How to Cure Acne – Taking a Look at Natural Cures for Acne
Can you really cure acne and get rid of unsightly blemishes and pimples for good? Almost every acne sufferer can cure acne with a minimum of prescription medications such as antibiotics and Accutane, but some of the most effective treatments for mild to moderate acne are seldom discussed.
- The bacteria inside your body have tremendous influence1 over your immune system‘s ability to deal with bacteria outside your body and on your skin.
- Drying out the skin makes acne worse. Staying hydrated helps cure it.
- Antioxidants can make a huge difference in how fast acne heals. But some antioxidants work inside your body, while other antioxidants are best applied directly to the skin.
- Chocolate does not cause skin blemishes, most of the time.
- For mild to moderate acne, treatment can be as simple as 1-2-3.
The Hidden Connection Between Healthy Digestion and Healthy Skin
Seventy years ago, at least in the United States, it was taken for granted that a healthy colon had a lot to do with healthy skin. Two dermatologists named John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury had documented a pattern of symptoms including constipation, depression, and acne. They theorized that probiotic bacteria, such as Bifodobacterium and Lactobacillus acidophilous, interacted with the immune system, “upregulating” the chemical signals that tell the skin to fight acne bacteria, and also with the brain, by “downregulating”2 the chemical signals that cause inflammation.
Stokes and Pillsbury noticed that adults who continued to have acne often had bloating, gas, constipation, and a mental state best described as “the blahs.” Especially in older adults3, the presence of acne, sluggish digestion, and low-grade depression was also accompanied by a failure of the stomach to secrete enough stomach acid. Stomach acid kills unhealthy bacteria, such as Bacteriodes, but leaves more of the helpful bacteria untouched. This observation led to two different ways to treat the combination of acne, indigestion, and depression4.
One way to treat the problem is to consume probiotics. In the United States, “Greek” yogurt is the product most likely to provide the full range of health probiotic bacteria, or you might want to take a vegan probiotic supplement like Alive. Providing your gut with more healthy bacteria helps them get rid of the unhealthy bacteria that cause symptoms.
To keep the unhealthy bacteria from coming back, it helps to stimulate the production of stomach acid5. Bitter foods trigger the release of stomach acid6. Since most poisons in plants have a bitter taste, the human body has developed a kind of preemptive first aid system that dissolves bitter foods more thoroughly than sweet, salty, sour, or umami foods. You don’t have to give up anything sweet, you just have to eat the bitter food7 separately, preferably at the beginning of the meal. Salad greens are enough to activate the release of stomach acid that kills pro-acne bacteria and protects anti-acne bacteria.
Hydrating Tight Pores
Another way to fight acne is with water. Dry skin is usually tight skin. Tight skin traps oil and bacteria inside pores. Hydrating the skin loosens it so oil and bacteria can flow naturally to the surface8, where you can simply rinse them away every morning.
Hydrating from the inside out doesn’t usually require drinking amounts of water. Drinking enough water to avoid dehydration is usually enough. If you are indoors in a cool place, you may only need 5 cups (about 1200 ml) of water every day to provide your skin with the moisture it needs from your body. Especially if you have oily skin, however, you need much more water if you go outside in hot water—as much as 5 cups or more per hour at 40° C/104° F or more.
Hydrating your skin from outside is usually accomplished with moisturizers. There are some ingredients in moisturizers that sound bad but that are really OK, such as cholesterol and ceramides9 (famous as the supposedly “toxic” chemical formed in the oil used to cook French fries). There are also some ingredients in moisturizers that sound OK but that are really bad for your skin, such as essential oils, most herbal extracts, and alcohol. All of these ingredients can dry out skin. Even if you have naturally oily skin, you need to keep your skin hydrated. “Oily” skin just refers to the production of oil from your pores, not the moisture content of your skin itself.
Antioxidants in You vs. Antioxidants on You
Antioxidants help the skin stop the inflammation that causes the long-term damage from acne10. If you have dark, oily acne-affected skin, for example, your skin will produce unusually large amounts of the pigment melanin to serve as a protective antioxidant11. Melanin, however, gives your skin its darker shades, so the melanin it makes to repair damage from inflammation becomes a more or less permanent brown or black spot. Providing the skin with alternative antioxidants helps prevent the process that protects the skin with permanent blemishes.
The antioxidants that help when taken by mouth are alpha-lipoic acid12, also great for firming up bags and sags, and DMAE, great for helping the skin fill in indentations. If you take alpha-lipoic acid, be sure your product is formulated to include the B vitamin biotin, or take a biotin supplement.
The antioxidants that have the greatest effect applied to your skin13 in creams or lotions are vitamins C and E, but not just any vitamin C or E will work. “Ordinary” vitamin C is water-soluble, but about 75% of the content of your skin is fat. You need a special kind of vitamin C known as ascorbyl palmitate that can penetrate the skin to do it good.
But What About Chocolate?
Very few people need to go on a special, restricted diet to fight acne. But nearly everyone does better by avoiding excessive consumption of chocolate14.
Samantha Block, a medical student at the University of Miami, recruited 10 men aged 18 to 35 who had a history of mild to moderate acne vulgaris. Her recruits had at least one active acne lesion (that is, a blackhead, a whitehead, or a pimple), but no more than four. She then offered them as many pure dark chocolate Ghiradelli candy bars as they wanted—no one in the test took more than three—and asked them to come back three times over the next week. Ms. Block did not include women in the study because menstrual cycles and birth control use would complicate interpretation of the results.
At the end of five days, one of the volunteers in the study had 85 new pimples! Most of the men who indulged in chocolate bars had at least 10 new blemishes. If you have acne, you really should not have chocolate.
Stress And Acne
While acne myths are quite common, hormonal fluctuations really do cause acne and stress15 really does affect hormone levels. Certainly remedies such as over the counter products, drugs, and light treatment devices have their place in the fight to get clear, but reducing stress is equally important and should not be overlooked. Most people don’t need a guide to reducing stress, they already realize what needs to be changed, and it’s obviously something that is both free and can be done from home.
Putting It All Together
None of these common sense interventions for acne is likely to be a cure all by itself. Any one of them, however, maybe that little something extra your skin needs for all the other hard work you put into acne treatment to work. Without giving up any part of your existing acne routine, try these simple steps. It may be that the treatment that enables you to cure acne is a safe, inexpensive, minor addition to your daily skin care routine.
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- STOKES JH, PILLSBURY DM. The effect on the skin of emotional and nervous states: iii. Theoretical and practical consideration of a gastro-intestinal mechanism. Arch Derm Syphilol. 1930;22(6):962–993.
- Stodd RT. The Weathervane. Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2016 Jul;75(7):214.
- Uhlenhake E, Yentzer BA, Feldman SR. Acne vulgaris and depression: a retrospective examination. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010 Mar;9(1):59-63.
- McMullen MK, Whitehouse JM, Towell A. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:670504.
- Hunt RH, Camilleri M, Crowe SE, El-Omar EM, Fox JG, Kuipers EJ, Malfertheiner P, McColl KE, Pritchard DM, Rugge M, Sonnenberg A, Sugano K, Tack J. The stomach in health and disease. Gut. 2015 Oct;64(10):1650-68.
- Liszt KI, Ley JP, Lieder B, Behrens M, Stöger V, Reiner A, Hochkogler CM, Köck E, Marchiori A, Hans J, Widder S, Krammer G, Sanger GJ, Somoza MM, Meyerhof W, Somoza V. Caffeine induces gastric acid secretion via bitter taste signaling in gastric parietal cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jul 25;114(30):E6260-E6269.
- Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. 2016 May-Jun;61(3):279-87.
- Lynde CW, Andriessen A, Barankin B, Gannes GD, Gulliver W, Haber R, McCuaig C, Rajan P, Skotnicki SP, Thomas R, Toole J, Vender R. Moisturizers and Ceramide-containing Moisturizers May Offer Concomitant Therapy with Benefits. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 Mar;7(3):18-26.
- Addor FAS. Antioxidants in dermatology. An Bras Dermatol. 2017 May-Jun;92(3):356-362..
- de Cássia R Goncalves R1, Pombeiro-Sponchiado SR. Antioxidant activity of the melanin pigment extracted from Aspergillus nidulans. Biol Pharm Bull. 2005 Jun;28(6):1129-31.
- Wang XL, Wang HW, Zhang LL, Guo MX, Huang Z. Topical ALA PDT for the treatment of severe acne vulgaris. Photodiagnosis Photodyn Ther. 2010 Mar;7(1):33-8.
- Thomas S, Vieira CS, Hass MA, Lopes LB. Stability, cutaneous delivery, and antioxidant potential of a lipoic acid and α-tocopherol codrug incorporated in microemulsions. J Pharm Sci. 2014 Aug;103(8):2530-8.
- Vongraviopap S, Asawanonda P. Dark chocolate exacerbates acne. Int J Dermatol. 2016 May;55(5):587-91
- Jović A, Marinović B, Kostović K, Čeović R, Basta-Juzbašić A, Bukvić Mokos Z. The Impact of Pyschological Stress on Acne. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2017 Jul;25(2):1133-141.
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