What are the best home remedies for acne?

Written by Jennifer Choi, M.D.

In general, dermatologists advise against the use of home remedies for acne. The reason is that many of the ingredients can end up irritating or burning the skin, which can make acne worse or even cause harmful scars. Having said that, some of the home remedies below, if used very carefully, may provide some benefit, though there is no guarantee.

  1. Apply apple cider vinegar to the area, which can help reduce acne-causing bacteria and scarring. Make sure to dilute it with water (1 part vinegar to at least 3 parts water). Apply it with a cotton ball after cleansing and leave on for only 5-30 seconds, then rinse off with water. Be sure never to apply apple cider vinegar straight out of the bottle onto your skin, as this can cause a severe chemical burn.
  2. Take a zinc supplement, which some studies have shown to improve severe and inflammatory acne. The recommended safe upper limit of zinc is 45 mg per day. Consult with your doctor if you want to make sure of the dose or to check if it is safe for you to take.
  3. Make a honey and cinnamon mask. Some evidence has shown that these ingredients can block the growth of acne-causing bacteria, though it is unclear if a honey and cinnamon mask can actually improve acne. Mix 2 tablespoons of honey with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to make a paste. Apply it on your skin and leave it on for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off completely.
  4. Spot treat with tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has been found to fight bacteria and reduce skin inflammation. You can make a dilution of 1 part tea tree oil with 9 parts water. Dip a q-tip into the solution and spot treat acne. You can apply a moisturizer on top after it dries. Be sure not to apply tea tree oil directly to your skin without diluting it first, as this can cause significant skin irritation.
  5. Apply green tea to your skin. The main antioxidant in green tea can decrease oil production, decrease inflammation, and slow down the growth of acne-causing bacteria. To make a home concoction, steep green tea in boiling water for 3-4 minutes and allow it to cool completely. Apply the water by using a cotton ball or through a sprayer onto your skin. After it dries, rinse it off and pat your skin dry.
  6. Moisturize with aloe vera. Aloe vera contains salicylic acid and sulfur, both of which have been shown to improve acne. Either obtain an aloe plant and scrape the gel out from the aloe plant leaf or use a commercial pure aloe vera gel that does not contain other ingredients.
  7. Take a fish oil supplement. Fish oils contain two main types of omega-3 fatty acids, high levels of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory factors. Consult with your pediatrician about the amount that would be ok for you to take. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be obtained in your diet through foods such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, and chia seeds.