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L'hydrolat de citron contre l'acné ?

Lemon hydrosol against acne?

Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial... lemon water could be an excellent addition to skincare routines to combat acne. Discover in this article whether the application of lemon hydrosol would be effective in alleviating acne problems.

Published February 14, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 5 min read

Key points on acne.

Acne is an inflammatory skin disease. It is characterised by the appearance of comedones or pimples on the face, back or shoulders, primarily. This skin condition usually appears during adolescence, when sebum production by the sebaceous glands is increased due to the hormonal changes occurring in the body.

The increase in androgen levels is notably responsible for stimulating the activity of the sebaceous glands, and therefore the production of sebum. While its synthesis is necessary to keep the skin hydrated and protected, overproduction, however, has detrimental effects. Indeed, this phenomenon is likely to cause the obstruction of pores in the skin and the emergence of blemishes.

Furthermore, the epidermis of acne-prone skin does not exfoliate as well as it should, leading to an accumulation of dead cells on the skin's surface which can also clog the pores. Indeed, this follicular hyperkeratosis forms a keratinous plug that hinders the normal flow of sebum.

Another cause of acne is the proliferation of the bacterium Cutibacterium acnes, also known as Gram-positive. This bacterium predominantly develops in sebum-rich environments, which it feeds on. Cutibacterium acnes functions by digesting the triglycerides present in the sebum. This leads to the production of free fatty acids that exacerbate the inflammation of the sebaceous glands.

If you are suffering from severe acne, it is necessary to consult a dermatologist who can prescribe you a suitable treatment.

Does lemon hydrosol have an effect on acne?

Lemon hydrosol is attributed with beneficial properties for acne. This natural ingredient is believed to act on two of the triggering factors of acne: bacterial proliferation and inflammation of spots. These effects are thought to stem from the presence of various active ingredients in its composition, which possess intriguing properties.

Lemon water notably contains limonene, a molecule that gives it a fresh and tangy scent. Studies have shown that this active ingredient prevents the proliferation of certain bacteria, known as Gram-positive, such asEscherichia coli. Limonene works by causing the bacterial membrane to rupture, which compromises the cellular integrity of the bacteria. Cutibacterium acnes, involved in the acne phenomenon, is also Gram-positive. Thus, a similar mechanism can be assumed, although no studies on limonene have been conducted with this bacterium.

Lemon hydrosol also contains alpha- and beta-pinenes, compounds that exhibit a bacteriostatic action, meaning they are capable of inhibiting the multiplication of bacteria, without necessarily killing them. This property has once again been demonstrated on Gram-positive bacteria. These results seem to suggest that lemon hydrosol could possess antibacterial properties, useful for individuals suffering from acne.

Finally, lemon water contains geranial, one of the two stereoisomers of citral. This molecule has anti-inflammatory properties. Indeed, a study has shown that geranial inhibits the activity of NLRP3, an inflammasome complex that triggers an inflammatory signalling pathway. It notably increases the synthesis of interleukin-1 (IL-1) and interleukin 4 (IL-4), which are pro-inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, it can be hypothesised that the application of lemon hydrosol on an acne spot can reduce its inflammation and aid in its healing.

It is, however, important to note that none of the studies cited were directly conducted with lemon hydrosol. Only the effects of the active ingredients contained in the botanical extract or lemon essential oil have been studied. Therefore, we cannot truly conclude on the effectiveness of lemon hydrosol against acne. Furthermore, the concentration of active ingredients in lemon water is relatively low, and it is likely that it is insufficient to induce real benefits.

Please note : one should not confuse lemon juice and lemon hydrosol. The former is highly acidic and extremely photosensitising, due to its high concentration of furocoumarins. On the other hand, lemon water is a gentle treatment suitable even for pregnant or breastfeeding women and young children.


  • MEDEIROS I. & al. Inhibitory effect of β-pinene, α-pinene and eugenol on the growth of potential infectious endocarditis causing Gram-positive bacteria. Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences (2007).

  • LUIZ R. & al. Citral prevents UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis in hairless mice. Journal of photochemistry and photobiology (2019).

  • LAWRENCE R. & al. Strategic approach of multifaceted antibacterial mechanism of limonene traced in Escherichia coli. Scientific Reports (2021).


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