Definition Acne is an inflammation of the skin that occurs when a sebaceous gland, located at the bottom of each hair follicle, becomes trapped with natural oils, causing bacterial buildup and inflammation.
Symptoms of Acne include blackheads, whiteheads, and/or inflamed spots or elevations either on or under the skin.
Cause Acne may be worsened at adolescence, during the pre-menstrual and/or mid-menstrual cycle due to hormonal action, and when under stress, on contraceptives, eating a poor diet that causes an over acidic system, or taking prescription and non-prescription drugs.
Blackheads can form when the oil combines with skin pigments and gets trapped. Blackheads may suggest the need for better hygiene, or magnesium and vitamin A. Chronic, numerous whiteheads can also form during acne outbreaks, suggesting vitamin B1 deficiency or absorption problems. Consistent raised spots on the outside of the arms and sometimes even the thighs, resembling "chicken skin," may suggest need for magnesium, vitamin A, or essential fatty acids or the need to avoid foods that inhibit the absorption of these nutrients, such as trans-fatty acids found in margarine and hydrogenated oils, such as cottonseed oil and palm kernel oil.
food allergies , allergies to facial creams, soaps, shampoos, makeup, and excess intake of refined sugars, can all cause or contribute to acne. Certain foods can also aggravate acne conditions because of their high-acid forming effects on the body, especially fried foods, trans fats, iodized salt, alcohol, hot and spicy foods, all processed foods, chocolate, fruit juices, carbonated beverages, caffeinated beverages, and dairy products. Excessive long-term intake of seafood or other high Iodine foods may also cause acne in some people.
Coexisting gum problems suggest the need for folic acid. A separate acne condition may occur in women 30-40 years old due to physical exercising or working all day with face makeup, lowered resistance due to stress, or hyper-response to bacteria or hormone problems. Another acne problem, acne rosacea (reddish spots in a pattern over nose and cheeks), may be a sign of low B vitamins or low hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
Note: It may take up to one year to eliminate skin problems. They are some of the slowest conditions to respond to natural therapies, but the response is often more complete than with drugs.
Aromatherapy: Massage affected areas with bergamot, camphor, geranium, juniper, lavender, or neroli essential oils.
Ayurveda: Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine recommend applying tumeric and sandalwood paste (1/2 teaspoon of each and enough water to make a paste) to pimples, and drinking half a cup of aloe vera juice twice daily until acne clears.
Diet: Whole foods diet with special emphasis on vegetables (four to five servings per day, try to eat half of servings raw) and whole fruits (one to three times per day). The more severe the acne, the more you should reduce animal fats (saturated). Some people get acne in response to stressor foods such as caffeine, refined sugars, and alcohol. Processed foods such as colas, candies, and frozen and processed foods may also be a problem. Be sure to increase your intake of pure water and eat more fiber foods.
Mono-cleansing diets for one to two days per week for several months may be helpful in people who are not hypoglycemic (low blood sugar), debilitated, or require food to keep up strength for working. Examples of a mono-diet might include one steamed vegetable such as broccoli and brown rice without any animal products. Use pro-biotics, found in the chilled section of your health food store as directed on label. Fasting one day a week may also be helpful. Consider Colon, Candida, and Liver Cleansing. Cleansing and Detoxification
Flower Essences: Add 3-5 drops of Crab Apple essence to pure water and drink throughout the day. This will help detox and purification and alleviate feelings of unattractiveness. Rescue Remedy® should also be used if your acne leaves you feeling stressed.
Herbs: When used with appropriate nutritional support, herbs may be helpful in the treatment of acne. Combine the tinctures of sarsaparilla, burdock, and cleavers in equal parts and take 1/2 teaspoonful of this mixture three times a day. An infusion of nettle can also be drunk two or three times a day. Tea tee oil is another effective acne solution that can be applied topically.
Also helpful is an infusion of calendula mixed with equal parts of distilled witch hazel that may be applied topically as a cleansing wash. Forsythia works against bacteria by removing skin toxins. You can also use a steam sauna for face with red clover, lavender, and strawberry leaves. Place these herbs in a pan of boiling water, then allow the steam to cover your face as you face the pan, with your head covered with a towel to keep the steam concentrated in front of you.
Homeopathy: Pulsatilla, Silicea, Berberis, Ledum, Sulfur, Arsen alb., Belladonna, and/or Carbo veg are all useful remedies for acne.
Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is the application of water, ice, steam and hot and cold temperatures to maintain and restore health. Treatments include full body immersion, steam baths, saunas, sitz baths, colonic irrigation and the application of hot and/or cold compresses. Hydrotherapy is effective for treating a wide range of conditions and can easily be used in the home as part of a self-care program. Many Naturopathic Physicians, Physical Therapists and Day Spas use Hydrotherapy as part of treatment. We suggest several at-home hydrotherapy treatments. Please seek the advice of your alternative health care practitioner before undergoing these procedures to make sure they are appropriate for you.
*Purified water is essential for any hydrotherapy treatment. The section: Remedies for Treating Chlorinated Bath Water, offers clear instructions and recommendations.
Juice Therapy: Drink two glasses of raw juice daily. Carrot, beet, and Celery juice is particularly helpful, as is carrot, cucumber, lettuce (not iceberg), and spinach juice, with carrot predominating (50% of total juice content).
Nutritional Supplementation: The following nutrients are all useful for treating acne and can be used in combination with each other: vitamin A (10,000 IU daily for two weeks), beta carotene (50,000 IU for one month, then reduce to 25,000 IU), vitamin B complex (two to three times daily), vitamin C (1,000 mg three times daily), vitamin E (800 IU daily), and zinc, which helps prevent acne by regulating the oil glands (20-60 mg daily).
Other useful supplements for treating acne include essential fatty acids (one to two daily for one year), since acne may be a symptom of an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency; Brewer’s yeast; chlorophyll; and pancreatic enzymes with meals (three times daily). Vitamin B6 may also help for acne due to the premenstrual or mid-menstrual cycle.
Practical Health Hints: Expose your face to sun and air for at least 30 minutes each day, but take caution not to sunburn. Fresh air and daily exercise are very important. Be sure to get sufficient relaxation and sleep. Do not squeeze pimples or whiteheads, as this may lead to infection. Use non-oil-based makeup and wash off thoroughly each night. Avoid cosmetic products containing lanolin, isopropyl myristate, sodium laurel sulfate, laureth-4, and D and C red dyes, as they may be too rich for the skin and cause blackheads. Drink eight glasses of water a day. Use 100% cotton clothing and bed linen.
Stress Reduction: A study of teenagers taught methods of relaxation showed a marked reduction in acne outbreaks in severely affected individuals. Those who continued to practice at home maintained the progress they had made.
Topical Treatment: Improvement may be hastened by a proper facial hygiene. Washing the face three times a day with a soap made with the herb Calendula officinalis (marigold flowers) can be very effective in keeping the face clean and the cyst-forming infections minimized.
You can also wipe your face in the morning and evening with vitamin A-E emulsion, liquid chlorophyll, and aloe vera gel, or with cider vinegar and a dash of cayenne pepper. Vitamin A and tea tree oil can be used topically to decrease skin outbreaks.
Facial cleansing—Gently wash face with mild soap and water two to four times daily. Alternatives to soap are milk, diluted lemon juice, or a solution of one part rubbing alcohol to ten parts water. Rinse face with warm water and pat dry. Try to keep skin free of oil and use water-based products.
Facial masks—The following foods may be applied to the cleansed skin as a facial mask for 30 minutes before rinsing off with warm water: cooked and mashed carrots (let cool first), grated cucumber or sliced cucumber soaked in rum, whisked egg yolk, and oatmeal, cooked in milk until thick and then cooled. Or apply baking soda and water mixture to face, rinse immediately with water, and then rinse or spray with apple cider vinegar, plus do a final rinse with filtered water.
A Bentonite clay mask, left on the skin for 15-20 minutes, is also very useful for helping to draw out inflammatory by-products of acne. Or try a compress of goldenseal tea. Overnight mask for drying the skin: diluted liquid hand soap or shampoo patted on a cleansed and dried face.
Alternative Professional Care
If your symptoms persist despite the above measures, seek the help of a qualified health professional. The following professional care therapies have all been shown to be useful for treating acne: Colon Therapy, Detoxification Therapy, Environmental Medicine, Enzyme Therapy, Magnetic Field Therapy, Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy (for acne related to hormonal imbalances), Naturopathic Medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. (See Glossary for descriptions of these Alternative Therapies.)