Numerous over-the-counter (OTC) products can treat acne, including salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
You might primarily know of aspirin as a pain reliever. It also contains a substance called acetylsalicylic acid. While this ingredient is related to the OTC anti-acne ingredient salicylic acid, it isn’t the same thing.
Salicylic acid has drying effects that can get rid of excess oil and dead skin cells, helping to clear up acne blemishes.
It’s a well-known treatment for mild acne, although the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that clinical trials demonstrating its effectiveness are limited.
There’s currently no evidence of anti-inflammatory benefits from using topical aspirin for acne.
It concluded that topical aspirin helped reduce some symptoms, but not the accompanying itch. This study didn’t look at the role of aspirin on acne lesions, though.
Topical aspirin isn’t recommended as a form of acne treatment. However, if you do decide to use it, follow the instructions below:
- Use powdered aspirin or completely crush a few tablets (not soft gels).
- Combine the aspirin powder with 1 tablespoon of warm water to create a paste.
- Wash your face with your normal cleanser.
- Apply the aspirin paste directly to the acne.
- Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
- Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
- Follow up with your usual moisturizer.
You can repeat this process as a spot treatment once or twice a day until the acne clears up.
It’s important to remember that using aspirin too much can dry out your skin. Because overdrying can lead to more breakouts, it’s important not to strip away all of your skin’s natural oils.
The most common side effects of using topical aspirin are skin dryness and irritation. Peeling and redness may occur as a result. Mixing aspirin with salicylic acid can increase these effects.
You may also be more prone to these effects if you apply topical aspirin often.
Any acne treatments you put on your face, including aspirin, can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays every single day.
As a precaution, avoid using any form of aspirin during pregnancy and breastfeeding, unless your doctor tells you to for certain medical conditions. This can increase the risk of bleeding in your child.
The truth is, there’s no evidence that topically applied aspirin will help acne. In fact, it’s more likely to irritate your skin.
Instead, aim to focus on more traditional topical acne treatments, such as:
No matter which acne treatment you choose, it’s important to stick with it and give it time to work. Resist the urge to pop your pimples. This will only make your acne worse and increase the potential for scarring.
It’s important to talk to your doctor or dermatologist before applying aspirin on your acne — especially if you’re using other types of topicals or if you have any underlying health conditions.