The DIY Acne Remedies Dermatologists Actually Recommend

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Every day, the Internet discovers a new miracle acne ingredient that's been hiding in plain sight. Bird poop! Listerine! Urine! Clearly there’s a lot to cut through when drilling down how to DIY an acne-soothing mask — not to mention, a serious risk of infection if you pick up the wrong thing. Nobody has time for that, particularly when your already-established blemishes seem to be growing stronger by the minute.
So we turned to New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, to zero in on what (if anything) should be plucked from our pantries and applied to inflamed, congested skin for relief.
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It turns out, we were right to feel overwhelmed. Even for Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, declaring a clear-cut DIY acne mask solution is tricky. “With so many natural ingredients available, it’s difficult to specify a single optimal combination of ingredients, “ he admits.
On his list of legit acne helpers? “Ingredients that have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties,” he says. Honey, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, and tea tree oil all get the MD’s OK to be used in farm-to-face (or at least kitchen-to-face) blends that can help minimize inflammation. He suggests adding a few of these ingredients to a base made from cornstarch, charcoal, or clay, which all contain oil-absorbing properties.
If the skin under or around your zits is tender and irritated, the above options may just further stoke the fire. So Zeichner advises reaching for soothing ingredients like egg whites, rosewater, or plain yogurt to take down the heat. Don’t forget to mine your medicine cabinet for other options. While bleaches and hydrogen peroxide should remain on the shelf, Zeichner notes that crushing up aspirin and adding water to form a paste may create a useful anti-inflammatory spot treatment on the fly.
Finally, no matter how many DIY recipes call for highly acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice (and many do), Zeichner warns against using them. “These harsh ingredients can cause more harm than good by creating skin irritation,” he says. And remember, skin irritation is what got you here in the first place.
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