Acne: Conventional & Alternative Therapies.

What is acne? Acne is a skin condition characterized by reddened, inflamed pustules (or "whiteheads") on the face, neck, shoulders, and elsewhere. Acne occurs most commonly in teenagers and to a lesser extent in young ...

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What is acne?

Acne is a skin condition characterized by reddened, inflamed pustules (or "whiteheads") on the face, neck, shoulders, and elsewhere. Acne occurs most commonly in teenagers and to a lesser extent in young adults. The condition results in part from excessive stimulation of the skin by male hormones, called androgens. Bacterial infection of the skin also appears to play a role.

What are the symptoms of acne?

Acne is a skin condition manifested by pimples, which may be closed (whiteheads) or open (blackheads). These pimples are typically located on the face, neck, chest, and back. Most acne is mild, although some people experience inflammation with larger cysts, which may result in scarring.

Conventional treatment options

Astringent lotions, oil-removing pads, and acne soap are used to keep the skin clean. Topical creams containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or tretinoin (Retin-A) are often recommended to prevent the formation of pimples and to treat preexisting cysts. For more severe cases, oral antibiotics such as erythromycin or tetracycline are often prescribed. Women with severe acne are sometimes treated with birth control pills.

Our pharmacy has request for a Glycolic Acid cream ( 5% or 10%) which has had extremely beneficial results even for the most stubborn forms of acne.

See Glycolic Acid article in achives

Key nutritional supplements


Other nutritional supplements that may be helpful

Zinc: 30 mg two or three times per day for three months, then 30 mg per day thereafter.

Vitamin A: Take only with a doctor's supervision.

Niacinamide (topical application in a cream): Topical gel containing 4% niacinamide applied twice per day was found to substantially help people with acne in a double-blind trial lasting two months. There is little reason to believe the vitamin would have similar actions if taken orally.

Vitamin B5: An isolated trial using pantothenic acid reported good results. In that trial, people with acne were given 2.5 grams of pantothenic acid four times per day (for a total of 10 grams per day)--a remarkably high amount. A cream containing 20% pantothenic acid was also applied topically four to six times per day. With moderate acne, near-complete relief was seen within two months, but severe conditions took at least six months to respond. Eventually, the level of pantothenic acid was reduced to 1-5 grams per day--still a very high level.
Vitamin B6 (for premenstrual flare-ups of acne): 50 mg per day.

Key herbs

Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia): A large study compared the topical use of 5% tea tree oil to 5% benzoyl peroxide for common acne. Tea tree oil resulted in significant improvement in the acne over a three-month period. Although it was not as effective as benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil also caused significantly fewer side effects.
Other herbs that may be helpful

Burdock (Arctium lappa): Burdock root tincture may be taken in 2-4 ml amounts once or twice per day. Dried root preparations in a capsule or tablet can be used at 1-2 grams three times per day.
Herb combination: Burdock root (Arctium lappa) combined with yellow dock (Rumex crispus), red clover (Trifolium pratense), or cleavers (Galium aparine)*
Vitex (Vitex agnus castus): 40 drops of a concentrated liquid extract once daily.
Dietary changes that may be helpful

Contrary to common belief, there is little evidence to support the belief that dietary factors (e.g., chocolate, oily foods) are linked to acne. In a preliminary study, foods that patients believed triggered their acne failed to cause problems when tested in a clinical setting.

Food Allergy: Some doctors of natural medicine have observed that food allergy plays a role in some cases of acne, particularly adult acne. However, that observation has not been supported by scientific studies.

Iodine: A diet high in iodine can create an acne-like rash in a few people; however, this is rarely the cause of acne.
Other integrative approaches that may be helpful

Cupping: A traditional Chinese technique where a cup-shaped instrument applies suction, often to an area receiving acupuncture needling.

* Although evidence suggests that this supplement/herb may be beneficial, an effective dose has not been clearly established.