There are two main types of acne: noninflammatory and inflammatory. Noninflammatory acne causes minor blemishes, such as blackheads and whiteheads. Inflammatory acne causes red, swollen, and often painful lesions, such as pustules, nodules, and cysts.
Aspirin is a drug that relieves pain and reduces inflammation. As a result, some people may turn to aspirin as a potential home remedy for inflammatory acne.
Research suggests that aspirin may help treat certain skin conditions. However, no studies have directly investigated aspirin as a potential treatment for acne.
In this article, we outline the current knowledge on aspirin and how this drug may help in the treatment of acne. We also discuss some important safety considerations regarding its use.
A 2015 review investigated the role of aspirin within the field of dermatology. The authors noted that taking aspirin orally helped reduce the inflammatory processes associated with several skin conditions, including:
However, the review did not investigate the efficacy of aspirin as a treatment for acne.
An older study from 2002 investigated aspirin’s effect on allergic skin reactions. The study found that the topical application of aspirin helped reduce skin inflammation. However, it did not have any effect on the itchiness that the allergic reaction caused.
The above findings highlight a potential role for aspirin in the treatment of a range of skin conditions. However, no study has yet investigated whether aspirin is effective in treating acne.
Inflammatory acne occurs when an accumulation of oil or skin debris traps bacteria deep inside a pore. The bacteria release chemicals that trigger inflammation in the skin.
Aspirin is less likely to alleviate noninflammatory acne lesions, such as whiteheads and blackheads. These lesions also develop as a result of blocked pores. However, they typically do not cause inflammation and swelling.
It is important to note, though, that no research has confirmed that aspirin can treat any type of acne effectively.
Aspirin is not safe for everyone. The following people should not take aspirin orally or apply it to their skin:
- people who are allergic to NSAIDs
- women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- children and people in their early teens
Aspirin is also not suitable for people with the following conditions:
People should also be aware that aspirin can cause side effects. The most common side effect is peptic ulcer disease. Other possible side effects include:
- swelling under the skin
- inflammation of the mucous membranes
Various websites recommend grinding aspirin into a powder and mixing it with water to form a paste. People can apply this paste directly onto acne to reduce inflammation. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this treatment is effective.
A 2015 review suggests that the topical application of an aspirin paste may help treat pain following a viral rash. However, the authors state neither whether the paste reduces inflammation nor whether it is suitable for treating acne.
Nonetheless, people who wish to try aspirin paste as an acne treatment should test it first by applying it to a very small area of the skin and seeing how the skin reacts.
People can make the paste by crushing a 375-milligram tablet of aspirin into 5 milliliters of Vaseline intensive moisturizing lotion. If the skin test is successful, they can apply the paste every 8 hours.
A person can take steps to treat their existing acne and help reduce the likelihood of future breakouts. The American Academy of Dermatology recommend managing acne at home by:
- avoiding picking at acne or popping acne lesions
- washing at least twice a day and always washing after excessive sweating
- washing the affected skin gently using the fingertips, as opposed to a washcloth or another abrasive cleaner
- using gentle, alcohol-free cleansers on the skin
- washing oily hair daily
- avoiding sun exposure, where possible, and tanning beds
A wide range of over-the-counter acne medications is also available in the form of topical ointments, creams, and cleansers. These products may contain one or more of the following ingredients:
- benzoyl peroxide
- salicylic acid
For more severe cases of acne, a doctor or dermatologist may prescribe one of the following treatments:
- birth control pills, for females
- prescription strength benzoyl peroxide
- oral or topical antibiotics
Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication that reduces pain and swelling. Studies show that aspirin may be effective in treating a range of skin conditions. However, no study has directly investigated aspirin as a potential treatment for acne.
In theory, aspirin should help alleviate inflammatory lesions, such as pustules, nodules, and cysts. However, it is unlikely to have any effect on noninflammatory acne lesions, which include whiteheads and blackheads.
Aspirin is not suitable for children, young teens, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. People who have an allergy to NSAIDs should not take aspirin or apply it to their skin. If in doubt, a person should consult a doctor before using aspirin.