Vicks Vaporub For Acne: Does It Work?

The therapeutic properties of this common ointment work wonders on your pimples.

Medically reviewed by Dr. CP Thajudheen, MD Dr. CP Thajudheen Dr. CP ThajudheenMD facebook_icontwitter_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc Annie Jangam MSc linkedin_icon Experience: 11 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Ramona Sinha MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 11 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Swathi E MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years

Vick’s VapoRub is a well-known product that is used topically to treat a cough. But, many people have started using Vick’s VapoRub for acne treatment.

VapoRub is a therapeutic ointment that is most commonly used to treat discomfort in the chest. Thanks to the essential oils and carefully selected components in it, it is a highly effective product. But it is now developing a name for itself when it comes to treating other problems, such as acne. Although Vicks has been heralded as the next at-home spot treatment for acne, does it really work? To learn more, read this article.

protip_icon Trivia
VapoRub was created in Greensboro, North Carolina, by the family-run business Richardson-Vicks, Inc., which started selling in 1905. In 1985, Procter & Gamble purchased Richardson-Vicks, which is now known as Vicks.

Does Vicks VapoRub Help Treat Acne And Spots?

Woman thinking of applying Vicks on her acne
Image: Shutterstock

Using Vicks VapoRub for acne might not be unheard of. But acne treatment is not among its primary uses. There is no scientific evidence to back any of the claims.

One of the ingredients of Vicks Vaporub, eucalyptus oil, helps treat various skin issues like abscesses, fungal infections, boils, and burns (1), (2). This has made many believe the product can treat acne as well.

A blogger shared how Vicks VapoRub not only improves colds and aches but also helps reduce the inflammation caused by acne. She writes, “I apply it overnight on my swollen zits or pimples, and the next day, it’s less swollen. It may seem tedious, but the less swollen and red, the less it’s noticeable (i).”

However, the other ingredients in Vicks, like petroleum jelly, can have adverse effects on acne. While this has been overlooked, there are a few more ingredients in Vicks that are potentially beneficial for the skin.

Why Vicks VapoRub Is Thought To Treat Acne

A person holding an opened Vicks Vaporub
Image: Shutterstock

People use Vicks VapoRub for its many other benefits it helps relieve chest congestion, may relieve cough and cold, and helps heal general respiratory infections (3).

Proponents of Vicks as a treatment for acne suggest that applying generous amounts of the product on the face and letting it rest overnight can help reduce acne by the next morning. Others believe Vicks can be used as a substitute for regular face creams and must be applied daily in small amounts.

Following are the ingredients in Vicks that could have led people to propagate its purported anti-acne effects.

  • Camphor: Camphor is an Ayurvedic ingredient often touted for its healing qualities in traditional Indian medicine. According to the International Journal of Science and Research, one can use camphor as an aphrodisiac, digestive aid, and to relieve sore and cramped muscles (the purpose Vicks VapoRub uses it for). While it may help treat acne when mixed with coconut or olive oils, the camphor in Vicks not meant to treat the skin condition (4).
  • Eucalyptus Oil: While people consider eucalyptus oil as a great essential oil, some studies favor it for acne treatment too. It is known to exhibit anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity, thus eucalyptus oil might be helpful for acne (5). However, more research is warranted to further understand the anti-acne properties of the oil. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that eucalyptus oil may also irritate the skin.
  • Menthol: Menthol is known for its cleansing properties. It is also helpful for treating gastrointestinal and respiratory issues and strengthening the immune system. Several studies validate the efficacy of menthol in treating various issues (6). However, no research suggests that it can help treat acne.
  • Petrolatum: Petrolatum, or petroleum jelly, is among the more popular home remedies for acne and other skin issues. People have successfully used it to revitalize their nails, strengthen their hair, and even take care of dry and chapped lips. While it is a convenient item to have around, the American Academy of Dermatology warns against using it for acne (7). It can clog pores and give you the illusion of glowing skin but it can eventually make your skin break out.

protip_icon Quick Tip
The inactive components in Vicks VapoRub include turpentine oil, nutmeg oil, cedar leaf oil, and thymol.

Vicks VapoRub has certain drawbacks. We have listed them below.

The Drawbacks Of Vicks VapoRub

Woman with skin inflammation after using Vicks
Image: Shutterstock
  • May Clog Pores: Anyone who puts Vicks VapoRub on the face can expect clogged pores. The process is called “slugging” and involves coating Vicks on acne and the entire face. This process can leave you with clogged pores and lead to further breakouts. You would need to add a double pore cleansing practice to your regular regimen to manage it.
  • Could Be Dangerous For Toddlers: Rubbing Vicks on your babies’ chest or under their nostrils is not recommended. The product can cause inflammation and can also lead to long-term respiratory issues. Using Vicks is not recommended for anyone under two years of age.
  • May Irritate Broken Skin: Applying Vicks Vaporub on broken skin does not heal it as most think. It can instead cause irritation and inflammation.

Other Scientifically Proven Alternatives For Treating Acne

Woman applying retinol as an alternative to Vicks
Image: Shutterstock

Alternatives like isotretinoin and azelaic acid may help treat acne (8). Salicyclic acid acts as a great peeling agent and offers relief from acne troubles (9).

Retinol, which is a keratolytic agent, exfoliates the face by dissolving the outermost dead layers of the skin (10). It is one of the best solutions for acne.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Use gentle cleansers twice a day, oral medicines, and topical spot treatments to treat acne before resorting to Vicks Vaporub.

It is recommended that you start using these products under the supervision of a dermatologist. Start small and gradually increase the usage frequency.

Infographic: Can Vicks Vaporub Help You Get Rid Of Acne?

Anyone at any age can experience the embarrassment and discomfort of acne. If you have searched the internet for a home remedy, you may have run into folks who swear by Vicks Vaporub for treating acne. But does it work? Check out the infographic below to find out.

can vicks vaporub help you get rid of acne? (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Vicks VapoRub is a topical ointment containing medicinal vapors that are inhaled to treat coughs and nasal congestion. However, it does not work for acne or pimples. There is no scientific proof to back up the claims, and the other ingredients in the ointment may cause skin problems and irritate acne lesions.

Instead of using home remedies and Vicks VapoRub for acne, consult a dermatologist to understand the causes of acne and follow the prescribed treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get Vicks VapoRub?

You can order Vicks VapoRub online or even purchase it from your nearest drugstore. It is also reasonably priced.

What are the other home remedies for acne?

Honey and lemon, tea tree oil, or apple cider vinegar are often considered effective home remedies for treating acne. However, it always is better to consult a doctor to understand the right mode of usage.

Is Vicks Vaporub safe for all skin types when used to treat acne?

Vicks Vaporub is not recommended for use on oily skin as its viscous formula may clog your pores and increase the chances of acne. It is also not recommended for sensitive skin and may cause irritation as per anecdotal evidence.

How long does it take for Vicks Vaporub to work against acne?

Vicks Vaporub is not a scientifically proven treatment for acne. Hence, it is not possible to determine its efficacy as a topical anti-acne treatment.

Can Vicks Vaporub be used in combination with other treatments for acne?

There is no research based on the use of Vicks Vaporub as an acne treatment. Hence, it is advisable that you consult a dermatologist before combining it with other treatments for acne.

How can the effectiveness of Vicks Vaporub for acne be increased?

While the use of Vicks Vaporub for acne is not proven, using non-comedogenic skin care products and topical acne treatments along with Vicks may help your acne heal faster.

Can Vicks Vaporub interact with other acne treatments, such as topical creams or oral medications?

Vicks is less likely to interfere with oral acne medications. However, consult your doctor if you are using it along with topical acne treatments.

Key Takeaways

  • Vicks Vaporub is being touted as a great home remedy for acne, but there is no scientific evidence to back such claims.
  • Camphor, menthol, essential oil of eucalyptus, and petrolatum, out of which only eucalyptus oil with its antimicrobial properties may help with acne but contrarily, petrolatum can make it worse by clogging pores.
  • Salicylic acid and retinol are studied as effective treatments for acne and are better alternatives.

Learn how to use Vicks Vaporub to reduce pimples, acne scars, and facial redness with this informative video. Check it out to get tips on how to apply it for the best results!

Personal Experience: Source


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. LABEL: VICKS VAPORUB (camphor- synthetic, eucalyptus oil, and menthol ointment,
  2. Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases,
  3. Vicks VapoRub induces mucin secretion, decreases ciliary beat frequency, and increases tracheal mucus transport in the ferret trachea,
  4. Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Karpura-A Review-,
  5. “The Development of Anti-Acne Products from Eucalyptus globulus and Psidium Guajava Oil.”,
  6. “Pharmacological and Therapeutic Effects of Mentha Longifolia L. and its main constituent, Menthol.”, 
  7. “5 Ways To Use Petroleum Jelly For Skin Care.”,
  8. A Review of Diagnosis and Treatment of Acne in Adult Female Patients,
  9. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review,
  10. Triple nanoemulsion potentiates the effects of topical treatments with microencapsulated retinol and modulates biological processes related to skin aging,
Was this article helpful?
Dr. CP Thajudheen has over 20 years of experience in various lasers, light-based devices, and other advanced equipment. He was one of the beginners who introduced cutaneous lasers in India. He carries out dermato surgeries regularly, including hair grafting and vitiligo surgeries. He runs multiple laser centers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and has trained many doctors in lasers full bio

Latest Articles