Home Remedies for Pimples: What Works and What Doesn’t

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No one likes getting pimples. In fact, most people detest getting pimples so much that they will do just about anything to try to get rid of them. This includes trying some risky do-it-yourself treatments and home remedies.

Social media is full of beauty tips and skincare hacks using common household products and cosmetics. However, when it comes to the efficacy and the safety of these at-home treatments, skincare experts say: do your research. Many of these trending skincare tips may actually be harmful for your skin.

To make it easy, we’ve compiled a list of popular internet tips for getting rid of acne and we’re here to clear up any confusion. Let’s talk about which of these tricks actually work, and which to avoid altogether.

What doesn’t work:

#1 Hand sanitizer

It’s easy to see how hand sanitizer could seem like an effective acne spot treatment. Anti-bacterial hand sanitizers tend to contain alcohols, which can work to temporarily dry out blemishes. However, dermatologists say this is not an effective option.

While hand sanitizer could potentially kill acne bacteria on the surface of the skin, experts note that it’s not formulated to penetrate the skin or kill acne bacteria within the pores. Additionally, because some of the ingredients can be too harsh or irritating for the skin, it is not a good idea to apply it to the face.


#2 Toothpaste

In recent years, there’s been a rumor circulating that toothpaste can be applied to pimples as a way to make them disappear overnight. Unfortunately, there is little truth to this rumor. In reality, doctors say this is a beauty tip that does more harm than good.

The theory behind using toothpaste is that, similar to hand sanitizer, it contains antibacterial and drying ingredients. However, in addition to ingredients that can combat acne, doctors say toothpaste contains components that can strip the skin of moisture. When this happens, you may actually experience worse breakouts, as the skin produces more oil to combat excess dryness.

#3 Lemon juice

As natural of an option as it may seem, dermatologists warn against using lemon juice to treat acne or any other skin condition. This is because pure lemon juice is incredibly acidic – too acidic for the skin. Lemon juice has a low pH and can therefore disrupt or damage your skin’s natural protective barrier.

A better option for acne would be products that contain citric acid or vitamin C, which are derived from citrus fruits like lemon and formulated to boost skin immunity without causing irritation or damage.

If you’re interested to add vitamin c to your skincare routine, you may want to check out this article on the best vitamin c serum recommended by Reddit users.

#4 Baking soda

Because of its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, baking soda has long been used as a natural remedy for bug bites, rashes, and other skin irritation. It’s easy to see why many people would believe this would also work on pimples. However, skincare experts disagree and advise against using baking soda on the face.

Doctors warn that using baking soda to treat skin on a regular basis can result in some unwanted drying effects including premature aging, loss of natural protective oils, and worsen acne breakouts. That said, you may see some exfoliation benefits by adding a bit of baking soda to your cleanser. Just use this option sparingly (no more than once per week) and never leave baking soda sitting on the skin.

#5 Aspirin

Crushed aspirin as a spot treatment for acne, is a home remedy that doesn’t live up to its claims, doctors say. Although many people assume it has the same anti-inflammatory benefits as salicylic acid – a common acne-fighting ingredient – doctors say aspirin doesn’t work as a pimple treatment.

While applying crushed aspirin is unlikely to have a negative effect on skin, dermatologists note that it’s also unlikely to have a positive one. Instead, they recommend skipping the medicine aisle and opting for more traditional blemish-fighting topicals. Look for products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids.

Read the best bha exfoliants if you want to add beta-hydroxy acids to your routine.

What does work:

#1 Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been trending as a potential magic skincare elixir that can be used for everything from spot treatment to a replacement for toner. But does it actually work? And is it safe? Dermatologists are on the fence.

While many estheticians and beauty therapists would advise against choosing a product as acidic as apple cider vinegar – (pure vinegar applied to the skin may actually cause chemical burns) – others say it can be effective as a skin purifier, when used in moderation. In order to avoid damaging the skin, experts recommend using apple cider vinegar only when it is diluted and blended with other skin-soothing ingredients.

#2 Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil, from Melaleuca trees, has been used as a natural remedy and treatment for acne for decades. Although it is technically an oil, tea tree actually combats oil production and boasts a wealth of anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties. It is even anti-inflammatory, making it a good gentle alternative to aggressive ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

Though, dermatologists cite tea tree oil as a good option for treating pimples, they are quick to note that it is not a good option for everyone. People with sensitive skin may react poorly to tea tree. To avoid irritation, experts recommend looking for tea tree as an ingredient in products like cleansers and facial oil blends, rather than using the pure form which is too potent to apply directly to the skin.

#3 Ice

Using ice to treat a blemish is something many people overlook because it seems a little too easy. But using ice or cold therapy is something that many estheticians recommend to reduce acne-related inflammation. Skin therapists say that ice works to treat a number of skin concerns by stimulating circulation and constricting blood vessels.

For best results, you can use a piece of ice, cold compress, or roller tool a few minutes per day on the area you want to improve. You can even use ice to treat the entire face, as it will help promote a healthy glow.

#4 Aloe vera

Because it helps calm breakouts and boosts skin circulation, skin experts like aloe vera gel for naturally and gently addressing acne inflammation. Aloe is naturally anti-bacterial and can help infuse hydration back into the skin. This makes it a particularly good option following other more aggressive treatments and products.

That said, dermatologists caution that aloe vera only addresses part of the pimple equation by reducing redness and irritation. It is not considered effective for preventing clogged pores or balancing oil production – both of which are critical to controlling breakouts.

#5 Green tea

Some good news about green tea: it has been linked to improving acne when incorporated into the diet and when utilized in topical products. Green tea is full of skin-friendly antioxidants but studies show it also has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits. It has even been shown to help balance the skin’s natural sebum production and reduce cystic pimples.

While you can drink green tea for some of these benefits, estheticians also recommend choosing cosmetics that contain green tea to best support your skin. Fortunately, green tea is easy to find in many cleansers, masks, serums, and moisturizers.

#6 Honey

Honey is another home remedy with a reputation for curing many ailments – including acne. Beauty experts and doctors alike recognize honey as having many benefits for the skin because it helps reduce bacteria without stripping the skin of vital moisture. In fact, honey is a humectant, so it helps keep hydration locked in.

Although honey has not been proven to target acne bacteria, dermatologists still see enough benefit to recommend raw honey as a natural mask that prevents breakouts. Manuka honey is best, experts say, because it contains high levels of nourishing omega-3s. For best results, their recommendation is to apply a thin layer of honey to the skin for about 15-20 minutes before gently removing it with water.

Other things to consider

While DIY pimple treatments can be tempting to try, many of them aren’t as effective as good preventative daily skincare, using products formulated to address acne. Many home remedies pose the risk of damaging the skin or making breakouts worse and therefore just aren’t worth it.

Always do your research and proceed with caution before trying any new blemish treatment. It’s also important to remember that because a number of factors contribute to acne, topical treatments can only do so much. A better approach to pimple prevention is a holistic one.

It’s important to choose the right products for your skin while being mindful that your lifestyle choices – diet, water consumption, sleep habits, stress levels, and the environment – can affect your overall skin health. By making choices that support balance, you ensure that your skin will have an easier time finding balance as well.

“Does toothpaste work on pimples?” by Jamie Eske


“How to use tea tree oil for acne, according to dermatologists” By Maddy Zollo Rusbosin


“The best skin secret? Try putting ice on your face (Yes, really)” by Lauren Valenti


Can lemon help with treating acne?” by Jenna Fletcher


“Baking soda for acne treatment” by Kiara Anthony


“What skin experts think you should know about apple cider vinegar” by Allie Flinn


“Can aspirin treat acne?” by Kristeen Cherney and Jill Seladi-Schulman, Ph.D.


“Aloe vera and acne” by Angela Palmer


“Could using green tea for acne be your key to clear skin?” by Corey Whelan


“Here’s the truth about using honey as an acne treatment” by Renee Jacques


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