Why You Shouldn't Use Vaseline to Treat Acne

At some point, we've all experienced acne. Because acne can be difficult to deal with, people are often looking for remedies and quick fixes to give their face some relief from bumps and pimples—especially when the blemishes show up unexpectedly.

Among some of those remedies considered to be helpful is Vaseline: There have been claims that Vaseline can make breakouts go away. However, can a product that thick actually get rid of pimples? We asked Ted Lain, MD, a board-certified dermatologist from Austin, Texas, to weigh in.

What Is Acne—And How Does It Occur?

The skin condition usually consists of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or acne cysts and nodules (painful acne), per the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). A person can have just one blemish or a combination of them. Acne tends to get better with aging for some people, but individuals in their 30s, 40s, and 50s can still get the skin condition, according to the AAD.

Acne can happen for a number of reasons. According to the AAD, acne can be the result of:

  • Changing hormone levels
  • Medications
  • Stress
  • Family history
  • Undiagnosed medical conditions
  • Hair and skin care products

Furthermore, acne can still cause issues even after it is gone. Per the AAD, people might be left with acne scars or dark spots but also lowered self-esteem or depression due to having acne.

How Is Petroleum Jelly Typically Used for Skin Care?

Petroleum jelly is incredible for softening rough cuticles, taming unruly brows, and soothing cracked winter skin. Plus, dermatologists often recommend Vaseline for people with eczema.

However, petroleum jelly shouldn't be used as part of an acne treatment regimen. Concerning the use of skin care products, the AAD noted that people should avoid products that contain oil or will clog pores as well as those that are comedogenic (tending to form blackheads) and acnegenic (increasing the likelihood of acne).

"Petrolatum is inherently comedogenic, which means it will clog the pores," Dr. Lain explained. "It won't heal acne—it will literally cause it."

Since petroleum jelly does have some anti-inflammatory effects that can help diminish the look of redness, Dr. Lain said. Still, Dr. Lain insisted that there are "so many better ways" to treat acne.

What Does Treatment for Acne Look Like?

Essentially, you want to use products that treat the type of acne you have, based on how severe it is and what your age is. That means that what works for others may not work for your case.

Dr. Lain's number-one pick was the acne-zapping ingredient benzoyl peroxide. Dr. Lain suggested using La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment ($31, dermstore.com) since it boasts a powerful combination of benzoyl peroxide and LHA to exfoliate. For a more affordable option, try drugstore favorite Clean & Clear Persa-Gel 10 ($7, walgreens.com), which contains 10% benzoyl peroxide.

If you find that your acne is more than you can handle on your own, consider talking to a dermatologist who can help you determine what other treatments might reduce the appearance of acne in your situation.

In general, an acne treatment plan from a dermatologist for whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples per the AAD, may include one or more of the following:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Retinoids
  • Azelaic acid
  • Salicylic acid
  • Topical antibiotics

For acne cysts or nodules, the treatment may consist of topical medications, oral antibiotics, hormonal therapy for female patients, and isotretinoin (medication used when other treatments have not helped). Other treatments for acne might include corticosteroid injections, which are for severe acne breakouts, and laser or light therapy.

The AAD also recommended being gentle during your skin care routine—in other words, caring for your skin in a way that doesn't cause further irritation. Additionally, you'll want to be patient: Seeing improvement in your acne may take a while, as you may not see results until after approximately six to eight weeks of treatment.

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