Can Eating Raw Garlic Cure Acne? TikTok Thinks So

Garlic is one of the oldest horticultural crops out there. With a history spanning 5,000 or more years, this species of bulbous flowering plant has been used for its medicinal properties — and health benefits — for a long time. From strengthening your immune system and protecting against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's (thanks to its antioxidant properties) to promoting bone health, improving cholesterol levels, and reducing blood pressure, there are a lot of reasons why you should start eating more garlic

TikTok, however, seems to have developed a fascination for consuming raw garlic to clear hormonal acne. More specifically, the social media recommendation is to eat one clove of raw garlic a day, either swallowed whole with water like a pill or chewed and consumed. To the curious onlooker, it would seem the trend is based on the herb's anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Proponents claim that these properties can help fix your gut health and, therefore, clear hormonal acne. 

However, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Aanand Geria of Geria Dermatology, the science is sparse when it comes to this trend and its supposed skincare benefits. "To the best of my knowledge, there are no clinical studies that have studied the effect of garlic in treating acne. Although garlic does have potential anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects, I can't recommend it as an effective standalone treatment for hormonal acne," explained the expert, speaking exclusively with Health Digest. 

Consuming raw garlic for your skin: Things to consider

Hormonal acne, which can manifest as pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, or painful red cysts, typically happens in adulthood (from age 20 to 50), which is why it's also referred to as adult acne. It is thought that changes in your hormones result in excess sebum production, leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts. The idea that you can consume foods to promote better gut health and thus fix hormonal acne is not really a far-fetched one, mainly because your gut microbiome is thought to have some connection to regulating your sex hormones. However, this is an up-and-coming area of science that requires further research. 

Garlic, in particular, is thought to help because of one of its main bioactive compounds: allicin, which has anti-microbial benefits. Compared to consuming garlic roasted, boiled, pickled, or even cooked, raw garlic is thought to contain more allicin. But the fact remains that garlic has not been properly studied in the context of curing hormonal acne. 

While there are many health benefits to including this spice in your cooking, eating too much garlic also comes with downsides, according to Dr. Aanand Geria. "Eating excessive amounts of garlic can cause 'garlic breath' and body odor in addition to heartburn. Garlic can also act as a blood thinner making bleeding more likely." Heartburn is especially a concern for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

Can you use garlic topically to cure acne?

Although a quick Google search will provide recipes for topical application of crushed garlic, Dr. Aanand Geria warned against this practice. According to the board-certified dermatologist, the same compound that boasts anti-bacterial properties, allicin, is also very irritating when applied to your skin. It can even lead to serious chemical burns, per the expert. "In skin of color, a chemical burn can result in long-term hyperpigmentation so I really advise against this practice," added Dr. Geria. 

Treating hormonal acne is often a long process that involves working with your dermatologist. While diet can play a role, it is important to understand that not everyone will respond to diet changes in the exact same way. What is really causing your hormonal acne can be subjective and very personal to you. Plus, there are other lifestyle factors and your overall health that could also be contributing to it. All the more reason to consult with skincare specialists and figure out a more holistic approach to managing and treating your acne. Relying only on TikTok quick fixes, even if it's to consume something as healthy as garlic, is probably not the best approach.