35. Home remedies for acne - tea tree oil, vinegar, and more

Doctor Jacob here, and we're talking today about home remedies for acne - tea tree oil, vinegar and more.

Home remedies are pretty popular, but unfortunately they usually don't work, so I'm going to kind of dissect them and let you know what works and what doesn't.

First let's start with vinegar. Vinegar is a dilute solution of acetic acid, typically around 5% acetic acid, and it's not a good idea for acne. Vinegar is a skin irritant and it really doesn't have any comedolytic properties, meaning opening up clogged pores. All it's basically going to do is irritate, so don't apply it to the skin and don't drink it. I've had a few patients tell me they were drinking vinegar to cure their acne, and that just doesn't make any sense.

Next let's talk about tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is present in a wide variety of cosmetic products - it's present in shampoos, it has some antibacterial activity, some antifungus activity actually as well, but it comes in a variety of forms. If you buy the pure tea tree oil, you have to dilute it before putting it on the skin. If you're applying it straight to the skin it's a very caustic irritant, a pretty strong irritant for the skin and it's not going to do anything except irritate you at such an undiluted strength. The maximum strength I'd recommend applying to skin is 5%, and it has to be diluted in a carrier oil, such as olive oil. If you have a 5% solution of tea tree oil, that can actually help acne. There's been a few studies that do show that people have a reduction in inflammatory type acne after applying the tea tree oil 5% solution once or twice a day; that can actually help.

I don't recommend it as a first line go-to thing, but if you are itching to try something as a home remedy and you kind of want more natural therapies, this is not going to hurt you and it may help you. The studies do show that there is a little bit of a benefit from the tea tree oil 5%.

There is one caveat - tea tree oil is a known allergen, meaning that through repeated applications on the skin people can develop an allergic reaction, especially true for eczema-prone patients. So if you start applying tea tree oil, it's working and then you keep going with it and then it starts to itch, most likely you've developed a allergic contact dermatitis, an allergy to the tea tree oil. The only thing to do is just avoid it from that point on.

So that's the vinegar and tea tree oil. In terms of other home remedies for acne, I've heard a lot of random things out there. Nothing specific that I want to focus on today, but I think that if you do stick with the acne treatment plan that we've outlined here, you're going to do much better than diving into home remedies on your own. So I recommend staying away from these things, like vinegar and tea tree oil, and keeping to the over-the-counter treatment regimens that we've outlined in some of the previous episodes.

I'm Doctor Jacob, that's it for today. We'll see you next time.