Nowadays, it feels like TikTok has become a one-stop shop for all things “hacks.” Whether innovative ways to use an air fryer or step-by-step videos on how to achieve the “butterfly” hair cut, users all over TikTok are sharing their abundance of life hacks on the daily. As we all know, not everything you see online is necessarily true or safe, and that’s why we turned to our trusted dermatologists to discuss whether or not the recent trend of putting medical-grade iodine on pimples is safe.
The video that started this trend is actually that of a woman who works at a medical office explaining that she put iodine on a scratch on her face and was shocked by how quickly it healed, and how this inspired her to test out using the chemical as a sort of pimple patch. Since then, tons of users have duetted the video, trying the idea out themselves. But is this latest hack safe or effective?
“Surgical scrubs such as iodine should kill off any bacteria, however, many acne lesions are not bacterial and instead are blocked pores,” begins Jupiter, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD. “In my opinion, using iodine will treat some of the bacteria but not in a meaningful way, meaning that I don’t think you can get the bacteria to stay away using this practice, and instead the pimples are likely to regrow.” Dr. Beer also noted that though iodine could potentially dry out a small, superficial lesion, the odds of the scrub irritating the skin are fairly significant.
“Betadine, a form of iodine, has been shown to kill fungus, bacteria, and other microorganisms such as amoebas, and this ability makes it ideal for preparing skin before procedures to limit the risk of infection,” adds New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD. “However, at most commercially manufactured strengths, it can be damaging to healthy tissue and possibly impede healing. Therefore, with regards to killing the bacteria involved in acne, it is likely helpful, but this benefit may be countered with full strength of betadine.”
Essentially, it all boils down to the fact that nothing is as simple as it appears online. “It is possible that at dilute concentrations, there may be a benefit to using iodine on pimples, but not the way it is being used in many of these videos,” Dr. Levine concludes. In addition, she cautions anyone with shellfish or iodine allergies to avoid this practice entirely.