On my phone, I currently have a list of ideas, products, supplements, treatments, etc. that people of the Internet claim to cure breakouts and acne. The item I most recently added came from an Into the Gloss article titled “Anything can be a Spot Treatment“ where the author listed a potato as a literal acne treatment and I laughed out loud and had to read the referenced acne.org article. I was very surprised to find the high praise this potato treatment got and the different methods of use for this ingredient.
The potato treatment has a 4.5/5 star rating and a plethora of reviews from people claiming that potato slices and juice fixed their breakouts. The scientist and esthetician in me cringed at reading these and I had to find out more. Before I get into the research of this I would like to point out that I’m not referring to eating potatoes or sweet potatoes for help with acne. I fully believe that having a balanced and healthy diet can have a positive impact on your skin and thus minimize breakouts. This research is specifically to explore the idea of putting literal pieces of raw potato on breakouts and what that might happen.
Potatoes are a starch-based food that is primarily composed of water, followed by carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. Nutritional-wise a potato is high on the glycemic index and contains ~25% of both vitamin B and C. The composition of potatoes may lead us to the answers as to why they have the potential to treat acne.
Unsurprisingly to me, there are no clinical studies about the use of raw potato applied topically to skin for acne treatment. However, after searching the Internet I found a ton of fan theories about why potatoes may work for acne.
Starch is a large granule molecule primarily composed of polysaccharides. The thick starch consistency can be felt on the texture of a wet potato, or when peeling the skin you may feel little flakes come off. This leads me to the first fan theory – exfoliation. Users of the potato treatment believe that placing small circular disks of raw potato slices on your skin as an exfoliator can help diminish breakouts.
The high water content of potatoes has lead fans to believe that this delicious food can help with acne inflammation, cooling/calming skin, and absorption. Much like the ever-popular cucumber in a spa treatment, applying raw potato slices to the skin has a cooling effect which could help with calming a breakout or the general inflammation caused by acne. This theory is one of the few I support as it makes sense with the potato’s high water concentration. However, I struggle with the idea of potato absorption. If you read my previous post about acne patches, you’ll know these patches are super popular right now. Users will pop/extract a breakout and then place the patch over the spot to help absorb all the oil, dirt and sebum that remain in the pore. I learned about the potato absorption theory from a post on /r/SkincareAddiction. The person wrote that in the culinary world cooks will add potatoes if a soup has become oversalted because they can absorb the excess salt. So while logically this makes sense for soup, our skin doesn’t quite work the same way. The top layer of our skin, the stratum corneum, has a barrier function, which is a sophisticated mechanism that controls what is and what is not allowed in our skin. The scientist in me believes that if potatoes had the ability to pull impurities from our skin they would have bottled up that magic by now.
For the final theory, I wanted to address a potato’s vitamin B & C content. Vitamin B and C are both super effective water-soluble skincare ingredients, they’re great at improving skin brightness, treating dark spots, and improving overall skin health. However, these aren’t really the ingredients consumers turn to in order to assist breakouts or acne treatment.
SO, there we have it. Investigating the use of potato for acne treatment has come to an inconclusive end. While the science may not be there the fan reviews still are so who am I to say that these people are wrong. I personally believe that more science-backed ingredients will help treat acne and breakouts but that doesn’t mean that one girl who loves to put potato juice on her face daily is crazy. In fact, I found a super interesting article about how people living in the Andes Mountains use raw potato slices to cure a ton of their skincare ailments (read it here). I’m just going to leave this investigation here and let those who want to try the potato treatment let me know what happens to their skin. Best of Luck.