4 DIY Anti-Acne Treatments That DON’T Work (And What To Use Instead)

by Gio
diy anti-acne treatments that don't work

If you’re cursed with acne, you’ll go to any length to get rid of it.

But desperation has never solved anything. It only makes you try crazy stuff like slathering Neosporin all over your face. The internet claims it works, right?

The internet claims everything works. That’s how you end up with dried out, flaky skin that’s giving you the worst breakout of your life.

FYI, the wrong DIY treatment can mess up your skin real bad and make your acne 10x worse. Be careful!

Whatever you do, NEVER ever try these 4 DIY anti-acne treatments. They DON’T work.

(P.S. Don’t despair. For each crappy treatment, I’m suggesting an alternative that DOES work. It may not be DIY or as natural as you wish, but it’ll get rid of acne for you.)

1. The Caveman

What It Is

Quitting your skincare routine. No more cleansing. Not even with water. Some folks take it as far as not using any moisturizer or any other skincare products.

What’s The Theory Behind It?

If you let your skin be, it will fix itself. Oil production will self-regulate, the flakiness disappear… After a “healing” period of adjustment, you’ll have the perfect skin nature intended for you.

Why It Won’t Work

I’ve heard a few success stories with this method, but it’s not something that would work for everyone.

Things like how much oil your skin naturally produces or how your skin is affected by bacteria are genetically determined. You can’t change your genes by not washing your face anymore.

If your skin’s genetically programmed to produce way more oil than it needs, not washing or exfoliating your face will only help those pores get all clogged up faster.

Plus, never washing your face is gross. You wouldn’t go a month without showering, would you? Think of all the pollution in the air and all the other crap that settles on your face during the day. You don’t want to leave that there, do you?

What To Do Instead

Use a gentle cleanser twice a day. You can cut back to once a day if you really must (and don’t wear makeup). But DO wash your face.

Best Picks:

Related: Are Foaming Cleansers Bad For Skin?

lemons in skincare

2. Lemon

What Is It?

You know what a lemon is. A yellow citrus fruit. But I added this section for everything else, so I had to given lemon its due, too.

What’s The Theory Behind It?

Lemon is rich in vitamin C, which helps treat acne. Plus, it has citric acid to exfoliate skin.

Why It Won’t Work

Because those ingredients can’t do what you think they do:

  1. Vitamin C can’t treat acne: vitamin C can prevent wrinkles, boost collagen production, brighten skin and treat sun damage. But acne? I have yet to find a study confirming it even remotely helps with that.
  2. Citric acid can’t exfoliate skin well: it’s an alpha hydroxy acid, just like glycolic acid, alright. But, there’s a reason why everyone is using glycolic. It can penetrate skin. Citric acid can’t. It just doesn’t work as well.

What To Do Instead

Use salicylic acid. It’s an exfoliant that can get inside the pores, unclogging them from within. Plus, it has soothing properties that reduce the redness that always comes along with pimples.

Best Picks:

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin

3. Toothpaste

What Is It?

Yep, that thing you use to clean your teeth. Some folks put that on their pimples, too (I used to do it, too *cringes*).

What’s The Thory Behind It?

Acne is caused by the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes. Toothpaste contains triclosan, an antibacterial.

Hydrogen peroxide, another common ingredient in toothpastes, is said to kill bacteria too.

Why It Won’t Work

Well, if your toothpaste contains calcium carbonate, it can help absorb excess oil and dry out pimples.

But, toothpastes are also very irritating. Triclosan, sodium chloride and sodium lauryl sulfate are all common ingredients that work well in toothpastes but irritate skin pretty badly.

What To Use Instead

Sulfur. It dries out blemishes, keeps oil production under control and kills bacteria, too. But, it’s very powerful, so use it only on pimples. Don’t put it all over your face, even if the brand says that’s fine. Got it?

Best Picks:

  • Epionce Purifying Spot Gel ($38.00): available at at Dermstore 
  • Kate Sommerville EradiKate Mask Foam-Activated Acne Treatment ($54.00): available at Cult BeautyNordstrom and Sephora
  • ZO Skin Health Oeffects Sulfur Masque ($45.00): available at ZOSkinHealth

Related: Sulfur: Good For Acne, Bad For Skin?

epionce purifying spot gel

4. Neosporin

What Is It?

A popular antibiotic ointment that you rub on your cuts, scrapes and burns to prevent infections.

What’s The Theory Behind It?

Same as toothpaste. Acne is caused by the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes. Neosporin has antibacterial properties, so it can kill it.

Why It Won’t Work

A couple of reasons:

  1. Neosporin kills the wrong type of bacteria: its 3 active ingredients (Polymyxin B Sulfate, Bacitracin Zinc, and Neomycin) can only kill gram-negative bacteria. Guess what? P. Acne is gram-positive.
  2. Neosporin is very comedogenic: active ingredients aside, the base of the cream is made up of cocoa butter and cottonseed oil. Those are very comedogenic and can clog your pores fast.

What To Use Instead

Use benzoyl peroxide. It’s not the gentlest anti-acne treatment, so I recommend you leave it as a last resort. But, it CAN kill P.Acnes. It also has a peeling action that helps prevent breakouts.

Best Picks:

Related: Can You Use Neosporin To Treat Acne?

The Bottom Line

DIY anti-acne treatments are so tempting. But, more often than not, they do more harm than good. Stick to science-backed alternatives. They may be a bit more expensive, but they work.

Have you tried any DIY anti-acne treatment? Share your experience in the comments below.

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2 comments

Jenny October 4, 2017 - 1:11 am

Hi Gio,

I always use lemon when making DIY skincare recipes and I have no idea that it won’t work for everyone. I can say that lemon works fine with me when treating acne, but what’s the best thing to use is salicylic acid. You recommended salicylic acid in your other blogs when treating acne and I find it really effective. I am also using salicylic acid when treating blackheads.

Reply
Gio October 6, 2017 - 8:58 pm

Jenny, lemon is very irritating. If your skin is very resistant (mine is), you may not see any redness or inflammation but I personally wouldn’t use it. Salicylic acid is gentler and works better anyway. 🙂

Reply

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