A New Look at Natural Acne Treatments
By Nathan James
There's a confusing array of product claims and treatment methods for acne that make it difficult for acne sufferers to determine their best course of action. The fact that there are several forms of acne, including cystic acne and the common acne vulgaris, complicates the picture. While the medical community does not have a cure for severe acne, there are a variety of products that will subdue moderate cases of acne and provide the sufferer with clear skin once again. Among these effective products are natural acne treatments that provide viable alternatives to the use of antibiotic medicines and ointments.
Natural remedies are derived from plants that have been used for generations because of their medicinal properties. The prestigious National Institutes of Health recently formed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Health to evaluate the efficacy of herbal remedies by funding controlled scientific studies. Herbal remedies can be effective natural acne treatments.
Antibiotics are frequently prescribed for acne because there is a known bacterial component to cases of acne but certain herbs like Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolio) have known antibacterial properties as well. A soap made from Echinacea and other herbal ingredients is a viable antibiotic facial cleanser that helps fight and clear acne. This type of soap is also used for eczema, psoriasis, and acne rosacea. Scientific studies show that Echinacea helps the body provide the proper enzymes at the cellular level to protect cells against invasion by bacteria. Echinacea's ability to aid in wound healing is beneficial not only for acne but also for insect bites and burns.
Echinacea is the hardy purple coneflower that is a staple of roadside plantings and home gardens. A more exotic and expensive herbal acne treatment is tea tree oil. There are over 300 species of tea tree but only one species (Melaleuca Alteronifolia) found in New South Wales, Australia is known to have antibacterial properties. Tea tree oil is derived from the leaves of the tree and is four to five times stronger than household disinfectants in killing bacteria. At the same time, tea tree oil is gentle to the skin. Tea tree oil is effective in killing the bacteria even in pus and will cause the body to eliminate pus from inside a pimple. Tea tree oil also acts as a mild local anesthetic which reduces discomfort and also helps to eliminate the red irritation from the skin, improving appearance and reducing acne social problems. Tea tree oil is readily available from herbal suppliers and is simply applied to the affected area with a Q-tip. Tea tree oil is used sparingly.
Witch hazel is not just a brand name but an actual herb (Hamamelis virginiana) that is still recommended as a topical astringent and natural acne remedy. When using these topical acne treatments it is important to be gentle. While it seems to make sense to attempt to vigorously scrub away the offending acne, both medical doctors and herbalists recommend a gentle face washing with even just the fingers as the best approach. Scrubbing merely dries the skin and causes it to produce more oils that are implicated as one of the causes of acne. Don't over-wash either; specialists recommend washing the face just twice a day.
Along with topical products, herbal dietary supplements can be beneficial as a natural acne treatment as well. Burdock root (Arctium lappa) has long been used to treat boils and abscesses and is an acne treatment. One of the reported properties of burdock root is that it will bring problem-causing agents out of the bloodstream, thus potentially making a condition seem to worsen rather than improve. However, the theory behind its use states that it is simply eliminating toxic elements from the body and providing healing properties. When used as an acne treatment, herbalists recommend that topical burdock root be applied as well as taking a supplement that contains burdock. Burdock is typically combined with dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) and golden seal root (Hydrastis Canadensis). Golden seal root was once used to prevent pitting of the skin caused by smallpox. Herbalists also recommend red clover (Trifolium pratense). All of these ingredients are implicated in improving skin conditions. Be sure to take these supplements only in the dosage indicated by the manufacturer or your herbalist.
Diet plays an important role in overall health and maintenance of healthy skin. A balanced diet that is rich in vegetables and fruits provides the necessary vitamins and minerals to support clear skin. A diet containing lots of vitamin A may lower sebum production and excessive sebum is one of the contributing causes of acne. The various B vitamins, especially vitamin B-6, can be beneficial as it is needed for proper metabolism of steroid hormones and sexual hormones are implicated in acne. Zinc is promoted as a cure for acne but there seem to be as many studies against zinc supplements as there are ones that promote zinc as an acne treatment. These vitamins are available as supplements but again, more isn't always better; follow label dosing instructions.
There are plenty of old wives tales surrounding diet and acne outbreaks. Chocolate and fried foods have long been blamed for acne but there is no evidence to support this. However, the link between acne and dairy products is being subjected to scientific studies. A study published in the medical journal Dermatology in early 2005 found a link between teen acne and consumption of dairy products. For those whose acne is aggravated by dairy consumption, eliminating dairy products promotes clear skin. Another misconception is that acne is caused by dirt because the pores are clogged. Thinking that dirt is a cause of acne prompts sufferers to possibly over-wash the face and further aggravate the acne condition. Wearing make-up doesn't cause acne either; look for modern cosmetics that are non-comedogenic (won't clog pores), oil-free (water-based) and hypoallergenic (no added fragrance).
Acne isn't just a teen-age condition and adults suffer from acne as well. The natural acne remedies have provided relief from acne symptoms for people of all ages.
About The Author
Nathan James offers information and advice about the best acne treatments and skin care at the Top Acne Treatments website.