Certain home remedies may help improve acne, pimples, and sores. Home remedies to help reduce acne symptoms include herbal creams and gels, essential oils, natural supplements, and lifestyle changes.

Acne develops when sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin, mixes with dead skin and other debris and clogs pores. Bacteria, including P.acne, may infect these clogged pores, causing pustules or cysts.

People can use specific home remedies to help balance the skin’s oil levels, reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, and prevent future acne breakouts. However, there is not much scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of most home remedies. This article discusses the current evidence for some home remedies that people may find helpful.

a person with a face mask and herbal drink relaxingShare on Pinterest
Iuliia Bondar/Getty Images

Acne is a hypersensitivity of the sebaceous glands of the skin. Hormones, bacteria, and inflammation can lead to acne lesions appearing on the skin.

Causes of acne can also include:

  • Certain medications: These include certain lithium, steroids, and anticonvulsants.
  • Restrictive clothing: Wearing tight shoulder pads, backpacks, underwire bras, and headbands may all cause or worsen acne.
  • Endocrine disorders: Disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can cause hormonal shifts, leading to acne.
  • Genetics: Susceptibility to acne breakouts can be a hereditary issue.
  • Smoking: Smoking can lead to atypical post-adolescent acne, known as smoker’s acne. It is unclear at present if vaping, or smoking e-cigarettes cause acne.

Below, we discuss the best home remedies for acne, what the research says, and lifestyle changes that can help.

If an individual is interested in trying certain topical remedies, it is a good idea to talk with a dermatologist before applying the topical remedy directly to the skin or do a patch test first, which consists of putting a small amount of the topical treatment on the wrist or hand to test for skin reactions.

Home remedies

Many home remedies, including essential oils, are not tested for safety and effectiveness by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so remain cautious before using these in place of professional medical care. It is always best to let a doctor know the symptoms experienced and discuss available treatment options.

Was this helpful?

1. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which might kill P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.

Tea tree oil’s anti-inflammatory properties mean that it can also help reduce the swelling and redness of pimples.

A 2019 review study found that tea tree oil products can reduce the number of acne sores in people because of tea trees’ antimicrobial capabilities.

2. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a common natural acne treatment, despite a lack of scientific evidence into its efficacy.

Older research from 2016 shows that the citric acid in apple cider vinegar may help kill P.acnes bacteria when used with other treatments, and further research suggests topical application may help reduce acne scarring.

3. Argan oil

Argan oil is noncomedogenic, which can help balance sebum production on oily skin and promote hydration on dry skin. Argan oil may also reduce skin inflammation and lessen the appearance of acne scars.

4. Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is a natural, waxy substance extracted from the seeds of the jojoba shrub.

Some of the compounds in jojoba oil might help reduce skin inflammation, reducing redness and swell around pimples, whiteheads, and other inflamed lesions.

In a 2012 study, researchers gave 133 people clay face masks that contained jojoba oil. After 6 weeks of using the masks two to three times per week, people reported a 54% improvement in acne.

5. Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, meaning it may reduce the appearance of acne and prevent acne breakouts as part of a treatment course.

In a 2021 study, researchers determined that the number of bumps, lesions, and dry skin lowered when using aloe vera combined with ultrasound and soft mask applications.

6. Honey

For thousands of years, honey has treated skin conditions because it contains many antioxidants that can help to clear clogged pores. However, while there is evidence that honey has specific antimicrobial effects, a 2016 review did not find strong evidence for honey’s effect on acne.

7. Zinc

With its anti-inflammatory properties, zinc people often tout zinc to reduce acne lesions and redness. People may wish to take zing supplements or use zinc-containing ointments and creams.

However, a 2021 article found that evidence of zinc’s efficacy as an acne treatment is unclear.

8. Green tea

Green tea contains high concentrations of a group of polyphenol antioxidants called catechins.

Some people with acne have too much sebum, or natural body oils, in their pores and not enough antioxidants. Antioxidants help the body break down chemicals and waste products that can damage healthy cells.

Green tea also contains compounds that may help to:

  • reduce the skin’s sebum production
  • reduce P. acnes
  • reduce inflammation

An individual can either drink green tea or put green tea extract on their skin, though researchers say current evidence is limited.

However, one 2017 study found a 79–89% reduction in whiteheads and blackheads after using a polyphenol green tea extract for 8 weeks.

9. Echinacea

Echinacea, or purple coneflower, may contain compounds that help destroy viruses and bacteria, including P. acnes.

Many believe that echinacea can boost the immune system and reduce inflammation to fight off or prevent infections, including colds and flu. While there is some older evidence that echinacea can help stop the spread of P. acnes and reverse inflammation caused by bacteria, current research is minimal.

10. Rosemary

Rosemary extract, or Rosmarinus officinalis, contains chemicals and compounds with antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Further research is needed to measure its effectiveness.However, a 2016 research article suggested that rosemary extract can reduce inflammation from the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes.

11. Coconut oil

Like other natural remedies, coconut oil contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial compounds.

These properties mean that coconut oil may help eradicate acne-causing bacteria and reduce the redness and swelling of pimples. Due to its soothing and moisturizing effects, coconut oil may help speed up the healing of open acne sores. However, focused research on coconut oil as an acne deterrent is lacking.

Along with home remedies, specific lifestyle changes can have a powerful effect on keeping the body healthy, making the skin less oily, and reducing acne flare-ups.

12. Avoid touching pimples

It can be very tempting, but touching acne sores irritates the skin, may worsen the pimple, and can spread pimples to other areas.

Touching, rubbing, squeezing, or popping acne sores can also introduce more bacteria into the lesion, causing further infection. Squishing a pimple can push bacteria and debris further into the skin, so the spot may come back worse than it was before.

Talk with a doctor about large sores or those deep under the skin to find out how to treat them safely.

13. Choosing the right cleanser

Many regular soaps have an acidity or pH that is too high and can irritate the skin, making acne worse. Working with a dermatologist can help people determine what is best for their skin. Often, choosing mild cleansers, rinses, and washes can reduce the risk of acne flare-ups and let sores heal.

14. Using oil-free skin care

Oil-based or greasy products can block pores, increasing the risk of clogged and growing acne sores.

Look for skin care products and cosmetics labeled “oil-free” or “noncomedogenic,” which contain ingredients that allow pores to breathe.

15. Staying hydrated

When the skin is dry, it can become irritated or damaged, making acne worse. Staying hydrated also ensures new skin cells develop correctly as sores heal.

There is no standard daily recommended water intake because each person’s water needs vary depending on age, activity, temperature, and medical conditions.

Concentrating on drinking more water during the day is a good starting point.

16. Reducing stress

The American Academy of Dermatology lists stress as a possible cause of acne flare-ups.

Stress causes levels of the hormone androgen to increase. Androgen stimulates hair follicles and oil glands in pores, increasing the risk of acne.

Tips for managing stress include:

  • talking with family, friends, a doctor, or other supportive people
  • getting enough sleep
  • eating a healthful, balanced diet
  • exercising regularly
  • limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • practicing deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness, or meditation

There are many medical treatment options for acne, and many are highly effective, though they can cause side effects and may not be suitable for everyone.

People can speak with a doctor about whether medication or medicinal creams are right for them, primarily if home remedies have not worked.

Popular over-the-counter treatments for mild to moderate acne sores contain the following active ingredients:

Doctors may prescribe more vital medication to treat acne, including:

  • tretinoin gels and creams
  • clindamycin gels and creams
  • oral antibiotics
  • oral isotretinoin
  • hormonal medications

People may want to talk with their doctor if their acne sores are:

  • very painful
  • often infected
  • deep under the skin
  • not responding to home treatment
  • covering a large area of skin
  • causing emotional distress

There are times when a person should see a doctor if they have acne because of the underlying causes. For example, home remedies may not be effective when acne occurs due to a hormone imbalance or an allergic response, leading to more severe conditions.

People can choose from many home remedies to treat their acne. Not all treatments will work for everyone or in every case, however.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor herbal products or essential oils.

Additionally, many natural remedies for acne are not scientifically proven to work, but some people may find them helpful.

Always talk with a doctor before using natural remedies for severe, chronic, deep, or painful acne sores. Likewise, speak with a doctor about minor acne sores that do not respond to primary care or worsen.