Acne Offensive: 10 Ways to Prevent & Treat Breakouts without Drugs or Chemicals

Do certain foods cause acne? Do supplements, vitamins, herbs like wild indigo or black walnut, or light therapy treatments help? Naturopathic physician James Rouse explains triggers and treatments to clear up breakouts and help prevent acne flare-ups without using prescription drugs or harsh topical creams.

Acne causes, triggers and symptoms

Hormones often play a key role as a cause or trigger of acne. Acne typically begins around puberty when an increase of steroid (androgenic) hormones causes an increase in the activity of sebaceous hair follicles. If acne continues to persist beyond the age 25 or 30, factors other than hormones may be coming into play.

Diet, heredity, stress, vitamin deficiency, certain medications, thyroid or other endocrine problems chronic irritation, and bacteria can also play a role in acne. When acne strikes, a combination of several of these factors is often at play.

In severe cases, acne can lead to deep, inflamed and severe lesions.

5 best ways to prevent and treat acne — without medication or harsh chemicals

  1. Prevention and treatment of acne begins with keeping the affected areas clean without using harsh abrasive cleaners, which can irritate already sensitive skin.
  2. Avoid harsh oils, heavy make up and lipstick, as all of these can further clog the pores and increase the chances for breakouts.
  3. Dermatologists often recommend topical anti-acne or sensitive-skin cleansing creams and lotions that are available over the counter. Such cleansers are usually intended to dry out the skin more than anything else.
  4. In more severe cases, doctors may prescribe medication.
  5. Exposure to sunlight is also a common treatment, and Natural Spectrum® light therapy devices are designed to mimic the benefits of sunlight. Note that if you are on prescribed medication, you may need to avoid exposure to the sun.
  6. Avoid picking, piercing or squeezing the pimples. This can lead to infection and possible scarring.
Do certain foods cause acne?

There is much debate on whether what you eat can cause acne. Chocolate, nuts, dairy products, soda and alcohol are some of the most commonly referred to dietary aggravators of acne.

The role of food in acne differs from person to person — some will do better than others by staying away from these dietary aggravators. Excess sugar, fried foods, additives, artificial sweeteners and colors, iodized salt, saturated and partially hydrogenated fats (common in margerine, peanut butter and many processed, packaged foods) can also be problematic for some.

5 supplements and nutrients that can help prevent and treat acne

Dietary nutrients (including foods containing those nutrients), supplements and botanical medicines may be used in the treatment of acne.

  1. Vitamin A is often used as an important anti-acne nutrient. High doses (25,000 IU a day) of vitamin A are often recommended for short periods of time (no longer than a month at a time) until acne begins to improve. If treatment continues, the dose may be titrated down to 10,000 IU a day. This is definitely not a treatment for women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, since vitamin A can have toxic effects to the fetus.
  2. Zinc is a mineral that may help by reducing inflammation and supporting wound healing and overall immunity. One hundred milligrams daily for several months is not an unusual recommended dose. Essential fatty acids such as flaxseed oil, borage oil or evening primrose oil are often combined with zinc to help prevent clogged pores; however, for some patients with acne, fats can trigger an aggravation of symptoms.
  3. Antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium are important for protecting the skin from free-radical (oxidative) damage. Supplementing with 600 I.U. vitamin E, 3 grams vitamin C (in divided doses) and 200 micrograms (mcg) selenium daily may also help normalize glutathione peroxidase, which is often decreased in males with acne.
  4. Vitamin B complex, especially vitamin B6, can help with premenstrual acne. The botanical medicines chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus castus) and Dong quai are also commonly used premenstrually to help prevent premenstrual acne flare-ups.
  5. The herbs black walnut, burdock, Oregon grape root and wild indigo may be considered for acne. It is important to talk to an experienced herbalist or physician familiar with dosing herbs prior to taking these herbs. Astringent herbs like chamomile and witch hazel may also be applied topically to clean skin. Chamomile tea bags, for example, may be soaked and then gently applied to the skin, or the tea itself may be applied using a cotton ball.
Try acupuncture for acne

Some acne patients may benefit from acupuncture. Acupuncture may help relieve inflammation, and it may also be used to strengthen and tonify the liver, which is central to the processing of the body’s hormones. You may also want to ask your dermatologist about cosmetic acupuncture.


Consult your doctor before using any health treatment — including herbal supplements and natural remedies — and tell your doctor if you have a serious medical condition or are taking any medications. The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in no way intented as substitute for medical counseling.

 

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Comments

Gwyn
Gwyn's picture
User offline. Last seen 4 years 28 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 09/30/2009

Our naturopath said of my teenaged son's acne, "Acne means the intestines are not functioning properly. He's probably gluten intolerant or dairy intolerant or both." He was both. And that's what led to my own gluten diagnosis in my 40s. No gluten, no more acne for either of us. Not many doctors know to look for that when dealing with its lesser known symptoms, like acne and infertility.

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