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Natural Pimple Remedies: Do they work?

Is toothpaste really a good way to get rid of acne (pimples)? Does garlic help acne scars go away? I went to some of my favorite social media outlets and posed the question “What is your natural remedy for a pimple on the face” and received many different responses. Along with a board certified dermatologist, we are demystifying some of those age-old natural cures for getting rid of zits on the face and finding out what works and what doesn’t.   While there are many things people have tried, most of these have not been scientifically tested.  Still, since they also usually can’t hurt you, we give you some background about what might be behind the ideas:

1. Toothpaste: Everyone has heard it, put some toothpaste on a zit at night and the next morning not only will the zit be gone but your face will smell minty fresh. What does the expert think about this remedy:

Dermatologist: “Many patients tell us they use toothpaste.  I don’t know of any scientific proof for this method, but most brands are probably harmless. It may help by drying out the pimple and many brands contain hydrogen peroxide which may function as an antimicrobial, but it may also cause irritation and peeling along with it. If the toothpaste causes too much irritation, it might be better to try something else.”

2. Honey: Honey is what I usually put in my tea, but some say that this sweet salve can help treat a pimple. What does the expert have to say about this:

Dermatologist: “Honey does have some properties in it that can help fight a pimple.  Acne is a multifactorial problem.  Although the skin is covered with microbes, recent studies tell us that certain microbes may contribute to acne.   Honey is naturally thick, so this property can stop bacteria from growing.  Chemicals in honey called inhibines, which include hydrogen peroxide, phenolic acids, and flavonoids, may also have direct antibacterial effects. But I’m not talking about the honey in the plastic bear bottle which can be heavily processed.  Probably the best would be raw honey found at most farmers’ markets.  Honey is an ancient remedy for wounds and skin infections and is still being used in many places around the world.  Since it can’t hurt, it might not be bad to try.”

3. Garlic: Garlic has been used for ages, from warding off vampires to its use by Olympics athletes in Greece and there are many cultures that believe it has several medical applications, which include healing acne scars by placing it directly on the scar. What does the expert think about this remedy:

Dermatologist: “I love garlic, but I imagine it doesn’t smell amazing for the person applying it (nor the people around them). The reality is scars are hard to treat even with expensive treatments but one tip that my patients find helpful is to not pop the pimple in the first place. Popping pimples can actually lead to more inflammation and redness as well as scars later on.  Estheticians and dermatologists will occasionally “pop” the pimple for you to release the contents and promote healing, but we have special tools to help.”

4. Egg yolk: When I think of egg yolk, I think of bacon, toast, and coffee but some people use egg yolk as a mask to help rid the face of acne bumps. What are the expert’s thoughts on this one:

Dermatologist: “Retinol, a form of Vitamin A, can be found in many animal sources like milk, eggs, and liver. Retinol is also used in many over the counter acne products.  Egg yolk can be applied to the affected areas of the face but if you do use this remedy, make sure you are not allergic to eggs as this can cause an allergic reaction.”

Bottom Line: Whether you are dealing with one pimple that won’t go away or several bumps on the face, it sounds like raw honey and egg yolk can help resolve those acne bumps. However, there are products on the market that have been studied and proven to effectively treat acne, and those products are benzoyl peroxide and retinol. If you are having a problem with acne, consult your dermatologist.  If you’d like more information about acne, you can read up on our own website:  Basics on Acne or Understanding Acne.  If you’re really stuck, there are even online dermatologists now, like Direct Dermatology where you can send in photos of your acne and board certified dermatologists will help you with your acne and prescribe acne medications directly to your pharmacy if you need them.
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