Acne is caused by excessive production of sebum in the sebaceous follicles of the skin. Sebum is normally produced to maintain the smoothness and softness of the skin.
Overproduction leads to distention and clotting of the follicular canals making way for the development of the so-called "blackheads". These are likely to become infected with bacteria. Inflammation of the sebaceous follicle is recognized as a red swallowing, which is later filled with yellow pus, also known as a "pimple" or "spot". The areas of the body that are most likely to become affected by blackheads or pimples are the face and upper part of the body.
About 80% of all adolescents and young people up to the age of 25 are affected by acne to a smaller or larger degree. The pronounced manifestation of acne during adolescence is caused by the hormonal changes and fluctuations that are typical of this age. The female hormonal balance is also subject to changes and fluctuations at the end of each period up to the time of menstruation. At this time of month a daily supplement of vitamin B6 (50-100 mg.) may be beneficial.
Worsening of acne can be seen in the following cases:
- Malnutrition may significantly worsen the condition. Native Africans who follow the traditional African diet are not as affected by acne as African Americans, who follow the much richer American diet. The same is true for Eskimoes who change to the average Western diet; they also have increasing problems with acne.
- A high milk intake, especially skim milk (proven in teenagers)
- A sustained elevated blood sugar level promotes the body's production of male sex hormones which in turn increases the skin's sebum production. This lays the ground for the bacteria producing acne.
- Food intolerance may also play a part. Especially wheat can worsen acne; possibly because it has the same effect as sugar in increasing the blod sugar too rapidly. An iodine supplement or a diet that is rich in iodine (seaweed for example) may worsen the condition. Vitamin- and mineral deficiencies may further worsen the condition.
- Overdosage of iodine or iodine-containing products
- When taking lithium supplements (prescribed against mania and manic depression).
- Allergy - Allergic people are likely to have an increased production of sebum.
- When taking birth control pills - Acne can actually be both worsened and improved by birth control pills.
- When taking hormonal medication and anabolic steroids.
- When using make-up and skin lotions - if used excessively it may lead to occlution of the sebacous follicles and acne. You should clean your face thoroughly after use.
- Water rich in chloride: Acne may also be worsened by exposure to chlorine from swimming pools.
General advice on disease prevention and a healthy lifestyle can be found in the library article "General Advice - for healthy as well as for ill ones" in the VitaHealth section under Focus Articles. You can also test your health by taking our "Health Check".
One should follow a healthy diet and make sure to be eating lots of fresh vegetables. It has been acknowledged by numerous therapists that people suffering from severe cases of acne often have a reduced production of gastric acid and dyspeptic symptoms.
Toxic agents entering the bloodstream as a result of indigestion may in severe cases cause acne. One should therefore eat several small meals instead of a few large ones. In some cases, a diet with a low content of cereals has significantly improved the condition. In other cases, avoiding dairy products can be beneficial, most likely because of their high content of iodine. One should be on the alert for certain foods that might worsen the condition, either by exclusion diet construction or with the help of an experienced therapist.
A daily supplement of lactic acid bacteria and a stomachic is often beneficial. One should avoid alcohol, coffee, sugar, and sweets between meals. Also white flour, empty calories, especially stir fried meals, and saturated animal fats should be avoided.
One should limit the intake of bread, sugar, and dairy products. Drink pure water - at least 1½ litres a day. Drink vegetable juice and herbal tea. Some people have benefited from taking a supplement with amino-chelated chromium.
If the acne is pronounced when menstruating, a daily supplement of 50 - 100 mg. of vitamin B6 may be beneficial.
Women who use birth control pills and are troubled by severe conditions of acne should consider switching to another type of contraception.
In all severe cases, it is recommended to seek the advice of an experienced therapist. A supplement of vitamin A in large doses may be beneficial. Doses may be up to 50,000 - 100,000 I.U. and even more, for as long as 3 months, but never as a single vitamin product. One should use vitamin A together with zinc and other supplements in basic doses. In some cases of severe acne with pronounced production of sebum and pus, treatment with acidic vitamin A/ fruit acid, can be beneficial. If you use oil-based cosmetics, you should consider switching to an oil-free product.
Use a mild soap with a low pH value. It is recommended to use alcohol-free cleansers, or herb leaves for deep cleansing. This should be done twice a day. In severe cases it may be necessary to seek the advice of a cosmetologist.
Although blackheads are easily pressed out, one should be careful about doing this with pimples before they are totally yellow and mature because of the danger of spreading infectious material to the sorrounding tissue. It is often a good idea to burst the pimple with a clean needle. In the more severe cases, acne may leave scar tissue. In this case, Aloe vera - applied as a gel or in fluid form - has a healing effect. The same goes for vitamin E.
Peeling formulas contain small grains that are massaged into the skin. By doing this, peeling formulas are able to mechanically remove small clots of sebum as well as infectious material from the follicles. At the same time the dermal blood circulation is stimulated.
The increased blood flow aids in the removal of inflammation from the follicles. Following peeling, one should use a water-solluble moisturizer.
Internally applied herbs
- Burdock-dandelion-extract made from 5 g. of burdock and 10 g. of dandelion root, applied in 750 ml. of water. Separate the extract into three doses and drink it in sips during the whole day.
- Echinacea: Available as an extract, tablets, capsules, or you can make your own extract by applying 10 g. of the root to 750 ml. water and heating the solution until most of the water has boiled down. To be drunk in small sips during the whole day.
- Stinging nettle has blood cleansing abilities.
Cleansing herbs for external use only
- Aloe vera heals and restores the skin quickly
- Burdock (smooth), Arctium lappa, is detoxifying and bacteriostastic. Works well against acne and many other dermal infections.
- Comfrey, Common Symphytum officinalis, available as an ointment. To be applied twice a day. Stimulates healing and minimizes the development of scar tissue.
- Dianthus pink. 1 drop applied directly onto the place of infection or on a clean piece of cotton.
- Garlic; ½ a clove: 1 drop applied directly onto the place of infection, or on a piece of cotton, especially if the infection is pronounced.
- Echinacea extract on a piece of cotton or applied directly onto the skin. Is bacteriostatic.
- Lemon (undiluted juice) 1 teaspoon - 1 tablespoon twice a day.
- Marigold, Calendula officinalis tincture. Available as an ointment or as a cream. Stimulates healing.
- Red elm mixed with Marigold-, Myrra-, or Echinacea-tincture, made into a thick paste. Should be allowed to work for 1-2 hours, can be covered by a bandage while working.
- Tea tree oil. 1 drop applied directly onto the place of infection or on a clean piece of cotton. A potent bactericide.
- Tea from walnut leaves (1 large teaspoon). To be used as a face wash or skin tonic. Should be allowed to draw for 1 hour.
- Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, has a cleansing and contractive effect on skin that is greasy and dirty.
Do not use doses above 5,000 I.U. of vitamin A if you are pregnant.
In some cases, a worsening of acne has been observed in connection with a supplement of B12 and iodine and large supplements of vitamin B6.