Is there a cure for acne?

We investigated some of these commonly-suggested cures to see what effect they can really have on your skin.

Written by
Kate Iselin
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Something that adds to the frustration of having adult acne is that it can be tricky to get rid of. Yes, the internet is full of suggestions for so-called acne ‘miracle cures’, but it can be really disheartening when these cures don’t work for you the way you hoped they might.

To make your battle against acne vulgaris a bit easier, we investigated some of the most commonly suggested cures to see if they work and, if not, what other treatments you can try. Let's dive into it.

Toothpaste

It’s long been suggested that the way to make a pimple vanish was to cover it in toothpaste before bed. Overnight, the toothpaste was said to ‘dry out’ the pimple so that by morning, it would be gone — or at least, much smaller.

Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

Toothpaste does include some anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients, but the multitude of other ingredients in it means it can be highly irritating for our skin, potentially even making your acne worse [1][2].

Also, even on oilier skin, pimples don't need to ‘dry out’ so they can disappear. While excess oil getting trapped in the hair follicle can cause a pimple, oil plays an important role in the function of our skin and we don’t want to get rid of it completely.

Instead...

Use a spot treatment, designed to be applied only to the site of a pimple.

Software's AHA/BHA Pimple Patches are an excellent option here. Using microdart technology to penetrate pimples and eliminate bacteria deep within the follicle, they're able to effectively stop breakouts in their tracks.

Each pimple patch contains salicylic acid and glycolic acid to clear and unclog your pores, BHAs and tea tree oil for anti-fungal and anti-bacterial benefits, niacinamide to heal and hydrate, along with other nourishing ingredients to keep your skin healthy and clear.

Lemon juice

Similar to toothpaste, lemon juice is often suggested as an at-home acne treatment because of the drying effect it has on the skin.

Because of its anti-bacterial properties, lemon juice has also been suggested as something that can kill p.acnes, the acne-causing bacteria that breeds in our sebum.

Lemon juice does indeed have antibacterial properties, but that makes it a nice addition to a disinfectant spray, not something you should put on your face.

Lemon juice, and any juice from citrus plants, can cause phytophotodermatitis when put on skin that’s exposed to sunlight, which can lead to redness, blistering, irritation, and hyperpigmentation [3]. This reaction has become so common that it’s been dubbed ‘margarita burns’, presumably after people who cut up lemons to make margaritas during an outdoor party.

So long story short, lemon juice is not something you should ever apply to your face.

Instead...

Use a serum or moisturiser containing azelaic acid, which has been proven to kill p. acnes bacteria and reduce hyperpigmentation — unlike lemon juice, which causes it.

Salt scrubs

We know that follicular keratinization — when skin cells inside the hair follicle aren’t properly expelled onto the skin’s surface — can be a big cause of acne [4].

These clogged follicles can develop into comedones — blackheads and whiteheads — or acne lesions and become painful, red, and inflamed.

Exfoliant scrubs are often suggested as a treatment for this, and the internet is full of DIY recipes for thick, all-natural scrubs that can lift off our dead skin cells using gritty ingredients like salt, sugar, and coffee.

Likewise, abrasive exfoliants are often sold in stores as ‘anti-acne’ products that promise to scrub away pimples and leave us with fresh, new skin.

These products are fine — but for our bodies, not our faces. Harsh scrubbing and rough ingredients are okay for the tough skin of our legs and hands, but not for our delicate facial skin [5].

Scratchy ingredients can cause micro-tears to our skin which can lead to further irritation, and exfoliating mitts and cloths can cause similar damage.

Instead...

Use a product containing chemical exfoliants like glycolic or lactic acid, which gently remove old, dead skin cells from the skin and help coax out clogged pores without tearing or damaging the surrounding skin [6].

We recommend Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash, which uses the dual action of beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) and poly-hydroxy acids (PHAs) to unclog debris and trapped oils in the pores, clear away acne-causing bacteria and reduce the formation of blackheads and whiteheads.

Pore strips

You know those little white strips you put on your nose to pull out blackheads?

Pore strips have been a mainstay of skincare for years, and we’ve all been fascinated by videos of people ripping them off of their faces and showing off the gunk that’s attached to the strip.

Although they do work on comedones, especially blackheads, they also pull and tug at the skin as you rip them away — which isn't ideal.

They also only make a cosmetic change: removing a blackhead might improve the look of your skin, but it doesn’t do anything to make sure that your pores won’t become clogged again in the future.

To properly address clogged pores, you need to fix what’s causing them.

Instead...

Use a cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide or an acne-fighting acid — think glycolic, lactic or salicylic — which will gently exfoliate the skin and remove what’s clogging the pores. Retinoids can also help prevent pores re-clogging, and niacinamide can shrink the appearance of pores too.

It's also a good idea to look for cleansers with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial benefits, like Software's Hydrating Cleansing Oil.

Honey

Honey has been suggested by some skincare forums as a replacement for more traditional acne treatments, and some influencers rave about the difference it has made to their skin.

It's true that honey has been a staple of traditional medicine for centuries, and medical-grade honey has been used with some success to prevent bacteria from breeding on the skin. But can it cure acne?

It looks like the jury is still out on that.

Some studies suggest that honey may have an effect on acne-causing bacteria like p.acnes but more research needs to be done to prove this [9].

As it stands, we won’t advise you to slather your skin in honey. Especially for more severe acne and hormonal acne, the bacteria-killing abilities of honey may not be enough to make a real difference.

Instead...

Try retinoids, which are one of the most powerful ingredients for acne-prone skin. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed by a health practitioner to help treat severe acne.

So, what acne treatments actually work?

At the end of the day, there’s no secret trick to curing acne.

There’s no ‘miracle product’ that can banish all of our skin woes, either — if such a thing existed, it surely would have made front-page news by now.

And unfortunately, acne isn’t something that’s curable in the traditional sense. There’s no one tablet or medicine that you can take to get rid of it for good: a broken arm or a headache can be cured, but acne isn’t as easy to get rid of.

But the good news is that treating acne, minimising its appearance and preventing common issues like acne scars is possible.

Whether you have mild, moderate or severe acne, you can effectively reduce it by using the right topical treatments — like the ones mentioned throughout this article — or a custom formula like Software's prescription acne treatment.

Our personalised formulas use medical-grade ingredients like retinoids, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and azelaic acid to treat acne — but it doesn't end there. You also get access to ongoing support from your health practitioner as you use your treatment, which means you can get all your acne-related FAQs answered and can change your formula at any time.


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