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.
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.
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.
|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
Baking soda is abrasive. Using baking soda as an exfoliant, proponents argue, may help clear out dead skin cells, clearing pores and preventing acne.
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.