Acne is the most common skin disease in the United States, afflicting 40-50 million Americans each year. Characterized by surface pimples, deeper lumps (nodules or cysts), and clogged pores (whiteheads and blackheads), it generally occurs on the face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and sometimes upper arms. Although acne usually begins in puberty, this condition is not restricted to any single age group; adults can develop acne well into their 50’s. In fact, 85 percent of all people will suffer from this condition at some point in their lives. Although the physical effects of acne are not life threatening, the emotional and psychological effects can be devastating.
According to the Society for Investigative Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association, acne is caused by three major factors:
1. Growth of bacteria, particularly, acnes, with the hair follicles
2. The overproduction of oil by enlarged oil glands in the skin
3. Blockage of the hair follicle that releases oil
Classical acupuncture focuses primarily on the person and secondarily on treating the symptoms of the illness; the symptoms are a manifestation of a deeper constitutional imbalance. TCM considers the internal physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects, as well as the external environmental factors when treating skin problems. Acupuncture remains a significant part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is effectively used to treat acne conditions. From a TCM perspective, acne is most often associated with heat and dampness affecting the Organs and Channels of the Lungs, Spleen, and Stomach.
A 2010 double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture treatment for moderate acne vulgaris in 36 patients. After 12 treatments, there was a significant reduction in inflammatory lesion count and an improvement in overall quality of life.
These results are congruent with a 2009 review that evaluated the therapeutic benefits and safety of acupuncture and moxibustion for the treatment of acne. Seventeen papers, evaluating 1,613 patients, were reviewed. Meta-analysis comparing treatment of acne by acupuncture plus moxibustion with routine western medicine as a control found acupuncture to be more effective.
From my clinical experience, the following nutritional and herbal therapies have been beneficial for expediting the healing process of acne when combined with regular acupuncture treatments.
Margarite Acne Pills [Mayway or other reputable sources]
Calm My Skin [topical, tonic, or tea- Urban Healing- www.hamptonsacupuncture.com]
Grind one aspirin in water to form a paste. Apply directly to affected area. Leave overnight. Do not use if allergic to salicylic acid.
Foods to Avoid:
Fried, greasy, or spicy foods in addition to dairy, alcohol, sugar.
Look for products that include ingredients like salicylic acid, lactic acid, tea tree oil, witch hazel, Vitamin A, C, and E. [Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser]
Apply a moisturizer also designed to address problem skin. Use chemical-free products containing ingredients such as Vitamin A, B5, C, and E. [Environ B-active range]
Exfoliate skin twice a week with a mild exfoliant to help remove dead surface cells and debris. [Tru Energy Deeply Purifying Facial Scrub]
Shellie Goldstein M.S., L.AC.