Acne: An approach where Western Medicine meets Eastern Medicine


Four Main Causes of Acne:

1.       Follicular hyperkeratinization
Follicular hyperkeratinization, which is cause by dry skin, appears as the small little skin colored bumps on the skin that can occur by themselves, evolve into, or along with more cystic type acne. Many factors can contribute to this including: dehydration, climate change (including switching to and from using A/C), and even the soap you use or a change in soap. Most soaps and cleansers tend to be too drying and lead to Follicular hyperkeratinization. 

2.       Increase in Sebum Production and/or sweat
Increase in Sebum Production and/or sweat can be caused by a number of factors, and can “clog” the pores leading to blemishes like blackheads (when dirt is also clogged), and can also trap in bacteria which can lead to cystic type acne. Increases in sebum can occur from over drying of the skin, often from cleansers, so the body attempts to balance the dryness with more secretion. Hormonal changes can also change how much sebum and sweat we produce. 

3.       Bacteria
When bacteria overgrows on the skin, or gets clogged in the skin porse, it causes irritation which can cause red blotches or blemishes on the skin, and if enough bacteria is present to get the attention of the immune system to create pus, we get white heads and cystic type acne. Keeping a careful balance of a clean face, but not over drying as described above, is very important. Other factors, such as food allergies, or systemic infections like fungus and yeast can also contribute to bacterial imbalance and overgrowth.

4.      Inflammation 
Inflammation is irritation in the skin which can lead to the problems described above or aggravate them further. Changes in hormones, environment, and many other factors can increase the inflammation in our skin to cause or aggravate acne. 


We can use Chinese Medicine to balance and eliminate these problems:

1.       Follicular hyperkeratinization:  According to Chinese medicine, dryness in the skin occurs when there either isn’t enough blood to nourish the skin, or it is not flowing well enough to make it to the skin. With acupuncture and herbal medicine, we can build the blood up and increase your blood circulation to ensure that your skin is being nourished properly to prevent follicular hyperkeratinization, balance out the skin and treat acne.

2.       Increase in Sebum Production and/or sweat: In Chinese Medicine, there are two main factors that cause this, one is hormonal imbalance, and the other is a little bit more difficult to explain. In Chinese Medicine, the lungs and the skin are closely related. It is said that the lungs control the skins ability to open and close the pores. While this concept is more difficult to explain in Western terms, one example that you can clearly see the correlation is when you see someone who smokes a lot of cigarettes, they tend to have very poor skin – it’s as if the skin can act as a reflection of the lungs’ condition. There was also a recent study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics showing “Skin age as an indicator of Lung age” in fetal development. With acupuncture, and Chinese herbs, we are able to help restore hormonal balance, and help restore proper function of the lungs to prevent and treat acne caused by increases in sebum and sweat. 

3.       Bacteria: Acupuncture is excellent at regulating the body’s immune function to help combat bad bacteria and restore bacterial balance in, and on, the body. Furthermore, Chinese herbs can be taken to kill off the bad bacteria to hasten the results and help to clear the skin quickly. 

4.       Inflammation: Modern research and diagnostic tools have allowed us to see acupunctures’ instant ability to reduce inflammation in the body. With a properly trained, licensed acupuncturist, one can target the skin and area specifically and help to reduce inflammation. Acupuncture can also reduce systemic inflammation, both by the process itself, but also by restoring proper function of the organs so that less inflammation is created. 


Here are some Things you can do at home to treat acne:

-Use a hypoallergenic, gentle, non-drying soap
-Keep well hydrated
-Ensure you are ingesting both enough fat and enough salt
-Use coconut oil both topically as well as internally – it helps stabilize keritonization of the skin

Remember – Acne will, more often than not, get worse before it gets better. As your body fights bacteria, it will “push it out” of the skin causing the appearance to temporarily worsen. 

At Integrated Oriental Medicine, PS, we treat cases of acne with great results! If you, or someone you know is suffering from acne, call us today and come in for a consultation to see how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help you with your acne.

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