This month, our Sussex health expert takes a look at acne and what natural methods you can take to help your skin.
Acne is a common skin condition. It may present as whiteheads, blackheads, small pink bumps called papules, or pimples (pus-filled red lesions). More severe forms can result in firm, painful nodules and cysts which may lead to scarring. Acne often occurs on the face but can also appear on the shoulders, back, chest, legs, and buttocks.
- Honey mask to the face once or twice a week – honey has antibacterial properties so it has the capacity to disinfect and heal minor blemishes. It is also gentle on sensitive skin.
- Wash twice a day with a natural soap designed for acne – look for organic charcoal to draw out bacteria and excess oil, natural antiseptic tea tree or neem oil which reduces inflammation, and shea butter to keep skin hydrated. However, be gentle when washing! – do not scrub or use any sort of rough cloth. Over-washing the skin will actually stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum and potentially exacerbate the acne.
- Avoid wearing makeup – leaving makeup products on the skin only contributes to clogging your pores, causing more pimples and blackheads. If you feel you must wear makeup, be sure it is water- and mineral-based, and free of chemicals. There are several good-quality, chemical-free and organic alternatives available, such as Green People, Lavera, Inika, and Dr Hauschka.
- Do not pick or squeeze blackheads and pimples – as tempting as it may be, do not squeeze, scratch, rub or touch pimples and blackheads, all of which increase sebum production. Plus, when you squeeze, you are actually rupturing the membranes below the skin, causing infection and sebum to spread underneath your skin. The result is more pimples!
- Wash your pillowcase every other day – your face lays on your pillowcase every night. The pillowcase absorbs the oils from your skin and reapplies the dirt and oil the next time you lay on it, thus causing breakouts.
- Eat foods rich in zinc – zinc is an antibacterial agent and a necessary element in the oil-producing glands of the skin. A diet low in zinc can actually cause acne breakouts.
A dietary factor that has been linked with acne is foods with a high glycaemic load, such as sweetened fruit juice, sugary beverages, confectionery, white rice or pasta, french fries, baked potatoes, low-fibre cereals, pizza, and raisins and dates. High glycaemic load foods affect levels of insulin, which increases the production of testosterone and may stimulate the development of acne. A diet focused on low glycaemic index (GI) foods such as beans, fruits and vegetables, high-fibre cereals, nuts, and whole grain breads will usually improve the severity of acne.
There is evidence that dairy products may be linked with acne. Milk naturally contains reproductive hormones and growth hormones which may stimulate the development of acne.
Nutritional supplement treatment options
Zinc is actually one of the most widely studied forms of treatment for acne. It has antioxidant properties that reduce the inflammatory response to dead cells, dirt, oil, and bacteria. Zinc also has anti-inflammatory properties which may help relieve some of the redness and irritation associated with moderate-to-severe acne. It may even help reduce the appearance of acne scars.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant, which may help fight inflammation and free radicals in the skin. Vitamin A also encourages the growth of new skin cells whilst breaking down dead skin cells and preventing them from sticking together and forming acne-causing blockages in hair follicles.
Vitamin E seems to be most effective in treating acne when applied topically. It is absorbed into the skin quickly because it is fat-soluble. This leads to faster healing of acne and acne scars. It controls the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, which helps with the skin’s strength, elasticity and hydration. Because it is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant, vitamin E can support healing and is specifically known to help with acne scarring.
Vitamin C contains anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce the redness and swelling that occurs with acne. It fights free radical damage to the skin and helps with collagen renewal.
Omega-3 can help to improve acne in several ways. It helps to regulate hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, which are a group of male hormones that trigger the overproduction of skin oil. Additionally, the essential fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is converted in the body to powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial substances, which helps to modulate the inflammatory response of the immune system. Omega-3 can also stop the liver from overproducing a hormone called ‘insulin-like growth factor 1’ (IGF-1), which can also help to control testosterone production.
Coconut oil, taken internally, works as an antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal agent, thus helping acne-prone skin in its fight against infection.
Botanical treatment options
Tea tree oil has been shown to be as effective as chemical applications (albeit slower to take effect) and without the side effects of its chemical counterparts. Tea tree oil contains a constituent called terpinen-4-ol that is believed to be responsible for most of tea tree oil’s anti-bacterial activity. Applying topical tea tree oil to acne lesions is believed to kill Propionibacterium acnes, which is the skin-dwelling bacteria involved in acne.
Guggul (Commiphora mukul) has been shown to compare favourably to tetracycline in the treatment of cystic acne.
Historically, tonic herbs such as burdock, have been used in the treatment of skin conditions. These herbs are believed to have a cleansing action when taken internally. Many herbal preparations combine burdock root with other alterative herbs, such as yellow dock or red clover.
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Article contributed by Dr Tracy S Gates, DO, DIBAK, L.C.P.H., Consultant, Pure Bio Ltd. Copyright © Pure Bio Ltd 2022. All rights reserved. Pure Bio Ltd are a leading UK supplier of the highest quality PURE nutritional supplements, based in Horsham, West Sussex. Visit www.purebio.co.uk for all your nutritional supplement needs