Dermatologists Weigh In On The Acne Home Remedies We've All Tried

This is how skin care professionals feel about using aspirin masks, honey and other repurposed household ingredients on our faces.
Many DIY face mask recipes include egg yolks as an ingredient.
Javier Zayas Photography via Getty Images
Many DIY face mask recipes include egg yolks as an ingredient.

People have long been repurposing household ingredients to treat their dermatological woes, even passing down skin care traditions for generations.

In the age of TikTok, however, many of these small-scale experiments and skin care “hacks” have reached the masses. In recent years, countless viral videos have touted aspirin masks, raw eggs and other ingredients as at-home remedies for acne.

But are these treatments effective or potentially harmful? HuffPost asked dermatologists to weigh in.


“Toothpaste has been used to address breakouts, and this was thought to be related to an ingredient previously used in toothpastes called triclosan, and the drying properties related to baking soda and hydrogen peroxide,” said dermatologist Dr Marisa Garshick.

“While in some cases it may help to reduce breakouts by drying the skin out, it is also important to remember that this can lead to irritation and dryness, which can actually worsen inflammation.”

Toothpaste ingredients like alcohol and sulfates can be majorly irritating as well.

“Other ingredients, such as dyes or flavoring agents, could potentially cause contact dermatitis in the form of redness, scaling and itching,” said dermatologist Dr Brendan Camp.

Given the lack of scientific research around the use of toothpaste on acne, dermatologists do not recommend putting the product on your pimples, however convenient it may be.

“These formulations are meant to clean the tough surfaces of our teeth, not to be left on the relatively delicate facial skin,” said dermatologist Dr Hadley King.

“So yes, a tiny bit of toothpaste could be used in a pinch as a spot treatment to help dry up a pimple, but there are better, more studied and proven, more effective, and more tolerable over-the-counter options for treating acne, like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid spot treatments. Hydrocolloid stickers can also be helpful.”

Aspirin masks

Another viral TikTok treatment involves crushing up aspirin and mixing it with water to create a paste that then goes on the face as a skin care mask.

“Aspirin is not considered an approved treatment for acne. And while some people may find it helpful, it’s best to stick with ingredients that are known to prevent and treat acne, like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid,” Garshick said, noting that there is no research supporting the use of aspirin masks in skin care.

“That said, some people may find aspirin can help to reduce inflammation that may be associated with a larger cyst or nodule,” she added. “People have suspected that aspirin may help because it contains acetylsalicylic acid — which, while it is related to salicylic acid, is not the same thing.”

Indeed, acetylsalicylic acid can be broken down into acetic acid and salicylic acid, with the latter being an active ingredient in many acne-fighting products.

“We know that salicylic acid can be helpful for clogged pores and acne, but acetic acid can increase irritation,” King said. “And the important point is that we have better over-the-counter and prescription options! Ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are available as spot treatments without a prescription, and they have been well studied and shown to be effective for acne.”

Those who apply aspirin topically may find that it actually irritates their skin.

“When pharmaceutical companies make their products, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars testing them,” said Dr Robert Brodell, the founding chair of the dermatology department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “Grinding up aspirin and making a pomade is a recipe for disaster, as a concentration of aspirin that is too strong could burn the skin where it is applied. I would not recommend this one!”

Green tea

While people have long extolled the skin care benefits of drinking green tea, some have taken it further by applying it topically to their faces as an ingredient in DIY cleansers, scrubs, toners or masks.

“Green tea is an excellent skin care ingredient for its anti-inflammatory, anti-redness and antimicrobial effects,” said dermatologist Dr Blair Murphy-Rose. “Green tea is rich in polyphenols, which may decrease sebum production as well. So green tea may help to soothe and heal existing outbreaks while preventing new ones.”

Polyphenols are known for their antioxidant properties, so green tea could help neutralise or prevent free radicals — unstable molecules that can cause serious cell damage.

“Making your own facial spray with green tea can also provide a hydration boost to the skin and help protect it from environmental stressors,” said David Petrillo, a cosmetic beauty chemist.

There’s research to back up the benefits of of green tea as well.

“Green tea has been studied for a variety of bioactive ingredients, with anti-skin cancer, sun-protective, anti-proliferative and antioxidant qualities,” Brodell said, noting that most of the studies involved people who ingested the tea.

“Of course, tea is also an ingredient in some cosmetics,” he added. “With the thousands of kinds of teas available, I would not recommend applying any of them to your skin. If an individual wants to purchase a cosmetic which contains tea as an ingredient — a product that has been tested before being released to the public — that makes more sense.”


“Honey is used primarily as a humectant because of its ability to draw moisture to the skin,” Camp said. “As a result, honey face masks may be beneficial to those with particularly dry skin.”

Some people recommend mixing honey with cinnamon to make a face mask, but there are extra risks to adding the spice component.

“Cinnamon is thought to have antibacterial and astringent properties that may help treat acne,” Camp said. But “cinnamic aldehyde, the chemical compound that gives cinnamon its flavour and odour, is a known cause of allergic contact dermatitis,” he added.

Thus, Camp recommended that honey be used as a stand-alone ingredient.

“Honey has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties, as well as anti-inflammatory properties,” King said. “It helps to hydrate the skin, and it aids in wound-healing by maintaining a moist wound environment and providing a protective barrier. It has long been used in traditional medicine for cuts and burns.”

Honey is a popular on its own and as a DIY skin care ingredient.
Teera Konakan via Getty Images
Honey is a popular on its own and as a DIY skin care ingredient.

Rich in antioxidants, honey can also help with free-radical damage to reduce signs of aging.

“Its organic acid content provides gentle exfoliation, and the vitamins and amino acids may impart anti-aging properties as well,” King said. “Its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties may be helpful for acne-prone skin. Its gentle exfoliation properties may be helpful for oily skin.”

As with all acne remedies, be cautious if you have sensitive skin. And stay away from honey if it leads to irritation.

“Some data suggests honey can improve blemishes. However, it wouldn’t be my first choice to cover my face in!” Murphy-Rose said. “In a pinch, one could try it as a spot treatment, but there are better choices in my opinion that are not sticky and messy.”

Your specific choice of honey might also make a difference.

“Manuka honey is the type of honey that has the most research proving its medicinal properties,” said dermatologist Dr Jacqueline Watchmaker. “I recommend patients use products with medical-grade honey rather than honey you can buy from grocery stores.”

Raw egg yolks

“Egg yolks are made mostly of water, but they also contain proteins and lysozyme, an enzyme with antibacterial properties,” Camp said. “This enzyme, and the astringent properties of egg yolk, are thought to be helpful for acne, though the data is mostly anecdotal.”

There are a number of DIY face mask options online that include egg yolks as an ingredient, sometimes even mixed with honey.

“There is vitamin A in egg yolk. Relatives of vitamin A are among the most common treatments of acne ― tretinoin (Retin-A), adapalene, even retinol, which is an over-the-counter version of a vitamin A,” Brodell said.

“All of these options change the way the skin grows very slowly, perhaps 10% better each month, so that after a long period of time the block pores are open and there is no place for acne infection to live. But why would someone want to deal with the mess when there are wonderfully elegant over-the-counter and prescription options for vitamin A?”

There’s also a big downside to using raw egg yolks in a face mask: the risk of infection and irritation.

“Raw egg yolks can harbour bacteria, including salmonella,” King said. “There are so many accessible face masks or even DIY options that don’t come with the risk of bacteria.”

Other face masks, meanwhile, use egg whites.

“My 95-year-old grandmother swears by her monthly egg white mask,” Murphy-Rose said. “It is just 100% egg white whipped and applied to the skin. Personally I have never tried it, but in theory this checks out given that egg whites have humectant properties to hydrate and plump, and antimicrobial effects from lysozyme to fight breakouts. Her skin glows after her egg white mask.”

Apple cider vinegar

Like green tea, apple cider vinegar is an ingredient that many people consume for its host of health benefits, including for skin. Some also mix it with water for a DIY face wash or toner ― or apply the substance directly to acne as a spot treatment.

“Apple cider vinegar is an acidic solution,” Camp said. “It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and exfoliant properties, which make it a helpful treatment for acne-prone skin.”

He warned that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar can be caustic, however, so it’s best to a do a spot test prior to applying this solution all over your face.

“Apple cider vinegar is commonly used to treat conditions like dandruff, and has been reported to be helpful in treating acne,” said Dr Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “But in more cases than that, it causes skin irritation.”

So if you notice your skin turns red or flaky, stop applying apple cider vinegar or try watering it down.

“Dilute apple cider vinegar ― 1 part apple cider vinegar to 10 parts water ― to tone and cleanse the skin,” advised Dr Karan Lal of Affiliated Dermatology in Arizona. “Straight-up apple cider vinegar can lead to redness, chemical burns and worsening of acne, all of which I have seen.”

“The only scenario I typically recommend using apple cider vinegar is in warm diluted vinegar soaks ― 1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 parts water ― to treat toenail and foot fungus, in combination with other treatments,” Watchmaker noted.

There can also be sensory downsides to apple cider vinegar on the skin.

“Of course, you will smell like a french fry!” Brodell said. “There are other acids available over the counter, such as alpha hydroxy acids and lactic acid, that are very elegant and have no smell, and will have similar exfoliating effects.”

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