Skin Battles: An Unexpected Acne-Fighter

Skin Battles: An Unexpected Acne-Fighter

We’ve all heard of some pretty out-there products when it comes to acne treatment…like toothpaste for example (my sister even swears by it for drying up pimples). But here’s something you probably haven’t thought about using as a skin-clearing agent. It lies in a little blue jar of…wait for it…

Vicks VapoRub.

Yep, you read that right. I know. I was totally shocked too when I first learned of it. But I figured, “What the heck? I’ve tried everything else, why not try this!?”

I stumbled upon the unusual acne-fighter a couple of months ago while searching for remedies on Google. I was shocked to learn that the ointment wasn’t that unheard of for treating acne.

I have tried what seems like every single face wash, topical gel and cream there is. While there’s no way I could actually test all existing pimple diminishing remedies, I have definitely tried a myriad of products, especially topical creams and ointments. They’ve ranged from drugstore brands like Neutrogena and Clearasil, to television-advertised brands like Proactiv, to department store brands like Clinique –  and lastly, dermatologist-recommended products.

While many of these treatments worked for a short duration of time (or for milder cases of acne), none of them completely wiped away the peskiest of all pimples – cystic acne.

To my surprise, Vicks VapoRub worked wonders on the bigger, more irritating blemishes. And for anyone who has dealt with even a single cystic pimple, you know how large, painful and embarrassing they can be. And on top of that? They usually last for weeks

After just two days of applying Vicks VapoRub to my cystic pimple, I saw a difference. Not only in appearance, but in facial comfort (yes, really!). Most of us know of this medicine as a cough suppressant or an ointment for aches and pains. Well, that very same ointment so happened to reduce the swelling of my pimple. Dramatically.


  • All you need is Vicks VapoRub and a Q-tip cotton swab


  • Dip the Q-tip into the jar and scoop out a tiny amount (just enough to cover the affected area)
  • Smear the ointment over the area (treat it as you would a topical acne medication)

That’s it!

In my experience, the bump became smaller and flatter within two days and after continued use of the ointment, eventually vanished.

This rub has now become my go-to product for painful cystic acne. I highly recommend trying it!

– Michelle Weiss


  1. 3140sc7a17p32

    At first I was a bit concerned b/c you were putting petro on your skin (especially acneic skin!!) but after reading the product ingredients, I’m not that surprised that it’s been working for you.  The 3 active ingredients in vaporub are very effective in treating acneic skin – eucalyptus eliminates breakout-causing bacteria and the camphor and menthol have a cooling effect that helps reduce the inflamation.   


  2. Lauren Cosenza

    Thanks for this note Michelle. Really good point!

    I often find that things indicated for one thing work really well for another (look how Latisse got indicated for lash growing after first being indicated solely for glaucoma treatment). And being a makeup artist, you could definitely say we get creative to nail a look!! (I just used lipliner as eyeliner because I wanted a specific shade for a FOX tutorial.)

    But you definitely have to test and research and be cautious. 

    Michelle (the author of the post) tested this treatment after reading about it online and it really worked for her. And when you have cystic acne and it’s persistent, finding a solution can be a game-changer as far as confidence and feeling good about your appearance.

    But as with all the reviews on the site, it may not work for everyone. So I’m really glad you raised this point. 

    Thanks for your comment!


  3. Debbie

    I just tried it 2days ago for cystic acne and yes several hours after applying the head came out. and without even touching it the pus drained. I havent realy read that it is how vicks work. I though i would magically make it smaller. So at that time i thought i made my acne worst but i guve it another night and the next morning whne i wake up, it was flat, less redness and the size aproximately reduced to half. and so far no new acne growth.

    • Clarisse

      Hi. May I ask how long do you keep vicks on your face?

  4. Lauren Cosenza

    Wow, that’s fascinating… I think with skin issues, sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. I find my skin is often its worst right after a facial and then a day later, it looks incredible!

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Debbie.


  5. Lay

    I was just wondering if off brand vapor rub would work the same as the vicks? I have off brand in hand is why I ask

  6. Lauren Cosenza

    Hey Lay!
    We really don’t have any medical explanation for why this may work. This post is just Michelle’s anecdotal personal experience and she used the branded product. Maybe check the ingredients to see if the non-branded has the exact same ones. In that case, despite percentages possibly being different, you’d know you’re working with something very similar.
    Good luck!! xoLC

  7. Abbey

    Hi i have very bad cystic acne and after 4 years of suffering i had enough so i went to the dermatologist without makeup on and immediately she said the only thing that will work for my skin is accutan so im going through the process of the blood drawls and pregamcu tests amd the ipledge thing to even start accutane so im excited i get to try accutane but i have to wait about a month so my dermatologist precribed me so anti biotics and birth control to help until then but right as i thought it was getting better a cystic break out happened (large fluid filled feeling + painful lump) and i thougnt damn then anither one and guess? Yep. ANOTHER one. So i currently have three LARGE cysts on my cheeks that hurt super bad so im currentlt sitting here with this rub on and im going to try this for (as long as nothing terrible happens to my skin the next day) 5 days and see how it does overall.

    • Lauren Cosenza

      Good luck Abbey!! You may be adjusting to the birth control (hormones) since it was newly introduced. My best friend from college did Accutane twice and it changed her life. Also, have you ever tried the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion??

  8. penoir

    It’s the THYMOL in it that is active against acne (antibacterial and antimicrobial.)This is why it’s important to use Vicks and not just some generic menthol cold balm which don’t usually contain thymol, the magic ingredient!

  9. Cassidy

    Does this work on your back? I have pimples on my back and I’m trying this right now for the first time, so I was wondering if this is going to work?

  10. Loser e

    I hope this work for me

  11. jia huisheng

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