We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

A person applying a face cream for acneShare on Pinterest
Photography by Gabriela Hasbun

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the world, affecting an estimated 85 percent of young adults.

Conventional acne treatments, like salicylic acid, niacinamide, or benzoyl peroxide, are proven to be the most effective acne solutions, but they can be expensive and have undesirable side effects, such as dryness, redness, and irritation.

This has prompted many people to try to cure acne naturally at home. In fact, a 2017 study found that 77 percent of acne patients had tried alternative acne treatments.

Many home remedies lack scientific backing, and further research on their effectiveness is needed. If you’re looking for alternative treatments, though, there are still options you can try.

This article explores 14 popular home remedies for acne.

Acne starts when the pores in your skin get clogged with oil and dead skin cells.

Each pore is connected to a sebaceous gland, which produces an oily substance called sebum. Extra sebum can plug pores, causing increased growth of bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes.

Your white blood cells attack P. acnes, leading to skin inflammation and acne. Some cases of acne are more severe than others, but common symptoms include whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.

Many factors may contribute to the development of acne, including:

  • genetics
  • diet
  • stress
  • hormone changes
  • infections

Standard clinical treatments are the most effective for reducing acne. You can also try home treatments, though more research on their effectiveness is needed. Below are 14 home remedies for acne.

Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apple cider, or the unfiltered juice from pressed apples.

Like other vinegars, research has noted its ability to fight many types of bacteria and fungi.

Apple cider vinegar contains organic acids, such as citric acid. Research from 2016 notes citric acid has been found to kill P. acnes in conjunction with zinc oxide.

According to research from 2017, the lactic acid in apple cider vinegar may also improve the appearance of acne scars.

While certain components of apple cider vinegar may help with acne, there’s currently no evidence to support its use for this purpose. Some dermatologists advise against using apple cider vinegar at all, as it may irritate the skin.

How to

  1. Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar and 3 parts water (use more water for sensitive skin).
  2. After cleansing, gently apply the mixture to the skin using a cotton ball.
  3. Let it sit for 5 to 20 seconds, rinse with water and pat dry.
  4. Repeat this process 1 to 2 times per day, as needed.

It’s important to note that applying apple cider vinegar to your skin can cause burns and irritation, and most dermatologists wouldn’t recommend it. If you choose to try it, use it in small amounts and dilute it with water.

Applying apple cider vinegar to the skin may cause burns or irritation, so it should be used carefully. Always do a patch test before you use it on your face.

Zinc is an essential nutrient that’s important for cell growth, hormone production, metabolism, and immune function.

It’s relatively well studied compared with other natural treatments for acne.

According to a 2020 meta-analysis, those who were treated with zinc had significant improvements in inflamed blemish count compared with those who were not.

The recommended safe upper limit of zinc is 40 mg per day, so it’s probably best to not exceed that amount unless you’re under the supervision of a medical doctor.

Taking too much zinc may cause adverse effects, including stomach pain and gut irritation.

It’s also important to note that applying zinc to the skin has not been shown to be effective. This may be because zinc is not effectively absorbed through the skin.

A 2017 study found that the combination of honey and cinnamon bark extract exerted antibacterial effects against P. acnes.

Research from 2020 indicated that honey on its own can block the growth of or kill P. acnes. Although, this finding doesn’t necessarily mean that honey effectively treats acne.

A 2016 study with 136 people with acne found that applying honey to the skin after using antibacterial soap was no more effective at treating acne than using the soap on its own.

While the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of honey and cinnamon may reduce acne, more research is needed.

How to

  1. Mix 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to form a paste.
  2. After cleansing, apply the mask to your face and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse the mask off completely and pat your face dry.

Cinnamon may cause skin irritation. Always do a patch test before you apply it to your skin.

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that’s extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a small tree native to Australia.

A 2018 study found that applying tea tree oil to the skin may reduce acne.

A small 2019 study found that, compared with benzoyl peroxide, participants using a tea tree oil ointment for acne experienced less dry skin and irritation. They also felt more satisfied with the treatment.

According to a 2017 study, tea tree oil may be an effective substitute for topical and oral antibiotics that could cause bacterial resistance if used long term.

Tea tree oil is very potent, so always dilute it before applying it to your skin.

How to

  1. Mix 1 part tea tree oil with 9 parts water.
  2. Dip a cotton swab into the mixture and apply it to the affected areas.
  3. Apply moisturizer if desired.
  4. Repeat this process 1 to 2 times per day, as needed.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil and dilute any essential oil with a carrier oil so it doesn’t burn your skin.

Green tea is very high in antioxidants, and drinking it can promote good health. It may also help reduce acne.

According to 2017 research, this is likely because the polyphenols in green tea help fight bacteria and reduce inflammation, which are two main causes of acne.

There isn’t much research exploring the benefits of drinking green tea when it comes to acne, and more studies are needed.

In a small 2016 study with 80 women, participants took 1,500 mg of green tea extract daily for 4 weeks. By the end of the study, women who took the extract had less acne on their noses, chins, and around their mouths.

Applying green tea to the skin may also be beneficial.

A 2020 study found that applying green tea extract to the skin significantly reduces sebum production and pimples in those with acne.

You can buy creams and lotions that contain green tea, but it’s just as easy to make your own mixture at home.

How to

  1. Steep green tea in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Allow the brewed tea to cool.
  3. Using a cotton ball, apply the tea to your skin or pour it into a spray bottle to spritz it on.
  4. Allow it to dry, then rinse it off with water and pat your skin dry.

You can also add the remaining tea leaves to honey and make a mask.

Witch hazel is extracted from the bark and leaves of the North American witch hazel shrub, Hamamelis virginiana. Currently, there appears to be very little research on witch hazel’s ability to treat acne specifically.

In one small 2017 study funded by a skin care company, 30 individuals with mild or moderate acne used a three-step facial treatment twice daily for 6 weeks.

Witch hazel was one of the ingredients in the second step of the treatment. Most participants experienced significant improvement in their acne by the end of the study.

Research from 2019 also suggested witch hazel may fight bacteria and reduce skin irritation and inflammation, which can contribute to acne.

How to

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon of witch hazel bark and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan.
  2. Soak the witch hazel for 30 minutes and then bring the mixture to a boil on the stove.
  3. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it sit for an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Strain and store the liquid in a sealed container.
  6. Apply to clean skin using a cotton ball 1 to 2 times per day, or as desired.

It’s important to note that commercially prepared versions may not contain tannins, as they are often lost in the distillation process.

Aloe vera is a tropical plant whose leaves produce a clear gel. The gel is often added to lotions, creams, ointments, and soaps.

According to 2018 research, it’s commonly used to treat:

  • abrasions
  • rashes
  • burns
  • wounds
  • skin inflammation

Aloe vera contains salicylic acid and sulfur, both of which are used extensively in the treatment of acne. Research from 2017 found that applying salicylic acid to the skin reduces acne.

A 2018 study indicated aloe vera gel, when combined with other substances like tretinoin cream or tea tree oil, may improve acne.

While research shows promise, the anti-acne benefits of aloe vera itself require further scientific research.

How to

  1. Scrape the gel from the aloe plant with a spoon.
  2. Apply the gel directly to clean skin as a moisturizer.
  3. Repeat 1 to 2 times per day, or as desired.

You can also buy aloe vera gel from the store, but make sure it’s pure aloe without any added ingredients.

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that offer a multitude of health benefits. Fish oils contain two main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

A 2019 study showed that high levels of EPA and DHA can decrease inflammatory factors, which may reduce the risk of acne.

You can also get omega-3 fatty acids by eating:

Exfoliation is the process of removing the top layer of dead skin cells. It may improve acne by removing the skin cells that clog pores.

Exfoliating may also make acne treatments for the skin more effective by allowing them to penetrate deeper, once the topmost layer of skin is removed.

Currently, the research on exfoliation and its ability to treat acne is limited.

In one small 2016 study, 38 patients with acne received eight microdermabrasion treatments at weekly intervals. The participants with acne scars showed some improvements following the treatments.

A small 2017 study found that six weekly microdermabrasion treatments helped stimulate skin repair.

While these results indicate exfoliation may improve skin health and appearance, more research is needed on acne.

There are a wide variety of exfoliation products available, but you can also make a scrub at home using sugar or salt.

Note that mechanical exfoliation can be irritating and may damage the skin. As such, some dermatologists recommend gentle chemical exfoliation with salicylic or glycolic-acid products.

If you choose to try mechanical exfoliation, gently rub your skin to avoid damaging it.

Shop now at Amazon

How to

  1. Mix equal parts sugar (or salt) and coconut oil.
  2. Gently rub your skin with the mixture and rinse well.
  3. Exfoliate as often as desired, up to once daily.

A food’s glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly it raises your blood sugar.

Eating high GI foods causes a spike in insulin, which likely increases sebum production. As a result, high GI foods may directly affect the development and severity of acne.

In a 2018 study, 66 people followed either a normal or low glycemic diet. After 2 weeks, the individuals consuming a low glycemic diet had lower levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a hormone involved in acne development.

Another 2017 study with 64 people found that those with moderate or severe acne ate diets with more carbohydrates and a higher glycemic load than those without acne.

These small studies suggested a low glycemic diet may help those with acne-prone skin. Additional larger, longer studies are needed.

Foods with a high glycemic index include processed foods, such as:

  • white bread
  • sugary soft drinks
  • cakes
  • doughnuts
  • pastries
  • candies
  • sugary breakfast cereals

Foods with a low glycemic index include:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • whole or minimally processed grains

The relationship between dairy and acne is highly controversial.

A 2019 study with people ages 10 to 24 found that drinking whole milk three or more days each week was linked to moderate or severe acne.

In a 2018 study including 114 participants, those with acne were found to drink significantly more milk than people who didn’t have acne.

On the other hand, another 2018 study involving over 20,000 adults found no association between milk consumption and acne.

Participants self-reported the data in these studies, so more research is needed to establish a true causal relationship.

The relationship between milk and acne needs further study.

The link between stress and acne is not fully understood.

When you’re stressed, you might also be more likely to pick at spots on your face. Touching or picking your skin more than absolutely necessary can increase acne by spreading bacteria.

According to 2017 research, the hormones released during periods of stress may increase sebum production and inflammation, making acne worse.

A 2018 study noted that certain relaxation and stress reduction treatments may improve acne, but more research needs to be done.

How to

  • get more sleep
  • engage in physical activity
  • practice yoga
  • meditate
  • take deep breaths

There’s little research on the effects of exercise on acne. Still, exercise affects bodily functions in ways that may help improve acne.

A 2018 study noted that exercise also plays a role in hormone levels and regulation.

Another 2018 study suggested exercise can decrease stress and anxiety, both of which can contribute to the development of acne.

The CDC recommends adults do two types of physical activity each week for a total of 150 minutes. This can include walking, hiking, running, and lifting weights.

If you’re exercising outside, always protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays with a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.

Remember: Always wash your face after exercising. Washing with water and a cleanser will remove sweat and bacteria to prevent breakouts.

Brewer’s or baker’s yeast is another option that may have benefits for fighting acne.

According to a 2021 publication, a strain of brewer’s yeast called Hansen CBS may help decrease acne when taken orally.

A much older 1989 study of 139 people with acne showed that 80 percent of those using Hansen CBS brewer’s yeast were healed or considerably improved over a 5-month period, while a placebo group showed only a 26 percent improvement.

At the same time, most recent research shows that a brewer’s yeast elimination diet is helpful for a certain kind of acne called hidradenitis suppurativa.

With these conflicting findings and limited research, more studies are needed to confirm the role of brewer’s yeast in the treatment of acne.

How to

  1. Mix one packet of powdered brewer’s yeast with 1 tbsp lemon juice.
  2. Blend thoroughly.
  3. Add mixture to a clean face and leave for 1 minute.
  4. Rinse with lukewarm water.
  5. Pat dry.

You can also incorporate brewer’s yeast into your diet by mixing it with juice or water, or you can take it in supplement form.

Use caution when applying any citrus juice, including lemon, to your skin. It can cause photosensitivity that can lead to irritation and rash if exposed to sunlight.

Be sure to apply extra SPF, and wear a hat or scarf to protect your skin if you’re exposed to the sun.

While there’s no completely foolproof way to get rid of acne forever, there are habits you can add to your routine that may help keep breakouts at bay. Here are some ideas:

  • Wash your face properly. To help prevent pimples, it’s important to remove excess oil, dirt, and sweat daily.
  • Use a moisturizer. Even if you have acne, keeping your skin hydrated is essential. When skin is dry, it produces oil to counterbalance, which may result in excess sebum and clogged pores.
  • Limit makeup. Using a lot of makeup may clog pores and trigger breakouts. If you do use makeup, make sure it’s noncomedogenic and fragrance-free to prevent skin irritation. Always wash makeup off, especially before bedtime.
  • Resist touching your face. Touching your face can transfer bacteria — and pore-clogging impurities — onto your skin.
  • Limit sun exposure. Frequent sun exposure dehydrates the skin, which, over time, causes it to produce more oil and block pores.
  • Don’t pop pimples. Popping pimples may cause bleeding, severe scarring, or infection. It may also increase inflammation and clog surrounding pores, making your pimple problem worse.

People with moderate to severe acne should seek professional help to find relief. Prescription-strength acne treatments are available.

It may be time to seek professional help from a dermatologist if you:

  • tried everything and nothing seems to help
  • have recurring breakouts that clear up and return
  • get acne in places like your thighs or upper arms
  • have acne that’s painful and deep under the skin
  • have breakouts that have been going on for years
  • have acne that affects your confidence, self-esteem, and social life
  • think your acne may be linked to a new medication you’re on
  • have acne that leaves dark spots

Even if you have a mild case of acne, it may be helpful to visit a doctor regularly to see how your skin progresses with treatment.

Are home remedies for acne effective?

Many people choose to try natural remedies. Most home remedies for acne have not been shown to be clinically effective, but they’re available as alternative treatment options.

Nevertheless, you may want to consult a dermatologist if you have severe acne.

How fast do home treatments for acne work?

Give an acne treatment at least 4 weeks to work. Using a different product every few days can also irritate your skin, causing new breakouts.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if a treatment works for you, you should notice some improvement in 4 to 6 weeks.

Acne is a common skin condition with a number of underlying causes.

Experts agree that conventional treatments, like salicylic acid, niacinamide, or benzoyl peroxide, are the most effective, though some people may find them irritating.

Many people choose to try natural remedies. Most home remedies for acne have not been shown to be clinically effective, but they’re available as alternative treatment options.

Nevertheless, you may want to consult a dermatologist if you have severe acne.

Read this article in Spanish.