Although most people suffer from acne at some time in their lives, it is still painful and embarrassing. Acne is caused by the inflammation and infection of oil-producing sebaceous glands. According to Dr. Robert Schulman in "Solve It With Supplements," acne affects 17 million people in the United States alone. And while the hormonal shifts associated with the teen years cause teenagers to suffer most from acne, people of all ages can experience the condition. Conventional treatments are often harsh, but there are natural and healthy ways to prevent and treat acne.
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In "Healing Without Medicine," Dr. Robert Rister advises people suffering from acne to wash less, not more. Constantly washing the surface of the skin doesn't reach where the blockage is occurring and only dries and injures the skin, causing more infection to set it. He advises washing the face with soap and water in the morning and evening only and not to use any alcohol-based astringents, as this doesn't eliminate the clogging, but only tightens the pores, making clogging more likely.
In "1000 Cures for 200 Ailments," naturopathy expert Dr. Geovanni Espinosa suggests eating lots of dark green and orange vegetables. Limit meat intake to once a day and only eat meat that is hormone and antibiotic free, since acne is caused by hormonal shifts and bacteria. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as freshwater fish, walnuts and flax seeds. Avoid fish and salt with high levels of iodine. By staying hydrated, you will allow pores to release oil instead of getting clogged, so drink plenty of water. In "Bottom Line's Prescription for Natural Cures," Dr. James Balch and Dr. Mark Stengler suggest you stay away from fatty foods, especially foods high in saturated fat. Foods that create an internally acidic environment will increase acne, so avoid alcohol, soda, coffee, fried foods and meat. Avoid sugar and simple carbohydrates, as both encourage oil production and provide food for bacteria and yeast. Carbohydrates can increase insulin, which increases skin inflammation. Dr. Rister explains that insulin stimulates the growth of skin cells which block pores and also converts alpha-reductase of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone which causes acne in males.
Dr. Espinosa suggests 50 mg of zinc picolinate three times a day for one to three months. This will boost the immune system, nourish skin, and reduce build up of DHT. 10,000 IU of vitamin A twice a day will reduce the production of sebum. This is a high dose that requires a doctor's supervision. 400 IU of vitamin E and 200 mcg of selenium taken daily will reduce inflammation and support vitamin A absorption. According to Doctors Balch and Stengler, high doses of vitamin A are required to treat acne, which can cause side effects, but vitamin E consumption can reduce the dose, thereby making it safer. According to Dr. Rister, vitamin A is only slightly less effective than antibiotics for treating acne. Pregnant women shouldn't take high doses of vitamin A.
Tea tree oil is one of the most common herbal cures for skin conditions, largely because of its natural antiseptic properties. Dr. Espinosa, Dr. Balch, Dr. Stengler, and Dr. Schulman all say to apply five drops of a 5 to 15 percent solution to a cotton ball and dab on the affected area. Discontinue use if it increases skin irritation. In "1000 Cures for 200 Ailments," herbalism expert Dr. David Kiefer suggests using a cold cream containing calendula (marigold). It possesses anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti-fungal, and wound-healing properties. Doctors Balch and Stengler suggest saw palmetto, which inhibits DHT and can therefore greatly reduce acne in males or females on testosterone therapy. Take 160 mg of a standardized extract containing 85 to 95 liposterols. They also suggest consuming 500 mg of oregano oil twice daily, as it destroys the yeasts associated with acne.