Acne vulgaris, the term for a group of skin conditions that causes most acne symptoms, is the 8th most common disease in the world affecting more than 633 million people globally. It’s a long-term skin disease which occurs when hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and sebum and primarily affects skin with a relatively high number of oil glands ie: the face, upper chest and back.
You know you have acne if you have any of the following symptoms:
- blackheads or whiteheads (also known as comedones) occur when debris gets trapped in the follicle
- pimples (papules and pustules – the technical name for pimples) which cause small or medium sized bumps on the skin that are round, red and don’t always have a visible “head”)
- cysts or nodules which are inflamed
- excessively oily skin
- scarring from squeezing or scratching acne pimples.
There are different types of acne:
- non-inflammatory acne (whiteheads, blackheads but not cysts or nodules)
- inflammatory acne – usually caused by infections due to excessive growth of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes.
- cystic acne (also called nodulocystic acne (an intense form of acne that results in large inflamed cysts and nodules)
The main causes of acne are thought to be:
- inflammation and infection of the sebaceous glands of the skin as a result of clogged pores, caused by excess oil production and dead skin cells.
- Bacterial overgrowth of Propionibacterium acnes.
- Hormone fluctuations or imbalances which is why acne is most often seen in teens and young adults, especially women experiencing PMS, irregular periods, pregnancy, early menopause, and other hormonal conditions such as poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
TREATMENT OF ACNE
Conventional methods of dealing with acne include prescription medications such as Acutane, antibiotics, birth control pills and heavy-duty skin cleansers with Benzoyl peroxide and Salicyclic acid. All of these can have unwanted side effects, with the cleansers also having a strong drying effect on the skin.
If conventional methods have been unsuccessful, we encourage you to consider taking a natural approach to healing acne. There’s promising evidence that natural solutions can be extremely effective.
GENTLE ACNE SKIN CARE
Let’s look at a 4-step skin care routine with some suggestions that may surprise you.
To suggest cleansing with oils seems counter-intuitive given that acne is often associated with an over-production of sebum. However, even Acne.org promotes the idea persuasively, explaining it this way:
‘Fact: Oil dissolves oil. One of the most basic principles of chemistry is that “like dissolves like.” The best way to dissolve a non-polar solvent like sebum/oil, is by using another non-polar solvent similar in composition: Other oils. By using the right oils, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit that heal, protect and nourish your skin. When done properly and consistently, the OCM (Oil Cleansing Method) can clear the skin from issues like oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, blackheads, whiteheads and other problems caused by mild to moderate acne–while leaving your skin healthy, balanced and properly moisturized.’
See Wellness Mama’s excellent article on how to use OCM with botanical oils for acne here.
Apple Cider Vinegar can be used externally for cystic acne. Dab a Q-tip in raw apple cider vinegar and then onto your cysts. This should be done twice a day. You can also make a 50/50 dilution of water to apple cider vinegar and use it as a toner.
For this to be effective, you need to use raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar that includes the ‘mother’. The ‘mother’ is the substance which ferments the apple cider into vinegar and comprises beneficial healing bacteria, enzymes and acids. It is the ‘mother’ which gives raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar its characteristic cloudy appearance.
3. Topical Tips
Lavender essential oil can be applied to acne cysts with a q-tip several times a day. Most people can tolerate lavender essential oil neat (without diluting) If you find the oil to be too strong, dilute it with some coconut oil or castor oil first.
Tea tree essential oil can be a very powerful all natural remedy for acne, as it is antibacterial. To apply it, mix a small amount (5 to 10 drops) in a 1/4 cup water. Dip a cotton ball into the mixture and apply it to your skin. You can reapply throughout the day or leave it on under your makeup
Raw,unfiltered honey can be used topically for cystic acne a couple of times a day. Honey is a wonderful “medicine” because of its strong antiseptic and antibacterial effects.
MOISTURISE & MOISTURISE AGAIN!
It can’t be overstated that contrary to popular belief, acne-prone skin needs to be moisturised. It’s well established that acne can only heal if the skin is sufficiently hydrated. However, great care needs to be taken in choosing a moisturiser that won’t irritate and further inflame already traumatised skin.
This nourishing amber-gold oil is cold pressed from the seeds of the baobab fruit pod. It’s a rare, naturally light oil which doesn’t clog pores and absorbs rapidly without leaving a greasy residue. Baobab oil has a unique fatty acid profile with exceptional quantities of Omega 6 and 9, helping to retain moisture and regenerate new skin cells. It’s also particularly recommended for healing scar tissue.
Linoleic acid is a natural component of sebum and plays a significant role in strengthening the lipid barrier of the epidermis and normalising skin metabolism. Applying it to problem skin can result in improved sebaceous gland function and the prevention of acne formation. A recent study on baobab oil shows that it has high levels of linoleic acid making it an excellent therapeutic choice for acne.
Coconut oil can be an excellent moisturizer for acne-prone skin. A study found that lauric acid found in coconut oil demonstrates the strongest bacterial activity against acne caused by bacteria.
Rosehip oil is full of essential fatty acids (80 percent omegas 3 and 6), which work exceptionally well to calm and soothe skin, while also helping treat scars and uneven skin tone.
Evening Primrose Oil
Acne-prone skin is deficient in linoleic acid and it is this deficiency which triggers pore-clogging and leads to acne and breakouts. Clogged pores are a perfect environment for bacterial growth which leads to inflammation. Evening Primrose oil contains exceptionally high levels of linoleic acid making it an excellent product for helping to resolve acne.
Ultimately, as the acne project says, curing acne is not a product, it’s a process. Everybody’s experience with acne is different and there isn’t a single solution that works for everyone. It’s likely, however, that at least one of the solutions we’ve proposed above could turn out to be exactly what you need. Experiment with what works best for you – acne can be cured naturally!