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
By Annie Jangam

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.

Does Vicks VapoRub Help Treat Acne And Spots?

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.

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

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. 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.

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

The Drawbacks Of Vicks VapoRub

  • 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.
  • 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

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.

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

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.


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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 a better alternative.
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Annie Jangam is a researcher-turned-content writer. She enjoys dissecting complex clinical studies and shuffling through the scientific jargon to make... more

Dr. CP Thajudheen

Dr. CP Thajudheen has over 20 years of experience in various lasers, light-based devices, and other advanced equipment. He was... more