Although considered to be a teenage torment, acne and facial spots can plague us right into adulthood.
16 September, 2008
The condition results in part from excessive stimulation of the skin by androgens (male hormones). These hormones, which are produced in large quantities during puberty, cause the skin to produce excess amounts of sebum, a natural lubricant. When too much sebum is produced skin glands become blocked and inflamed, causing spots.
Heredity, hygiene and diet may also play a part.
Fortunately, however, lifestyle changes and certain herbal remedies can be helpful.
Keep your skin as clean as possible, washing frequently but taking care that it doesn’t become too dry and use gentle cleansers made from natural ingredients, rather than harsher chemical preparations. In particular oil-based products should be avoided because the oil they contain is usually derived from fatty acids more potent than your body’s acids. Specific ingredients to look out for and avoid include lanolin, isopropyl myristate, laureth-4 and sodium lauryl sulphate.
As far as diet is concerned, iodine has been known to create an acne-like rash in some people, although it is rarely the cause of acne. Nonetheless you may wish to limit your intake of iodine-rich foods, which would mean cutting down on beef liver, clams, crabs and other shellfish.
Nutritional supplements can also help. Several studies indicate that zinc and certain types of vitamin B can reduce the severity of acne. Vitamins B3 (also called niacin and niacinamide) and B5 (pantothenic acid) are particularly effective, whereas vitamin B6 is used to alleviate pre-menstrual flare-ups of acne.
Finally, herbal remedies that have proven effective include tea tree oil for topical use.
Originally used by Australian Aborigines to treat cuts and skin infections, the oil kills fungus and bacteria and should be used at a dilution of 5-15%.
For oral treatment of acne Burdock (a leafy plant native to Europe and Asia) and Echinacea (a wild flower native to North America) are believed to have a cleansing action when taken internally. Both are available separately or in a capsule combination called ‘Fleuraderm’, which also contains zinc and vitamin B3.
For further information or advice, ask at your local health store.