When the hair follicles on your skin’s surface get clogged up with oil and dead skin cells, your skin often responds with the lumps and bumps known as acne. Breakouts commonly affect your face, chest, and back, although you can get pimples almost anywhere on your body.
Acne doesn’t just cause marks on the skin and discomfort. It can affect your mood and self-confidence as well. If you’ve had pimples in the past, you know that they don’t necessarily go away quickly. As some spots heal, others may pop up and create a cycle of irritation that seems to last indefinitely. Some deep acne bumps can even lead to permanent scarring if left untreated.
Before heading to the dermatologist, some people turn to natural remedies to clear up their pimples. Here’s more about using honey and cinnamon to treat breakouts, whether this home remedy truly works, and what side effects you might encounter.
Honey is getting some attention among practitioners as a treatment for a number of skin conditions. This includes ulcers, bedsores, and burns. The idea is that honey helps penetrate the wound and ward off bacteria. On top of that, honey may help reduce inflammation and provide a moist environment conducive to healing.
The type of honey most commonly credited with these effects isn’t the kind you’ll find most readily at your grocery store. Manuka honey is your best bet for medicinal use. This is a raw variety that hasn’t been processed.
Cinnamon has been used to treat a host of respiratory, digestive, and even gynecological conditions. In a recent survey of medical literature, cinnamon has been shown to have potential anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory benefits in animals. It may also have wound-healing properties.
As with honey, a specific type of cinnamon produces the most benefits. This type of cinnamon is called Cinnamomum zeylanicum or “true cinnamon.”
Although honey may be good for healing wounds, its effects on acne are unclear.
A group of 136 people participated in a randomized controlled trial to evaluate if topical kanuka honey, a close relative to manuka, can help with acne. They also used an antibacterial soap twice a day as part of the study. The results? Only four of the 53 people in the honey group saw any significant improvement in their acne. Although this calls the potential benefits into question, it’s too soon to rule honey out. More research is needed to determine whether honey can be effectively used against acne.
Cinnamon, too, may sound like a promising ingredient to add to your routine. However, the scientific evidence on humans is lacking right now. More research is needed before it’s recognized as an effective treatment for acne.
Risks and warnings
Although most people can apply a honey and cinnamon mask with no problem, some may be allergic to either ingredient.
If you’re allergic to celery, pollen, or other bee-related products, you may have a reaction to honey applied to the skin.
Symptoms can include:
- difficulty swallowing
- shortness of breath
- swelling of the skin
- wheezing or other breathing problems
If you’re sensitive to cinnamon, you may have many of the same symptoms. Applying cinnamon to the skin may also cause redness and irritation.
If you search online, you may find different recipes for masks and other spot treatments that combine honey and cinnamon. Some people swear these ingredients clear their skin. Popular beauty blogger and vlogger Michelle Phan offers up a simple cinnamon and honey mask on her website.
You’ll need three tablespoons of manuka honey and one tablespoon of true cinnamon to make this mask.
Simply mix together the two ingredients, microwave for 30 seconds, make sure it’s not too hot, and then paint the mixture on your face. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse off and pat your face dry with a clean towel.
If cinnamon and honey or other home remedies don’t work to clear up your pimples, you may want to see your primary doctor or a dermatologist. At your appointment, your doctor will examine your skin, ask about your lifestyle and family acne history, and inquire about any at-home and over-the-counter (OTC) remedies you’ve been using.
There are a variety of topical and oral medications that can help soothe your skin. You may even be able to try different therapies, such as chemical peels, laser and light treatments, or extractions, to supplement your treatment.
The methods used to treat acne are divided into three main categories: oral medications, topical medications, and other therapies that can treat both breakouts and acne scarring.
Treatments you put directly to your skin may not appear to work until a few weeks after you start them. You usually apply topical medications 15 minutes after you wash and dry your face. Instructions vary depending on your doctor and the severity of your acne. Side effects can include dryness, redness, or irritation on the affected skin.
Common options are:
- retinoids, such as tretinoin (Avita)
- antibiotics, often combined with benzoyl peroxide, such as benzoyl peroxide-clindamycin (BenzaClin)
- antibiotics paired with anti-inflammatories, such as dapsone (Aczone)
Some doctors may recommend using oral medications alone or together with topical treatments.
Common options are:
- antibiotics, such as minocycline
- oral contraceptives containing estrogen and progestin, such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen
- anti-androgens, such as spironolactone (Aldactone)
- vitamin derivatives, such as isotretinoin (Claravis)
In addition to topical and drug therapies, there are a number of other treatments that can help ease acne and prevent scarring.
Common options are:
- light therapy, including lasers
- chemical peels
- extraction to remove whiteheads or blackheads
- steroid injections
Though many people swear that at-home remedies like honey and cinnamon can cure acne, scientific evidence is lacking. If you decide to try a honey and cinnamon mask, remember to:
- Use raw honey.
- Use true cinnamon.
- Do a patch test before applying the mask. This can help you determine whether you will have an adverse reaction to the ingredients.
Don’t hesitate to visit your doctor or dermatologist if OTC or natural remedies aren’t giving you relief, especially from more severe forms of acne. There are lots of other options available that may help you feel and look your best.
Some of what causes acne isn’t under your control, such as genetics and hormonal shifts. However, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent breakouts:
- Wash your face, but only twice a day. Lathering up more frequently can irritate the skin and lead to more oil production and breakouts.
- Use OTC products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These can help dry out any oils clogging your pores. Benzoyl peroxide also helps kill acne-causing bacteria.
- Choose makeups wisely. The kinds that are marked “oil-free” or “noncomedogenic” are less likely to clog pores.
- For body acne, wear loose-fitting clothing that lets skin breathe.
- Keep your hands off your face. Picking at acne may lead to scarring or more acne.