The New Cure for Acne Is . . . Thyme?

Forget Proactiv—the solution to your skin woes may have been sitting in your spice rack all along.

In a new study, a mixture of thyme steeped in alcohol proved more effective in treating acne than standard creams or face washes. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user izik.

Is it time for thyme to be stocked in the skin-care aisle of CVS?

Possibly, according to research presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s spring conference in Dublin last week. Researchers tested the effect of thyme against acne-causing bacteria and found that the herb was a more effective treatment than standard anti-acne creams or face washes.

For the study, researchers used mixtures of thyme, marigold, and myrrh that had been steeped in alcohol. They tested each mixture on propionibacterium acnes–a type of bacteria that causes skin infections, including whiteheads and pus-filled cysts.

Each mixture was able to kill the bacteria after five minutes, but thyme proved most effective. Even more surprising, the thyme mixture proved to be stronger than benzoyl peroxide, which is found in most skin-care products that fight acne.

The researchers also noted that the mixtures’ effects were measured against an alcohol control. Therefore, the positive results of the mixtures were not due to the “sterilizing effect of the alcohol they [were] prepared in.”

The results are promising, said lead researcher Dr. Gomez-Escalada in a statement–especially for those with sensitive skin. While benzoyl peroxide is one of the most common active ingredients found in anti-acne skin products, its side effects, including burning sensations and skin irritation, can be off-putting.

Herbal remedies, on the other hand, contain anti-inflammatory properties and thus may be less harsh on sensitive skin.

Still, researchers caution that you shouldn’t start rubbing thyme all over your face next time you have a zit. More tests using the thyme mixture on actual skin are needed to see how effective thyme really is.