Can Bag Balm Help Acne?

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Though there are many over-the-counter products for acne, a dermatologist can usually prescribe oral or topical medications that can clear your skin much faster and with better results. However, some choose to use alternative approaches for treating their acne with products such as Bag Balm.


Acne is a skin disorder that results from the reaction of hormones with other substances on your skin's oil glands and hair follicles, reports the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders. Acne occurs mostly on your face, back, shoulders and chest, and can be in the form of papules, which are small pink bumps; pustules, which are papules topped by white or yellow pus filled lesions; nodules, which are painfully large solid lesions embedded deep in the skin; or cysts, which are also embedded deep in the skin, painful and can cause scarring.

How Acne Forms

Sebaceous glands produce oil which is emptied through the opening of the follicles, or pores, reports the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders. Cells called keratinocytes line your follicles. Acne forms when the hair, sebum and keratinocytes on your skin form a plug which prevents the sebum, or oil, from exiting through your pores.

Bag Balm

According to CBS Healthwatch, Bag Balm was developed by John L. Norris in 1899, in Vermont. Norris originally bought the formula from a Wells River druggist. Bag Balm was originally made to soothe the udders of cows which became sore from milking. The balm soon became very popular with farmers as they used it the heal small injuries, rashes and the chapped hides of their animals.


Bag Balm is made from petroleum, lanolin and an antiseptic, 8-hydroxyquinolins sulfate. The formula is made in a one-room plant in which petroleum is placed into a large vat and then blended with lanolin from Urugray, says CBS Healthwatch. After the mixture is heated to 95 degrees F, a machine squirts it into the metal cans that are cooled, capped and packaged.

Use for Acne

The antiseptic properties of 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate and the soothing qualities of lanolin make a perfect combination for the treatment of mild acne. The National Cancer Institute reports that upon topical application, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate exhibits antiseptic activity while lanolin moisturizes and softens the skin.

Since Bag Balm is petroleum based, and since acne is caused by sebum clogging your pores, consult with your primary care provider first before trying this product on your acne.