Acne is a skin condition with which many Americans are familiar. While most people occasionally experience mild or moderate acne, some individuals may develop severe, painful, and scarring outbreaks. The occurrence of acne is not a serious health threat. Problems with acne can, however, affect a person’s self-esteem and sense of wellbeing.
Acne is a general term describing bumps and inflammation that arise on skin when pores become clogged. Most acne appears around the face, but it can appear anywhere on the skin where there is a blockage. Blockages are generally comprised of a combination of dirt, dead skin cells, oils and irritated hair follicles. Pimples may range from mild-like small blackheads and whiteheads–to severe-larger inflammatory, cystic or papulosa lesions.
There are a few causes of acne, the most common of which is a hormonal imbalance resulting in over-active oil glands. These hormone imbalances are common in teenagers and pubescent individuals, pregnant women, and women going on or off birth control pills. Heredity often seriously affects a person’s propensity to develop acne as well. Other causes of acne are: reactions to medication, exposure to environmental toxins, food allergies, eating too much fatty or unhealthy foods, the use of greasy make-up or other lotions, creams and ointments.
There are several treatments for acne. Western medical practitioners may suggest acne remedies that include the use of topical or ingested drugs. Mild treatments may be purchased over-the-counter, while prescriptions are available through doctors. One of the most-common medical solutions to help clear acne is the prescription of hormonal birth control pills. With most of these drugs, there is the potential for serious side-effects including depression, decreased vision and hearing, painful physical reactions, and fetal birth defects. For example, isotretinoin, the generic name for the drug Acutane, is in the FDA pregnancy category X, meaning that it is known to cause severe birth defects. Female users are required to have a documented negative pregnancy test once a month. Fortunately, there are other effective acne treatment options, Chinese acupuncture and herbs.
Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and herbs, has a unique understanding of and treatment for acne conditions. In Chinese medicine, acne is understood as the effect of an imbalance of the “lung system” (the system that controls the health of the skin). In this model, the patient suffers from too much “heat” in the lungs. This means that the patient is in need of rebalancing their flow of blood, energy (also known as qi), and hormones. This rebalancing allows toxins to move out of the body; it also increases immunity, decreases inflammation, and regulates hormones.
When a patient sees an acupuncturist for acne, she will receive a thorough examination, individual diagnosis, and a unique treatment regiment designed specifically for her body. Treatment will most-likely include herbs and acupuncture needling. Acupuncture treatments may also include the practice of “cupping,” in which small cups are placed on the skin to draw out impurities. In a study published by the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture care had a 90% success rate in treating severe acne and acne scarring.
Simple lifestyle choices can also address acne problems. The use of gentle, non-irritating skin cleansers that are free of harsh chemicals and perfumes si suggested. If getting rid of pimples is a goal, patients should avoid touching, rubbing, or leaning on affect areas, wearing tight hats and clothing (especially in warmer months), holding cell phones near affected areas, allowing hair to repeatedly fall in the face (especially if they use hairspray, gel or other styling products). Acne patients should also be aware that sunburns can irritate skin, and it would be wise to limit excessive exposure to the sun. Finally, certain foods like fried or fatty foods, coffee, alcohol, sugar, and caffeine should be avoided.