The Evolution of Beauty Treatments, Part IV: Acne Treatments Throughout the Ages

The Evolution of Beauty Treatments, Part IV: Acne Treatments Throughout the Ages

Feb '20

SkinCenter’s new blog series, titled, “The Evolution of Beauty Treatments” continues with the evolution of acne treatment. Curious about the history of acne remedies and how ancient methods stack up against modern-day treatments? Keep reading to learn more!


Many of our Westchester clients suffer from adult acne. Interestingly enough, it seems as if acne has been a skin concern for just as long as humans have been keeping records. Before we delve into modern-day treatment options, let’s take a look at the various types of remedies used throughout history…


Traditional Chinese Medicine: Traditional Chinese Medicine believed acne was related to heat that accumulated in the body due to the body’s inability to digest rich foods adequately. Acne was treated through the consumption of “body-cooling” herbs and foods such as dark leafy greens and echinacea.

Ancient Egyptians: Ancient Egyptians practiced and popularized a wide variety of beauty treatments, as we discussed in our previous articles about the evolution of exfoliation and the history of hair removal—so it comes as no surprise that the culture was on the ball with acne treatment as well. Apparently, King Tut himself suffered from acne and was buried with patchouli leaves, which are said to strengthen the skin and balance oil production.

In addition to patchouli, the Ancient Egyptians used sour milk as a popular acne remedy. As unappealing as that sounds, the Egyptians were actually onto something quite brilliant. Sour milk actually contains lactic acid, which is brought about by the fermentation of lactose. Lactic acid is actually a grade A exfoliant that aids in decreasing breakouts and lessening signs of aging!

Ancient Romans: Similar to the Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Romans used naturally occurring elements to treat acne, as they would soak in baths of hot water and sulfur. As it turns out, sulfur was yet another effective ancient acne treatment due to its ability to decrease inflammation and kill bacteria on the skin!

“Cosmic Cosmetics”: Unlike the acne remedies mentioned above, not all ancient treatments had much merit behind them. Perhaps the most nonsensical remedy was suggested by an ancient Roman physician by the name of Theodosius the First. Theodosius posited that wiping one’s face while looking at a falling star would cause acne blemishes to simply fall from the body. That’s what we call a “cosmic” cosmetic solution!

20th Century: Fast-forward to the 1900s, when American researcher W.A. Pusay suggested that X-rays could be used as an effective remedy for acne. He theorized that the emissions of X-rays could lessen the activity of sebaceous glands, kill bacteria, and decrease inflammation. However, after the bombing of Hiroshima in the 1960s, the population veered away from using radiation as a treatment method.

Antibiotics were first used to treat acne in the 1950s, when it was discovered that Penicillin could kill bacteria, and bacteria was present in acne breakouts. Though penicillin proved to be ineffective at treating acne, other antibiotics, such as tetracycline, did prove to be successful remedies, and doctors began prescribing them to acne patients.

Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, other medications – such as Retin-A and Accutane – were created in efforts to treat acne. Such medications are still prescribed by physicians today.


Today, there are many different remedies used in treating the wide spectrum of pimples, pustules, blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, and other forms of acne breakouts. Effective acne treatment comes in the form of prescription medication (topical and oral), laser therapy, and LED light therapy (blue light therapy), and varies based on a person’s unique skin needs.


SkinCenter is Westchester’s best location for adult acne treatment. Our skin care experts pioneer best practices for treating acne on the face and body. Contact us today to schedule your confidential, no obligation consultation for adult acne treatment!

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