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Acne is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by clogged pores, blackheads, and pimples. It affects 80% of teenagers and young adults. The oil glands are connected to hair follicles and release a substance known as sebum that lubricates hair and skin. Usually, sebum travels up the hair follicle and out onto your skin. But when the sebaceous glands produce too much oil that combines with dead skin cells, the follicles become blocked and inflamed. Acne most often affects the nose, forehead, cheeks, chin, back, and trunk. Acne is the most common skin disease in the United States, affecting 17 to 45 million people. While it tends to last longer in women, men are more likely to have severe cases.  It is most common in teens and generally goes away by age 30. Although it is not a serious health threat, severe acne can be painful and may cause permanent scarring.

Besides making sure you are getting the key nutrition detailed below, make sure to:

  • eat more raw organic vegetables and fruits
  • eat plenty of high fiber foods
  • drink plenty of toxin free water
  • minimize or avoid alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, caffeine, refined sugar, processed fats and carbs
  • minimize dairy products
  • avoid makeup
  • consider a 3 day cleanse
  • buy and use high quality spa grade all natural toxin free skin cleaners and organic moisturizers
  • To read a featured expert doctor article on natural ways to protect your skin from sun damage with additional skin nutrient information CLICK HERE.

Nutrients, Herbs and Alternative Therapies Used to Treat Acne


Although some people with acne report that certain drinks and foods make their symptoms worse, there is no scientific evidence that any food (even chocolate) affects acne. It is possible that food allergies may play a role in adult acne, and people may want to avoid foods that appear to make their symptoms worse. Some doctors may suggest a low glycemic diet, which helps keep blood sugar stable and under control.

There is evidence that the following nutritional supplements help acne and improve skin health:

  • Zinc – Several studies indicate that the mineral zinc may reduce the effects of acne, including healing of tissue and minimizing scarring. However, high doses of zinc can cause anemia, vomiting, and immune system suppression. It also interacts with tetracycline, which is often prescribed for acne. For these reasons, talk to your doctor before taking zinc. Dosage: 30 mg two times per day for a month, then 30 mg per day. Over 100mg daily not recommended.
  • Niacinamide – One study found that applying a 4% niacinamide gel to the skin two times per day for two months significantly improved acne symptoms. This is a B vitamin considered particularly helpful (do not confuse with Niacin)  - see below.
  • L-carnitine — Researchers in Greece showed that, among a large group of people, mild side effects from isotretinoin (dry skin, chapped lips, dry eyes, and nosebleeds caused by dry nose) improved when taking L-carnitine.
  • Vitamin A — has many of the same properties as the retinoid drugs, but often with fewer side effects. Vitamin A strengthens cells. However, too much vitamin A can be toxic, so talk to your doctor to determine the right dose for you.
  • Chromium – Helps reduce infections.
  • Colloidal Silver – A natural antibiotic.
  • EFAs, essential omega fatty acids - GLA in particular helps keep skin smooth and supple, helps repair tissue and may help clear pore blocking.
  • Potassium – Some studies have correlated a deficiency with acne.
  • B Vitamins – Bs are known to help reduce stress and have strong antioxidant properties. Studies suggest they help reduce intensity and frequency of acne. They help improve blood flow into skin tissue as well.
  • Vitamin C - Acne is a cellular disorder. Vitamin C has been shown very helpful to protect cells and therefore useful in fighting acne.
  • D3 – Vitamin D3 helps tissue regeneration and repair including skin tissue. Recent evidence
  • Vitamin E - Its antioxidant protective characteristics are well known. Its tissue repair properties lesser so.
  • Lecithin, Choline, ALA - Other cell protectant anti-oxidants are all helpful.
  • MSM – This sulfur is perhaps the most unerappreciated nutrient for cell antiaging. It helps cells excrete toxins and helps keep all connective tissue including skin permeable and flexible.
  • L-Cysteine – An amino acid that also provides valuable sulfur and nutrients to help skin renewal.
  • Hyaluronic Acid – This is skins natural moisturizer essential for truly healthy skin.
  • Squalene – Derived from olives, skin loves this to help protect and renew skin.
  • Selenium – A powerful antioxidant that helps skin elasticity as well similar to MSM and Hyaluronic acid.
  • Glycolic Acid & Salicylic Acid to dry up active acne and kill bacteria.
  • Grapefruit seed extract.


Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body’s systems and many have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

  • Acidophilus - Replenishes good bacteria that fights infection.
  • Chlorophyll – Helps clean blood and prevent infections as well as supply valuable nutrients to skin.
  • Garlic - Its antibacterial and immune boosting functions help skin and other body tissue and organs.
  • Tea tree oil — Applied to the skin, tea tree oil may help reduce bacteria, lessening inflammation and improving symptoms.
  • Guggul — In one study, taking guggul orally had the same effect as taking tetracycline. Guggul should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women. Guggul may have estrogen-like effects, and should not be taken by anyone with a history or family history of hormone-related cancers, including prostate cancer and breast or ovarian cancer. In addition, the herb may interact with blood-thinning medications, tamoxifen, and birth control pills containing estrogen.  It may also interact with other  herbs that have estrogen-like effects (such as black cohosh, licorice, soy, and others). Dosage: 500 mg of guggul two times per day.
  • Ayurvedic medicine — Ayurvedic medicine may help improve symptoms. In one study, a combination of ginger, Holarrhena antidysenterica and Embelia ribes reduced the number of inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions. In another study, combined oral and topical use of Aloe barbadensis, Azardirachta indica, turmeric, Hemidesmus indicus, Terminalia chebula, Terminalia arjuna, and ashwagandha also reduced the number of lesions.
  • Other Herbs shown helpful: Tumeric, Burdock, Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Red Clover, Yellow Dock, Lavender, Chaste Tree Berry, Alfalfa, Cayenne, Echinacea, Acqua Hammelis, and Aloe Vera (careful if you have an autoimmune disorder).
  • Lemons can be useful as well to cleansing inside and out.


Professional homeopaths may recommend one or more of the following treatments for acne based on their knowledge and clinical experience.

  • Belladonna — for people who experience flushes of heat to the face or who have inflamed pustular acne that improves with cold applications
  • Calendula – for skin conditions involving pustules or blisters.
  • Hepar sulphur — for painful, pus-filled acne
  • Kali bromatum — for deep acne, especially on the forehead, in persons who are chilled and nervous
  • Silicea — for pustules or pit-forming acne

Signs and Symptoms

There are several types of acne lesions:

  • Whiteheads– a clogged follicle. Whiteheads usually appear on the skin as small, round, white bumps.
  • Blackhead — a plugged follicle that opens and turns dark at the surface of the skin. Blackheads do not indicate the presence of dirt.
  • Papules — inflamed lesions that appear as small, pink bumps on the skin.
  • Pustules (pimples) — inflamed pus-filled lesions that are red at the base.
  • Cysts and nodules — large, inflamed, pus-filled lesions deep under the skin that can cause pain and scarring.

Lesions can cause scars ranging from small, sunken pits to large elevated blemishes, depending on how severe the acne is and what your skin type is

Causes and Risk Factors


Acne is caused by the combination of too much sebum and a buildup of dead skin cells. In teens, rising hormone levels are thought to be a factor. Too much sebum blocks hair follicles, and small bacteria-filled cysts called comedones form. If these comedones do not rupture, they develop into whiteheads or blackheads. When comedones rupture, the inflammation can spread into the surrounding area. Papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules are types of inflammatory lesions.

Risk Factors

The following may cause or worsen acne:

  • Family history of acne
  • Using oily cosmetic or hair products containing vegetable or animal fats
  • Hormonal changes common during adolescence, pregnancy, or menstruation
  • Certain medications such as corticosteroids, androgens, oral contraceptives, lithium, halogens, isoniazid, phenytoin, phenobarbital, and high levels of iodine (such as from kelp)
  • Sweating and friction on your skin, caused by headbands, back packs, bicycle helmets, or tight collars
  • Squeezing and picking comedones

Treatment Options

Treatment is aimed at reducing sebum production, helping the skin shed dead cells so they don’t build up, and preventing bacteria from accumulating. You can help by doing the following:

  • Wash skin once or twice a day with a mild cleanser. Washing more often, scrubbing skin, or using facial masks can make acne worse.
  • Use oil-free skin care products and cosmetics. Look for products that say “water-based” or “non-comedogenic.”
  • Try over-the-counter lotions containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
  • People with mild cases of acne may reduce symptoms with herbs, Ayurveda, or homeopathy. You’ll probably have to use medications or complementary and alternative remedies for at least 6 – 8 weeks before seeing a noticeable improvement in symptoms.

Drug Therapy


A doctor may prescribe topical medications to treat acne. The most commonly used include:

  • Retinoids — are medications derived from vitamin A that work by unclogging pores and reducing inflammation. Side effects may include redness, peeling, and photosensitivity (high risk of sunburn). Most retinoids are applied at night and should not be applied at the same time as benzoyl peroxide (with the exception of adapalene).
  • Antibiotics — work by killing bacteria and reducing inflammation. Topical antibiotics are available in prescription form. They may be used to treat mild-to-moderate acne.
  • Benzoyl peroxide — Benzoyl peroxide is also available in prescription form.


A doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics either alone or in addition to topical medications for moderate-to-severe acne.

  • Antibiotics — work by killing bacteria and reducing inflammation. Commonly prescribed oral antibiotics include doxycycline, minocycline, and tetracycline.
  • Isotretinoin (Accutane) — It is usually prescribed for people with severe, inflammatory acne that does not get better with other medications. Isotretinoin is taken twice a day for 20 weeks.
  • Some women may be prescribed birth control pills that seem to reduce acne.

(Contributed to by Tom Cifelli and Andrea Ervin)

This entry was posted in Body Care, Skin Care, Skin Problems

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