Natural Treatment And Management Of Acne.

First of all I would like to specify that there are few different causes of acne and each one requires different approach. Overall though, there are two approaches to acne treatment: short-term, that only deals with the symptom and long-tern, which designed to target the cause of acne. The best thing to do is to use a combination of both treatments, together with the right diet and other necessary lifestyle changes. Some nutrients help to reduce inflammation, prevent the spread of bacteria and fight infection, others help to control the factors that cause acne, such as stress or hormonal imbalance. In many cases, the treatment should last for three month and in severe cases for up to a year. It might also be combined with conventional medicines, such as antibiotics or steroid creams if absolutely necessary. Below is a list of nutrients, that has been proven to reduce the appearance of acne or treat it completely.

Zinc affects the hormone processing in the body and modulates testosterone levels, which makes it essential for healthy skin. It is recognised by doctors as an effective acne treatment alternative. Daily intake of 50 mg of Zinc Methionate, which is the best form of Zinc to treat acne with, has been shown to reduce inflammation of the skin and to speed healing time.  Several double blind studies have shown that supplementing zinc gives similar results to taking tetracycline in superficial acne and even better results in deeper acne. Zinc is also required for the effective release and utilisation of vitamin A from liver and vitamin A is beneficial in acne treatment.

Best food sources are oysters, seeds, nuts and fish.

Vitamin A and Retinoids has been shown to reduce sebum production and thickening (hyperkeratosis) of sebaceous follicles. For this reason, topical retinoids are often used to treat acne. However, the success of acne treatment with retinoids depends on the amount of it in the product: the higher the retinol content – the better individuals would respond to treatment. This can be a problem, because high amounts of retinol or vitamin A can cause skin irritation, peeling and dryness, and chapped lips. These symptoms disappear after the treatment stops, but many people might find it too much to bear and would stop the treatment before they can see any benefit. Topical Tretinoin (Retin-A) is often prescribed by dermatologists for mild to moderate acne. Isotretionin (Accutane) is often prescribed orally. These two can cause the adverse effects described above, but generally perceived to be milder than other common retinol medications.

Vitamin A, taken orally has a positive effect on acne treatment. Note, that it is not recommended to take more than 5000 IU of vitamin A per day and pregnant women and those with thyroid problems, should not take it at all.

In Leung’s study of Acne Vulgaris (1997), he gave his patients with various severity of acne 10g of  Pantothenic acid (B5) daily, divided in four doses, together with large quantities of  vitamin C. He also asked them to apply a cream containing 20% by weight of pantothenic acid to affected area 4-6 times daily. Less sebum production was noticeable in 2-3 days! In 2 weeks, existing lesions started to regress and the outbreak of new lesions slowed down. Moderate cases of acne were under control in 8 weeks and severe cases took up to 6 month or longer to treat. Vitamin B5 is also a stress-buster and would definitely benefit someone whose cause of acne is stress. Any good multivitamin should have the recommended dose of B5.

Vitamin B6 aids in the metabolism of hormones and can be effective for women prone to”PMS acne” at 50-100 mg daily. In combination with Magnesium it also helps to combat stress and promotes a good night sleep. Again, any good multivitamin would have a recommended dose of B6.

Natural vitamin E helps to prevents sebum oxidation and has been shown to be beneficial for acne at 200-400 IU daily. Such dose can also be found in a good multivitamin formula.

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a natural sulphur compound that has been shown to reduce the appearance of acne due to its anti-inflammatory properties. MSM is available as a powder or capsules and quite common ingredient of acne creams and lotions. MSM reduces inflammation, helps to balance hormones and detoxifies the skin. It can be taken between 2000-3000 mg daily (1000m mg 2-3 times a day) and increased to up to 5000 mg a day if necessary.

Chromium helps to break down glucose. The more sugar we consume – the more chromium we need. High blood glucose levels have been linked to incidence of acne. Because chromium improves glucose metabolism, it might help to remove the source of energy and food for the bacteria associated with acne. Chromium picolinate or polynicotinate are the forms that should be taken and the recommended dose is up to 400 mcg daily. Brewer’s (nutritional) yeast and raw onions are rich sources of chromium. Any good multivitamin would have chromium picolinate included too.

Other nutrients that can be beneficial in treating acne are: vitamin C, the rest of B vitamins, selenium, calcium, silica, essential fatty acids and all of the amino acids. If a course of antibiotics is necessary, it is beneficial to take a course of probiotics afterwards.

Herbal supplements

Majority acne cases in both men and women are due to hormonal imbalance. Female conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (POS) can cause aggressive acne that is difficult to treat unless the hormones would be balanced. The herb Agnus Castus (Vitex, Chasteberry) has been known to gently balance the hormones, improving PMS, breast pains and cycle regularity. It does not have any side effects and can be taken by teenagers to help regulate period, improve PMS and PMT symptoms and to clear the skin. It’s worth trying Agnus Castus before taking hormonal pills for acne treatment. Like with many herbal remedies, it takes at least 3 month to notice the results. After the condition improves, it can be stopped for a while, or in severe cases, it can be takes for a very long term. It should be stopped on the first day of period and resumed on the last, just like with contraception pill. Agnus Castus is not recommended to women on contraception pills. Vitex can also be taken by teenage boys to treat acne.

Tea Tree Oil is very effective to use on spots due to its anti-bacterial actions. There are plenty of products with tea tree oil available on the market and it can be used pure on individual spots.

Nettle is a very effective cleanser for skin and body. Drinking nettle tea, or making soup from young nettles is a very good way to cleanse your liver and kidneys and flash out toxins. Nettle facial toner has astringent and skin whitening properties while being very gentle. It is very easy to make – just boil nettle leaves in a pan, then let them brew, covered, for a day. Strain into an air tight bottle, and store in the fridge for up to a week. Use few times daily or as often as desired.

Liver function is of prime importance in maintaining good skin condition. Another good liver cleansing herb is Milk Thistle. The tincture can be taken on a daily basis for a few month to treat adult acne or for women, one week prior to period to alleviate PMS acne.

Facial Care

Apart of prescribed creams and lotions, there are plenty herbal or mineral facial and body care products which help to decrease the appearance of acne. I already mentioned Zinc, MSM and Tea Tree oil before. Lavender, Witch Hazel and natural grapefruit seed extract work as gentle astringents and can be useful for very sensitive skin prone to acne. Grapefruit seed extract is also anti-bacterial and must be diluted before using topical of orally. It must never be used around eyes.

Colloidal silver spray is anti-bacterial and might help to prevent acne spreading. These sprays are widely available in health shops.

Any cream with chamomile or calendula would be good for reducing redness and itchiness while undergoing treatment with harsh, irritating creams. Cucumber and nettle toners and cleansers are very gentle and cooling.

Facial masks with seaweed and bentonite clay are excellent for cleansing the skin and removing any excess oil.

  • Do not use any face or body care products with mineral oils (not to be confused with natural essential oils) as they are common cause of acne.
  • Don’t rub your face or use any scrubs as it irritates the skin and makes acne worse.
  • Do not use night moisturisers. Your skin should breath at night and night moisturisers only clog pores further.
  • Do not squeeze, scratch or pick on your pimples!
  • Do not overexpose to sunlight: moderate amount of sunshine might improve acne, but high amounts make it worse.
  • Young men with acne should use disposable razorblades until the condition improves, in order to avoid spreading of bacteria and onset of folliculitis (which is difficult to treat without antibiotics).

Nutrition

I might write the obvious here, but drinking enough water is very important. It helps us to digest food and to flash out the toxins, which, among other things, is necessary to improve the skin health. Typically, it is recommended to drink 8 250 ml (8 oz.) cups of water per day. I’d say it depends on your level of activity and how hot is the weather. You need to drink more than 2 litres if you are exercising or of it is very hot. These are general guidelines though. People with low than average height and weight might not need so much water. Also, certain drinks, like herbal teas and watery fruits, like watermelons do count towards daily water intake.

Eliminate foods that contain saturated fat, hormones (meat, dairy products and some farmed fish) or iodine as it disrupts the hormones. Try to avoid drinking or eating from poor quality plastic as it disrupts hormones too. Anything which raises blood glucose level must be cut to a minimum. This includes alcohol, caffeine, refined carbohydrates and simple sugars.

Try to include skin healing, anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, such as good quality fish, flax and hemp seed oils, avocados, nuts and seeds, whole grains and plenty of green leafy vegetables.

 

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