Can Vick’s VapoRub Cure Breakouts?

Vick's VapoRub

This past Saturday I went into esthetics school to make up some hours so that I can push my graduation date up (the 4-week countdown starts now). Even though I am a night student only 3 other day girls showed up for their normal class time so I had to take a client appointment for a classic facial. I warmly greeted the guest and began questioning her about her skin, routine, and any concerns (this practice is part of the client consultation that happens before any treatment). She mentioned that she occasionally suffers from breakouts but “just puts some Vick’s on them and the spots go away overnight” – I did not take this remark casually and began wondering out loud how and why this works. My client told me she also has no idea but it’s an old trick her mom and grandma taught her.

I began researching this breakout hack and was surprised to not find a ton of info regarding this old wives tale. There are only a few threads about using Vick’s VapRub to treat breakouts and/or cystic acne on r/SkincareAddiction and Acne.org. All of these threads rave about the curing power of Vick’s on breakouts and acne. The initial thought process of this skincare hack is that the ingredients in Vicks reduce inflammation in a congested chest so why couldn’t it also reduce inflammation in a face flare up.

Ingredients: Synthetic Camphor (4.8%), Eucalyptus oil (1.2%), Menthol (2.6%), Cedarleaf oil, Nutmeg oil, Petrolatum, Thymol, Turpentine oil

Looking at the ingredients nothing stands out to me as a substance that would help with breakouts. Cedarleaf oil, Nutmeg oil, Thymol, and Turpentine oil are all fragrances. Petrolatum is the delivery system (body) of the product. Camphor, Eucalyptus oil, and Menthol are the active ingredients used to act as cough suppressants. Camphor is a somewhat controversial ingredient after the FDA banned any pure camphor products to be sold in the US and placed an 11% concentration limit on products containing the waxy ingredient. Historically camphor was used to treat swelling, sprains, bug bites, and inflammation which could explain how it helps the inflammation in cystic acne go down.

Overall, the initial idea of Vick’s helping the inflammation of breakouts go down makes sense to me. However, the use of many extracts and strong extracts like eucalyptus and menthol (which are both stimulating not soothing ingredients) counteracts the idea since these extracts would most likely irritate acne. The closest acne theory I can compare this Vick’s DIY to is the practice of putting minty toothpaste on breakouts. Something about the natural cooling properties of mint ingredients (like menthol) may assist in the anti-inflammation effect.

I have neither Vick’s VapoRub or any active breakouts at the moment to test this theory but I’d be super interested to see if any of my readers have tried this old DIY hack! Please feel free to share any of your experiences below, I’d love to hear!

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