Whether you’re a teenager or an adult, a pimple can be irritating and embarrassing. There’s no shortage of potential treatments for the problem, from facial soaps and medicated creams to powerful prescription drugs. Yet these approaches can have side effects and aren’t always effective. Home remedies for acne also abound, but they can be hit or miss. One common treatment for pimples involves using a crushed aspirin to relieve symptoms. But does it work?

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The Science Behind Aspirin for Acne

Readers of beauty magazines and websites are likely familiar with this allegedly quick fix for acne — and fans of the aspirin treatment may be on to something. To the uninformed, putting aspirin on your face may sound bizarre, but there’s actually a scientific basis for this home remedy. That’s because aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid, which is similar to salicylic acid, an ingredient found in many over-the-counter topical acne medicines.

Salicylic acid was originally derived from the bark of the willow tree, which is why you’ll also find this substance in some “natural” pimple products. These days, salicylic acid is created in the lab, but it still retains its skin-soothing properties. The substance can have a drying effect, helping to counteract oily skin. Aspirin also acts as an anti-inflammatory and reduces the redness and swelling associated with pimples.

How to Use Aspirin to Treat Acne

Because it’s a home remedy, there’s no one protocol for using aspirin to ease acne. However, most approaches follow the same general process:

  • Crush a few aspirin tablets or use powdered aspirin.
  • Mix the crushed or powdered aspirin with a little warm water (about one tablespoon will do) to moisten it.
  • To make the mixture more like a paste, add a few drops of aloe gel or honey.
  • Apply the aspirin mixture to affected areas, or to your entire face, as you would apply a facial mask.
  • Leave the mask on for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Rinse

Proponents say that applying aspirin masks can relieve redness and swelling. If you use this home remedy often, be aware that it can lead to skin dryness. You should also make sure to wear sunscreen, since salicylic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays. Your dermatologist can explain more about salicylic acid and other pimple treatments.

About Dermatology

The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.