The familiar red and white pimples of acne are caused by pores that are blocked and often infected. Although acne is most common in adolescents (more than 80 percent of those between ages twelve and twenty-one are afﬂicted), it now appears with increasing frequency in adults.
As most people are aware, hormones play a signiﬁcant role in acne. Normally, the body produces sebum, an oily lubricant, and secretes it through sebaceous glands to the skin. This lubricant is necessary to protect the skin from the elements and to keep it moist. During adolescence and other times of hormonal change, ﬂuctuating hor- mones change this process and create several conditions that are likely to produce acne. For one, sebum production increases, and the oil, instead of passing harmlessly through the glands, hardens and clogs up the glandular canals. As a result, a red bump—a pimple—appears on the skin. Second, there is also increased production of keratin, a protective protein that covers the skin. Third, the same hormones cause an increase in the number of sebaceous glands, so there are more opportunities for acne to develop.
All of these factors can lead to clogged and infected pores, resulting in increased bacteria and yeast overgrowth on the skin. Overgrowth of these organisms causes skin inﬂammation. Superﬁcial inﬂammation results in pustule formation and skin redness. Inﬂammation that occurs deeper in the skin can result in the formation of nodules and cysts and, possibly, scars.
One must also consider the role of food sensitivities, which can cause or worsen acne. These are discussed further in the foods to avoid section further on. In addition, candida or yeast overgrowth can be an underlying cause of acne. This is most com- mon after chronic antibiotic use, where “friendly bacteria” are destroyed, setting up the overgrowth of candida. Many people are on long-term antibiotic use for the treat- ment of acne, which sets up not only a further acne problem but potential digestive problems as well. Finally, nutritional deﬁciencies often need to be addressed to improve acne. Zinc, essential fatty acids, and other nutrients are crucial in prevent- ing acne.
If you suffer from acne, be wary of the usual conventional treatments. Most prescription drugs for acne are either harsh topical lotions, which can cause dryness, redness, scaling, and sun sensitivity, or antibiotics, which disrupt the natural balance of intestinal ﬂora and may give you yeast infections and diarrhea. Instead, try a natural treatment plan for acne that emphasizes dietary changes, detox- iﬁcation, stress reduction, natural hormone balancing, and identiﬁcation of possible food allergies.
Surprising Facts about Acne
A key hormone during male adolescence is testosterone. More important, there is greater activity of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase in the skin, which converts testosterone to a metabolite known as DHT (dihydrotestosterone). These hor- mones, as well as the delicate balance of estrogen and progesterone, along with stress hormones, play a role in female adolescent, as well as in adult female and male, acne.
CAUSES OF ACNE
Hormones can ﬂuctuate at times other than adolescence, most notably during pregnancy, around the time of menses or menopause, and during periods of emotional stress. Oral contraceptives can also affect hormonal production. Acne can appear on babies as well. This is normal and goes away with time.
It would be a mistake, however, to attribute acne solely to ﬂuctuating hormones. The second biggest contributor to acne is poor nutrition. Fat, sugar, and processed foods accel- erate skin inﬂammation and acne. They also contribute to constipation, and thus the body responds by trying to expel the poisons through a different avenue—via the skin.
Each of the following symptoms can appear on the face, the chest, or the back.
• Red spots, bumps, or pustules, sometimes inﬂamed and painful
• * Blackheads
• Oily skin
• Poor diet
• Nutritional deﬁciencies
• Food sensitivities
• Hormonal ﬂuctuation or imbalance
• Emotional stress
• Poor digestion/toxic body system
• Candida/yeast overgrowth
The following tests can be helpful in choosing therapy that will be the most beneﬁcial:
Stool or blood analysis for candida overgrowth
Food allergies/sensitivities (see Food Allergies section)
Saliva hormone analysis for estrogen/progesterone/testosterone balance
Nutritional testing (blood/urine/hair) for nutritional deﬁciencies
Blood sugar testing
In general, acne sufferers should follow a simple diet of basic, unprocessed foods.
Dark-green or orange vegetables are especially helpful for their beta-carotene, which helps maintain and repair the skin. Eat them raw or lightly cooked to retain their nutrients and ﬁber.
A quarter cup of ground ﬂaxseeds provides plenty of ﬁber for proper elimination, as well as helpful essential fatty acids. Take with at least 8 ounces of water.
Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds, are good sources of skin-healthy vitamin E and essential fatty acids.
Quality protein sources are beans, peas, lentils, eggs, and fresh cold-water ﬁsh such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. The latter are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Meat products should be hormone- and antibiotic-free.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours to ﬂush tox- ins out of the body and to maintain good general health.
If you must use topical or oral antibiotics for acne, be sure to eat some live unsweetened yogurt every day. Antibiotics destroy the
News about Acne Treatments
• Vitex (chasteberry) and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) alleviate hormone-related acne.
• Homeopathic Silica (Silicea)
reduces pus formation.
• Reducing simple carbohydrates in the diet decreases skin inﬂammation.
“friendly” bacteria in your digestive tract, which are necessary for good health, and yogurt will replace it.
Food to Avoid
Eliminate junk and processed food, such as chips and nachos, colas, and candy. These products are a large source of toxins in the average diet.
Sugar encourages oil production and provides food for bacteria and yeast. Do not consume foods that contain added sugar. Avoid artiﬁcial sugar substitutes like sac- charine or aspartame. They have a poisonous effect on the body and also encourage an addiction to sweets.
Adult acne is often an allergic or sensitivity reaction to a certain food or foods. Although any food can conceivably result in an allergic response, by far the most fre- quent triggers are dairy, wheat, sugar, chocolate, and corn. Try the elimination diet on page 253 to determine whether a food allergy is causing your problem, or see a natural health-care practitioner for testing.
• Saturated and hydrogenated fats are particularly difﬁcult to digest, and they worsen acne. Stay away from fried foods and solid fats, such as margarine, lard, and vegetable shortening.
• An acidic internal environment encourages acne, so avoid alcohol, sugar, chocolate, fried foods, and soda, and limit meat products.
• Coffee and other caffeinated products may aggravate skin conditions. If they cause problems for you, cut them out and drink herbal teas instead.
• People with carbohydrate sensitivity may notice improvement in their skin by reducing their carbohydrate intake and increasing protein sources. This is because elevated levels of the blood sugar–regulating hormone insulin increases skin inﬂammation.
Detoxiﬁcation helps cleanse the body of acne-causing poisons. You may ﬁnd that your acne actually worsens immediately after trying the following therapies because your skin is eliminating toxins at a faster rate than usual. Once the toxins are expelled, your acne should be reduced or even eliminated.
A three-day vegetable juice fast will sweep away toxic build-up. You should drink a variety of juices during your fast, but those made from carrots, apples, and beets with their tops, as well as green drinks (spirulina, wheatgrass, barley grass, chlorella), are especially supportive of an acne cleanse.
Dry brushing removes dead skin and improves circulation. It’s also a relaxing way to enhance the effects of a fast. Do not brush areas of the skin where pustules are present.
ninety-one people with moderately severe acne found that 90 mg of zinc signiﬁcantly improved the acne more than a placebo did.
Tne study showed that a 5 percent tea tree oil gel extract was comparable to the effects of benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of mild to moderate acne. Tea tree oil users experi- enced fewer side effects (dryness, burning, redness, and itching).
Super Seven Prescriptions—Acne
Super Prescription #1 Vitex (chasteberry)
Take 160 mg of a standardized Vitex extract (0.6 percent aucubin or 0.5 percent agnuside) or 40 drops of the tincture form daily.
Vitex (chasteberry) is an excellent hormone balancer to reduce acne formation and is effective for men and women. Use this super supplement or a hormone- balancing herbal formula for at least six weeks. If you see improvement, continue with the same dose as long as it remains effective.
Super Prescription #2 Essential fatty acids
Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of ﬂaxseed oil or 3 to 5 grams of ﬁsh oil daily.
Essential fatty acids, formulations that contain ﬂaxseeds, ﬁsh, or a mixture of omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, are helpful for acne and reduce skin inﬂammation. Take as directed on container. It may take four to eight weeks for improvements to be noticed.
Super Prescription #3 Zinc
Take 50 mg of zinc twice daily with meals for three months, and then reduce the dosage to 50 mg daily for long-term supplementation. It should be taken in con- junction with copper (3 to 5 mg).
Zinc is one of the best minerals to use for the treatment of acne. It works to reduce the build-up of DHT and promotes skin healing. It may take up to three months for beneﬁts to occur. Do not use zinc sulfate, which is not readily absorbed.
Super Prescription #4 Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
Take 300 to 500 mg of the capsule form, 30 drops of tincture, or 1 cup of tea three times daily.
Burdock root works as a blood puriﬁer and a detoxiﬁer, and it improves elimi- nation. It also has hormone-balancing properties. Take it for a minimum of eight weeks.
Super Prescription #5 Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Apply a solution by dabbing it onto blemishes twice daily. It’s available in many over-the-counter acne preparations.
A 5 percent solution of tea tree oil in diluted water acts similarly to benzoyl per- oxide but without the drying side effects. Since tea tree oil is quite potent, test the solution on a small area of your skin ﬁrst.
Super Prescription #6 Homeopathy
Use a combination acne formula or one of the following if it matches your symp- toms. Use a 6x, 12x, 6C, or a 30C potency for two weeks. If there is improvement, discontinue using it.
Calcarea Sulphurica is for cystic acne or chronic acne where there is a yellow discharge.
Hepar Sulphuris (Hepar sulphuris calcareum) may provide relief if you have sev- eral pus-ﬁlled spots that are painful when touched, and if your skin lesions feel bet- ter with a warm compress.
Ledum palustre is helpful for pustular acne on the nose and the cheeks that feels better with cold applications.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is for acne associated with the hormonal changes of puberty, menstrual onset, or menopause.
Silica (Silicea) is for chronic white pustules.
Sulphur is for reddish, inﬂamed acne pustules that may be itchy or very sore. Heat or washing may cause a worsening of symptoms.
These formulas contain the most common homeopathic medicines for acne and skin health. In rare cases, your acne may initially worsen for a week and then begin to clear up. They are safe to use for all ages. Take as directed on the container.
Super Prescription #7 Vitamin A
Vitamin A is helpful for the skin and has been shown in studies to reduce sebum production and keratin production. Take 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU or higher daily, under the guidance of a doctor.
The problem with vitamin A is that high dosages are needed to be effective for acne, and these may cause side effects. A way around this problem is to use a lower dosage, along with other nutrients that work synergistically for skin health, such as selenium, vitamin E, and zinc. Pregnant women or those trying to conceive should not use more than 5,000 IU daily.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) blocks excessive DHT of the sebaceous glands and is effective for both sexes. Take 160 mg of an 85 to 95 percent liposterolic standard- ized extract or 30 drops of tincture twice daily.
Dandelion root (Taraxacum ofﬁcinale) supports your liver, which may be overtaxed with toxins. This herb is also a gentle laxative and can facilitate waste removal. Take
300 to 500 mg of the capsule form, 30 drops of tincture, or 1 cup of the tea three times daily.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) also supports liver detoxiﬁcation. Find a prod- uct that’s standardized for 70 to 85 percent silymarin content, and take 200 to 250 mg twice a day.
Passionﬂower (Passiﬂora incarnata) and hops (Humulus lupulus) is used when stress is contributing to your acne. Drink a cup of these calming teas whenever you need to wind down.
Vitamin E-complex enhances the beneﬁcial effects of selenium and vitamin A. Take
400 to 800 IU of mixed vitamin E-complex with tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Selenium, a trace mineral, is helpful in reducing the inﬂammation of acne. Take
200 mcg daily. Multivitamins contain selenium, and many have a dosage that’s close to 200 mcg.
Chromium helps with blood sugar regulation, which can be an important factor with acne. Take 200 to 400 mcg daily.
Vitamin B6 is useful for premenstrual acne. Take a 50 mg B-complex before and during premenstrual ﬂare-ups.
Oregano oil (Origanum vulgare) destroys yeast overgrowth associated with acne formation. Take 500 mg twice daily or use a liquid form.
Natural progesterone cream is effective for premenstrual and menopausal acne. To improve premenstrual and premenopausal acne, apply 20 mg once daily for 10 days before your expected menstrual ﬂow. Menopausal women can apply 20 mg one to two times daily for 3 or all weeks of the month.
Colloidal silver has an antimicrobial action. Dab it onto pimples twice daily.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has an anti-inﬂammatory property, as well as a soothing effect on the nervous system.
Super green food supplements, such as chlorella, spirulina, or blends of green foods, support skin healing and detoxiﬁcation. Take as directed on the container.
See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.
• Spleen 10 clears heat from the blood.
• Bladder 23 and 47, as well as Stomach 2 and 3, help clear acne.
• Bladder 10 can relieve stress that’s related to acne.
• Large Intestine 4 relieves constipation and depression.
See pages 686–675 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
• Work the kidneys and the liver to detoxify the blood.
• If acne is caused by a hormonal imbalance, work the endocrine glands.
• To prevent constipation and speed the elimination of toxins, work the colon.
To promote blood circulation and detoxiﬁcation, soak in a hot tub full of Epsom salts. Rinse well afterward. You can also add any of the oils listed in the Aromatherapy section.
Lavender is calming to the emotions and the skin; it also ﬁghts bacterial infection. Apply it with a compress or put it in your bath.
Germanium will regulate the production of oil.
Bergamot is both an astringent and an antidepressant. When the skin improves, apply a lotion made with diluted water, lavender, and orange blossom to reduce scarring.
The effects of stress can throw the body into a state of imbalance. Stress can affect the skin by altering hormone levels and disrupting digestion and detoxiﬁcation. Peo- ple with acne generally feel more self-conscious about their looks. Techniques to reduce stress will ultimately help with skin health and appearance. Exercise, prayer, reading, and many other techniques can be used to reduce the effects of stress.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the appropriate remedy, and place 10 drops under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Try Crab Apple if acne is causing feelings of shame about your appearance.
If you’ve given up hope of ﬁnding a cure for your acne, Gorse will renew your spirits.
Larch is helpful for people who lack self-conﬁdence or who are embarrassed because of their skin condition.
Sunlight can inhibit bacterial growth. Get ﬁfteen minutes of sunlight, but never allow the skin to burn.