Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in commercial acne treatment formulations and skin peels. It may help to break down the sebum plugs commonly known as blackheads, and to prevent new blemishes from forming by drying oil in the pores. Plain aspirin contains salicylates, making it an effective home remedy for acne breakouts.
The Power of Beta-Hydroxy Acid
Beta-hydroxy acid, or BHA, is another name for salicylic acid. BHA can be found in wrinkle treatments as well as acne compounds because of its mild exfoliant effect. It causes the cells of the epidermis, the skin's outer layer, to slough off and reveal the new skin underneath. For this reason, it is important to follow the application of products containing BHA with a potent sunscreen—the new skin beneath the cells you've just shed is particularly susceptible to UVA and UVB rays.
The Role of Caffeine
Some varieties of aspirin, such as BC powder and migraine formulations, contain caffeine, a diuretic which may help remove toxins from the skin. Dr. Debra Sarnoff, of the New York University School of Medicine, states that data suggest caffeine may be able to pull water from tissue. This relief of puffiness and potential removal of toxins is another way in which aspirin can help improve skin's surface texture. Beware of coated capsules; you should use uncoated or powdered aspirin in order to release the full effects of the salicylates and caffeine.
Honey: An Ancient Healer
Honey contains both antiseptic and antibacterial properties, making it beneficial for helping keep acne-prone skin clean. It has long been used as a remedy for wounds, burns and skin irritation. Not only does honey reduce the inflammation and redness associated with acne, it softens without the oils found in commercial moisturizers and may help prevent breakouts from permanently scarring the skin. Honey contains antioxidants that can help combat the environmental factors partially responsible for acne eruptions.
A Potent Mixture
Three crushed aspirin tablets or one packet of powder, a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of water are all you need to harness the acne-clearing powers of salicylates and antiseptic. The ingredients are mixed together in a bowl or cup, massaged over the face, and left on as a mask for 15 minutes. Others prefer to use the mixture as a spot treatment for individual blemishes, leaving it on overnight to do its work as they sleep.
Amount of Time Needed to See Results
An aspirin and honey mask can be used one to two times weekly, or as a daily spot treatment in times of severe breakouts. After using the mask for two weeks, you may begin to see a decrease in redness, irritation and number of acne blemishes. Because salicylic acid can be very drying and can peel the skin, resist the temptation to apply more than you need, whether it comes from crushed aspirin or commercial acne formulations.
Ann Jones has been writing since 1998. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies. Her journalistic work can be found in major magazines and newspapers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.