- While the scientific data is lacking, many people report Aspirin is an effective acne treatment.
- Aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid, a similar substance to the common acne-fighting compound salicylic acid.
- Aspirin is a proven anti-inflammatory that can, in theory, reduce the likelihood of acne breakouts.
- Some acne sufferers report topical Aspirin paste can also reduce the visibility of acne scars.
Some people report success using Aspirin for acne as a topical remedy to improve their condition. While there is a significant body of anecdotal evidence to support these claims, to date there has been little scientific study conducted to confirm or dispute their validity.
What Is Aspirin?
Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), is commonly used as a pain reliever for minor aches and pains and to reduce fever. It contains acetylsalicylic acid, which is related to the popular anti-acne ingredient, salicylic acid.
Does Aspirin Work to Treat Acne?
Aspirin has the most potential as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat inflammatory acne. This includes cysts and nodules. It’s unlikely to work for noninflammatory acne, like blackheads and whiteheads.
There is some evidence indicating that when applied topically, Aspirin might reduce the underlying inflammation that is the partial cause of the condition.
Acne forms when dead skin cells, oil and debris deeply clog pores, resulting in the proliferation of C. acnes
Aspirin’s active ingredient is acetylsalicylic acid, a synthetic derivative of salicylic acid created by a chemical reaction between it and acetic acid.
Some people claim positive results from applying crushed Aspirin to their acne blemishes, the premise being that the acetylsalicylic acid found in Aspirin will function similarly to salicylic acid and reduce pimples.
Theoretically, Aspirin should help dry out the inflammation and by extension help clear the infection and reduce the blemish. Clnical studies have shown that Aspirin applied topically is effective at reducing skin inflammation related to numerous conditions, but there is no reliable data concerning its efficacy with acne specifically.
Aspirin for acne scars
While there are no clinical studies showing that Aspirin lightens acne scars, many people claim to have used it successfully for this purpose. It’s believed that the exfoliating properties of Aspirin, by scrubbing away dead cells on the skin’s surface, results in lightening acne scars and noticeably brighter skin.
How to Use Aspirin for Acne
To use Aspirin as a topical remedy to clear inflammatory acne, follow these instructions.
- Use powdered Aspirin or crush two or three tablets into a fine powder. .
- Combine with one tablespoon of warm water to create a paste.
- Wash your face
- Apply the Aspirin paste directly on to your pimple. Or if you prefer to use it as a mask, lightly apply over your entire face.
- Leave the paste on the treatment area for approximately 10 – 15 minutes
- Rinse with warm water
- Follow up by spreading moisturizer on to the treatment area.
This process can be repeated as a spot treatment twice daily until the acne clears up. If used as a face mask, it can be safely applied three to four times a week.
Using aspirin for acne overnight
You can also apply Aspirin paste as an overnight spot treatment. The procedure is the same as when applying the substance for shorter lengths of time.
Aspirin Side Effects
Overuse of Aspirin as a topical acne remedy can lead to skin dryness, which can exacerbate irritation and lead to further breakouts.
Using Aspirin topically can also increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays when going outdoors to decrease your risk of sunburn and long-term sun damage.
As a precaution, avoid using any form of aspirin during pregnancy and breastfeeding, unless it is approved by your doctor.
Do not use Aspirin topically if you are allergic to it or any other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pills (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.
You should also avoid combining aspirin topically with other forms of salicylic acid, because this can amplify skin dryness.
Always consult your dermatologist before applying aspirin on your acne – particularly if you’re using other types of skin care products or medications, or have any underlying health conditions.
The following conventional over-the-counter options all have scientific evidence to support them and may be more effective in treating acne than Aspirin.
Salicylic acid will provide similar or better results than Aspirin for inflammatory acne. It’s also been shown to help reduce non-inflammatory acne like blackheads.
Benzoyl peroxide is an ingredient commonly found in many OTC topical acne treatments. It helps to prevent pimples and treats existing blemishes by killing bacteria underneath the skin while clearing dead skin cells and excess sebum in the pores.
Azelaic acid is a prescription cream or gel used for mild to moderate acne. It possesses anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-keratinizing properties that work to reduce pimples.
Topical retinoids like Retinol help treat acne by spurring the turnover of skin cells, accelerating the removal of older skin cells and the growth of newer, acne-free skin cells.
Some people, particularly those with allergies, sensitive or dry skin, don’t always react well to conventional acne medications and prefer alternative therapies. There are a variety of home remedies, like essential oils or aloe vera, shown to be valid acne treatments in their own right.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil with natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that kills C. acnes, the bacteria responsible for acne. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to effectively address the associated swelling and redness.
Many other essential oils also kill bacteria. Among those believed to be the most effective acne fighters are thyme, cinnamon, rose, and rosemary.
Aloe vera is another plant with natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are understood to reduce the appearance of acne and prevent breakouts, particularly when combined with tretinoin cream.
While Aspirin for acne has yet to be the subject of much academic study, given the anecdotal evidence and what’s known about acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), it’s active ingredient, there is reason to believe Aspirin could help with certain cases of inflammatory acne. At the same time, there are conventional OTC acne treatments that have been tested and proven to be effective, so incorporating Aspirin to reduce acne blemishes or scarring may not be the most pragmatic approach to treating the condition.
People report mixed results when using Aspirin for acne. Some swear by its efficacy while others claim it made no difference to their condition at all. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that it may help clear blemishes when used as a topical treatment for mild to moderate cases of inflammatory acne. Be sure not to use aspirin as a topical too often, as it can dry out and irritate the skin.
If you want better results, consider using over the counter topicals, like salicylic acid or azelaic acid, that have been tested and proven to reduce all sorts of acne symptoms. You can also opt for more thoroughly researched home remedies, like tea tree oil or aloe vera.
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- Bubna A. K. (2015). Aspirin in dermatology: Revisited. Indian dermatology online journal, 6(6), 428–435. https://doi.org/10.4103/2229-5178.169731
- Hammer KA. Treatment of acne with tea tree oil (melaleuca) products: a review of efficacy, tolerability and potential modes of action. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2015 Feb;45(2):106-10. doi:10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2014.10.011
- Hajheydari Z, Saeedi M, Morteza-Semnani K, Soltani A. Effect of Aloe vera topical gel combined with tretinoin in treatment of mild and moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, prospective trial. J Dermatolog Treat. 2014 Apr;25(2):123-9. doi:10.3109/09546634.2013.768328