Acne is a skin disease caused by the clogging of pores and an inflammation of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles which are on the face, neck, shoulders, back and chest. These glands produce too much oil, or sebum, become plugged and end up becoming whiteheads, pimples or blackheads. This sebum mixes with dead cells on the surface of the skin clogging the pores and causing blackheads and whiteheads. Bacteria around the hair follicles enter the skin if the whitehead ruptures causing a pimple. Squeezing the pimples can cause pitting and scars on the skin. Although acne is commonly a teenage problem, it is not uncommon for adults, mostly women, to have acne.
One form of acne is caused by a condition known as "skin hypoglycemia" or "skin diabetes." This means that the skin, which is an organ, is intolerant to sugars.
Poor hygiene, diet, and hormone imbalances often are causes of acne.Dietary
Food allergies, especially in adults over 25, are the cause of some of the worst cases.
In general, bad digestion, often caused by too little hydrochloric acid in the stomach, leads to the inability to absorb important nutrients and is a major cause of acne.
As with any wellness program, we suggest drinking six to eight glasses of water daily. This will aid your body systems in functioning properly, especially your skin (your largest organ) for acne sufferers.
Although many traditional medical practitioners may not agree, the excess of milk, sugar, white flour and other refined, processed food, as well as nuts and high-fat meats, such as pork, may be contributing factors to acne.
Iodine-rich foods, such as liver, cheese, iodized salt, kelp products, clams, crabs and other shellfish have been associated with acne, and should be avoided.
Avoid all foods containing trans-fatty acids, such as milk, milk products, cookies, chips, margarine, chocolate, shortening and hydrogenated oils.
Other causes are deficiencies in zinc, vitamin A, and essential fatty acids such as linoleic.
Poor digestion should be addressed by a good diet and digestive supplements (not antacids!). Cleanliness
It goes without saying that keeping the skin clean and bacteria-free is of major importance. Here are some tips.
Keep your bed linens clean, as dead skin, oil, cosmetics, hair preparations and dirt on the linen will be picked up by your skin while you sleep and help clog pores.
Wash your skin gently twice daily with an antibacterial soap or cleanser containing salicylic acid, not regular soap, as it is alkaline and will promote bacterial growth. Don't scrub too hard, as this will irritate your skin further.
Products containing benzoyl peroxide are also very beneficial topical cleansing agents. However, if you are using products containing benzoyl peroxide, make extra efforts to screen yourself from the sun.
A soap with aloe vera is good, too, as aloe is a natural wound healer.
Allergies to cosmetics may be a cause, too, so if your acne started after using new cosmetics, eliminate them for a week to see if the acne clears up.
Keep your hands away from your face or other affected areas. They contain oils and bacteria that promote acne. Wash your hands frequently.
Take a steam shower or boil some water on the stove and put your head over the vapors for a few minutes. This will open up the pores and they can be cleaned out more easily. The blackheads can be squeezed out more easily, but do not squeeze the whiteheads, as this is an infected area and can cause other problems. Another similar method is to put a very warm washcloth on the affected area several times a day, This will open the pores and help cleanse the skin.
Avoid greasy creams and cosmetics, especially ones that contain oils and dyes, and avoid medications that contain bromides or iodides.Hormones
Natural hormonal changes for both males and females are some of the primary causes of acne. These changes usually start at puberty and end in early adulthood. The increased androgen males experience at the beginning of puberty causes the sebaceous (oil) glands to enlarge and produce increased amounts of sebum (oil and waxes) which pass through the hair follicles to the skin. When the pores clog, acne occurs. Women, however, often get a mild case of acne beginning a week before their menstrual period begins, even in adulthood.
Birth control pills also can cause acne. Try another brand or another method.Scalp acne
Some people get pimples on the scalp that may take a few weeks to clear up. This type of pimple is known as acne necrotica miliaris, and seems to flourish during times of high stress or when the scalp is oilier than normal. The latter may occur if you haven't shampooed as often as usual or are using hair-care products with a lot of oil. To speed healing, shampoo frequently and apply an acne remedy with benzoyl peroxide. If the acne itches, use an anti-itch product with cortisone or wash your hair several times with a coal-tar shampoo.Other causes
Other factors are: stress, seasonal changes, drug toxicity (usually from steroids) and sun exposure, as well as caffeinated drinks and certain spices.
Traditional treatment of acne is done with a low level of antibiotics, usually tetracycline. However, using antibiotics has side affects and may have long-term consequences as the body becomes resistant to the antibiotics. In any event, because bacteria is not the primary cause of acne, prolonged use of antibiotics should be avoided.
For the severest cases dermatologists may prescribe oral isotretinoin (Accutane), or a vitamin A derivative called Retin-A, which unblocks pores and prevents pimples. This treatment is highly effective but has many side effects, including birth defects in some babies born to women using it.
Adults with acne shouldn't use anti-acne products made for adolescents. These products may strip too much natural oil from their skin. Products containing salicylic acid, which is milder than the benzoyl peroxide found in most products for teens, is a better choice.
An Alternative Prevention & Treatment Program
An effective prevention and treatment program has five steps:
- Begin with a cleansing diet to help your system detoxify.
Impurities that cannot be eliminated through the kidneys and bowels
fast enough may erupt through the skin. This program is not
recommended for anyone under 17 years of age.
- Clean your skin daily as recommended above. This will keep the
pores open and your skin free of bacteria. Discourage new blemishes
by using a benzoyl peroxide lotion or tea tree oil, a natural
antiseptic mentioned below. Benzoyl peroxide may irritate the skin,
so it is best to leave it on for only two hours, then wash off.
- Check to see if you are allergic to certain foods, cosmetics, or
other products applied to your face, such as sunscreens. Did the
outbreak of acne begin after you started eating a new diet or using
a new product? If so, eliminate the new foods from the diet and
begin using hypoallergenic cosmetics, vitamins and other products.
Common allergens are chocolate, milk, refined carbohydrates (sweets)
and soft drinks. Your doctor may want to test for allergies, and a
blood test is more effective than a skin scratch one to help detect
- Make sure you eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
- Start taking supplements that promote healthy skin.
By following this regimen, you should see positive results within three months.
If you have a persistent case of acne that doesn't seem to go away after trying several remedies, Chinese medicine has shown positive results in difficult cases. Search our Resources section by using "Oriental" or "Chinese" as a keyword to help locate a practitioner near you.
Caution! It is very tempting to pop whiteheads, blackheads and pimples. Whiteheads are clogged pores below the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and should not be squeezed. By following the program outlined above, the whiteheads will disappear in a few weeks. Blackheads are clogged pores on the surface, and also should not be scrubbed or squeezed, but removed with an extractor that you can buy at a pharmacy. Pimples may be squeezed when they are infected and have yellow pus if the proper procedures are followed. Apply a warm compress to the area for a few minutes to open the pores, then squeeze with a clean tissue until all the pus runs out. This will allow the pimple to heal properly. Using fingernails will promote scarring and may be covered with bacteria that will enter the area and cause inflammation.
Wellness ProgramDietary Changes
Since diet plays such a large part in acne problems, the first step to alleviate the problem is to make the necessary dietary changes. Without doing this, your chances of improvement are greatly reduced.
A high-fiber diet of whole grain breads and cereals, bran, legumes (beans, lentils and split peas) and lots of fruits and vegetables is a good way to minimize eating the wrong foods. Often skin problems are rapidly improved when more fiber is added to the diet.
Reduce your consumption of junk food and limit your total fat intake to no more than 20% of calories. Cut out hydrogenated oils.
Eliminate sugars. Skin glucose tolerance is significantly impaired in acne patients.
Reduce (or eliminate) milk consumption. The hormones contained in milk can aggravate acne.
Avoid chocolate, tea, and coffee.
Avoid foods containing trans fatty acids, as noted above under "Dietary Causes."
Avoid fried foods.
Eliminate sodas and artificial sweeteners.
Eat foods with zinc to get enough to satisfy the remedy listed below. Foods containing zinc include oysters, herring, wheat germ, sesame seeds, liver, soybeans, sunflower seeds, egg yolk and lamb.Supplements
Acidophilus Take acidophilus either in capsule or liquid form 2-3 times a day.
Brewer's yeast tablets taken after every meal has worked for some people. It contains chromium which is an essential mineral involved in the processing of sugar. Take 2 teaspoons of brewer's yeast daily.
Chromium (GTF or glucose tolerance factor) will aid in glucose tolerance. This will be especially beneficial for those with sugars-induced acne. Take 400 mcg of chromium. ChromMate® is very bioavailable.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are composed of linoleic and linolenic fatty acids and should be taken to help reduce or eliminate inflammation. Individuals with acne are often deficient in these important nutrients. The omega 6 fatty acids are found in evening primrose oil (take 500 mg three times daily), black currant seed oil, and borage seed oil. A tablespoon of fish oil daily will be helpful. Pure cold-pressed flaxseed oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Selenium helps boost the potency of vitamin E when the two are taken together. Take 200-400 mcg. per day. People with severe cases of acne have been found to be deficient in selenium. A multi-vitamin with all the antioxidants should have sufficient selenium.
Vitamin A will help reduce sebum production and is important in maintaining healthy skin. Take 10-15,000 I.U. (not beta carotene) and 400 I.U. of vitamin D daily. For severe cases of acne you may need to increase the intake to 25,000 I.U., but do this only with medical supervision as it may cause side effects.
Vitamin B-complex Take a B-complex supplement daily.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) has been used successfully in China. Dosage is 10 grams daily (divided into 2.5 grams doses) plus a cream containing 20% pantothenic acid by weight, applied four to six times daily. After 2-3 days there was a dramatic decrease in the amount of oil secretion, and the acne was brought under control in a few weeks' time. Severe cases needed 15-20 grams of pantothenic acid daily, and the time needed was up to six months.
Vitamin B6 will help restore normal hormone balance, especially testosterone and estrogen, which contribute to flareups. Take 50 mg three times per day. Women should start a week before menstruation and continue for a week afterward, as a minimum; daily would be preferable.
Vitamin E boosts the effectiveness of certain enzymes (glutathione peroxidase) needed for good skin health and enhances the absorption of vitamin A. Take 400 IU per day. It is more effective when taken with selenium.
Zinc, an essential mineral, is more effective than antibiotics for wound healing, inflammation control, tissue regeneration and healthy skin in general. To see results you may have to take zinc for one to two months, and it should greatly reduce the recurrence of acne once the body chemistry is in balance. Zinc may be used topically or take 50 mg with each meal. Zinc picolinate is readily absorbed. If you don't see any results after a month or so, increase the level to 100 or even 150 mg with each meal. You should have very positive results within three months. Many teenage diets are high in the junk food category, which is very low in zinc. Consult your physician before taking more than 15 mg of zinc per day for an extended period of time, as it may interfere with the absorption of copper.
Aloe Use aloe vera juice or gel to counteract infection and promote healing. Use the ointment on pimples and sores. For acne scars, using aloe vera juice morning and night for as long as necessary (perhaps six months or longer) will help reduce the scars and improve skin complexion and color. It is drying, so if you have dry skin, use an aloe-based moisturizer. The pulp of the aloe vera plant is an excellent skin cleanser. Break off a portion and rub the pulp directly on the skin.
Apple cider vinegar/lemon juice Clean your skin and apply either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar with a cotton ball. The acid in these kitchen remedies helps flush out the pores and keeps the skin looking beautiful. This remedy should work quickly.
Another method using apple cider vinegar is to "steam clean" the face by putting it over a pan of boiling water with a towel over your head to trap the steam. This will loosen the dirt and oil. Then apply the vinegar with a cotton ball to remove the dirt and oil buildup. Repeat twice, then dab more vinegar on the pores to close them. Use this method once a week.
Beans Make a tea by boiling a handful of green beans in a quart of water for 10 minutes; add 3 tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers to the tea, cover and steep until cool; strain and bottle. Use as a face wash at least three times daily.
Carrot Juice The essential oils in carrot juice will aid digestion and help stop acne.
Charcoal To aid digestion, take 3 tablets of activated charcoal three times daily.
Colloidal Silver Cleanse the skin morning and night with colloidal silver. You should start to see improvements within a week. Colloidal silver is a natural antibiotic that has safely been used for a century.
Cucumber Liquify a peeled cucumber in a blender and apply the juice to the acne. Another variation of this remedy is to drink four or five cups of cucumber juice daily for a week. This is said to purify the blood and lymphatic system, resulting in a clearer skin.
Egg whites Clean your skin thoroughly and apply egg white with a cotton swab. Let it sit for several hours or overnight. The egg white is an astringent.
Fels-Naptha The use of Fels-Naptha soap has been reported with good results for those with oily skins. It contains mineral spirits and other ingredients that work well on skin problems.
Grapefruit seed extract This extract is a powerful all-around antimicrobial product and is an excellent disinfectant. Make a solution of 4-40 drops in four ounces of water and apply to the affected areas with a cotton ball two or three times a day.
Molasses Take 2 teaspoons of molasses with one teaspoon of sulphur once or twice daily to cleanse the blood. Skin eruptions may increase initially, but they are an indication that the blood is being cleansed.
Molkosan, a product derived from concentrated whey, the bi-product of cheese manufacture, has been used effectively against many forms of skin problems, especially acne. Add a teaspoon or tablespoon to a glass of water and take with meals. It aids in digestion and regulates metabolism. Soak an absorbant cotton pad or cloth in Molkosan and attach it to the affected areas and leave on overnight. Molkosan is an excellent antiseptic.
Oatmeal As for measles and other skin irritations, people have used oatmeal to conquer acne. Apply some cooled, cooked oatmeal to the whole face for fifteen minutes, then wash off. Oatmeal is an astringent and seems to draw oil and impurities out of the skin, keeping it clean and blemish-free. This method may take a week or two, but should have good results.
Sugar Wash your face and make a poultice of white sugar with a small amount of water; dab on the affected area. Sugar has an antibacterial effect.
Sun Ultraviolet radiation from the sun or a sunlamp will help kill bacteria on the skin and dry up excess oil.
Witch hazel In the morning wash your face with a gentle cleanser. If you have oily skin, rub a cottonball saturated with witch hazel over your entire face. It is an astringent and will help dry the skin and shrink the pimples. Next, spread a thin coat of a 2% salicylic acid product (found in drugstores) over your whole face. Its deep penetrating action will help unclog oil-clogged pores. Repeat the cleansing and witch hazel steps, then dab 2.5% benzoyl peroxide over the entire face to kill bacteria.Herbal
Amaranth Make a tea from amaranth seeds and use as a face wash. To make the tea bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil, add 2 teaspoons of seeds, cover and simmer for five minutes; remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of leaves (if available) and steep for 30 minutes.
Basil To treat affected area, obtain a basil-based oil from your health food store and apply it as directed. Another way is to get the actual herb and make an infusion. To make an infusion, put two to four teaspoons of dried basil leaves in a cup of boiling water, steep for 10 to 20 minutes, cool, and apply to the acne.
Burdock The herb burdock (Arctium lappa), is effective in treating acne and is the most important herb for treating all forms of chronic skin problems. To make the tea, bring 1 quart of water to a boil, reduce to simmer, add 4 teaspoons of cut, dried root; cover and let simmer for 7 minutes, then remove from heat and let steep for 2 more hours. Use as a skin wash.
Calendula can be made into tinctures, lotions and creams. Look for products containing this herb. Make a tea of calendula and wash your face.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) It has antibiotic properties and helps stimulate the immune system. Take one of the following three times daily: tea from dried root (2-4 grams); tincture (6-12 ml or 1.5-3 teaspoon); fluid extract (1-2 ml or 0.25-0.5 teaspoon); solid powder of 8-12% alkaloid content (250-500 mg.).
Tea There are several other herbs that can be made into a tea and taken internally or used as a wash. Besides aloe and burdock, calendula, chickweed, dandelion, red clover, white oak bark, yellow dock, cayenne, echinacea, ginseng, redmond clay, sarsaparilla, and valarian may be used.
Tea tree oil derived from the leaves of the native Australian Melaleuca alternifolia tree contains antiseptic compounds that are a very effective skin disinfectant. Depending on severity, use 5-15% solutions twice daily. It is as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide and is less drying, although it may take a little longer to work.Homeopathic
Natrum muriaticum (table salt, sodium chloride) 6x, 12x or 30x.