Acne, it happens! It affects men and women, young and old. It can pop up on your face, back, shoulders and elsewhere. It can be mild, a few bumps every so often, or severe with painful pimples that won’t seem to go away. TV and magazines bombard us with ads for products that may provide some superficial relief but what’s the real solution to acne? Let’s look at how a naturopathic doctor (ND) approaches the issue of acne using the founding principles of naturopathic medicine (learn more about these here)…
First, do no harm: Simply put, don’t make the problem worse. Popping pimples can cause nearby pores to become blocked, creating new pimples. It can also cause scars and discoloration, which can take a long time to resolve. The other thing to consider is the negative effects some creams and medications can have on acne. Some topical treatments act by drying out the skin, which can have a rebound effect of causing the skin to produce excess oils to compensate, in turn aggravating acne in the long run. Some popular oral medications also come with warnings of some serious side effects including joint damage, hair loss, risk of depression and fetal deformities. It’s important to consider these risks when looking at a treatment option for acne.
The healing power of nature: The body has an inherent ability to heal itself and sometimes just needs some support along the way. In some cases, acne can resolve naturally based on natural hormonal changes that come with age or healthy changes in diet and lifestyle. In other cases, an ND can help you determine what type of support your body needs to overcome the acne on its own or using gentle, natural therapies.
Address the cause: For any solution to be effective and long-lasting, it must target the root cause of a problem. Your ND may sometimes address symptoms initially but the ultimate goal is to find and address the cause of your acne. Could there be a nutrient deficiency, a hormonal imbalance, or a food intolerance causing or aggravating your acne? Certain nutrients, such as vitamin C, zinc, and copper, among others are known to be essential for healthy skin, hair and nails. In addition to this, proper hydration and consumption of good fats (through diet or, for example omega 3 supplements) is essential. Even an excess of certain nutrients, such as iodine and some B vitamins, can trigger breakouts, so managing these is a must. Some foods are also thought to aggravate acne, such as dairy and sugar. Could there be a more serious underlying condition contributing to the problem? There may even be an imbalance that can be helped by acupuncture and other Chinese medicines to help address your acne. The goal is to get to the root of the problem!
Treat the whole person: Many factors contribute to the health of your skin, that’s why it’s important to look at the bigger picture and find a treatment plan that fits your specific concerns. While one person may benefit from simple dietary changes to improve acne, others may need more support in the form of herbal or nutritional supplements. This is where your ND can help to take these different factors into consideration to address your particular struggle with acne.
Prevention & education: Simply improving your diet and exercise routine can go a long way in preventing the development or progression of acne. Using the right skin products, treatments and knowing what triggers your acne can help you to manage and prevent breakouts and care for your skin.