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Acne is a very common skin condition. In fact, it is the most common skin condition in the United States. There are a number of effective treatments for acne as well as a number of home remedies. There are also a lot of myths surrounding acne. One such myth is to let it run its course, without treatment. Dermatologist know that without treatment acne can leave both physical and emotional scars for life. So it’s definitely worth treating!
This article will look at 6 common home remedies for acne. We examine what the remedy is, how it is used, whether it is effective and what side effects may come with its use. First let’s look at what causes acne.
Acne is caused when the pores of our skin get blocked. It can happen on the face but also on the shoulders, back, chest and other areas of the skin. The pore normally gets blocked with dead skin cells. If the skin produces too much sebum (an oil that the skin produces to protect itself), the sebum can bind the dead skin cells together, making them stick together. To add to this bacteria that normally lives on the surface of the skin can get stuck in the pore where it multiplies at a rapid rate. The increasing number of bacteria causes infection, redness and swelling. If the acne goes deeper into the skin, an acne cyst or nodule can then appear.
When searching for a treatment for acne, it’s important to keep the cause of acne in mind. This will help you to remember to opt for products that minimise oil production and clogged pores, reduce inflammation, contain antibacterial properties, and can get rid of pimples.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is made from a distillation process using leaves from the tea tree plant. The leaves of this plant have been used by aboriginal peoples for hundreds of years as a treatment for cuts and wounds, colds, coughs, and sore throats. Today the essential oil from the leaves has become one of the most popular home remedies for acne, athlete’s foot, and even insect bites and other ills.
Very little research has been completed into the actual benefits of tea tree oil and its effectiveness for certain treatments. Some very preliminary research suggests that it may be helpful for acne and athlete’s foot and perhaps even nail fungus. It is generally safe for use topically (on the skin) but dangerous for internal use. It should never be ingested. Though safe for topical use, tea tree oil can cause an allergic reaction or irritation for some people.
If these concerns arise, use should be discontinued. Experts agree that tea tree oil should be used with caution by people with sensitive skin and those with eczema. If tea tree oil is ingested, medical assistance should be sought immediately. Ingestion of tea tree oil can cause a serious condition called ataxia, which is a lack of muscle control and it can also cause mental confusion.
A very small study carried out at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia, involving 124 acne patients, saw half use a 5% solution of tea tree oil and the other half use a 5% solution of benzoyl peroxide (the most common active ingredient in topical acne treatments). Both solutions appeared to help lessen the acne by reducing the number of acne lesions. The tea tree oil worked more slowly than benzoyl peroxide but it had fewer side effects.
For acne, tea tree oil is applied topically to the skin as an oil or as an active ingredient in a face wash, cleansing bar, cream, lotion or spot treatment on a cotton ball. Though it seems to be effective, you should look out for redness and irritation, and rashes which might mean you are either allergic or sensitive to the oil. Expect it to work more slowly than treatments containing benzoyl peroxide.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar has been popularly believed to treat acne, warts, nail fungus and lice and has even become more popular lately as a method to control diabetes and to lose weight. Apple Cider Vinegar, in particular, has become a popular home remedy for acne. The idea is that the vinegar will dissolve and disperse excess oil in the skin while killing bacteria.
Apple cider vinegar typically is 5 – 6 % acetic acid, with a pH of between 3.1 to 5. With apple cider vinegar acidity and pH varying greatly between brands and even between batches of the same brand, it is not uniform or standardized. Studies have shown that the application of vinegar to inflamed skin can further irritate the skin.
The optimal pH of your skin is 5.5 and the acid mantle of your skin is between 4 and 5.5. This mildly acidic balance in your skin protects your from bacterial and viral infection. Changing that level with the use of stronger acids or strong bases increases your risk of bacterial and viral infections.
Experts agree that apple cider vinegar will dry out a pimple. However, they also state that there are much more effective and safer method of fighting acne. Experts suggest that if you are going to use a vinegar to treat acne or any other skin infection, that you use white vinegar, which is standardized to a 5% solution, and then dilute it at a ratio of 1:10, one part vinegar to ten parts water. Further, because of the risk of rawness and the need to protect the natural pH level of your skin, you should use it only as a spot treatment.
If you do use apple cider vinegar as one of your home remedies for acne, you should choose a brand that clearly labels the acidity level of the vinegar on the label and never use it full strength. You can learn more about how to treat acne with apple cider vinegar here.
Green tea extract has also become a popular home remedy for acne. Tea contains polyphenols which have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. For acne treatment it is said to control sebum production in the skin, reducing over time the risk of blocked pores and therefore acne breakouts and infections.
A few small research projects have shown that green tea applied topically may have a beneficial impact on sebum production in the skin and therefore may help to control acne. However, these studies have been small, produced preliminary results, and further research is needed into the topical application of this extract and any long term effects it has. To date, relatively few negative side effects have been reported for use topically over a short period of time (8 – 10 weeks in the studies).
Research has also been limited to solutions of green tea extract at between 2.5 and 5%. Green tea extract can be found in a number of acne treatments from washes and toners to creams and lotions.
As with any of the home remedies for acne, use should be discontinued if an allergic reaction, heavy sloughing, or irritation occurs.
Popular opinions of honey suggest that this ancient bee-produced product is the cure for almost everything. There is some scientific basis for the use of honey in a number of applications. For example, Manuka honey is now used widely to prevent wounds from becoming infected. Studies have shown that a variety of honeys have potent anti-microbial effects on skin relevant microbes. So far science knows that honey is biologically active and can be beneficial for the skin. However, further studies are required to determine how honey can be used to treat skin conditions other than burns and wounds.
Another recent study suggests that honey could be effective in limiting the “food” available to bacteria within the sebaceous glands (the glands that produce sebum). The study suggests that the honey, rather than simply being applied full strength to the skin, should be thinned so that it can be dissolved in the glands and starve bacteria. More studies on the development of this potential solution for acne need to be conducted.
No adverse effects of topically applying honey have been found to date and it may be very effective at controlling bacteria on the surface of the skin.
Baking soda is another of the popular home remedies for acne. It is used as a face mask, an exfoliant and a face wash. It does have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties which are very beneficial to acne prone skin.
Experts agree that if you use baking soda as a remedy for acne it should not be used every day and when it is used, it should be used in minimal amounts. This is because baking soda can strip your skin of its protective oils, leaving it at risk of infection and causing damage. Baking soda has a pH value of 9 and can dramatically change the natural pH of your skin. It can also be an irritant and there is concern that open packages of baking soda can become contaminated and therefore cause further damage to your skin.
Use it minimally and occasionally for acne but consider other safer, more effective treatments instead to avoid long term damage to your skin.
70 years ago, two scientists proposed that there was a gut-brain-skin axis where the brain, gut and skin are connected to such a degree that negative stresses could change the bacteria in your stomach and that in turn could have a remarkable effect on the skin. Many aspects of this GBS axis have recently been proven. Further study is required to determine how the health (or lack thereof) of your gut flora can impact skin conditions like acne.
Science has demonstrated that consuming foods high in good bacteria (like yogurt) can improve the health of the bacteria in your stomach, improving your overall health though the precise link requires further study. Further study is also needed to determine whether applying topical probiotics can benefit acne by improving the skin’s ability to fight infection though early studies suggest that there is a benefit for acne sufferers.
The list of possible home remedies for acne, now including products like coconut oil and lemon juice, is ever-growing. While there is much to be said in favor of opting for natural treatments which are free of harsh chemicals, it is very important to conduct extensive research before deciding to use one of these homeopathic remedies on your acne prone skin. Luckily, there is so much information available online now that with just a click of a button you can learn about all of the different home remedies for acne and chose one that seems right to you.