- Alternative & Natural Medicine
The Remedies For Acne
A Very Old Problem
Acne has been troubling people, particularly young people, since a long time before the ancient Egyptians.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that many methods have been tried in order to find a cure.
The truth of the matter is that there is no cure for acne, but there are some effective ways of treating and preventing an outbreak that can be tried. The reason that teenagers seem to be the largest group of sufferers stems from the changes the body goes through during that time in a person’s life.
More testosterone is produced in both boys and girls during adolescence and this will trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.
Is Sebum Production Significant Then?
Sebum production is good for the skin under normal circumstances. This oily fluid is secreted from the sebaceous gland within the pores of the skin and clears away dead cells and keeps the skin soft. The problem of acne arises when the sebaceous glands secrete too much of the oily fluid. The excess sebum then clogs the pore and the trapped sebum and dead cells become a breeding ground for bacteria. Before you know it, a spot appears. Keeping your skin cleansed and moisturized may help in removing excess oils and will keep your skin feeling fresh.
Should the acne break out fully it may start with just a few whiteheads and/or blackheads and this is the time to start treatment. Whiteheads are formed when the blockage of sebum, dead cells and bacteria rises to the surface of the skin. When it breaks through the surface of the skin, melanin contained in the sebum oxidises and turns a dark colour and this is what causes blackheads to form. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its colour.
More severe attacks of acne go further than just producing whiteheads and blackheads. Sometimes the walls of the pore can collapse and this stimulates white blood cells that rush in to sort the problem out. However, they cause a problem themselves by making the area inflamed which results in unsightly red bumps and blotches on the sufferer’s skin which can also be quite painful. One of the most common causes for the pore wall to collapse is through the action of the sufferer when they start to pick at and squeeze the whiteheads and blackheads. Resisting the temptation to pick and squeeze those annoying spots, although extremely difficult at times, could save the sufferer the further inconvenience of inflammatory acne. Once the white blood cells make it to the surface of the skin they form the tell-tale pimples or zits most commonly associated with acne. Sometimes the pores collapse at the bottom and this traps the white blood cells under the skin and leads to painful cystic acne, characterized by swollen nodules and cysts.
What Have We Learned Through The Millennia?
Apart from using honey, known for centuries for its antibacterial properties, there are several other natural herbal remedies for acne that may be helpful in treating the condition. In olden times people didn’t have the benefit of modern science and relied heavily on nature to provide the remedies they needed for many common ailments and we will take a look at some that could specifically help in the treatment of acne.
1. Tea Tree Oil – This natural remedy is used for its antimicrobial properties to kill off the bacteria responsible for causing acne and, in an Australian study, it was compared to Benzyl Peroxide. Both Tea Tree Oil and Benzyl Peroxide are effective in treating acne. Benzyl Peroxide gets to work on the acne symptoms much faster, but Tea Tree Oil provides a much gentler solution to the problem with far fewer side effects.
2. Green Tea – As well as being a refreshing drink, green tea is packed with anti-oxidants that could help to clean up skin-damaging free radicals which can also cause hormonal imbalance
3. Aloe Vera – The healing properties of Aloe Vera are well documented and it has been used to treat skin conditions utilizing its antiseptic and moisturizing properties for centuries.
4. Lavender Oil – This strong oil works in several ways to treat acne symptoms and has analgesic and antiseptic qualities. It helps eliminate the bacteria that causes acne and also has a soothing effect on the skin, easing the redness and pain that comes with acne
5. MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) – This is a dietary supplement that is effective in treating painful cystic acne with its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a source of the sulphur the body needs to aid collagen production for healthy skin.
6. Liquorice Root – Although not recommended for nursing mothers and pregnant women, liquorice root has been used since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it ideal for treating cysts and nodules associated with cystic acne and it has a soothing effect when applied topically.
The advantage of using herbal remedies in the treatment of acne, or any other disorder come to that, is that they produce far fewer side effects, if any, compared to pharmaceutical medications. The herbal remedies listed above help to restore hormonal balance, have anti-inflammatory properties and are anti-bacterial. Some may have more than one of those properties.
A Closer Look at MSM and Acne
Methylsulfonylmethane, known simply as MSM, is a dietary supplement that has to be synthesised because it is only usually found in small amounts in nature.
MSM is available in many forms such as powder, gel, topical cream, and tablets and comes in various dosages. It is recommended that initial doses should be low and built up over time to a larger dose to avoid some side effects that are associated with high initial doses such as nausea, headaches and cramps.
It takes time for MSM to become effective and it is able to tackle acne in the following ways:
1. Promoting Skin Health
a. MSM is useful in preventing acne outbreaks by constraining the effects of testosterone on sebum production in the sebaceous glands
b. MSM softens and nourishes the skin whilst helping to rid it of toxins, clearing the pores by improving the skins porousness
c. MSM promotes healthy skin by assisting the production of collagen
2. Anti-inflammatory Properties
a. The anti-inflammatory properties inherent in MSM means that it is effective in the treatment of cystic acne and helps to reduce the swelling
b. In addition to being anti-inflammatory, MSM is also anti-allergenic thus reducing allergic reactions
c. MSM helps to prevent the absorption of allergens
There is still quite a lot of research to be done into the health benefits of MSM, but the above list has been compiled from proven date from some large scale studies.
What’s The Verdict?
Acne can be triggered by a lot of different things such as emotional or physical stress, environmental pollution, oily or greasy cosmetics, but one of the major factors is hormonal changes within the body. That is why teenagers are highly prone to outbreaks with the ratio being as high as 1 in 3 people who experience acne outbreaks. During the teenage years, the human body produces higher levels of testosterone in both boys and girls and this in turn stimulates sebum production by the sebaceous glands within the pores of the skin. Sebum isn’t a bad thing in itself and it is necessary for keeping the skin in good condition, but this extra production of sebum results in the pores getting clogged up and promotes the growth of bacteria causing whiteheads and blackheads to form.
Of course, acne isn’t the sole property of the teenage population and can affect anyone of any age It is also quite common for pregnant women to experience acne outbreaks due to the rearrangement of hormones in their bodies.
Acne outbreaks can be prevented to a certain extent and a couple of obvious steps to take in the prevention of outbreaks are things such as cleansing the skin and eating a healthy diet. A healthy, balanced diet is also quite important for general good health.
It is fair to say that acne has been around for a very long time and it will probably still be around many centuries from now. Whilst a cure would be preferable, sufferers can take heart from the many solutions that are offered for the treatment of acne, not least of which are the tried and trusted herbal remedies that have been passed down from generation to generation. It is hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t possible to go to the local drug store and purchase medication to treat every conceivable condition and ailment. Our ancestors had to do things by trial and error and, luckily for us, when something worked they would pass on their knowledge.
Today, of course, we do have the huge benefit of not only the wealth of knowledge passed down to us from our ancestors, but also the extensive scientific research that is on-going.