Can Urine Clear Acne?

Should You Put Pee on Pimples?

Can urine help clear up pimples?. Photo: Davies and Starr / Getty Images

I always start off my skin care classes by telling my students I want to hear all of their most burning acne treatment questions.  Ask me anything!  I tell them.  Invariably, at this point, someone asks, "Is it true that urine clears acne?"

After the requisite display of shock and disgust from the rest of the class, everyone cheerfully gives their take on how best to apply pee to the face.

Because, apparently, there are many variations of this routine.

  Some say you must take a baby's urine-soaked diaper and lay it across the acne-prone skin.  Others say you can use your own urine, but only from the first-morning pee.  There's also this debate: dab individual pimples or go hog wild and apply it to your entire face?

I've not yet met a person who has actually tried it (except for anonymous posts on the Internet and third-hand accounts about somebody's sister's best friend's cousin.) 

Can urine clear acne?  No.  

Despite what many say to the contrary, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that urine does anything to treat acne.  No formal studies have been done on the effect urine has on acne.  I'd venture to guess that is partially attributed to the fact that not many people would volunteer for that one.

So, where did this idea come from?

Historically, some cultures have used urine to treat various health problems.  Even today, some alternative healers espouse the curative properties of pee and use urine therapy as a treatment for a variety of health problems.

  (Note that there is no evidence that urine is an effective treatment for any health issue.)

Even the old method of urinating on a jellyfish sting isn't medically sound.  Our First Aid Expert says pee doesn't really work for jellyfish stings.

What your pee is made of.

Urine is almost entirely, more than 90%, water.

  Water, obviously, doesn't treat acne.

The next largest constituent in urine is urea.

Here's where it gets interesting -- urea actually does do some good things for the skin.  It is a humectant, which means it helps keep dry skin moisturized.  It's also an exfoliant and can help keep dead cells from collecting on the surface of the skin. 

Many skin care products contain urea -- check the labels.  Don't worry, the urea used in skin care products is synthetic.  There is no urine, human or otherwise, in there.

Maybe now you're thinking that you can make your own urea, for free!

But to be effective, you need much more urea than is naturally found in urine.  So, an actual skin care product is still the best way to get it.

As for urine being acidic and drying up pimples, that's not accurate either.  If that were the case, vinegar would be a fab acne treatment (it's not) because it's much more acidic than urine.  Urine is a very weak acid.  Nothing about it could dry up a pimple. 

Urine is a waste product.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that urine is a bodily waste.

  Putting pee on the face is just plain icky. 

Contrary to popular belief, your urine is not sterile.  There are low levels of bacteria even in a healthy person's pee.

That doesn't mean it's toxic, though.  I'm a mother, therefore I have been drenched in someone else's pee on several occasions with absolutely no ill effects.  Heck, there are reports of people who survived nearly unsurvivable situations by drinking their own urine.  (Don't do that, by the way.  Drinking urine won't clear acne either.)

Instead of urine, try this.

I proudly admit that I would try urine therapy if I thought it would clear my skin.  I've been just about desperate enough to do it, too.

But we should thank our lucky stars there are other acne treatment options that work, without the yuck factor.  Here are some to get you started:

Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments

Prescription Topical Acne Medications

Oral Acne Medications

Just remember to give any medication plenty of time to work (about 3-4 months).  And if you have questions or need help, ask your doctor. 

Aren't you glad you really don't have to resort to putting pee on your face?


Alan J. Wolfe, Linda Brubaker. Sterile Urine” and the Presence of Bacteria. European Urology, 2015.

Continue Reading