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Does Acupuncture Have The Potential To Clear Up Acne?

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

In the search for the cure to acne, sufferers have tried everything from dietary changes to topical treatments and even forms of surgery. But what if the cure for acne is hidden in the secrets of the past? Since the Stone Ages, the Ancient Chinese have been practicing acupuncture1, a form of medicine that involves stimulating certain points of the body with needle points, in order to alleviate pain and treat certain conditions. The practice has been around for more than 8000 years because it really works for what it’s used for. But can it be used to treat acne, as well?

Does acupuncture help acne
Acupuncture is a painless and potentially effective alternative to traditional ways of treating acne.

A Holistic Treatment For Acne

While there are many doctor-recommended treatments for acne, many of them involve the use of harsh chemicals in the form of creams and antibiotics that can have adverse effects due to long-term use. For this reason, many people are turning to more holistic methods of treating acne as science advances and we learn more about how acne is affected by the health of our organs and overall bodies. One of these holistic treatments is acupuncture, and here’s why:

Acupuncture is a medical practice commonly used to treat chronic pain2, digestive disorders, allergies, stress, anxiety and, most pertinent to acne, skin conditions. The practice involves putting very fine needles in or pressure (a practice called acupressure) on particular points that release the flow of energy in the body, stimulating nerves that work through the neurohormonal pathways3.

When it comes to skin conditions, these usually reflect the condition of your digestive system, since the health of the two is very closely intertwined. Acupuncture actually treats the skin by treating the digestive system and hormone production in the brain.

For those who are wondering, acupuncture doesn’t hurt although, according to some, it causes a pinching sensation.

The Acupuncture Process For Skin

Since the process is targeted at treating the digestive system in order to heal the skin from the inside-out, it begins with inserting needles into the arms, legs, and neck to treat the internal “flow” of energy. About the distance of three fingers beneath the knee is a point used to clear out heat from the digestive system4. A point between the thumb and index finger and a correlating point on the foot are good for acne. Needles are also placed on points of the forehead by the hairline for lymphatic drainage to treat acne and open the energy of the face.

Each acupuncture session generally lasts about an hour, and many clients fall asleep during the process. For those with minimal acne, they may see immediate results. For those with more severe forms of acne, it may take up to a few weeks to see substantial changes5. Booking regular appointments for women with hormone-related acne is best especially around the time of menstruation, or just before when hormone levels fluctuate drastically.

What You Should Remember

Since acupuncture targets treating acne via the digestive system and nerve system, the initial results may not be visible on the surface because they are happening internally. The process aims to heal the skin from the inside-out, and so the inside will experience healing and change before it can be seen on the outside. For this reason, you should expect to see results after the first 3 months, or 3 menstrual cycles if you’re a woman with acne that is prone to be more severe during that time of the month. You should also attempt to see the acupuncturist about two times a week.

Aside from slight bruising for those who are easily bruised, acupuncture is practically a risk-free practice6. However, it can get quite costly, with many acupuncturists charging anywhere from $100-$200, depending on the seniority and experience of the practitioner you book with. For safety reasons, make sure the acupuncturist you choose is licensed to do the job.

If seeing an acupuncturist is too expensive for your budget, you can always opt to do home acupressure treatments. There are specialty wands and tools designed for this, which you can find online and at select stores.

The idea that neurohormonal treatment can improve digestive health7, the production of hormones and acne has been founded in many studies and is a worthwhile treatment to consider. Whether you do it at home or with a professional, it may very well be the thing you need to get your acne under control.

References:

  1. Yang E.S., Li P.W., Nilius B., Li G. Ancient Chinese medicine and mechanistic evidence of acupunture physiology. Pflügers Archiv. 2011;462(5):645-653.
  2. Hao J.J., Mittelman M. Acupuncture: Past, present, and future. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. 2014;3(4):6-8.
  3. van den Berg-Wolf M., Burgoon T. Acupuncture and cutaneous medicine: Is it effective? Medical Acupuncture. 2017;29(5):269-275.
  4. Li H., He T., Xu Q., Li Z., Liu Y., Li F., Yang B., Liu C. Acupuncture and regulation of gastrointestinal function. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2015;21(27):8304-8313.
  5. Son B.K., Yun Y., Choi I.H. Efficacy of ah shi point accupuncture on acne vulgaris. Acupuncture in Medicine. 2010;28(3):126-129.
  6. Vincent C. The safety of acupuncture: Acupuncture is safe in the hands of competent practitioners. BMJ. 2001;323(7311):467-468.
  7. Sung J.J. Acupuncture for gastroinstestinal disorders: Myth or magic. Gut. 2002;51(5):617-619.
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