Maybe stick to using the aspirin for your headaches.

By Leah Groth
September 14, 2020
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TikTok is pretty hit or miss when it comes to beauty hacks: The trendy heatless waves tutorial, for example—which uses just a bathrobe sash to give you heat-free curls—is a favorite among hairstylists. But a certain teeth-whitening hack that uses hydrogen peroxide to get a glimmering smile isn't quite as well-received by dentists. Now there's a new TikTok trend you need to know about: Using an aspirin face mask to get rid of acne.

The advice comes from TikTok user Mallory Le (username @tellyourdogisayhello), as she shows a video of herself making and using the mask. "Acne? Breakouts? Maskne? Try an aspirin mask. I didn't have to go on accutane again because of this trick," she wrote as the caption.

In the video, Le shows herself making the mask by taking two uncoated aspirin tablets and dissolving them with some water. She then spreads the mixture on her face and says to leave it there for three minutes, then rinse it off. She recommends using it "every few days."

The video's gotten 1.3 million views and 84.7 thousand likes on TikTok after being on the site for only two days—but the popularity of the trick has us wondering: Is it safe to use an aspirin face mask for acne?

First, a little background: Aspirin is used as an analgesic for pain relief, and has evolved to treat a wide range of inflammatory conditions, including those of the dermatologic variety, Annie Gonzalez, MD, Miami Board Certified Dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology, explains to Health.

Going further, aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid, a synthetic derivative of salicylic acid, which is a popular topical medication for acne. “It is created by a chemical reaction between salicylic acid and acetic acid,” she explains.

However, it is important to note that aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid are not the same as salicylic acid, and vice versa. And while the acetylsalicylic acid can reduce inflammation, it shouldn't be used on your face. “I don't recommend it,” Nazanin Saedi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Thomas Jefferson University, tells Health. “Especially not as an every day wash like in the video.” 

The main reason is because acetylsalicylic acid is simply too harsh for your skin. “It can be irritating and lead to redness and flaking if too potent,” Dr. Saedi says. “Also, the masks irritate our skin and make us more sensitive, so I caution patients about over washing or using harsh products.”

Dr. Gonzalez adds that there is no scientific evidence to support this popular DIY remedy for acne. And, while it may help with inflammation, it isn’t really treating or preventing breakouts.

“When pores become clogged by dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum, inflammation typically results, along with the acne itself,” she explains. “The aspirin is not treating the acne, it is merely treating the inflammation response. It is not preventing future breakouts.” Even worse, it “can dry out the skin and lead to more breakouts.”

Jeffrey M. Cohen, MD, a Yale Medicine dermatologist agrees that aspirin masks are a bad idea, noting there could be long-term repercussions. “This could severely irritate the skin, making acne worse and making scarring more likely.”

Luckily, there are much safer ways to treat acne—ideally with the help of a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Cohen says. “There are many excellent topical medications that are really effective for acne,” he says. Most of those contain salicylic acid—the ingredient Dr. Saedi suggests clients stick to when searching for over-the-counter products, like Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Oil-Free Acne Wash and Cerave. 

If you have persistent, chronic acne, it's also important to try to figure out what type you have, and what's causing it to find the right treatment, Dr. Gonzalez says. Whiteheads and blackheads, for example, are often treated via a retinoid or benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, or salicylic acid. Pimples can be tackled with oral or topical antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide, a retinoid, or azelaic acid. And acne nodules or cysts are best treated by any of the topical medications mentioned above, or hormonal therapies like oral contraceptives and spironolactone. 

But the bottom line here: Don't bother crushing up aspirin and spreading that on your face—it'll only do more harm than good.

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