This is a common skin condition in teenagers, but does occur in adults as well.
Our skin is out outermost layer, and healing here usually requires working from the inside out. In addition hormones have a big affect on the skin – the reason why puberty is the time acne often starts – so if you have done all you can at home, it is worth seeing a professional – both Homeopathy (my modality) and Naturopathy and Medical Herbalism can be useful here, and other modalities may be able to help also, but I am less familiar with them.
First of all let’s review what is happening when you see acne on the skin. There are four main parts to the formation of acne. Firstly there is an increase in sebum production, which is an oily substance produced by hair follicles to coat, moisturise and protect the skin. In acne however this increase usually means too much is produced. There is also problems with the hair follicle itself shedding cells far too quickly, and the combination of too much sebum and too many dead cells can block the pores. However to get the acne lesions you also need the skin microbiome to be out of balance, leading to too much of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, which then leads to the fourth part, inflammation of the skin.
Conventional treatment of acne often means stripping the skin to remove excess sebum and clear the pores, then stepping it up to topical antibacterial treatment, then oral antibiotics or for girls the oral contraceptive, and at the top is isotretinoin (the old brand name is Roaccutane) a drug that is derived from vitamin A.
The routine of looking after the skin is also stressed a lot, and some of the products can be very harsh, stripping the skin which in some cases will stimulate the production of more oils and sebum as the skin is dry.
Holistically, we do things differently, we are trying to improve the health of the skin from the inside out.
Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, which is about metaphysical causes of disease, states that Acne has a cause of not accepting the self or disliking the self. Her suggested mantra is “I am a Divine expression of life. I love and accept myself where I am right now.” Blackheads and pimples are from small outbursts of anger, so could be redirected with “I calm my thoughts and I am serene”, and whiteheads are hiding ugliness, and the new thought pattern is “I accept myself as beautiful and loved”. She also has specific affirmations for the face and skin. When we consider the timing of acne – the teenage years – which is a time for figuring out oneself, thoughts, feelings, what they want to do in the world, and comparing themselves to those around them, the acceptance of self reason makes sense, and the anger, from a lack of control over their life with school and family demands, is something that is also common.
Lifestyle and diet is very important in acne. The production of sebum is influenced and increased by cholesterol, sugar and fat. There is a correlation between obesity and acne, and the hormone leptin secreted by fat cells is known to increase inflammation and can also increase the secretion of sebum.
Hormones also make a big difference, and girls and women with too many androgens are more likely to have acne. If there are other symptoms around the menstrual cycle then I recommend working with a professional to balance hormones – there are many supplements that can work on hormone levels and it can be hard to decipher which is the best one for you.
I like to use Homeobotanical remedies when working someone with acne. First it is important to make sure all the elimination pathways are working – the skin is our largest elimination organ, so if you are not detoxing or clearing things well through the Liver and Kidneys, then the Skin will suffer. Usually I prescribe the combination BLAKE first (B for Blood and Lymph, L for Liver, A for Allergy, K for Kidney and E for emotions), and then after a month use a skin specific combination. S for skin contains Blue Flag, Burdock, Figwort, Heartsease, Oregon Grape, Red Clover, Sarsaparilla and Yellow Dock, and can be used in combination with other Homeobotanicals according to the individual needs.
Tissue Salts can also be really useful for acne, as they contain the building blocks for all our cells and help correct any imbalances that may be found. The classic single tissue salt is Calc Sulph, but Combination D with Kali Mur, Kali Sulph, Calc Sulph and Silica is often used. Calc Sulph is a cleansing remedy, found in the liver, and supports the removal of waste and unwanted debris from the tissues. It is often used in combination with Kali Mur which is a glandular tonic, and also supports the liver function. The other two remedies in Combination D are Kali Sulph, which is a skin balancing tissue salt, working on the top layer of the skin and mucous membranes, and Silica, which is found in skin, hair and nails, and also has a particular indication when there is pus. Tissue salts for chronic conditions should be taken three to four times daily for a long period of time – at least three months.
When looking at Homeopathic remedies, we always need to take into account the whole picture. This includes the mental and emotional picture, the site of the acne, causes (including menstruation, diet and emotional cause), and what makes it better or worse, as well as other general symptoms.
While acne is seen on the skin, it is a whole body feeling and constitutional treatment is much more effective than trying to use a remedy just for the skin. This means that seeing a Homeopath is often more effective than trying to self treat with the homeopathic remedies I discuss below or others- and with any chronic homeopathic (or other natural and holistic) treatment you need to give it time to work, go back for follow-ups and stay the course or change remedies as directed.
There is an Acne nosode, made from the bacteria Proprionibacterium acnes, but this should be used in accordance with constitutional treatment. Just taking the homeopathic remedy made from the bacteria by itself is not a particularly effective treatment for most people in most conditions.
There are also combination homeopathic remedies available, the one I am most familiar with is Narayani Mix 61 Acne 200c. It contains Natrum Phos, Nux Moschata, Staphylococci & Strepheam, Vitamin A and Zinc Metallicum. The recommended dosage is three times daily over a long period, with the note that diet is important: no rich foods, sweets, caffeine or soft drinks. It is stated to be excellent for young people who are extremely emotional, laughing, crying or dramatic, which upsets the body’s acid balance.
For individual remedies, ones that are often indicated include (but are not limited to):
Berberis is a kidney tonic, and has been used for over a hundred years to clear the complexion. The skin can be rough or dry and scaly and acne comes in blotches. Pimples can extend down towards the neck.
Sulphur is one of our big skin remedies, and with acne they have pimples over the face and forehead, and can have blackheads on the nose or chin. They may have red lips, and other skin by dry or rough, or have eczema. Sulphur acne may be painful, burn and itch, particularly at night. A word of warning- Sulphur is renowned for stimulating healing and making the skin worse before it improves.
Natrum Muriaticum is a remedy with an affinity for the sebaceous glands, particularly with the over production of sebum, when the skin is greasy with pimples. Nat Mur are more reserved people, they can be perfectionists, and have a craving for salty foods. They may also feel better or worse at the sea, and some will also be prone to cold sores.
Hepar Sulph is a remedy for acne that is large and pus-filled, more like abscesses or boils rather than pimples. If they drain, the pus may have a smell like old cheese. Hepar Sulph can be very irritable and oversensitive to everything.
Kali Bromatum is a remedy for chronic acne that may be on the face, neck and shoulders. They have a blotchy red appearance, and the pimples are large and leave a scar after resolving. They can be hard on themselves, feeling guilty or replaying things that have happened.
As always, if you are unsure at any point, seek help from a professional. You can always see a medical doctor for diagnosis, and choose what information you take on board. This post is for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or claims of efficacy for the stated remedies.