❑ Adopt a low-glycemic-load diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed grains. Following this diet for twelve weeks has been shown to significantly reduce the number of acne lesions.
❑ Eat a high-fiber diet. This is important for keeping the colon clean and ridding the body of toxins.
❑ Increase your intake of raw foods. The more natural raw foods consumed, the faster the skin will clear and heal. Especially include raw foods that contain oxalic acid, including almonds, beets, cashews, and Swiss chard. Exceptions are spinach and rhubarb; these contain oxalic acid, but should be consumed in small amounts only.
❑ Eat a lot of fruits. This is always good for the skin because of the nutritional value and water content of fruit. You can also use certain fruits as a tonic on the surface of the skin. Grapes, strawberries, and pineapple are rich in alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). These acids help to exfoliate the skin by removing the dead skin cells that can clog the oil glands.
❑ Eat more foods rich in zinc, including shellfish, soybeans, whole grains, sunflower seeds, and a small amount of raw nuts daily. Zinc is an antibacterial agent and a necessary element in the oil-producing glands of the skin. A diet low in zinc may promote flare-ups.
❑ Be sure your diet contains vitamins A, C, E, and essential fatty acids. Supplements of these vitamins can prove to be beneficial for acne sufferers. Although vitamin A is important in fighting acne, you must be sure not to take too much. Vitamin E can help regulate vitamin A levels and can also aid in scar prevention.
❑ Drink at least eight glasses of quality water per day.
❑ Avoid alcohol, butter, caffeine, cheese, chocolate, cocoa, cream, eggs, fat, fish, fried foods, hot and spicy foods, hydrogenated oils and shortenings, margarine, meat, poultry, wheat, soft drinks, and foods containing brominated vegetable oils.
❑ Try eliminating dairy products from your diet for one month. Acne may develop due to an allergic reaction to dairy products, and the fat content of the dairy products can worsen the condition. Modern dairy and other animal products often contain hormones and steroids that can upset the body’s natural hormonal balance. In the case of children, substitute soy milk for dairy products.
❑ If you are not allergic to dairy products, eat plenty of soured products, such as low-fat yogurt, to maintain healthy intestinal flora.
❑ Avoid all forms of sugar. Sugar impairs immune function. In addition, biopsies of individuals with acne have shown their tissues’ glucose tolerance to be seriously flawed. One researcher calls this condition “skin diabetes.” Sugar also promotes the growth of candida, which may be a contributing factor to acne.
❑ Eliminate all processed foods from the diet, and do not use iodized salt. Enzymes induce the nutrients in food to be used to construct muscle tissue, nerve cells, bone, skin, and glandular tissue. Because processed foods contain so few enzymes, they can result in damage to the skin and its collagen. Processed foods also contain high levels of iodine, which is known to worsen acne. For the same reason, avoid fish, kelp, and onions.
❑ Follow a fasting program.
❑ Use cleansing enemas to remove toxic buildup in the system and promote faster healing.
❑ Keep the affected area as free of oil as possible. Shampoo your hair frequently. Use an all-natural soap with sulfur that is designed for acne (available at health food stores). Wash your skin thoroughly but gently no more than twice daily; never rub hard. Overwashing, vigorous scrubbing, and repeated touching of the skin can make acne worse by overstimulating the sebaceous glands, causing them to produce excessive amounts of sebum.
❑ Avoid wearing makeup. If you feel you must use cosmetics, use only natural, water-based products. Do not use any oil-based formulas, and avoid any products containing harsh chemicals, dyes, or oils. Wash and dip makeup applicator brushes and sponges in alcohol after each use to avoid contamination.
❑ Use a mixture of organic apple cider vinegar and quality water to balance the skin’s pH. Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 10 parts quality water, and apply the mixture on the affected area.
❑ Friction makes pimples more likely to rupture, so avoid wearing tight clothing like turtlenecks. Carefully adjust straps on sports equipment such as bicycle or football helmets. Even using the telephone can exacerbate inflammation if you hold the receiver against your cheek for long periods. Keep your hair away from your face to prevent excess oil and bacteria from being deposited on the skin.
❑ If you must shave an area of skin affected by acne, using an electric razor may be beneficial. When shaving with a blade, use a single-edge blade razor and always shave in the direction of hair growth.
❑ As much as possible, avoid stress. Stress can promote hormonal changes and cause flare-ups. Many dermatologists also recommend fifteen minutes of sunshine each day, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep for people with acne.
❑ Avoid the use of oral or topical steroids, which can aggravate acne.
❑ Do not squeeze the blemishes. To do so is to risk increasing the inflammtion by causing breaks in the skin in which harmful bacteria can lodge. Do not touch the affected area unless your hands have been thoroughly cleaned.
❑ Acne is a message that something may be wrong with your body chemistry, diet, and/or skin care routine. Proper diet, nutritional supplements, and finding the right skin care products may be all that is needed to correct the problem.
❑ For severe acne, the drug isotretinoin (Accutane) has been the only reliable treatment. It disrupts plug formation, shrinks the sebaceous glands, and reduces the amount of sebum within the glands. Isotretinoin cures or greatly reduces acne in about 90 percent of the people who use it, but it can cause side effects like dry skin, nosebleeds, headaches, and joint and muscle pain. The most dangerous side effect of isotretinoin is that it can cause serious birth defects, such as fetal brain deformities, if taken during pregnancy.
❑ It can even cause birth defects if a woman becomes pregnant up to two months after it is discontinued. If a woman with acne is in her childbearing years, isotretinoin is not recommended unless she is using effective birth control. There have also been isolated cases of depression and other mental disorders among people using this drug, and a study published in the Archives of Dermatology found that it might cause a loss of bone density, raising questions regarding its effect on the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
For severe acne
❑ For severe acne, a treatment that is much safer than Accutane has been developed. It is called Levulan PDT, or the “Blue Light Treatment,” and it is ideal for patients of all ages, including teens. During a painless, in-office treatment, the face is first given a mild microdermabrasion (sanding) to remove the surface layer of dead skin, then Levulan (5-aminole-vulinic acid) is applied to the face. This application makes acne bacteria more sensitive to light. After about thirty minutes, the Levulan is washed off and up to ten minutes of a special high-intensity blue light (not ultraviolet) is used to kill the bacteria. Some people require more than one session. Skin is more sensitive to sunlight right after treatment, and SPF 45 sunscreen is recommended for at least twenty-four hours.
❑ The weapon of choice against moderate cases of acne is topical tretinoin (Retin-A). It helps to keep the pores from becoming clogged by increasing the rate at which dead surface skin cells are shed. Like isotretinoin, tretinoin should not be used during pregnancy. Use it with caution, because it renders the skin extremely vulnerable to sun damage. In addition, the safety of long-term use of tretinoin has not been established. Some “sibling” forms of tretinoin are being studied in the hope that they may not be as drying to the skin.
❑ Research is being conducted on the development and use of androgen-blocking drugs to stop the oil glands from being turned on by hormonal functions.
❑ An antibiotic cream or an oral antibiotic, such as tetracycline, erythromycin, or clindamycin, is sometimes prescribed for acne. If these drugs are not effective, minocycline may be prescribed. Be aware that this drug can have such side effects as shortness of breath and joint pain. Antibiotics have been known to cause yeast infections (candidiasis) in some people, leading to worsened acne. If you must take antibiotics, it is wise to take some form of acidophilus because antibiotics kill “friendly” bacteria along with “unfriendly” bacteria.
❑ Benzoyl peroxide is the active ingredient in many overthe-counter acne products. It can be helpful, particularly in mild cases, but it is extremely drying and can cause allergic reactions. It should not be applied around the eyes or mouth.
❑ A study conducted by the Department of Dermatology of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in New South Wales, Australia, found that a 5 percent solution of tea tree oil was as effective as a 5 percent solution of benzoyl peroxide for most cases of acne, without the irritating side effects.
❑ Blackheads should be removed only with a specially designed instrument, a procedure best done by a professional. Picking, squeezing, or scratching the blemishes may cause scarring, according to dermatologists.
❑ Niacinamide is a major nutrient in the repair of any skin condition because it aids circulation. This increases the supply of fresh, healthy blood to the surface of the skin, which supplies the skin with blood and nutrients.
❑ Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), a by-product of wood processing, can be applied to acne lesions to reduce inflammation and promote healing. If used regularly, it may also help minimize scarring from severe cystic acne.
Caution: Only pure DMSO from a health food store should be used. Commercial-grade DMSO such as that found in hardware stores is not suitable for healing purposes. Any contaminants on the skin or in the product can be taken into the tissues by action of the DMSO.
Note: The use of DMSO may result in a garlicky body odor. This is temporary, and is not a cause for concern.
❑ An acne treatment program called Derma-Klear from Enzymatic Therapy may be helpful.
❑ In rare cases, acne may be a sign of a potentially serious hormonal disorder caused by tumors in the adrenal glands or ovaries. Other symptoms of such problems include irregular menstrual periods and excess facial hair. If such symptoms develop, consult your health care provider.