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Feed Your Face: Fighting Acne With Thyme

By Dr Jessica Wu

Each week, I get many e-mails from those of you who are struggling with breakouts. Increasingly, readers are asking whether there are more natural alternatives to the antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals that are commonly used to treat acne. As you know, I’m a big believer in the power of natural, food-based ingredients, so I was especially excited to hear about the antiacne benefits of the herb thyme.

Researchers in the UK recently reported that thyme, because of its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, can fight acne. In a series of lab experiments, they steeped thyme, marigold, or myrrh in alcohol to make a tincture (kind of like a tea). All of the solutions had an antibacterial effect on P. acnes, the bacterium that causes acne, and the effect was greater than the alcohol alone. The thyme tincture had the most powerful effect, even greater than that of benzoyl peroxide.

The next step is for researchers to test thyme on the skin of people who have acne, to see if the lab results are replicated in real life, and to determine the ideal concentration and formulation of the herb. Tests would also have to verify that thyme used in this way is safe and doesn’t cause allergic reactions. Although we’re still a way off from being able to purchase a tube of thyme-based acne cream, I’m definitely looking forward to having a natural alternative to benzoyl peroxide and other synthetic ingredients. I’ll keep you posted and let you know as soon as a product is available!

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