Acne causes pimples or comedones such as whiteheads, blackheads or cysts and can leave behind temporary or permanent scars. Acne scars may be superficial or appear as pockmarks, sunken areas of skin. Dermatologist-prescribed treatments, such as creams that cause peeling, can help to minimize or fade acne scars. However, some people with acne also try natural approaches such as applying garlic cloves directly to their skin; however, more scientific research is needed on the effectiveness of this approach.
Acne Scar Prevention
Treatments for acne scars include topical remedies, such as benzoyl peroxide, which causes skin to peel, thereby helping to remove the scarred skin cells in the outer layers of skin. Other scar removal treatments include alpha-hydroxy acids, microdermabrasion or even laser therapy. Garlic may be beneficial in preventing scars by minimizing breakouts through two mechanisms.
Antibacterial Benefits of Garlic
The first way in which garlic may help prevent acne is through its antibacterial properties. The compound in garlic called, alliin converts into allicin, which is one of nature’s most potent antibiotics, according to James A. Duke, botanist and author of “The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods.” Some oral and topical acne medications contain antibiotics, such as tetracycline, to help kill the acne-causing bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes. Allicin in garlic cloves might also help to fight this bacteria.
Benefits of Sulfur in Garlic
Another way in which garlic cloves can help prevent acne and related scars is through its sulfur compounds, such as thiacremonone. Sulfur has been used as a skin-drying agent since the 1800s in preventing the excessive oiliness that is attributed to acne. Also, sulfur compounds in garlic have anti-inflammatory properties, according to a 2009 study published in the journal, “Arthritis Research and Therapy.” Reducing inflammation in the body is a key dietary approach to treating acne, according to dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, author of “The Acne Prescription.” You can place garlic cloves on your skin or drink tea made from garlic cloves to see if either has any effect on your acne.
In the absence of scientific research or more anecdotal evidence on garlic’s effects on acne, the use of garlic cloves appears to be a trial-and-error approach to treating acne. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends not using acne treatments that aren’t prescribed by a dermatologist. These unproven treatments may be less effective or increase side effects such as skin irritation and lead to more breakouts. However, if you want to use garlic to treat acne, a naturopath or a holistic nutrition specialist may be able to guide you in your treatment.
- “The Acne Cure”; Terry J. Dubrow, M.D., F.A.C.S., et al.; 2003
- “The Acne Prescription”; Nicholas Perricone, M.D.; 2003
- “The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods”; James A. Duke, Ph.D.; 2008
- AcneNet: 12 Ways to Get Better Results from Acne Treatment
- “Arthritis Research and Therapy”; Anti-inflammatory and Arthritic Effects of Thiacremonone, A Novel Sulfur Compound Isolated from Garlic Via Inhibition of NF-Kappab; J.O. Ban; 2009