Acne is the most common skin condition that I see in my practice. Whether the patient is 13 or 53, people of all ages suffer from embarassing pimples and blackheads. Pimples form when a pilosebaceous gland is plugged causing infection and inflammation. This process is related to excess production of male steroids, sebum, and keratin.
Natural treatments that reduce androgen acitvity are effectve at reducing acne caused by excess male steroids, or androgens. Green tea extract, aka EGCG, blocks the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone into a more potent form in the skin, reducing hormone-related acne.
A recent UK study demonstrated anti-microbial effect of a thyme tincture preparation on the bacteria that causes acne. Thyme, a common kitchen herb with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, was more effective at killing acne-causing bacteria, than the common anti-acne ingredient, benzoyl peroxide. Furthermore, thyme does not have the skin irritation and burning side-effects experienced with benzoyl peroxide.
Acne is related to disrupted blood sugar levels and regulation. This connection may explain the fervent tale of too many sweets causing acne. Research shows that medications that regulate blood sugar–insulin and tolbutamide–may have anti-acne benefits. For this reason, chromium, an effective anti-diabetic supplement that increases insulin sensitivity, may reduce the severity of acne.
As with most skin conditions, a detoxification program can improve the severity of acne by eliminating the chemicals we ingest, improving the excretion of hormone metabolites and toxins, and regulating hormone levels. The health of our body manifests on the health of our skin–any skin condition is a sign of poor health internally. Dietary measures to improve acne include following a whole foods diet, limiting sweets, carbohydrates and fats and increasing fiber. Research supports a link between acne and milk consumption, presumably due to the hormones found in milk. Many of my patients experience improvement of their acne by removing milk and dairy products from their diet.
Acne can have severe psychological effects on an individual, but there are many treatment options and measures that are safe, natural and effective. Your naturopathic doctor can determine the root cause of your acne and provide natural alternatives to not only improve the health of your skin, but your entire body! Remember that skin conditions are a sign of internal health issues.
Disclaimer: This information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. As with all medicines, natural or pharmaceutical, there is the potential for side-effects and interactions. Consult your naturopathic doctor to determine your best course of treatment.