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Does aspirin for acne really work?

Although this medication isn’t specifically designed to treat acne, it may have some skin benefits.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 31, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
Aspirin Tablets
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 31, 2023 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

If you’re dealing with acne, curiosity may lead you to wonder: Are there any remedies you haven’t tried that could help put an end to your breakouts? While there are plenty of clinically proven tactics that can help treat and prevent acne, one unconventional solution that has gained attention is aspirin. While aspirin is not a standard treatment for acne—and it’s not proven-effective for this use—some people have used this medication as a spot-treatment for pimples.

Here, Curology’s skincare pros will explain what you should know about aspirin for acne, including its effectiveness, potential risks, and alternative treatment options that you may consider for clearer, healthier skin.

How does aspirin help treat acne?

Aspirin has properties that can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Although it’s not specifically designed to treat acne, it’s believed that aspirin might help reduce the inflammation associated with acne. The use of aspirin for acne treatment is considered off-label in dermatology, which means it’s not officially approved for this purpose. For this reason, it’s important to consult with a dermatology provider before using aspirin for acne treatment to ensure it’s safe and suitable for your specific case.¹

One study conducted on mice showed that aspirin had a curative effect on rosacea, another inflammatory skin condition, by reducing skin inflammation and the formation of blood vessels. However, more research is needed to determine the specific benefits and potential risks of using aspirin for acne treatment.²

How to use aspirin to get rid of acne 

When using aspirin to treat acne, exercise caution and prioritize safety. Consult with a dermatology provider to explore proven treatment options first and to ensure any home remedy you try is suitable and safe for your specific case. 

When using aspirin topically for acne treatment, a paste can be created with crushed aspirin and used as a mask. While this may be effective for some, reach out to a dermatology provider for specific instructions and to see which specific approach is right for you.

There isn't much scientific research on the topical application of aspirin for acne treatment, and some people report that they experience dryness and irritation after using the aspirin mask. Remember, the best approach is to consult a dermatology provider who can guide you toward effective and safe acne treatments tailored to your specific needs.

Safer alternative treatments for acne 

While aspirin for acne hasn't been thoroughly researched, there are plenty of other effective treatment options available that are backed by science. When you talk to your dermatology provider for advice, they will likely recommend several evidence-backed options, which may include:

Topical and oral retinoids

Topical and oral retinoids, derived from vitamin A, are prominent treatments for acne. Topical retinoids help regulate cell turnover, reduce inflammation, and are often recommended as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate acne. They have shown high efficacy in treating severe, treatment-resistant acne, particularly the oral retinoid isotretinoin. These retinoids offer significant benefits in improving acne symptoms and are supported by scientific research.³

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is an effective acne treatment known for its antimicrobial properties. It works by reducing inflammation and helping unclog blocked pores. Studies have supported the use of benzoyl peroxide in managing acne.⁴ It’s commonly used in acne cleansers and topical treatments, such as Curology's Acne Cleanser with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide. 

Curology's Acne Cleanser

Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid is a beneficial treatment for acne due to its multifaceted effects. It effectively reduces inflammation, helping to calm acne lesions. It also aids in the reduction of hyperpigmentation, which can be left behind by acne. Azelaic acid possesses antimicrobial properties that combat acne-causing bacteria.⁵

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid known for its ability to unclog pores.⁶ It exfoliates your skin and helps remove dead skin cells, reducing clogged pores and acne breakouts. Salicylic acid is commonly found in acne treatments, including Curology’s Acne Body Wash

Oral antibiotics and contraceptives

Oral antibiotics are a good treatment option for moderate to severe acne. They are prescribed by healthcare providers and work by targeting both inflammation and the bacteria associated with acne. Hormonal treatment with oral contraceptives is another option for some. Oral contraceptives help regulate the hormones that contribute to acne development.⁷ This can be particularly beneficial for women whose acne is influenced by hormones.

The importance of speaking to a dermatology provider

Speaking to a dermatology provider is of utmost importance when it comes to skincare, especially for concerns like acne. Licensed dermatology providers have extensive knowledge and experience in diagnosing skin conditions. They can accurately identify your condition and determine the most appropriate treatment approach—whether that involves aspirin, or not.

Every individual's skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Licensed dermatology providers can assess your specific skin condition, medical history, and lifestyle factors to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs. This ensures that you receive effective and suitable treatments for your acne.

Some acne treatments, especially prescription medications, may have potential risks or side effects. Dermatology providers can guide you on the proper usage, potential risks, and precautions associated with different treatments, ensuring your safety and minimizing the likelihood of adverse effects.

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Can I leave aspirin on my pimples overnight?

There isn't much research on using aspirin topically on your skin to help get rid of acne. It’s always safer to use proven acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid that are recommended by dermatology providers. However, if you do decide to use aspirin topically, you may keep it on for around 10 minutes. That said, check with your medical provider first and be sure to avoid this if you are allergic to this medication.

What are the benefits of aspirin on face?

The benefits of using aspirin on your face are primarily attributed to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Aspirin, with its active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid, has been researched for its potential in treating different inflammatory conditions. When applied topically, it may help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with acne.

However, it’s important to note that using aspirin on the face is an off-label use and does not have substantial scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness for acne treatment. Consult with a dermatology provider or healthcare professional for personalized advice and to explore proven treatment options that are safe and effective for your specific skin condition.

What is the difference between aspirin and salicylic acid?

Aspirin and salicylic acid are chemically related compounds but have different applications in the context of acne treatment. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid commonly used in over-the-counter acne treatments. It works by exfoliating the skin, removing dead skin cells, and unclogging pores.⁸

On the other hand, aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is primarily used as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory medication. It’s not specifically formulated for acne treatment.⁹ While aspirin does have some anti-inflammatory properties, using it as a DIY acne remedy by creating a paste with water is considered off-label use. This method may not be as effective or safe as using products specifically designed to treat acne, such as those containing salicylic acid.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Bubna, A.K. Aspirin in dermatology: Revisited. Indian Dermatol Online J. (November-December 2015).

  2. Deng, Z., et al. Aspirin alleviates skin inflammation and angiogenesis in rosacea. Int Immunopharmacol. (June 2021).

  3. Tan, A.U., et al. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. (2017, December 23).

  4. Tan, A.U., et al. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. Ibid.

  5. Tan, A.U., et al. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. Ibid.

  6. Tan, A.U., et al. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. Ibid.

  7. Tan, A.U., et al. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. Ibid.

  8. PubChem. Compound Summary for CID 338, Salicylic Acid. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2023, June 17).

  9. PubChem. Compound Summary for CID 2244, Aspirin. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2023, June 17).

Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Erin Pate Nurse Practitioner, NP-C

Erin Pate, NP-C

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