Lemon for Acne: Is Lemon Good For Acne and Acne Scars?

Lemon for Acne: Is Lemon Good For Acne and Acne Scars?

Acne and acne scars, skin lightening, or aging skin, you name it - lemons can prevent it. Or can they? Lemons are a widely popular folk remedy for many skin ailments, so it comes as no surprise that you can find them in almost any homemade skincare recipe. But are lemons really that good for the skin? 

The answer is both yes and no. Although lemons come with a lot of benefits, they have just as many side effects. 

Some people on the internet say you don't get results without taking risks, but before you rush to follow their advice, let's go over the evidence. 

What are the benefits of applying lemon juice for acne? And how can you protect yourself from the side effects and still use lemons in your skincare routine? 

Let's see.

Lemon For Acne: Fact or Fiction?


Definitely not fiction. Lemon juice and lemon peels have high concentrations of citric acid, which has a drying effect and can effectively get rid of excess sebum, cleanse the skin, and clear its pores. All of this makes lemons great for treating acne.

The problem is that it's so strong and potent that it irritates the skin, leading to unfavorable consequences. Yet, the beauty industry hasn't given up on lemons, nor the natural beauty gurus. You can find fresh lemon juice, essential lemon oil, or lemon peels in many skin care products or natural home remedies nowadays. 

That being said, is there a difference between using freshly squeezed lemon juice and products with lemon?

Pure Lemon Vs. Lemon Products

lemons and lemon products

There's a huge difference - not just between pure lemon juice and lemon products, but also between home remedies and pure lemon juice too. From lemon scrubs to lemon essential oil, these products are everywhere.

You should never use pure lemon juice on your face. It's extremely strong and potent and can cause several side effects, including chemical burns. Most experts advise using diluted lemon juice or lemon extract in small amounts. You can also mix lemon juice with other soothing and gentle ingredients. This way, you can get all the benefits lemons offer and avoid the scary side effects. 

This means products with lemon juice, lemon peels, or essential lemon oils are generally safe. It all depends on the concentration of the lemon ingredient in the product. Some products are stronger than others. However, people with sensitive skin should probably avoid them and seek alternatives.

You can apply this logic to your homemade recipes. To safely use fresh squeezed lemon juice, consider the percentage of lemons versus other substances. It's also worth learning what ingredients might counteract lemon's potential side effects.

With enough information and proper care, you can prevent almost every side effect, but we'll discuss this below in more detail.

Why Lemons?


In the abundance of products and ingredients on the market today, why are people still hung up on using lemon juice to treat acne and other skin conditions?

Lemons Constitution and Properties

Lemons contain many vitamins: niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, choline, pantothenic acid, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 (deficiency in B6 is associated with skin dermatitis).

They also contain beneficial minerals: calcium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc. Just a note - zinc is often used as an effective acne treatment.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid 

Lemons and grapefruits are the strongest sources of natural alpha-hydroxy acids. Yes, that's right. Citric acid is an AHA used in many skincare preparations because of its exfoliating properties.

Aside from being powerful exfoliators, AHAs help promote collagen and blood flow, manage melanin production in the skin's cells, and correct discoloration. In addition, it can stimulate cell turnover, which improves the appearance of superficial wrinkles and fine lines. AHAs can also increase the absorption of other skincare products and make them more effective. 

Citric acid is a popular alpha-hydroxy acid. It's believed it has anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and antioxidative effects. 


Vitamin C 

One lemon contains around 64% vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid), and the peel exceeds 200%, so we can safely say that lemons contain the highest concentration of this vitamin among other citrus fruits. They contain little more than limes, twice more than grapefruits, and five times more vitamin C than oranges. 

Talk about abundance. But why do we need this vitamin so much?

It's a potent antioxidant and a major building block in the body. The skin restores itself approximately every six weeks. To do this and build new cells, it needs collagen. Ascorbic acid plays a big role in collagen synthesis, making it vital for optimal skin health. 

Boasting antibacterial properties, this vitamin has many health benefits, including wound healing. In fact, if your body lacks the vitamin C it needs, the skin won't be able to heal effectively. 

Additionally, it has the potential to prevent photodamage, reduce wrinkles, aid dry skin, accelerate cell turnover, and scavenge free radicals.  

Benefits of Using Lemon Juice for Acne and Acne Scars

lemons for skin

Prevent Oily Skin

If you've ever used lemon juice on your face, you'll have felt its powerful drying effect. For people who have oily skin, this must feel amazing. This is because of the citric acid, which can cleanse your skin deeply, penetrating into pores and sucking out oil and dirt as it dries. 

One study examined the antimicrobial activity of lemon peels. Researchers concluded that the peel of a lemon is not only an astringent but also a good antimicrobial agent, which is important because certain skin flora like pseudomonas and micrococcus can grow when there's excess sebum and cause skin infections. 

This means lemon peel is potentially beneficial in preventing some types of skin infections. 

The authors of the study continue: "Simple use of lemon juice can prevent such types of infections (acne infections) and could help in keeping a good and healthy skin."


Reduce Acne and Acne Scars

The fact that lemons can potentially prevent oiliness already helps acne breakouts. We all know that people with oily skin suffer from excess sebum, which can clog pores. Clogged pores start to enlarge, add pressure to the cell's walls, irritate the skin's tissue, and cause inflammation. The end result is red, painful pimples. Controlling oil production on the skin will bring relief and less frequent breakouts. 

The additional antimicrobial properties and natural astringent benefits of the lemon peel are advantages when fighting acne vulgaris caused by the bacteria p. acnes. As lemon has anti-inflammatory properties, it'll contribute to reduced redness and the swelling of acne marks.

So, What About Acne Scars?

Lemon juice and the peel are loaded with vitamin C. The potent antioxidative power and its role in stimulating collagen production make this vitamin a building block for new undamaged cells. These replace the old, dead skin cells in the scar tissue and make acne scarring less visible.

Collagen is crucial for the healing process the skin goes through daily. It helps fight free radicals. This is important not just for old scars but also for acute acne lesions. Your skin needs to produce enough collagen to heal the inflamed pimples raving on your face effectively and fight acne. So, in summary - yes, you can apply lemon juice to help heal acne scars.


Anti-Aging Benefits

The abundance of vitamin C in lemons is the culprit for its anti-aging properties. 

This vitamin stimulates and maintains optimal levels of collagen, elastin, and growth factors in the skin's tissues. This means your skin will be more resilient to premature aging, fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, and discoloration. 

Collagen will aid the skin's healing process, stimulate cell turnover and replace damaged, pigmented, and dead skin cells with new ones, reducing discoloration and age spots. It will also tighten the skin's pores, and make it more flexible, preventing dry and saggy skin. 

In 1999 a study demonstrated that topical application of lemon oil is highly effective for the anti-aging management of the skin.

lemons for skin

Lighten Your Skin

If you google lemon juice for skin, most results are from people asking whether lemons can really lighten their skin and how this can be done. 

Well, citrus fruit contains the enzyme tyrosinase, which is a known inhibitor that can interfere with melanin synthesis preventing pigmentation.

A study from 2009 that reviewed natural skin whitening agents placed lemon extract as a potent skin-bleaching ingredient used in many product preparations. Still, the authors advise that lemon extract should only be used at low concentrations because it easily causes skin irritation.

Side-Effects of Using Lemon Juice for Acne and Acne Scars

lemons for skin

Allergic Reactions

Although rare, allergic reactions can happen. Lemon juice is a potent and strong ingredient that can be too much for many skin types. Even if you drink lemon juice regularly, you should still do a patch test for the product you want to use. 

A case study documented an example of a contact allergy and skin sensitivity with hand dermatitis from citrus peel oil.

Chemical Burns 

The most common and known side effect of using lemon juice topically is burning, which can result in redness, swelling, blisters, pain, and peeling. Never use pure lemon juice on your face despite all the potential benefits. It might work great the first or second time, but it's like playing Russian roulette - you never know when you might cause a chemical burn. 

People with sensitive skin should avoid lemon juice and consider alternatives for tightening and lightening the skin or reducing oil on the face. 

lemons for skin


Phototoxitiy or photoirritation is a chemically induced skin irritation that happens with sun exposure. It's a type of photosensitivity. For this process to happen, there must be a photoactive ingredient on your skin that will react with sunlight. And, you guessed it - lemons have photoactive ingredients. These ingredients react to light, so when they absorb it, the energy from the absorbed light produces molecular changes that cause toxicity. 

Phototoxic reactions look like bad sunburn - red, itchy, and swelling with blisters. 

Over time, phototoxicity can cause changes in skin color and even skin cancer. This is why most brands that use citric acid in their formulas instruct their customers to stay away from sunlight while using these skincare products. And, if you decide to use a homemade pack with lemon juice, it's vital you take safety measures to prevent harmful consequences.

lemons and skin

Sensitivity and Hyperpigmentation

We've already said that lemons are filled with tyrosinase that inhibits melanin production and works as a potent skin-bleaching ingredient, which is true. But it's also true that applying lemon juice topically makes the skin sensitive and prone to sun damage, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots. It's like a double-edged sword. 

When used properly and with caution, it can help lighten the skin. Nevertheless, because of its highly photoactive properties, over time, it can lead to phototoxicity, discoloration, and brown spots. 

Dry Skin 

Yet another way in which your new acne treatment might go wrong is getting the counter effect of what you want to accomplish. This is because citric acid has powerful drying effects on the skin. It might sound like a good thing, but if you overdry the skin, you'll stimulate the already active sebaceous glands and make your face oilier than it previously was, which isn't great when it comes to managing acne. 

To avoid this, always use a powerful moisturizer after applying a strong and abrasive product with lemon juice or peel in their formula.

Should You Use Lemon Juice on Your Face Overnight?

You don't need to leave lemon juice on the face for a long time to reap its benefits and treat acne, but you'll surely experience its side effects. Lemon juice absorbs into the skin quickly, which is one of the reasons why it can cause irritation. After only ten minutes, you'll feel your skin completely dry, which is when you need to moisturize.

Lemon juice has ingredients that increase the absorption of other products. Use this window to get hydration and moisture in your skin. 

If you want to apply lemon juice, wash your face after 10 minutes and pat your skin dry. Let your skin be a little damp, and apply a great moisturizer. This is the best strategy to prevent overdrying the skin. You can also use a cotton swab or cotton ball and use it as a spot treatment.

Remember - don't use pure lemon juice directly on the skin. Always dilute lemon juice with other moisturizing ingredients.  

Final Thoughts 

lemons for skin

Lemon juice is popular for a reason. It has several benefits for the skin. It's one of the strongest natural exfoliators, which makes it appealing to people with oily and acne-prone skin. Excess oil doesn't stand a chance. Lemon juice dries the skin, clears its pores, and can even kill acne-causing bacteria and other skin infections. But it's not just great as an acne treatment.

Clearing the pores, tightening the skin, and evening out the skin tone are also great benefits for anyone fighting signs of premature aging. 

However, great strength comes with great consequences. Chemical burns, overdrying the skin, phototoxicity, sensitivity to the sun, and hyperpigmentation are very common. And it's definitely not recommended for people with sensitive skin.

Look for products containing lemon extracts, or start with small amounts and combine them with soothing ingredients, like aloe vera. From essential oils to spot treatment creams, there is an abundance on the shelves. Slowly learn what your skin can handle, and don't go overboard. Good luck!


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