Holistic Considerations for Treating Acne

Renée Naturally Qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist & Western Medical Herbalist

Chat to most acne sufferers, and they’ll most likely tell you that it is a complicated condition to treat and often a stressful journey trying to find the “right” solution. And they’re right. Its contributing factors are different for each individual. Should the focus be on balancing hormones? Could it be stress itself contributing to it? How much does what you eat have a part to play? The truth is, it’s causes are often multi-faceted and a multi-faceted approach to treatment is usually the best approach for most.

Factors that can contribute to acne include; hereditary disposition, oily skin, hormonal imbalance, monthly menstrual cycles, candidiasis, allergies, stress, certain drugs and nutritional deficiencies. With these possible causes in mind,  below are 10 holistic considerations you may like to look into further if you, or someone you know, is trying to take a holistic approach to treating acne.

Probiotics: Good gut health is imperative to good skin. When the balance of bacteria is out (ie. the good bacteria outweighs the bad), supplementation with a good-quality probiotic may be considered. Probiotics can also be obtained in the diet by eating sauerkraut, kefir, miso, kombucha and other fermented foods and drinks.  

Essential fatty acids: People often think that oils in the diet contribute to oily and break-out prone skin. That’s not always the case. Essential fatty acids are essential in keeping the skin smooth and soft and to dissolve fatty deposits that can block pores.  When treating acne, essential fatty acids that supply gamma-linolenic acid are particularly useful. Good food sources include; flax seeds and spirulina. Good supplement sources can include evening primrose oil capsules and flaxseed oil capsules.

Vitamin B Complex: B vitamins can be considered as the “anti-stress” vitamins. Stress of any kind can show in the skin; be it acne, eczema or dark circles under the eyes. B vitamins help to support the body in times of stress. Research has shown that deficiencies of B6 may be associated with acne. Good food sources of B vitamins include; Leafy greens, eggs, legumes, Brewer’s yeast, beans, whole grains, sunflower seeds and almonds.

Vitex agnus-castus: An extract of this herb can be beneficial when acne flares up in women prior to their period. Taken each morning, it can help to regulate the cycle and balance premenstrual breakouts.

Tea-tree oil: Tea tree oil is a natural antibiotic and antiseptic. It can be applied sparingly with a cotton wool bud to blemishes up to three times a day. If the skin is particularly sensitive, then it can be diluted in some warm water before applying.

Fiber: Eating a high fiber diet is important as it helps with ensuring regular bowel movements. Regular bowel movements are an important way to help the body detoxify. When the body has an overload of toxins, these usually make their way out, in part, via the skin by way of blemishes.

Raw Foods: Consider increasing your intake of raw foods. Raw foods further help to detoxify the body and purify the blood whilst also providing a high dose of skin-friendly minerals and vitamins.

Zinc: The mineral zinc is an antibacterial agent and is vital for the correct functioning of the oil-producing glands. It is also an important mineral that contributes to hormonal balance. Foods rich in zinc include; whole grains, sunflower seeds, shellfish, soybeans and oysters. Supplementation may also be a consideration.

Avoid contributing foods and drinks: It’s important to note that contributing foods are different for everyone. Some of the most common foods and beverages that may aggravate acne include; alcohol, butter, caffeine, chocolate, hydrogenated oils and shortenings, soft drinks and other highly processed, sugary foods. Dairy can also aggravate acne in some cases, and eliminating them for one month may be an idea to see if symptoms improve.

Avoid stress: Easier said than done! However, stress can promote hormonal changes that can cause flare-ups. B vitamins can help to manage the stress response in the body. Adequate sleep can also help the body cope with additional stress.

For those who suffer from acne, it is not merely a cosmetic concern. The consequences include emotional stress, that often has a substantial and detrimental effect on one’s self-esteem. The above points are only a guide as to some considerations you may want to look into further. Please talk to a health professional before making any significant changes in your diet. Likewise, speak to your local health food store or health food professional before starting on supplements or herbs.

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