By Assia Mortensen
Acne is a commonplace and vexing condition that can affect people of any age. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, the majority of acne is “more of an annoyance than a calamity, but rare forms such as cystic acne…can lead to disfigurement or scarring if not treated properly.”
Some of the Causes:
Genetics: Although not all the causes of acne are known, it has a strong genetic component and tends to run in families, according to Dr. Weil. Researchers at St. Thomas Hospital in London studied data on more than 1,100 twins. They discovered that 81% of the difference in acne between twin pairs was attributable to genetics and the last 19% was attributed to environmental factors such as diet.
Diet: A large-scale study — the National Nurses’ Health Study II – revealed that people who consumed two or more glasses of skim milk were 44% more likely to report that they had severe acne as teenagers. According to Dr. Weil, dairy products may be a contributing factor in some people’s condition.
Lifestyle: Touching the face, leaning against the phone and other similar activities may bring more bacteria to the skin.
Hormones: Fluctuating hormones, for example, during adolescence or menopause, can lead to over-active oil glands – which, in turn, can lead to more blemishes. Bacteria on the surface of skin are thought to mix with natural oils, clogging pores and creating inflamed spots.
Natural treatment options:
Tea tree oil: Gels containing 5% tea tree oil are as effective as lotions containing 5% benzoyl peroxide, although tea tree oil might work more slowly, according to Dr. Brent Bauer.
Alpha hydroxy acids: These natural acids, which are found in many kinds of fruit, help remove dead skin cells and unclog pores when applied topically and may lighten the appearance of scars.
Azelaic Acid: Found in whole-grain cereals and certain animal products, Azelaic Acid has important antibacterial properties. A 20% azelaic acid cream appears to be as effective as many other conventional acne treatments, including 5 percent benzoyl peroxide and oral tetracycline, reports Dr. Bauer.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Food with omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon or freshly ground flaxseeds can help reduce and prevent acne-related inflammation.
Vitamin A: High doses of vitamin A may be helpful for certain severe cases of acne. The forms are Tretinoin (Retin-A), a topical preparation; and isoretinoin (Accutane), for internal use, only under a doctor’s supervision.
Zinc: The mineral zinc plays a role in healing and reduces inflammation, which can improve acne in some people.
Calendula: Calendula is an ornamental plant with bright orange flowers that can be made into tinctures, lotions and creams. Solutions containing calendula can serve as an effective alternative to benzoyl peroxide, according to Dr. Weil.
- Wash regularly with mild soap. Don’t scrub your face, just wash gently and pat dry; scrubbing can cause acne to flair.
- Picking at blemishes may result in scarring; instead, try warm compresses or a clay mask to draw out impurities.
- Increase your consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables.
- Drink lots of water to keep the skin hydrated and healthy.
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Dr. Brent Bauer; Mayo Clinic; Natural Acne Treatments; Accessed October 12, 2012
Dr. Andrew Weil; Condition Care Guide: Acne; Accessed October 12, 2012
Harvard University; The National Nurse’s Health Study; Accessed October 12, 2012