polymyxin B, which binds to the bacterial membrane, making it leaky. In theory, these three antibiotics working together would make bacteria simply disintegrate.

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Source: http://2.thekrazycouponlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/neosporin.jpg

In Neosporin, bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B rest in a base of cocoa butter, cottonseed oil, sodium pyruvate, tocopheryl acetate, and petroleum jelly.

The idea behind this treatment rests on the fact that acne is strongly associated with certain strains of Propionibacterium acnes. “If bacteria is causing my acne,” they reason, “using an antibacterial agent like Neosporin may help murder those little buggers in a chorus of fire and very, very mild acid, thus clearing my skin”.

Why It Won’t Help:

Neosporin has a three big reasons why it is a terrible idea as an acne treatment.

A. The non-active ingredients will exacerbate acne. Although some of you may be special and fancy enough that you can smear cocoa butter on your face and come out of it merely smelling like delicious chocolate, those of us who are acne-prone will erupt into an attack of disgusting if we so much as smell it. (Actually, I think smelling it is okay. But don’t put it on your face!) Cottonseed oil, although less terrible for your zits than cocoa butter, is still avoided by even the most die-hard oil cleansing method fans due to its propensity to cause acne. Certainly some people won’t be harmed by wiping Neosporin on their face, but anyone who is desperate enough to be using this goop for acne probably will be.

B. There is limited evidence of the efficacy of Neosporin at all. Neosporin does not seem to particular fantastic at doing much of anything. In a double blind study, Neosporin did not outperform petroleum jelly. If Neosporin doesn’t even effectively do what it is specifically and intelligently designed to do, it’s particularly unlikely that it would randomly solve a completely different problem.

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Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Polymyxin_B1.svg,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Neomycin.gif, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bacitracin_A.svg

C. The bacteria associated with acne is gram-positive. Bacteria can be broadly classified as either gram-positive or gram-negative. Gram-negative bacteria have a cell wall comprised of a thin layer of peptidoglycan. This is covered by an outer membrane made up of lipoproteins and lipopolysaccharides. Gram-positive bacteria have a thick layer of peptidoglycan and no outer membrane. Gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria are frequently affected by different antibiotics. Polymyxin B and neomycin are only effective against gram-negative bacteria, meaning they won’t do anything to eliminate the gram-positive P. acnes. Bacitracin does have some efficacy against gram-positive bacteria, but it only really affects S. aureus and streptococci. Thus, these antibiotics will not affect the P. acnes bacteria.

4. Baking Soda

The Theory

Baking soda is abrasive. Using baking soda as an exfoliant, proponents argue, may help clear out dead skin cells, clearing pores and preventing acne.The-Many-Uses-of-Baking-Soda-in-Survival-Situations

Source: http://www.fourwinds10.net/resources/uploads/images/The-Many-Uses-of-Baking-Soda-in-Survival-Situations.jpg

Additionally some sources have claimed that it helps to neutralize the pH of your skin, preventing imbalances that may lead to acne. (I’m looking at you, Livestrong.com!)Why It Won’t Help

The idea neutralizing the pH of your skin with baking soda is complete and utter bullshit. The pH of your skin is very mildly acidic… and it’s mildly acidic on purpose! Just because 7 is “neutral” on the pH scale doesn’t mean that it is where your skin is supposed to be. This slight acidity creates a hostile environment on your face, preventing many harmful bacteria from making their home on your nose.

Using an acidic skin cleanser (one that matches the pH of your skin) is essential for keeping P. acnes at bay. Dermatology studies demonstrate that using a pH that is more basic than your skin not only interrupts pH but fosters increased growth of P. acnes. P. acnes grows best at pHs of 6.0-6.5. The skin’s natural pH of 4.2-5.6 inhibit their growth. Thus “neutralizing” your skin means creating the ideal bacterial environment for the biotic factor most strongly associated with acne.

3. Lemon Juice

The Theory:

Lemon juice contains Vitamin C in the form of L-absorbic acid.  People who suggest lemon juice as a treatment for acne promise that Vitamin C helps combat acne (by magic? No one seems to have a good mechanism).

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Source: http://bluebutterfliesandme.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/lemons-1.jpg

Lemon juice also contains citric acid, an alpha hydroxy acid. Proponents state that citric acid will help slough off dead skin, leaving your pores fresh and clear.

Why It Won’t Help

Although lemon juice does contain Vitamin C, no clinical study has found a link between Vitamin C and acne reduction. And citric acid, although it is an alpha hydroxy acid (and that’s all the rage right now, I guess) is too big to penetrate the skin, meaning it really won’t help.

But lemon juice is even more sinister than a mere lack of efficacy. Lemon juice is also associated with the development of a phototoxic reaction called phytophotodermatitis. Phytophotodermatitis consists of redness, blistering, and hyperpigmentation. Exposure to lemon juice followed by exposure to sunlight is sufficient to induce this reaction. Furthermore, sunblock is unable to prevent these negative effects.

2. Toothpaste

The Theory:

There are a variety of ingredients in toothpaste that suggest it may have some efficacy in treating acne. According to its users, the toothpaste ingredient hydrogen peroxide, which is another common home remedy, may help dry out pimples.

imgname-toothpaste_for_pimples-50226711-images-2420480843_29cdd17150
Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-aVW019SA7XY/TdPiClxAIMI/AAAAAAAAAlc/gyP_whN3J_Q/s1600/imgname-toothpaste_for_pimples-50226711-images-2420480843_29cdd17150.jpg

Toothpaste also commonly contains triclosan, an antibacterial agent that is commonly found in acne-fighting face washes. Some advocates even suggest that the minty menthol in your toothpaste may help reduce redness on particularly yucky zits.

Why It Won’t Help

Toothpaste is highly irritating to your skin. Dermatologists suggest that rather than drying out pimples, it merely causes redness and peeling, leaving your skin festering even further. This feels effective to desperate middle schoolers, but actually causes significant damage.

1. Getting a Tan

The Theory:

P. acnes is a highly photosensitive bacteria. It is particularly sensitive to light in the range of 405-420 nanometers, which is visible violet light. When exposed to this wavelength of light, P. acnes usually responds by kindly dying.

People who suggest tanning to eliminate acne note that natural sunlight contains blue and violet light, so going out to get a tan may help murder some of your troublesome facial bacteria.

Why It Won’t Help:

Although blue light therapy has been proven effective at reducing pimples, the white light from sunlight probably doesn’t have enough blue or violet light to create a difference on your face. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there is no evidence to suggest that tanning has any beneficial effect on acne. 

It’s more likely that getting a tan simply camouflages some of the discoloration associated with acne. This effect can be mimicked by using a fake tanner, which prevents the ample harm associated with sunlight and tanning beds. Although the day you got your sunburn (…I mean tan…) your skin may be as smooth as a lobster’s bottom, tanning absolutely isn’t worth the damage. Tanning is skin damage, period. Although your darker skin may conceal the negative effects of tanning, the skin damage, peeling, and redness caused by UV damage will still be there once your tan fades, exacerbating the appearance of acne. Tanning even causes the epidermis to thicken, which can make it more difficult to effectively clean out your pores. Plus, you know… there’s the whole skin cancer thing.Additionally, many acne medications cause increased sun sensitivity, making it even more integral to avoid tanning.

14 comments:

  1. Gryphonwolf

    This is why I avoid all those amazing sounding miracle remedies that are all over pinterest. After I read about the horrors of lemon juice on /r/SkincareAddiction/ and I saw sooo many skin ‘cures’ on pinterest that I realized just how dangerous some of that advice cane be. That goes for cleaning solutions too, they recommend all sorts of weird crap on there.

    I do have a question though is there anything that Neosporin *is* good for?

    I have always used it on small cuts on my fingers, over the occasional scab after a zit is gone or on a spot where I have an abscess from a hangnail gone wrong. It seems to work well for these things but after reading this I’m wondering if it’s just because it’s keeping the tissue moist.

    Ps: LOVE your blog! I look forward to your post and always learn something new your posts, which is excellent.

  2. hellocampcomfort.com

    There’s theoretical reasons Neosporin might work, but not experimental evidence. It may or may not be helping you.

    And thank you!

  3. Anna Kintner

    This is the best goddamn review of kitchen-acne bullshit ever. You should do more of these! “Herbal/kitchen remedies you may be sucked in by…” for all manner of ailments. I just read a good one over on FutureDerm about banana-coconut hair masks, but this is better.

    If you really wanted to push the boat out… you could do one on Accutane. Controversial! Btw, if you actually have zits, congrats on your expert camouflage skills – your skin looks amazing.

  4. hellocampcomfort.com

    I have Accutane on my list of things to do a “How Does It Work” on, since it is effective, it’s just not necessarily worth the myriad of side effects for the majority of people.

    And thank you. Full coverage foundation is a godsend.

  5. Rachel

    Actually I use toothpaste to dry out a zit. It’s really good at that if you only get a few like me, otherwise it’s a bad idea!

  6. nichole

    I’m so glad you posted about baking soda and lemon juice! I see way too many folks recommending it these days. I wish you would have included tea tree oil in your “how does it work?” list. It’s what I use, and it works for me, but I’m more than a little clueless on exactly *why*.

  7. hellocampcomfort.com

    I can do that!

  8. whateveramber

    Ooh! Yes! I’d love to know about Tea Tree Oil, also. I use it on my daughter’s eczema.

  9. whateveramber

    Ha! I’ve actually used a few of these over the years. In the mid-90s, when I was a teen, I saw Suzanne Somers on TV talking about using toothpaste on zits, so I tried it. It didn’t do shit, but back then I was super low maintenance (read: kinda gross) and really didn’t care much about washing my face unless I was in the shower.

    I used baking soda as an exfoliator once and all it did was scratch up my skin and give me a rash so bad that I had to slather Aquaphor all over my face.

    And, I’ve used Neosporin on zits that I’ve popped to the point that they bleed because I was (am) paranoid that I would get a MRSA infection that would eat half my face. Thanks for the information about Neosporin. I’d toss it, but Neosporin plus a bandaid has an awesome placebo effect on my kids and niece.

  10. Dheeraj

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along.I’m impressed. You’re truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. I’m saving this for future use. Spray Tan in NYC

  11. Carter slade

    Hi this one is great and is really a good post. I think it will help me a lot in the related stuff
    Great article

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  12. KDK

    “blue light therapy has been proven effective at reducing pimples”

    So does this mean that my Tanda Zap actually works? I keep using it because I swear it makes pimples deflate overnight, but I always wonder if it’s time or the benzoyl peroxide that’s actually doing the work.

    Could you do a Beauty Bullshit on Tanda and other blue-light therapy products?

  13. page williams

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  14. andrew

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