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Lemon Juice for Acne: Natural Remedy or Skin Irritant?

a beautiful young woman holding lemon slices

Lemon juice has been hailed for centuries as a versatile home remedy for various ailments, including skin conditions. This humble citrus fruit, bursting with vitamin C, is renowned in traditional medicine for its antioxidant properties and exceptional health benefits. 

According to Dr Justin Boey, Medical Director of Sozo Aesthetic Clinic, lemon juice is often considered a natural remedy for acne, a common skin condition that affects many across the globe. Its acidic nature and astringent properties help to exfoliate the skin, reduce excess oil, and unclog pores, thus potentially alleviating acne-related symptoms. 

However, it’s crucial to delve deeper into the science behind these claims to ascertain lemon juice’s true effectiveness and safety in acne treatment.

Is Lemon Juice Effective for Treating Acne?

Scientific studies on the efficacy of lemon juice for acne treatment are relatively sparse. Nonetheless, its antibacterial properties, primarily attributed to the citric acid, are well-documented. Since acne is partially caused by bacteria known as Propionibacterium acne, lemon juice’s antibacterial action could mitigate this aspect of the skin condition. Furthermore, the vitamin C in lemon juice has been noted for its potential role in promoting skin health and reducing inflammation, which could benefit acne sufferers. However, it’s essential to underscore that these assertions are largely based on extrapolations from the known properties of lemon juice components rather than robust, acne-specific scientific research. As such, the verdict on lemon juice as a proven acne remedy remains conclusive.

How Does Lemon Juice Help with Acne?

Lemon juice is an abundant source of vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, a potent antioxidant that plays a central role in maintaining skin health. Vitamin C is pivotal in collagen synthesis, a protein responsible for skin structure and elasticity, promoting skin healing. Additionally, its antioxidant properties can combat oxidative stress, implicated in acne pathogenesis, by neutralizing harmful free radicals. These actions can aid in the healing of acne lesions and reduce acne scarring.

Furthermore, lemon juice’s antimicrobial effects predominantly stem from its citric acid content, giving the fruit its acidity. Citric acid creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria, including Propionibacterium acnes, the primary bacteria in acne development. By curbing bacterial growth, lemon juice could help mitigate bacterial-induced inflammation and subsequent acne flare-ups. 

However, while these mechanisms suggest possible benefits, they do not provide definitive proof that lemon juice effectively treats acne. Further research, particularly controlled clinical trials, is needed to validate these potential effects and establish safe usage guidelines. 

How do you safely apply lemon juice for Acne?

lemon juice for acne scar treatment

Before considering using lemon juice for treating acne, it’s imperative to understand the potential risks and precautions associated with its application. Lemon juice, due to its high acidity, can cause skin irritation, particularly for those with sensitive or dry skin. It also makes the skin photosensitive, increasing the risk of sunburn and skin damage. Therefore, it’s essential to approach this home remedy with caution and preferably under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Patch Testing

Before applying lemon juice to acne-affected areas, it’s crucial to perform a patch test to check for any adverse reactions. The high acidity level in lemon juice can cause skin irritation, redness, or burning sensations, especially in individuals with sensitive skin. A patch test involves applying a small amount of lemon juice to a discreet area of skin, such as the inside of the forearm, and waiting for at least 24 hours to see if any negative reaction occurs. If there is any sign of discomfort, redness, or irritation, it may indicate that your skin is sensitive to lemon juice, and its application should be avoided. Always remember that using a natural remedy like lemon juice for acne should alleviate symptoms and promote skin health, not cause additional damage or discomfort.


The acidity of lemon juice can be mitigated by diluting it with water or a carrier oil, making it safer for topical application. A suggested dilution ratio could be one part fresh lemon juice to three parts water if using water. For carrier oils, such as coconut or jojoba oil, which can provide additional skin benefits, a dilution ratio of one part lemon juice to two parts oil might be appropriate. However, these ratios should be adjusted based on skin reactions and tolerance. It’s crucial, to begin with lower concentrations of lemon juice and gradually increase it, if well-tolerated, to reduce the risk of skin irritation. Additionally, always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new skincare regimen, particularly one involving home remedies like lemon juice.

Application Method

When applying diluted lemon juice to the skin, always use a clean tool such as a cotton ball or swab to prevent the spread of bacteria. Soak the cotton ball or swab in the diluted lemon juice, then gently dab it onto the acne-affected areas of the skin. Avoid rubbing or swiping, which can irritate the skin and exacerbate acne symptoms. Also, be mindful to avoid the sensitive eye and lip areas. Let the lemon juice mixture sit on your skin for 10-15 minutes, then thoroughly rinse off with lukewarm water and pat dry. Following up with a moisturiser suitable for your skin type is recommended to prevent dryness. 

Importantly, never apply undiluted lemon juice directly to the skin as this can lead to skin damage due to the high acidity. Be sure to complete the dilution step, and always conduct a patch test before applying the solution to larger areas. Everyone’s skin has different sensitivities and may react differently to lemon juice. Hence, consulting with a skincare specialist or a dermatologist before incorporating lemon juice into your skincare routine is highly advisable.

Timing and Frequency

When and how often you should apply lemon juice on acne-affected skin depends largely on your skin’s sensitivity and tolerance. As a general rule, it’s recommended to apply the lemon juice mixture to your skin in the evening to avoid immediate exposure to sunlight following application, which can exacerbate photosensitivity and increase the risk of skin damage. 

As for frequency, it’s advisable to start with a low frequency — perhaps once or twice a week — to allow your skin time to adjust to this new remedy. If your skin responds well, you can gradually increase the frequency to every other day or, eventually, daily if deemed necessary and well-tolerated. However, always listen to your skin. If you notice increased irritation, dryness, or other signs of discomfort, reduce the frequency or discontinue use. 

Consistency is crucial in any skincare regimen, and using lemon juice to treat acne is no exception. Regular application of freshly squeezed lemon juice over several weeks is typically necessary to notice any potential improvements in your skin condition. Remember, though, that skin care is not a one-size-fits-all matter. What works for one person may not work for another, and acne can be particularly stubborn and complex to treat. It’s important to remain patient, stay consistent with your skincare regimen, and seek advice from a healthcare professional if your acne does not improve or worsen over time.

Lemon Juice Alternatives

If lemon juice doesn’t suit your skin or if you’re looking for other natural remedies, several alternatives have shown promise in treating acne. 

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can help reduce the inflammation and redness associated with acne. Tea tree oil can help manage acne breakouts when diluted and applied topically. As with lemon juice, always conduct a patch test before widespread application and avoid using undiluted tea tree oil, as it can be too harsh and can cause skin irritation.

Aloe Vera

aloe vera as home remedy acne treatment

Aloe vera gel is another great natural remedy known for its soothing properties. It helps reduce inflammation and accelerates wound healing, which may be beneficial in treating acne.

Over-the-Counter Products

Mild to moderate acne can be managed effectively with over-the-counter (OTC) products. You can look for products that contain active ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Salicylic acid helps to dissolve the type of skin debris that blocks pores and leads to acne. On the other hand, benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that causes acne and aids in skin peeling, which can help unclog blocked pores. Always follow the usage instructions provided with these products and consult a healthcare professional if your skin reacts adversely or if your acne persists despite treatment. Remember that each individual’s skin response can vary, and what works for one person might not work for another. So, it’s all about finding the solution that best fits your skin.

Precautions and Considerations

When using lemon juice as a natural remedy for acne, there are several additional precautions and considerations to bear in mind. 


Lemon juice can considerably increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, known as photosensitivity, which can lead to sunburn or even long-term damage to the skin. UV radiation from sunlight can interact with the citric acid in lemon juice, severely exacerbating skin damage. Therefore, avoiding sun exposure immediately after applying lemon juice is paramount. Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 if you need to be outdoors.

Skin Type

People with certain skin types may find that lemon juice irritates their skin more than others. Those with sensitive or dry skin, in particular, should proceed with caution. The citric acid in lemon juice is quite strong and can dry, exacerbating certain skin conditions like eczema or rosacea. Always conduct a patch test and monitor your skin’s reaction closely.

Allergic Reactions

Although rare, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to lemon juice. Symptoms might include redness, itching, rash, or swelling in the area where the lemon juice was applied. If you notice these symptoms, discontinue use immediately and contact a healthcare professional.

Long-term Effects

While lemon juice may offer a temporary solution for acne, it’s not a long-term cure and can potentially harm your skin. The acid can disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance, increasing oil production and potentially more breakouts. Furthermore, prolonged use can lead to chemical burns or hyperpigmentation. 

Can Lemon Juice Be Combine With Other Acne Treatments?

Yes, lemon juice can be integrated into a broader acne treatment regimen, but it must be done cautiously. For instance, you can combine lemon juice with other natural remedies like honey, which has antibacterial properties and can help moisturise the skin, reducing the drying effects of lemon. Apply a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and honey to your skin, leave it on for 10-15 minutes, then rinse off. 

However, remember that lemon juice is acidic and can potentially interfere with other acne treatments, especially those that are also acidic, such as products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Using these treatments in combination could lead to overly dry and irritated skin. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating lemon juice into an existing acne treatment routine. They can provide personalised advice based on your skin type and condition, ensuring that adding a fresh squeezed lemon juice in your skincare regimen is safe and effective.

When to Consult a Dermatologist

If your acne is causing significant distress or over-the-counter products and home remedies like lemon juice have not been effective after several weeks, it may be time to consult a dermatologist. Persistent or severe acne often requires professional evaluation and treatment. Acne that leaves scars or dark spots on your skin is also a sign that you should seek dermatological advice. Remember, early intervention can prevent acne from worsening and reduce the risk of long-term damage to your skin. 

At this juncture, it’s worth mentioning Sozo Clinic, a leading dermatology clinic renowned for its expertise in acne treatment. The team at Sozo Clinic comprises highly skilled dermatologists who specialise in a wide range of skin conditions, including acne. They offer tailored treatment plans based on the individual’s skin type and condition, using the latest skincare technology to ensure optimal results. So, if you are unable to manage your acne, don’t let it take a toll on your self-esteem. Reach out to Sozo Clinic today and embark on your journey towards clearer skin.


While lemon juice may offer some benefits in managing acne, using it cautiously and considering other treatment options is essential. Always remember the precautions and considerations mentioned in this article, and consult a healthcare professional if you experience adverse reactions or persistent acne.

Managing acne requires a personalized approach, as everyone’s skin is unique. So, don’t let acne hold you back from feeling confident in your skin. Take control of it today with the help of lemon juice and other professional treatments. So, take care of your skin, embrace its uniqueness, and love yourself! 


Medical Director

After graduating from the National University of Singapore, Dr Boey’s journey in aesthetics brought him to esteemed institutions such as Harvard Medical School, American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine and Queen Mary University of London in diverse cities like Seoul, London, Boston and New York.