Your skin needs to retain a lower, acidic-ranged pH to kill off germs and maintain its moisture barrier, which helps prevent acne. Regularly abusing baking soda can unnaturally raise your skin’s pH level, making it easier for bacteria to grow– kind of counterproductive, right? Plus, baking soda can cause micro-abrasions, teeny tiny cuts in your skin. This is like rolling out the welcome mat for acne and infections.
Reviews.com makes money through affiliate partner links: If you click on a link, we may earn a commission. Our writers and editors create all reviews, news, and other content to inform readers, with no influence from our business team. Learn more about how we make money. We take pains to ensure our site is accurate and up to date, but some information might be different than what you find by visiting a vendor website. All products are presented without warranty.
Oral contraceptives: Oral contraceptives (birth control pills), which are low in estrogen to promote safety, have little effect on acne one way or the other. Some contraceptive pills have been shown to have modest effectiveness in treating acne. Those that have been U.S. FDA approved for treating acne are Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and Yaz. Most dermatologists work together with primary care physicians or gynecologists when recommending these medications.
What's Going On: You might be all too familiar with these, which tend to make their debut when you’re in high school. "Blackheads, like whiteheads, are blocked pores," says Zeichner. What gives them their namesake color, though, is the oil. It's already dark, but blackheads also have a larger opening at the surface than whiteheads do, meaning air can enter and oxidize that oil sitting inside the pore, turning it even darker.
Eggs aren’t just for eating, they also make a great last-minute fix for acne problems. Separate an egg white from the yolk and whisk it. Apply the whisked egg to your face using clean fingers and leave it on the pimple for 20 minutes, or if it’s very swollen, leave it on the pimples overnight and wash it off in the morning. Bonus: If you have scarring like I do, egg whites are also a great solution because the enzymes in egg whites acts as a source of lightener for the skin.
Retinoids: Retin-A (tretinoin) has been in use for years, and preparations have become milder and gentler while still maintaining its effectiveness. Newer retinoids include adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac). These medications are especially helpful for unclogging pores. Side effects may include irritation and a mild increase in sensitivity to the sun. Adapalene 0.1% is now available without a prescription. With proper sun protection, however, they can be used even during sunny periods. The combination medication known as Epiduo gel -- which contains the retinoid, adapalene, along with the antibacterial, benzoyl peroxide -- is applied once a day.

Eggs aren’t just for eating, they also make a great last-minute fix for acne problems. Separate an egg white from the yolk and whisk it. Apply the whisked egg to your face using clean fingers and leave it on the pimple for 20 minutes, or if it’s very swollen, leave it on the pimples overnight and wash it off in the morning. Bonus: If you have scarring like I do, egg whites are also a great solution because the enzymes in egg whites acts as a source of lightener for the skin.
Simple alcohols like isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and denatured alcohol are everywhere in acne treatment because they trick you into thinking they’re working: Splash some on and any oil on your face instantly vaporizes. However, these ingredients destroy the skin’s barrier, called the acid mantle. When your acid mantle is damaged, you’re actually more susceptible to breakouts, enlarged pores, and inflammation. To make matters worse, evaporating all the oil on your face can actually set your sebaceous glands into overdrive, leaving your skin oilier than ever. If any product included a simple alcohol high up in its ingredients list, we nixed its whole kit.

Drugs: Some medications may cause or worsen acne, such as those containing iodides, bromides, or oral or injected steroids (either the medically prescribed prednisone [Deltasone, Orasone, Prednicen-M, Liquid Pred] or the steroids that bodybuilders or athletes sometimes take). Other drugs that can cause or aggravate acne are anticonvulsant medications and lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid). Most cases of acne, however, are not drug related.
And if you thought blackheads and whiteheads were annoying, the deep painful pimples that often pop up in adult acne are much more aggravating—and harder to get rid of. So, we talked to dermatologists to find out which acne treatments are the most effective on all types of pimples. Keep reading to learn what causes acne in the first place, plus the best acne treatments worth spending your hard-earned dollars on.
As bizarre as it may sound, honey can actually prove to be the perfect solution to curing acne overnight. Although it seems sticky (and like it can probably do more harm than good by clogging pores), honey actually has anti-bacterial properties that help it reduce the size of pimples. Dab a small amount of honey onto a pimple and leave it on the area for an hour; then rinse off since this shouldn’t be left on overnight.
Oral acne treatment: These medications, which work internally, are prescribed when you have red, swollen pimples (acne cysts and nodules). They can come in different forms such as antibiotics (which kill bacteria and decrease inflammation), birth control pills (which helps with hormonal acne), and isotretinoin (commonly referred to as Accutane, even though that specific brand was discontinued).
A 2013 study on acne vulgaris in The Nurse Practitioner concurred that a multidimensional approach to acne is usually necessary because most people have a combination of symptoms. Based on the advice of dermatologists and aestheticians, we turned our focus to regimen sets, analyzing the ingredients of more than 40 kits before finding our top picks.

Cortisone is a quick fix for acne emergencies. We mean got a big board meeting tomorrow kind of quick. Go into the dermatologist’s office for a shot of this corticosteroid, and acne will disappear in 24 to 48 hours. The treatment works to curb inflammation, which makes it best for cystic breakouts and can be really good at combating hormonal flare-ups. If done incorrectly, a cortisone shot can leave a small depression in the skin that lasts about eight weeks. “It’s a rare side effect that happens if dosage of cortisone is too high,” Dr. Linkner explains. “You want to go to someone who knows what they’re doing.”
Hi – I’m a 37 year old female wit hormonal cystic acne. I know I’m going to catch some heat for this BUT I have had cystic acne for the past 2-3 years. When I tell you that I tried EVERYTHING please believe me. I’ve spent so much money on acne products, I probably could’ve paid off my car! Two months ago, I decided to try an old remedy that I used when I was in middle school – rubbing alcohol. Yes, it can be damaging to the skin but understand that I exfoliate and moisturize daily. Sorry if this is TMI, but my monthly came on last night – the root cause of my acne along with my hair rubbing along my face when it is not in a pony tail. Two days ago, I felt two painful, itchy cysts developing. I attacked both of them with rubbing alcohol.

Oral medications: Doctors may start antibiotic treatment with tetracycline (Sumycin) or one of the related "cyclines," such as doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox, and others) and minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin). Other oral antibiotics that are useful for treating acne are cefadroxil (Duricef), amoxicillin (Amoxil, DisperMox, Trimox), and the sulfa drugs.
If you notice that you’re breaking out right around your period every month, your acne might be linked to hormones. “A sensitivity to the hormones called androgens manifests in the form of cystic acne,” Dr. Linkner says. Androgens, namely testosterone, cause the skin to produce more sebum. More sebum equals more acne. Birth control, which has estrogen and progestin, helps keep hormones balanced and skin clear. Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, and YAZ are all FDA-approved as acne treatments.
Lastly, one of the best preventative steps is to drink water everything all day. When you play properly hydrated, your body is able to process all the toxins that go in it a lot more efficiently. It is no surprise that one of the main ways your body gets rid of toxins is through the pores in your skin. If you don't regularly flush out your system, then you are paving the way to allowing a backup of gunk to clog your pores. Once your pores are clogged, you are one step closer to getting an acne breakout. Of course, you can help to avoid all this by staying properly hydrated.
“Sometimes I see people try over-the-counter products just for a couple of weeks, they get frustrated, they say it’s not working, and they discontinue them,” Arthur says. “But it really does take a while to see the effectiveness. So unless you’re having a problem with the medication, like it’s causing severe irritation or dryness, it’s recommended to give it at least 2-3 months before switching to something else.”
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Axe nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
No one factor causes acne. Acne occurs when sebaceous (oil) glands attached to the hair follicles are stimulated at the time of puberty or due to other hormonal changes. Sebum (oil) is a natural substance that lubricates and protects the skin. Associated with increased oil production is a change in the manner in which the skin cells mature, predisposing them to plug the follicular pore. The plug can appear as a whitehead if it is covered by a thin layer of skin, or if exposed to the air, the darker exposed portion of the plug is called a "blackhead." The plugged hair follicle gradually enlarges, producing a bump. As the follicle enlarges, the wall may rupture, allowing irritating substances and normal skin bacteria access into the deeper layers of the skin, ultimately producing inflammation. Inflammation near the skin's surface produces a pustule; deeper inflammation results in a papule (pimple); if the inflammation is deeper still, it forms a cyst.
Stronger cases may call for prescription retinoids (such as Retin-A or Tazorac), which “are really the standard of care for most acne therapy,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Certain drugs, such as Epiduo and Ziana, combine retinoids with antibacterials and may be more effective than separate products. Because retinoids also have anti-wrinkle properties (they help stimulate collagen production), they are especially beneficial for adult acne sufferers.
Everyone’s skin is different, so keep in mind that effectively treating acne breakouts at home requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The home remedies for acne described below can be used in combination to provide the best results. However, keep in mind that while you overcome acne it’s also very important to avoid the biggest mistakes that can make skin irritation or scarring worse:
Alternative and integrative medicine approaches used in the treatment of acne include fish oil, brewer's yeast, probiotics, oral zinc and topical tea tree oil. More research is needed to establish the potential effectiveness and long-term safety of these and other integrative approaches, such as biofeedback and traditional Chinese medicine. Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of specific treatments before you try them.
×