The Natural, Common Sense Approach to Acne

By: Dr. Janice Piro, DC, DABCI & Dr. Natalie Regalado, DC


Acne is a well-known condition involving blemishes on different areas of the skin usually the face, chest, shoulders, and/or back.  It can occur at any age (including babies) and tends to run in families.  Anyone with acne would agree that this is more than just a skin problem as its severity can greatly impact confidence and self-esteem. Addressing the underlying imbalance internally while treating symptoms externally is essential to successful treatment.

The skin is the largest organ in the body.  One of its functions is to eliminate waste.  The greater amount of waste that is produced by the body, the more likely the skin will be called upon to perform this function.  In addressing any acne condition, this aspect of skin function must be taken into consideration.

The organs that can cause an overload of waste to be produced in the body are mainly the intestines and the liver.  Any intestinal dysfunction, either with digestion or elimination, must be addressed.  Poor digestion often leads to poor elimination.  Poor elimination can lead to an overloaded liver.  The overloaded liver causes lymphatic congestion and, hence, use of the skin as an excretory organ.  This is the formula for acne development.

      Since acne typically starts in adolescence, a surge in hormones, specifically androgens, often play a part in the cause.  And, guess what…the liver plays a large role in metabolizing hormones.  So, the adolescent surge in hormones further congests the liver.  This is the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back for acne sufferers.  And since adolescence cannot be avoided (sorry Mom and Dad!), other waste that is overloading the liver must be addressed.  Control what you can control!

      To address the overloaded liver, start with a good bowel cleanse and move on to a liver cleanse.  There are several products available at your local health food store that could be used.  Now, to keep these organs flushed out, the diet must be considered.  We recommend that all dairy, gluten and refined foods (especially sugars) be avoided.  Eat lots of vegetables, some whole fruit, brown rice or quinoa for grain, and organic meats (grass-fed beef, chicken and turkey).  Wild-caught fish is almost always a plus.    

      Another common finding with acne cases is a need for proteolytic enzymes, hydrochloric acid, or both.  Hydrochloric acid is produced in the stomach to prepare the food for further digestion in the small intestine.  If the production of hydrochloric acid is low, food sits in the stomach undigested and begins to ferment, become rancid, and putrefy.  This food cannot be fully digested by the small intestine and becomes waste that congests the intestines and liver.  It then provides an intestinal environment that is friendly to pathogenic bacteria, parasites, and other organisms to overgrow.  This can manifest as an unconventional intestinal infection that may go undetected for years.  Supplementing with the right amount of probiotic can help to rectify the imbalance in the intestines.  Also, adding a digestive enzyme with every meal can be of great benefit.

      There is some evidence that a hereditary factor involved in acne development is the need for high amounts of pantothenic acid, or Vitamin B5.  There is a website, www.pantothen.com, that has the research regarding this and the product, Pantothen, that addresses it.  We recommend that you read this and decide for yourself if this may be helpful. 

      A multiple vitamin made from a whole food source is a good place to start.  Some people tout that large doses of vitamin A will ameliorate the blemishes, but the large doses required can be toxic to the liver and bones and is ill-advised to pursue.  Certain derivatives of Vitamin A are safe and effective.  Zinc is useful for its anti-inflammatory effect.  There is a supplement available at your local health food store called Akne-Zyme by Enzymatic Therapy that may be helpful with some of the basics that can help acne.

      External aggravating factors always need to be considered for acne sufferers.  One is sunlight.  Some patients see their acne improve, others worsen, and still others go unchanged with exposure to sunlight.  UV sunrays can be irritating and damaging to skin, but exposure to UV rays is also required to make Vitamin D…and Vitamin D is helpful as an ANTI-inflammatory.  Though vitamin D is made in the skin, it is in an inactive form and must be converted through both the liver and kidney before it is in its active form.  So, here we are, back to considering liver function!

      The arena of cosmetics is perhaps the most easily identified and modified external aggravating factor.  Choose natural, mineral-based makeup and watch out for known comedogenic chemicals. Comedogenic chemicals are known to exacerbate or create acne and include lanolin, isopropyl myristate, and synthetic pigments. Most liquid makeup foundations are comedogenic. The connection between makeup and acne may not be obvious because it can take up to two months for lesions to appear.

      Stress is another relevant external aggravating factor.  Acne breakouts are known for being precipitated by stressful events.  Stress causes inflammatory hormones to be released by the adrenals glands.  In turn, this can cause MORE stress… and a positive feedback loop is formed.  Supporting adrenal gland function can help the body handle stress more efficiently and decrease the output of these hormones.

      Each case is different and may change over time. We recommend consulting with a natural medicine practitioner if you are having difficulty handling the acne on your own to assess for the best course of treatment.


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