Are Lemons An Effective Acne Treatment?

Lemon has a lot of plant compounds that may help treat acne and stop it from happening. But putting lemon juice or oil directly on the skin could have some bad effects.
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lemon juice for acne treatment
Use a cotton swab to carefully apply lemon juice to pimples as a spot treatment to get rid of breakouts.

Because citrus fruit extracts are high in antioxidants, they are often found in skin care products. In general, antioxidants like the vitamin C in citrus fruits are thought to help the skin fight free radicals and boost collagen levels.

If you’re trying to get rid of acne using natural remedies, you might be wondering if plain lemon juice is better than an over-the-counter (OTC) product that has more than one ingredient.

In the United States, acne is the most common skin problem. Acne may start during puberty, but a lot of people still have it as adults.

One of the many home remedies that are talked about in online forums is the juice of fresh lemons. This is because they have a lot of antioxidants and a lot of citric acid, which is a form of vitamin C.

But putting lemon or lemon juice on your face can cause problems that make your skin worse. Think about using alternative treatments like aloe vera, rosehip oil, and zinc mentioned in this article. Learn more by reading on.

Does it work?

Some people say that lemon works well as a treatment for acne. They say that lemon stops inflammation and cuts down on the oil and bacteria on their skin.

Scientists haven’t looked into how well lemon works as a treatment for acne. But some studies have looked at the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects of lemon in a broader sense. Most people have looked into lemon essential oil, which comes from the peels of lemons.

Even though research suggests that essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not check or regulate the purity or quality of these. Before using essential oils, a person should talk to a doctor or nurse and do research to find out how good a brand’s products are. A person should always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Anti-inflammatory effects

In 2018, a study was done on animals to look at how essential oils from four different kinds of citrus affected inflammation. This was made up of one kind of lemon and three kinds of lime.

The study showed that the lemon essential oil and two of the three lime essential oils helped reduce inflammation in mice. The authors said that the chemical limonene, which is found in large amounts in citrus peel, was responsible for these anti-inflammatory effects.

In 2018, a different study on mice also found that putting lemon oil on the skin helped to reduce skin damage and inflammation.

Since only animals were used in both studies, it is not possible to say if the results also apply to people.

Antimicrobial effects

In the lab, some bacteria and fungi can’t grow when lemon and other citrus fruit juice concentrates are used. This was found in a study done in 2016. The authors thought that the special plant compounds found in citrus fruits were responsible for these antimicrobial effects. Some examples of these kinds of compounds are:

  • Phenols
  • Flavonoids 
  • Essential oils

In a 2017 lab study, the antimicrobial effects of the following three essential oils were looked at:

  • Lemon
  • Rosemary
  • Litsea

The researchers put each oil to the test against five different skin infection-causing pathogens. One of the pathogens they looked at was Staphylococcus epidermidis, a bacterium that can cause acne.

Out of the three oils that were looked at, lemon essential oil was the one that stopped the pathogens from spreading the least. Overall, litsea essential oil was the most effective at killing germs.

How to Treat Acne with Lemon Juice

The simple answer, at least according to the dermatologists we talked to, is to never use it. Nussbaum says that there are a lot of safer ingredients and products on the market that would help you a lot more in your fight against acne. (She also says that if you have chronic acne flare-ups or deep cystic acne, you should really see a board-certified dermatologist instead of trying to treat it yourself.)

Arch is right: “Lemons are acidic, which seems like it would make them a good fit for acne. However, putting lemon juice directly on the skin can do more harm than good. “There are other treatments that work better and are easier to deal with, so I don’t see why anyone would want to use it,” she says.

Still, if you’re set on using lemon juice to get rid of zits, there are a few things you should know. Henry says that you shouldn’t even try this if you have mild acne and sensitive skin. And when you do, try it on your skin somewhere other than your face to see how it reacts. She also says that diluting it with water is a good idea.

If everything seems fine, use a cotton swab to dab the juice on the spots and wash them off after a few minutes. Make sure to use a lot of sunscreen, and above all, “stop using lemon juice right away if you notice any redness or irritation,” Henry says. But again, there are a lot of other ways to treat spots that are much safer and work much better than lemon juice.

What Not to Try?

  • Don’t put the juice of a whole lemon on your face or let it sit on your face for a long time. If you put too much acid on your skin, it will stop making its own oil and throw off its normal pH balance. When using lemon juice to take care of your skin, a little goes a long way.
  • Don’t put lemon juice on cuts, sores, or other wounds that are still open. If you have an open wound on your face, like a pimple or a scratch from your cat, you should not put lemon juice on it. Lemon juice should only be used on active acne that hasn’t opened or popped, or on acne scars that have already healed.
  • Don’t use a lot of other skin care products with lemon juice treatments. Products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid should only be used on days when lemon juice treatments aren’t being used. This is so that you don’t take away too much of your skin’s natural oil or throw off the pH balance of your skin.

In Conclusion

Even though lemon juice may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that could help fight acne, not enough is known about the possible risks to the skin.

Also, like many other home remedies for acne and acne scars, there isn’t a lot of scientific proof that lemons are a good way to treat acne or acne scars.

But lemon juice may still help when used to treat the occasional pimple. It’s always best to see your dermatologist if you have acne that won’t go away or scars that won’t heal.


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