Holistic Treatment of Acne
It’s that time of year again! We can start “stripping away the layers” and look forward to going outside without bundling up first. It is the season for events like proms, dances, graduations, recitals and parties. It is a time you especially want to look and feel your best! It can be very disheartening, and a big blow to the self-esteem when you struggle with acne or even an occasional pesky pimple.
There are many topical acne products on the market, both over-the-counter as well as prescription medications. But acne, as well as any skin issue, is not a superficial or “skin-deep” problem, but rather a sign of imbalance in the body. Most of the commercially available products can actually have long-term detrimental effects to the skin, even though they may carry some immediate improvement. It is beneficial to approach the treatment of acne holistically, meaning to look at the root problem, address any imbalances, and to treat it as naturally as possible for better long-term results.
You may have heard over and over again the recommendation for a healthy diet for many health problems. The root cause of acne is inflammation, so you will see amazing results with an anti-inflammatory diet, as simple as that.
Limit dairy and sugar- they are the 2 biggest culprits in the fight against acne. In 2005, researchers studied data from the famous Nurses Health Study, and found that participants who drank more milk as teens had much higher rates of severe acne than those who had little or no milk as teens. In other studies of over 10,000 adolescents, a direct link existed between the amount of milk consumed and the severity of acne. Completely remove dairy from your diet for one month and see the results for yourself!
Limit your sugar, especially processed white sugar, and you will also notice a huge difference in your skin. Other commonly inflammatory foods are gluten, soy and eggs. Increase your intake of organic vegetables and healthy protein and fats like grass fed meat, fish, coconut oil and avocados. And try to stay away from hydrogenated fats, the “bad fats”, like processed foods made with canola and vegetable oils.
Zinc is important for the control of acne and can also help repair the gut lining. B complex vitamins are especially helpful if you are under stress (that’s a lot of us), have a vegetarian diet, or on the birth control pill.
Probiotics- a good high quality probiotic is a helpful supplement in the treatment for acne to help kill off the bad bacteria in the digestive tract. The gut microbiome is connected to the skin microbiome. A gut microbiome (the delicate balance of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract) that is out of balance can contribute to a vast array of health problems. Particularly pay attention to this one if you also have digestive issues like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or heartburn.
Essential Fatty Acids- Studies have shown that evening primrose oil can reduce acne breakouts and help balance hormones. Linoleic acid plays an important part in maintenance of epidermal integrity. Omega 3 ‘s also can help reduce inflammation and may play a role in maintaining skin health. If you are taking a fish oil supplement, it is important that you get a clean source (free of mercury, etc.). And the best source is from the foods that naturally contain omega 3’s- such as fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds.
Curcumin is another anti-inflammatory supplement (from turmeric which is actually a widely used spice in Indian cuisine). It also may help manage the bacterium that triggers acne.
While healing from the inside is always the best medicine, there are some natural topical treatments that are helpful in treating acne and pimples.
Essential oils- black cumin seed oil is excellent for acne. Extensive studies have been carried out on Nigella Sativa for a wide spectrum of actions including its therapeutic properties of the plant for the skin. You can also try tea tree oil and lavender oil, which all can help heal the skin when directly applied. Some people can be sensitive, so always do a test area first, dilute it, and use a 100% organic high quality brand.
Neem oil- various parts of the neem tree has been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine for skin disease. You can get an Ayurvedic preparation of neem oil combined with other skin healing oils so that it doesn’t smell as bad or coagulate as quickly in cold weather as plain neem oil often does.
Apple Cider Vinegar toner- apple cider vinegar got a lot of attention a few years back when Scarlett Johannson sang its praises for the treatment of her own acne. You can make your own toner with 1-part vinegar to 2-3 parts water. It is important to use organic, unfiltered and unpasteurized. The theory behind its miracle is that it helps return the natural acidity to our skin and restores the skin’s natural barrier to germs, bacteria and pollution as well as dissolving dead skin cells.
As always, if your skin continues to be troublesome, especially if it is coupled with other health issues, consult with your health care practitioner.
In conclusion, I would like to help you get to the root cause of acne, and not just treat the symptom. Not only will acne clear up, but also the body will be in better health and you may find that other things improve as well. That’s the splendor of a holistic approach. Beauty is not only skin deep. Here’s to your clearer and glowing skin!
Lara O’Neil APRN is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at ProNatural Physician’s Group, an integrative medical practice in Berlin, CT. She bridges traditional with integrative care from birth through age 21. She is an in-network provider for insurance companies and is accepting new patients. Find out more at www.pronaturalphysicians.com or call 860-829-0707.