There are two ways to use aspirin to fight acne: popping a pill or making a mask. The simple act of taking an aspirin can help fight the inflammation associated with acne, but making a topical aspirin mask helps you sop up the excess oil that causes acne in the first place.
When you feel a painful pimple begin to protrude, it means your pores have been clogged by at least one of three things: excess oil, bacteria or dead skin cells. According to MayoClinic.com, any of these offenders can plug a hair follicle, preventing your skin's natural oils from reaching the surface. A whitehead represents a plugged follicle filled with oil and dead skin cells, while a red pimple represents a plugged follicle that's become infected.
Aspirin as Acne Treatment
Aspirin works as an acne treatment because it contains salicylic acid--the same active ingredient in many acne treatments. If you look at the list of ingredients for most anti-acne cleansers or zit creams, you'll see either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, two drying agents that zap excess oil on the skin. According to Niles Eldredge in "Life on Earth: An Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, Ecology, and Evolution," salicylic acid was first harvested from willow tree bark. Although commercial aspirin and acne medications are now synthesized in a lab, their chemical structure is still similar--and still a reflection of the chemical structure of willow tree bark.
Salicylic Acid and Acne
According to Hollywood skin guru Kate Somerville in "Complexion Perfection," salicylic acid is the most frequently used beta-hydroxy acid when it comes to skin care. This oil-soluble acid has three main functions: it clears away excess oil, cleans out your pores and exfoliates your skin to loosen and help remove dead skin cells. Somerville praises salicylic acid's results, labeling it a "good option" for acne-prone skin that offers "great results."
To make your own aspirin mask, Julie Gabriel, author of "The Green Beauty Guide," recommends you use only pure, uncoated aspirin. She begins with a water-soaked cotton ball or cotton wool disk. She suggests placing an aspirin on the wet cotton ball--the aspirin will dissolve into the liquid, creating an aspirin solution. Swirling the cotton ball over your skin dispenses the solution, while the grainy particles of the dissolving aspirin function as an exfoliator. Gabriel suggests leaving the solution on your face for three minutes, then rinsing and patting your skin dry.
According to Kate Somerville, salicylic acid can be overly drying to the skin. It can also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, leaving you vulnerable to sun damage. If you use aspirin topically for acne, be sure you apply a daily facial sunblock before going outside. Also, if you are allergic to aspirin, you should not use a topical aspirin acne mask.