* Also known as pimples or zits. Acne is the most common of all skin problems. It occurs most commonly on the face, and to a lesser extent on the back, shoulders and chest. Acne is more common during adolescence, although premenstrual or mid-cycle women may also develop pimples. * Acne appears in three forms: – Acne vulgarus – the hair follicles and sebaceous glands are affected resulting as comedones (blackheads), pustules (whiteheads) and papules (inflammation); – Acne conglobata – cyst formations deep within the skin, resulting in scarring or pitting; and – Acne rosacea – chronic acne on the face of middle aged and older adults, also associated with facial flushing.
Causes of acne
* Acne occurs due to the blockage of the sebaceous canal. Even though the canal is blocked, sebum is still produced but is unable to flow to the surface of the skin (except in blackheads). The increase in pressure causes the gland to swell pushing the skin upward creating pimples. Within the environment of the blocked duct, bacteria is able to multiply rapidly releasing enzymes which destroy the nature of the sebum, this promotes the characteristic inflammation of acne. * There are many known causes of acne including hormones, drugs, allergies, abnormal body pH, industrial or environmental pollutants, cosmetics, over-washing, excessive abrasion, stress, oral contraceptives, poor colon health, and dietary factors.
* Blackheads, whiteheads (raised pustules superficial to the skin), nodules (pus collections deeper within the skin), cysts and large, deep nodules which damage adjacent skin tissue causing scarring or pitting.
* Stress management – varying techniques such as meditation, yoga, sufficient sleep, or even leaving a stressful job may improve the appearance of the skin. * Dietary changes – generally a healthy diet is recommended. To support the immune system a diet focussed on plant based nutrition (high fiber) is recommended with a minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Increase your intake of foods such as almonds, soybeans, whole grains, sunflower seeds, cashews and beets. Some foods to avoid include all refined or concentrated carbohydrates, dairy products, fried foods, alcohol, wheat, soft drinks, onions, caffeine, margarine and shortening. Theories such as chocolate causes acne are not yet proven. * Other recommendations – avoid medications that contain bromides or iodides, exposure to industrial pollutants such as oils and greases, squeezing pimples as the risk of infection and or inflammation is increased, the use of heavy, greasy or oil based cosmetics and moisturizers and prolonged sun exposure. Cleanse the skin daily to remove excess sebum and pollutants. Consider enemas and colonics that can cleanse the colon, which will in turn help clean the blood and skin.
Treatments to use:
VITAMIN A – Used in large doses (300,000 – 400,000 iu per day) has been used to treat severe cases of acne. In smaller doses vitamin A reduces sebum production and improves the health of skin. Vitamin A can be found in leafy green vegetables, alfalfa, fennel seed, parsley, rose hip, kelp, lemongrass, yellow fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese and butter. Large dosing is not recommended without strict supervision from a physician as it has potential toxic side effects. Doses over 10,000 iu per day may cause birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Women of childbearing age are advised not to become pregnant during such a course or within one month after ceasing a course. Other toxic symptoms include headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, brittle nails, abdominal upset and emotional instability.
VITAMIN B6 – PYRIDOXINE – At about 50 mg per day may reduce premenstrual aggravation of acne. Vitamin B6 can be found in bananas, carrots, blackstrap molasses, corn, cabbage, avocados, lentils, rice, soybeans, sunflower seeds, whole-wheat flour and wheat germ. Note that the use of cortisone drugs prevents the absorption of vitamin B6.
VITAMIN E – Regulates vitamin A levels in humans. Vitamin E has a synergistic effect with both vitamin A and selenium. It is thought to prevent the formation of lipid peroxidation of sebum, which aggravates the inflammation of acne – i.e.: an antioxidant effect. Recommended doses of between 200 – 400 iu per day may be of use. Sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, alfalfa, dandelion, flaxseed, nettle, soy products, sunflower seeds, whole grains, asparagus, peas, vegetable oils, peanuts, almonds, butter and walnuts. Take according to label instructions if you suffer from diabetes, overactive thyroid, or are taking anticoagulant medication.
SELENIUM – An important antioxidant that has been shown to improve skin disorders such as acne, and works synergistically with vitamin E. Dietary sources of selenium include, chamomile, ginseng, rose hips, lemongrass, peppermint, kelp, brazil nuts, fennel seed, milk, garlic, wheat germ and whole grain products, broccoli, celery and cucumbers. Use according to label instructions.
ZINC – Is an important antioxidant and is well known for its importance for normal skin function, it improves wound healing, assists the immune system and aids inflammation control. Supplementation of 30 mg two or three times daily for about twelve weeks may improve the appearance of acne. A dose of 30 mg per day thereafter is recommended. Zinc can be found in milk, alfalfa, chamomile, dandelion sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, parsley, brewer’s yeast, legumes, rose hip, soybeans, wheat, and other whole grain products. Excess zinc intake may cause copper deficiency. For prolonged periods of zinc intake, copper is recommended i.e.: 30 mg zinc with 2 mg of copper. Do not use more than 100 mg daily as excess zinc may depress the immune system.
BURDOCK – Burdock root and red clover are blood cleansers. Use according to label instructions. Burdock root should be used with caution during pregnancy and may reduce iron absorption.
ECHINACEA, PURPLE CONEFLOWER. – Inhibits inflammation, promotes wound healing and stimulates the immune system. Use according to label instructions. Do not use if allergic to plants in the sunflower family. Do not use if you have an autoimmune disease or have a progressive disease such as multiple sclerosis or tuberculosis.
GERANIUM – Apply sparingly, using a cotton tip directly onto the infected site two to three times daily. Undiluted applications may act as an irritant and should be discontinued if any sign of irritation occurs.
LAVENDER – Apply sparingly, using a cotton tip directly onto the infected site two to three times daily. Undiluted applications may act as an irritant and should be discontinued if any sign of irritation occurs.
MILK THISTLE – stimulates the liver in cleansing the blood. Use according to label instructions.
CHAPARRAL – A poultice of chaparral, dandelion and yellow dock root may be useful if applied to the infected area. Chaparral should be grown organically and is to be used externally only. It should not be used for prolonged periods as it may cause liver damage.
TEA TREE – Tea tree oil or tea tree soap may be used topically. Pure tea tree oil should be used sparingly, applied to the infected site two to three times daily. If it is too strong for the skin, the oil may be diluted with warm water and applied using pure cotton tips or balls. Tea tree oil may act as an irritant in sensitive areas and on sensitive skin. A diluted application is recommended to begin treatment. Not to be taken internally.