Integrative Therapies

Strong scientific evidence:

Vitamin A:

Derivatives of vitamin A, retinoids, are used to treat skin disorders such as acne. Vitamin A supplements should not be used simultaneously with prescription medications, especially Accutane®, due to a risk of increased toxicity. Avoid if allergic or hypersensitive to vitamin A. Vitamin A toxicity can occur if taken at high dosages. Use cautiously with liver disease or alcoholism. Smokers who consume alcohol and beta-carotene may be at an increased risk for lung cancer or heart disease. Vitamin A appears to be safe in pregnant women if taken at recommended doses; however, vitamin A excess, as well as deficiency, has been associated with birth defects. Excessive doses of vitamin A have been associated with central nervous system malformations. Use cautiously if breastfeeding because the benefits or dangers to nursing infants are not clearly established.

Good scientific evidence:

Zinc:

Several studies identify a positive correlation between serum zinc levels and severity of acne, however others did not, and it remains to be determined to which degree internal zinc levels may correlate with the severity of acne. Based on high-quality studies, topical or oral use of zinc seems to be a safe and effective treatment for acne vulgaris. Zinc is generally considered safe when taken at the recommended dosages. Avoid zinc chloride since studies have not been done on its safety or effectiveness. Avoid kidney disease. Use cautiously if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Used for Centuries!!:

Guggul:

Guggul (Commiphora mukul), an herbal supplement commonly used in India, has been found to possess anti-inflammatory properties and suggested as an oral therapy for acne. Preliminary data from small, methodologically weak human studies suggest possible short-term improvements in the number of acne lesions. Caution is advised when taking guggul supplements as adverse effects including drug interactions are possible. Avoid with a history of thyroid disorders, anorexia, bulimia or bleeding disorders.

Signs of allergy to guggul may include itching and shortness of breath. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. Guggul is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor. Avoid if allergic to guggul.

Tea Tree Oil

Topical application of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil may be beneficial in acne vulgaris. The tea tree is found in Australia and its oil is used for antibacterial effects, including positive studies on preventing and healing acne outbreaks. Tea tree oil is applied (diluted) onto areas with acne, three times daily. Avoid allergic or hypersensitive to tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), any of its constituents, balsam of Peru, benzoin, colophony (rosin) tinctures, eucalyptol, or other members of the Myrtle (Myrtaceae) family. Avoid taking tea tree oil by mouth.

Avoid if taking antineoplastic agents. Use tea tree oil applied to the skin cautiously in patients with previous tea tree oil use. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Aromatherapy:

The use of essential oils may decrease the symptoms of acne. Essential oils are antibacterial and may kill the bacteria associated with acne. Apply diluted oils on a cotton ball to face as needed. Lavender essential oil may also be used topically to reduce scarring. Note: Essential oils are not to be consumed orally, as internal consumption can cause serious side effects.

Boswellia:

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) is an anti-inflammatory herb that has traditionally been used in acne therapy. Caution is advised when taking boswellia supplements as adverse effects including drug interactions are possible. Boswellia is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Burdock:

Burdock root (Arctium lappa) is traditionally used for a wide range of conditions including acne. Although no scientific evidence exists for the use of burdock for acne, traditional uses support burdock’s benefits in acne. Caution is advised when taking burdock supplements as numerous adverse effects including drug interactions are possible.

Burdock is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Calendula:

Calendula (Calendula officinalis), also known as pot marigold.  It is traditionally used for a wide range of conditions including acne. Although no scientific evidence exists for the use of calendula for acne, traditional uses support calendula’s benefits in acne. Caution is advised when taking calendula supplements as numerous adverse effects including drug interactions are possible.

Calendula is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Cat’s claw:

Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) is a vine found in South America used traditionally for a wide range of conditions including acne. Although no scientific evidence exists for the use of cat’s claw for acne, traditional uses support cat’s claw’s benefits in acne!! Caution is advised when taking cat’s claw supplements as numerous adverse effects including drug interactions are possible.

Cat’s claw is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Chasteberry:

Chasteberry or vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is reported to have hormonal effects similar to progesterone in the body, and one of the causes of acne may be hormonally related. Vitex was reported in one human study to improve the symptoms of acne. Caution is advised when taking vitex supplements as numerous adverse effects including drug interactions are possible.

Vitex is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Danshen:

Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), often in combination with other herbs. Although no scientific evidence exists for the use of danshen for acne, traditional uses support danshen’s benefits in acne. Caution is advised when taking danshen supplements as numerous adverse effects including drug interactions are possible.

Danshen is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Echinacea:

Echinacea is used traditionally for a wide range of conditions including acne. Although no scientific evidence exists for the use of echinacea for acne, traditional uses support echinacea’s benefits in acne. Caution is advised when taking echinacea supplements as numerous adverse effects including drug interactions are possible. Echinacea is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Milk thistle:

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is used to detoxify the liver and as an antioxidant. Detoxification therapies can be helpful in decreasing acne outbreaks and symptoms. Caution is advised when taking milk thistle supplements as adverse effects including drug interactions are possible. Milk thistle is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Moxibustion:

Moxibustion is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique that uses cupping and heat to stimulate circulation and break up congestion or stagnation of blood and chi. A study of 47 individuals found that moxibustion was effective in acne treatment.

Nicotinamide:

Studies have reported that nicotinamide, a form of the vitamin niacin, in doses of 750 milligrams, combined with zinc 25 milligrams, copper 1.5 milligrams, and folic acid 500 micrograms, is effective in treating acne vulgaris with or without antibiotics.

Omega:

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oils, help with inflammation and immunity associated with acne. Experts recommend choosing quality fish oil supplements, as heavy metals have been reported in some fish oil supplements. I recommend Nordic Naturals or Wiley’s fish oil. The label should say if the product has been tested for heavy metal contamination (such as lead and mercury).

Phototherapy

Studies have reported that visible light may successfully be used to treat acne, particularly intense blue light generated by purpose-built fluorescent lighting, dichroic bulbs, LEDs or lasers. Used twice weekly, this has been reported to reduce the number of acne lesions by about 64%.

Probiotics:

If a patient is taking antibiotics for acne, probiotic supplements may be effective in reducing effects associated with antibiotic and antiviral therapies such as diarrhea or constipation. The gastrointestinal tract normally has bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus(considered a probiotic)that help in balancing the immune system. Probiotics are generally safe in recommended dosages but may cause mild diarrhea.

Saw palmetto:

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) may help balance male hormonal levels and may be used in acne therapy. Although no scientific evidence exists for the use of saw palmetto for acne treatment or prevention, traditional uses support saw palmetto’s benefits in acne. Caution is advised when taking saw palmetto supplements as numerous adverse effects including drug interactions are possible. Saw palmetto is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Prevention

  • Wash the face with mild soap and water several times daily to prevent pore clogging and oil buildup.
  • Avoid repeated exposure to an environment that promotes oil production and clogging of the pores.
  • Rubbing and friction from clothing, hair, and sporting equipment may also irritate acne-prone skin.
  • Try not to “pop” pimples or touch them, as infection may occur.
  • Avoid skin irritants such as cosmetics or shaving with an electric razor.
  • Stress has been associated with the occurrence of acne. Meditation, prayer, exercise, music therapy, and massage have been reported to decrease stress.
  • Nutritional changes along with the addition of supplements (vitamins, minerals, and herbs) may be effective in preventing acne, improving immunity, decreasing stress, and in supporting general health.
  • Taking vitamins that contains the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, the B-complex vitamins, and trace minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and selenium can help protect the body from acne. I recommend Juice Plus capsules.
  • Although still controversial, consuming less dairy products such as milk and cheese may decrease acne. It is thought that the hormones contained in milk may be a causative factor in developing acne. Drinking soy milk or organic milk that does not contain hormones may help decrease acne.
  • Avoid all dairy products from a cow. These are mucus forming and will make the acne worse.
  • Try to avoid refined foods such as white bread, pasta, and sugar. The high glycemic index of these foods has been reported to increase acne outbreaks and symptoms.
  • Eat antioxidant-containing foods, including fruits (such as berries, grapes, and tomatoes), and vegetables (such as peppers and carrots). Studies report that oxidation may be a causative factor in developing acne.
  • Seafood, which contains high levels of iodine, has been reported to increase the incidence of getting acne. Avoiding seafood may decrease the chances of developing acne.
  • Chocolate has been thought to cause acne for years, but scientists have found no link between chocolate consumption and acne outbreaks. However, over-consumption, especially of milk chocolate, may cause poor glycemic control which may increase the chances of acne outbreaks.

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