Acne is no longer the incurable problem it was 30 years ago. In the past, acne caused profound suffering for many people. Acne is a skin condition which may occur on the face, neck, chest and back. Acne is associated with blockage of the sebaceous gland ducts. Sebum continues to be produced by these glands forming comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). These often become inflamed to form papules, pustules and cysts. Acne usually begins at puberty and clears around the age of 25; although many people find that it persists into middle age.
Some possible causes are:
- Hormones – male hormones increase the production of sebum from the sebaceous glands in the skin. Male hormones are likely to cause acne during adolescence, and in apple shaped women who are overweight and in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It is important to have your male hormones measured, as if they are found to be high, hormonal therapy may be very successful.
- Bacterial infection which occurs in the sebaceous glands.
- Hereditary factors are important and there is often a family history of acne.
- Poor diet.
- Poor hygiene and improper cleansing of the skin.
How to treat acne and general recommendations
- Gentle cleansing of the skin twice a day with antiseptic soap or tea tree oil soap.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Avoid smoking.
- Drink 2 liters of water daily to improve detoxing through the skin.
- Moderate sunlight exposure (10 – 15 minutes a day) can help – use caution and avoid the midday sun.
- For hormonal acne, the anti male hormone, called Cyproterone and/or feminine types of oral contraceptive pills, can provide a cure. For more information see my book Hormones, Don’t Let Them Ruin Your Life Altering hormone levels in women can cure acne. In this regard, oral contraceptive pills containing the more feminine progesterones like desogestrel, gestodene or the anti-androgen cyproterone acetate are excellent. Examples of these are “Marvelon”, “Minulet” and “Diane”, respectively. If these don’t achieve the desired effect, the pill may be combined with additional cyproterone acetate (“Androcur”) in doses of 2.5 to 50 mg daily for the first 10 or 15 days of the pill cycle. NOTE: Androcur is not available in the USA – but may be obtained on prescription in Canada, and all other countries. Tablets with a hormonal action can often have very good results especially in women who have premenstrual acne. The diuretic drug Aldactone (Spironolactone) may be effective in reducing hormonal acne. Aldactone blocks the action of the male hormones on the skin and it can also reduce facial hair. Small doses of Spironolactone are usually well tolerated but larger doses can cause menstrual irregularity, nausea and headaches. This is because it can be liver toxic. In general the anti-male hormone medication Androcur (cyproterone acetate) is better tolerated and more effective.
Diet to treat acne
- A poorly functioning liver will aggravate acne – particularly the type of acne called acne rosacea; this type of acne is more common in mature aged people. Acne rosacea causes red pimples around the nose, cheeks and chin. It is recommended to follow Liver Cleansing Diet Book and make the 12 vital principles of this diet (found in chapter five) a way of life.
- Drink at least 8 – 10 glasses of pure water daily.
- Avoid margarine, dairy products and sugar. Dairy products and high carbohydrate foods encourage higher production of sebum, which encourages acne in susceptible people. Margarine and industrial seed oils are high in omega 6 fats which raise inflammation in the body.
- Food intolerance or sensitivity can sometimes manifest as acne.
- Eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables every day.
The Acne juice on page 40 of my book Raw Juices Can Save Your Life is an effective juice recipe to greatly assist in the treatment of acne. It can also reduce scarring. All of Dr Sandra Cabot books include many extras such as eating plans and recipes.
Orthodox Medical Treaments
What can be done for mild to moderate acne?
Topical therapy should always be tried first before drugs are taken. Topical therapy means lotions or creams, and includes gels like benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin.
- A solution of Retinoic acid (Tretinoin) can be obtained by prescription; it is applied each morning. This unclogs pores and reduces oily secretions. Tretinoin is applied to the skin once daily at bedtime. It can initially cause some redness and scaling. This can be reduced by gradual use – that is, for the first two nights wash off after 5 to 10 minutes, increase by 30 minutes over the next 5 nights, and then leave overnight and wash off the next morning if no irritation occurs. It is important to avoid the sun while using tretinoin.
- A Benzoyl Peroxide cream can be applied at night to dry out the lesions.
- If there are infected lesions with yellow pus, then an antibiotic solution containing Clindamycin is helpful; this requires a prescription.
- For severe cystic acne a type of synthetic vitamin A, called Roaccutane is usually extremely successful; it must be taken in tablet form. It can have significant side effects and can only be prescribed by a skin specialist (dermatologist). Another option is a cream called azelaic acid. It has the advantage of causing less irritation of the skin and is applied twice daily.
- Antibiotics like tetracycline may be prescribed but require long-term treatment. This may cause complications like candida and liver damage. Antibiotic capsules can be useful but many patients become resistant to them after about 6 months. Antibiotic gels or solutions may be a useful alternative; for example, a topical erythromycin gel seems to be moderately effective.
Take 1 tablet or 1 teaspoon daily, to provide a daily dose of 50 to 100 mcg selenium. Selenium greatly enhances the function of the immune system and exerts anti-inflammatory effects. A combination of selenium, zinc and vitamins C and E can reduce infections and scarring.
Dose changes if travelling overseas and/or in acute conditions – extra benefit can be found if a formula contains a combination of herbs plus zinc to support the immune system. Olive leaf exerts anti oxidant effects and is beneficial for its anti- microbial actions. It may assist with recurrent skin infections.
Take 1 teaspoon twice daily in juice or 2 capsules twice daily with food. Start with half dose and gradually increase to recommended dose. Good liver function is important to cleanse the blood and skin and maintain good hormone balance.
Take 2 capsules daily with a meal. Berberine reduces intestinal permeability, therefore it has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. It also improves insulin sensitivity, therefore reduces blood levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1.
Dose: take 1/2 teaspoon twice daily in water or juice. MSM contains organic sulphur, which is a powerful blood and skin cleanser. MSM stands for Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane and is an organic naturally occuring form of sulphur. Although there are many forms of sulphur, dietary MSM yields the most bioavailable form of this compound.
To assist with hormone balancing:
Take one capsule with each meal to help reduce blood insulin levels. Insulin promotes greater production of male hormones, which aggravate acne.
Take 2 capsules twice daily with meals – these are rich in phyto-estrogens to assist in balancing hormones for women with acne.