“Someone told me that a lemon or toothpaste can cure my acne. Is this true, or just another internet myth?”

There are many “home remedies” that are purported to help improve or even “cure” acne; however, for the most part, there is little scientific evidence to show that these treatments are safe and effective.

Toothpaste, for example, is reported anecdotally to dry out acne lesions when applied overnight. However, toothpaste includes many ingredients that are not intended to be applied topically on the skin and can cause irritation, rashes and skin damage, with reports of burning and even scarring (brown spots in particular).

Fresh juice from a lemon has also been promoted as a natural treatment for acne, to help improve the appearance of acne scars and redness and to clear blackheads. It is said to have antibacterial and exfoliating properties. However, as with toothpaste, there is a risk of skin irritation, given that lemon juice is acidic, and aggravation of acne, which can be particularly problematic if you apply it to the entire face.

Given the availability of tested and approved over the counter (non-prescription) and prescription treatments for acne, it is generally recommended for reasons of both safety and effectiveness that you stick to those.

There are spot treatments which are intended for periodic use on individual blemishes as they appear on the face and contain pharmaceutical ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These are likely a better option than trying toothpaste.

A good skin care routine, that may include a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, is generally preferred to a treatment such as lemon juice. While some individuals may report an improvement with home remedies, the results can be unpredictable and the potential for an unintended reaction should not be overlooked.