This Redditor Swears Diaper Cream Cleared Up Their Cystic Acne
While experiencing a recent cystic acne breakout, a Reddit user who goes by Infinitesimallyok decided to reach for an unexpected product at the back of her cabinet: diaper cream.
"I was at my wit's end," she wrote on the SkincareAddiction subreddit. "None of my spot treatments were doing anything to these gigantic monsters, and I figured how much worse can I make it." She says that she dabbed the cream onto her cystic pimples before bed, and in the morning, they came to a head. The next night, she stuck acne stickers on top of the breakouts, and by the next day, they were flat.
"This diaper cream had done what none of my acid-pink spot-treatment-sulfur-clay-mask-spot treatments could do," Infinitesimallyok added. In the past, she wrote that she's used popular treatments like the Mizon Acence Blemish Out Pink Spot, the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo, and the Cosrx Centella Blemish Cream to no avail.
Although this cystic acne tip shocked me, many Redditors chimed in on the thread to share that diaper cream has helped clear up their breakouts, too. Instagram star Farah Dhukai has also shared in the past that diaper cream doubles as an overnight "acne killer mask." Curious about the science behind these claims, I asked dermatologists and a cosmetic chemist if they believe diaper cream is an effective cystic acne treatment.
The short answer is: Yes, you can clear up acne with diaper cream. Of course, utilizing this product and blemish-banishing "technique" does come with some caveats, though.
New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner put the situation into perspective for me. Acne and diaper rash are both types of irritation. "The skin barrier is disrupted, there is a loss of hydration, and the hair follicles are surrounded by inflammatory skin cells," he explains. In both cases, diaper cream helps repair the skin barrier and reduce inflammation. This is all thanks to zinc oxide.
Although cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski tells Allure that zinc oxide isn't approved by the FDA as a safe and effective ingredient for treating acne, it's still used in dermatology. "Dermatologists use zinc, both orally and topically, for a number of inflammatory skin conditions, including acne, rosacea, and even warts," explains Shari Marchbein, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. Reason being? It's packed with antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. With this in mind, diaper cream can be a useful acne spot treatment.
Marchbein doesn't recommend using it all over your face like Dhukai, though. She warns, "It can potentially clog pores and make acne worse." Stick with standard acne-clearing masks like the Rael Fresh Forward Sheet Mask, which is my favorite at the moment, or Tata Harper's Clarifying Mask.
The diaper cream the Redditor used isn't the most effective option either, as Marchbein points out. Zincofax's Extra Strength Diaper Rash Baby Ointment, which is only available in Canada, is formulated with 47 percent petroleum jelly and 40 percent zinc oxide. Although zinc oxide is fine on its own, it can worsen acne when combined with an occlusive like petroleum, which is also found in Vaseline and Aquaphor, Marchbein says.
Zeichner agrees as the diaper cream's formula doesn't truly get to the root of what causes acne. Zinc oxide and petroleum jelly help calm and soothe the outer skin layer, he says. However, they doesn't target acne-causing bacteria the way a traditional acne spot treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulfur does, according to Zeichner and Romanowski. Basically, diaper cream sits on top of the skin, while the aforementioned active ingredients treat blemishes below the surface.
Although Infinitesimallyok may make diaper cream seem like a tempting acne treatment to try, I wouldn't recommend stealing it from your baby (or anyone's baby) anytime soon. Instead of diaper cream, Marchbein recommends treating cystic acne at home with acne patches or a drying lotion like Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion. If you have a big event coming up and need a quick fix, she also suggests visiting a board-certified dermatologist for a cortisone injection, which is a "diluted, low-dose steroid to quickly take down the pain and inflammation of a cyst within hours."
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