Are Aspirin Face Masks Safe for Your Skin?

Maybe stick to using aspirin for your headaches.

TikTok is pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to beauty hacks: The heatless waves tutorial, for example—which uses just a bathrobe sash to give you heat-free curls—is a favorite among hairstylists. But dentists didn't recommend the TikTok teeth-whitening hack that uses hydrogen peroxide to get a glimmering smile. In 2020, another TikTok trend surfaced: using an aspirin face mask to get rid of acne.

People have always tried different things to try to treat their acne. You may wonder—is it safe to use an aspirin face mask for acne? In short, it's probably not the best idea. Find out what experts think and what other treatments there are for acne.

What Is Aspirin Typically Used For?

Aspirin is an analgesic for pain relief and has evolved to treat a wide range of inflammatory conditions, including dermatologic variety, Annie Gonzalez, MD, Miami Board Certified Dermatologist of Riverchase Dermatology, explained.

Aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid, a synthetic derivative of salicylic acid, a topical medication for acne. "It is created by a chemical reaction between salicylic acid and acetic acid," Dr. Gonzalez said.

However, aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid is not the same as salicylic acid and vice versa. And while acetylsalicylic acid can reduce inflammation, it shouldn't be used on your face. "I don't recommend it," said Nazanin Saedi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Thomas Jefferson University. "Especially not as an everyday wash like in the video."

The main reason is acetylsalicylic acid is too harsh for your skin and causes irritation. "It can be irritating and lead to redness and flaking if too potent," Dr. Saedi said. "Also, the masks irritate our skin and make us more sensitive, so I caution patients about overwashing or using harsh products."

Is Aspirin Effective for Acne?

Dr. Gonzalez added that no scientific evidence supports this DIY remedy for acne. While it may help with inflammation, it doesn't treat or prevent breakouts.

"When pores become clogged by dead skin cells, bacteria, and sebum, inflammation typically results, along with the acne itself," Dr. Gonzalez said. "The aspirin is not treating the acne; it is merely treating the inflammation response. It is not preventing future breakouts." Instead, it "can dry out the skin and lead to more breakouts."

Jeffrey M. Cohen, MD, a Yale Medicine dermatologist, agreed 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."

Safer Ways To Treat Acne

Luckily, there are much safer ways to treat acne—ideally with the help of a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Cohen said. "There are many excellent topical medications that are really effective for acne." Most of those contain salicylic acid—the ingredient Dr. Saedi suggested clients stick to when searching for over-the-counter products.

If you have persistent, chronic acne, it's also important to figure out what type you have and what's causing it to find the proper treatment.

For Whiteheads and Blackheads

Whiteheads and blackheads are often treated via a retinoid or benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, or salicylic acid. They can also use benzoyl peroxide in combination with a topical antibiotic.

For Pimples

Pimples that are mild or moderate can be tackled with benzoyl peroxide, a retinoid, azelaic acid, and benzoyl peroxide with a retinoid or a topical antibiotic. Additionally, birth control can be used to treat acne.

For Severe Acne

Acne that is severe, deep, or painful may lead to scarring. Acne nodules or cysts are best treated by prescription medication, hormonal therapy, or isotretinoin.

Severe acne may be treated with a corticosteroid injection which can relieve the pain and size of the breakout. However, this kind of treatment should only be used a handful of times due to side effects.

A Quick Review

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. Aspirin is best used to treat pain and fever rather than acne. Using aspirin as an acne treatment may lead to dryness and irritation, which could worsen your acne.

To treat acne symptoms, consult your dermatologist, who may recommend oral or topical antibiotics, retinoids, corticosteroid injections, or other treatments.

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  1. National Library of Medicine. Aspirin.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Acne: diagnosis and treatment.

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