TikTok is a wild place. Seriously—if you thought scrolling through Instagram was a time-suck, just wait and see what happens when you discover the “For You” page on TikTok—that includes the beauty and skincare trends that seem to get more outlandish by the day.
From applying toothpaste to your nails to help them grow to rubbing lemon on acne (eek! please don’t do this), TikTok is full of DIY recommendations that are, let’s just say, best taken with a grain of salt.
One recent trend popping up on the app? Taping potatoes onto zits to help bring down big cystic spots. Is there any merit to this? Potatoes are rich in vitamins and nutrients, some of which can be beneficial to the skin. So the main question is—would there be any reason to try this DIY treatment when plenty of dermatologist-approved, clinically-backed acne treatments exist? We spoke to an expert to find out.
How Potatoes May Benefit Skin
According to Boston-based board-certified dermatopathologist Gretchen Frieling, MD, there are several ways potatoes can benefit the skin. First, there’s the fact that “starches soothe inflammation and absorb oil.” Second, she notes, potatoes are rich in vitamin C which helps minimize the risk of developing dark spots as a pimple resolves.
A possible third potential factor? Potatoes contain an enzyme called catecholase, which, Frieling explains, is thought to brighten skin and eliminate dark spots.
What are Cytokines and How do They Help the Skin?
Cytokines are molecules that are released by cells in the immune system that “regulate inflammation, immunity, and hemopoiesis (the production of blood cells and platelets),” Freiling explains. Some cytokines fight and reduce inflammation while others increase inflammation.
Acne is an inflammatory condition that could be influenced by cytokines, Frieling says. She notes a 2013 study on mice which found that potato skin extracts had potential anti-inflammatory effects, which lends slight merit to the potato hack.
“[Additional studies] have led researchers to find that potato glycoalkaloids and other chemical compounds have the potential to reduce cytokines and inflammation,” Freiling explains. As there is significant evidence that cytokines can influence inflammatory acne and pain, it is believed that it is those glycoalkaloids that account for this benefit.
Still, while some research exists, it’s not enough to warrant tossing topical acne creams and gels to the side—especially when said “research” is being done on a social media platform by non-professionals. “It’s important to remember that the results TikTok users have seen is anecdotal—meaning it’s based on individual results and not clinical evidence,” says Frieling.
How to Use Potatoes in a Skincare Regimen
Though TikTokers have slept with potato chunks taped to their faces, this isn’t how Frieling recommends trying this hack at home. First and foremost, wash the potato before peeling. “This is important, as washing the potato after you peel it washes away its beneficial properties,” Frieling warns.
“Then, peel the skin off entirely. Without wiping or rinsing the potato (the starchy juice is what’s valuable!), cut the potato in half-inch-thick round slices. Prep the skin by cleansing it as you usually would, and patch test the potato on the inside of your forearm. Take a slice of potato and start massaging it into the skin, rubbing it in circular motions all over the face. Leave for 10 minutes. If you feel stinging or itching, wash it off right away,” she says.
Who Should and Should Not Try This
For the occasional pimple, Frieling calls potatoes a “DIY hack worth trying,” though, unsurprisingly, she also says that for a long-term acne solution, it’s better to seek a dermatologist-designed treatment plan.
Also important to note: “[One study] reported a link between potato sensitivities and latex allergies, thanks to a protein called patatin,” Frieling notes. “Patatin is a major cause of potato allergy. So, if you have a known allergy to latex, do not use raw potatoes on your skin.” It’s also always recommended to do a patch test before applying anything new to your face.
Unless you’re allergic to potatoes (or latex), there’s likely no harm in trying this hack. Just remember that a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide spot treatment (or a cortisone shot from a board-certified dermatologist) is likely still more effective.
Though it’s tempting to try every easy DIY hack—especially when the item required is already in your kitchen—dermatologists advocate sticking to more tried-and-true (and research-backed) options.