Acne—in the form of pimples, blackheads or small cysts—is caused by the overgrowth of normal skin bacteria that may be triggered by hormonal changes, heat, greasy cosmetics or certain prescription medications. Many cases are treatable with natural remedies.
1. Lifestyle factors
If you use makeup, find a brand that is water-based and remove it at night. Don’t scratch or squeeze spots and try not to touch an acne-prone area.
2. Tea tree
Applied topically, tea tree essential oil can limit an outbreak of acne and reduce its severity.
In one Australian study of 124 patients, a 5 per cent tea tree oil gel was as effective as a 5 per cent benzoyl peroxide lotion—with fewer side effects.
In gel form, nicotinamide, a topical vitamin B3 preparation, is a good alternative to conventional antimicrobial creams to which patients may develop a resistance.
A 2013 Iranian study suggests it works best with oily skins.
A herbal combination with aloe, turmeric and ashwagandha used orally and topically significantly improved acne symptoms in an Indian study.
Oral treatment with the Ayurvedic herb guggul may also be effective, particularly for oily skin.
For severe acne, doctors may prescribe a cream or pills containing retinoids, a synthetic form of vitamin A, to reduce the amount of sebum produced. (See Vitamin A, p. 301.)
Quick fix: Health and beauty experts recommend ice to calm an angry spot and reduce redness and swelling. Cleanse the area, then wrap two or three ice cubes in a clean washcloth and apply for up to 10 minutes.
Did you know?
Contrary to popular belief, chocolate and greasy foods probably don’t cause acne, but a healthy diet, in particular the low-glycemic index diet, may reduce its severity, according to recent Korean and Australian studies.
Aimee Benbow, Director of Nutrition at the leading brand of ethical supplements Viridian Nutrition says, ‘Long term, high intakes of refined carbohydrates and simple sugars lead to persistently high blood glucose readings and potentially insulin insufficiency. Imbalanced blood glucose levels promote inflammation which as well as causing skin flareups is also damaging to collagen. Research has demonstrated when sugar intake is drastically reduced in individuals experiencing inflamed skin conditions such as eczema and acne, significant improvements are seen in skin breakouts.’
However, it is genes that largely determine who gets spots. If acne runs in your immediate family, there’s an almost 80 per cent chance that you’ll be susceptible, too.
See your doctor: Consult a doctor if the acne persists for months, gets worse or leaves scars.
Read more: 6 Teas that could improve your health
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