Acne is a very common skin disorder that is caused by inflammation of the tiny oil glands (sebaceous glands) that surround the fine hairs on the face, neck, back and chest. Each hair follicle has an associated gland which produces a substance called sebum, which lubricates hair growth. Under the influence of testosterone the activity of these glands increases. At the same time there is blockage of the end of the follicle producing what is called a comedone. Closed comedones are whiteheads and open ones are blackheads. The gland continues to secrete sebum, which may become infected and inflamed forming pustules or cysts.

During puberty, the production of male sex hormones (androgens) increases in both girls and boys, which can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. The severity of acne increases and, typically, reaches its peak around the ages of 17 to 19. For most people, acne tends to go away by the time they reach their mid-20s; however, very sensitive people may continue to suffer until they reach their 40s.

In some people, the sebaceous glands are extremely sensitive to androgens. These people, mostly men, get acne so severely that they need medical treatment. Hormonal changes related to pregnancy or menstrual periods can also cause or contribute to acne and women are often prescribed the contraceptive pill to counteract the effects of testosterone.

Severe acne can cause scars which will never disappear. Acne can also cause psychological stress and be socially disabling.

Nutritional Supplements that could help

(Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)

A good high potency multi-nutrient formula 1 -2 times daily is useful to assist in correcting any deficiencies caused by a poor diet.

Supplement/Herb What it does Dosage
Vitamin B6 Helps where there is a flare up before periods. 50mg daily.
Zinc Aids in the healing of tissues and prevents scarring. Also needed for the normal production of skin oils. Zinc deficiency is especially common amongst teenagers, the group most likely to be affected by acne. 30mg twice daily. Take with copper at a ratio of 15:1
Vitamin E Together with Vitamin A helps control sebum production in acne. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that enhances healing. 400 – 600IU per day
Evening Primrose Oil Provides omega6 fatty acids that are needed for hormone regulation and to break down fatty deposits that block pores. Keeps the skin smooth, soft and speeds the healing process. 3000-6000mg daily
Vitamin A Needed for the skin cell formation and helps strengthen and protect the skin mucosa from infection. Speeds healing processes. 25,000iu daily, until acne improves then reduce to 5,000iu daily.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids To reduce inflammation and promote the integrity of the skin and resistance to infections. 2400 – 4800mg
Selenium Help in the production of antioxidants and works with Vitamin E to promote skin healing. 100 – 200ug daily
Chromium To help control blood sugar levels and resist infections. 100 – 200 ug daily
Acidophilus To help restore the balance of good bacteria in the system, especially if anti-biotics are taken. As directed on the bottle.
Agnus Castus If acne is hormone related it can help restore balance in both men and women. 40mg daily
Burdock A traditional cleansing herb for skin conditions, works even better with dandelion. 1000 to 2000 mg daily
Echinacea A licensed medicine for skin conditions. It cleanses and heals through stimulating the immune system response. 300mg daily
Garlic Helps keep infections under control Aged or whole bulb garlic 3 times per day
Goldenseal Helps keep pathogenic bacteria under control in the intestines. 250mg extract 2 -3 times per day. Take 3 weeks on, 2 weeks off.

Try acupuncture. As few as eight to 15 treatments can improve acne in up to 80 per cent of patients.

Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)

Calcarea carbonica

Hepar sulphuris




Diet and Lifestyle Factors:

De-stress. Although a relationship between emotional stress and acne has not been scientifically proven, cortisol – the body’s primary stress hormone – does have a few side-effects, such as an increased glucose production, immune-system suppression and nerve-cell damage. Excess cortisol has been implicated in some cases of female adult acne.

People with chronic acne may have some degree of impaired glucose tolerance, so high-fat, high-carbohydrate diets may worsen the condition. Aim for a diet comprising 44 per cent protein, 35 per cent carbohydrate and 21 per cent fat, as this has been shown to improve acne.  One of the most important dietary factors in acne is to minimise refined carbohydrates.

It appears that those with acne may have blood sugar control issues, specifically, their skin cells seem resistant to insulin.This happens because when you eat refined carbohydrates and sugar, it causes a surge of insulin and an insulin-like growth factor called IGF-1 in your body. This can lead to an excess of male hormones, which cause your pores to secrete sebum, a greasy substance that attracts acne-promoting bacteria. Additionally, IGF-1 causes skin cells known as keratinocytes to multiply, a process that is also associated with acne.

So, the simple solution is to radically reduce the amount of food you consume that is causing your body to make insulin. The main culprits here are sugar, and ALL grain carbohydrates as they’re converted into sugar in your body. This includes food items such as:

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Corn

No scientific research has shown that certain foods can cause acne, but if you notice that spots increase after you eat certain things, it makes sense to avoid them.

Establish proper balance of bacteria — If you’ve been given antibiotics it’s very important to take a probiotic supplement. Antibiotics are indiscriminate killers that wipe out good bacteria in your gut as well as the propioniform bacteria on your face. One common side effect of that is an overgrowth of yeast. If you are a woman, you may experience vaginal yeast infections, but both men and women can develop candida as a result of disrupting the balance of bacteria in your gut.

Of course, by reducing your intake of food that bad bacteria and yeast thrive on, i.e. sugars and carbs, you will also help reestablish the proper balance of bacteria in your gut.

Choose a sensible, varied diet, drink lots of water and exercise regularly. Eat fresh foods. Experts concede that chocolate, fats and other foods do not cause acne, but may cause allergic reactions that can aggravate the condition. Organic meats and milk are also preferable since they are hormone-free. Avoid iodine-rich foods and supplements such as kelp, seafood, fish, mushrooms, garlic, onions, watercress and iodised salt, as these can trigger hormone-related acne.

Eat more:

Dark green and orange fruit and vegetables for their beta-Carotene

Citrus fruits for their Vitamin C

Nuts and Seeds for their Vitamin E

Cabbage to help regulate hormones.

Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, wholemeal bread and beans.

Pineapples, mangoes, paw paws, kiwi fruits for their healing enzymes.

Shellfish, lamb, oats, sunflower seeds for zinc.

Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, trouts, sardines, mackerel for their essential fatty acids.

Live sugar free yoghurt.


  • High sugar foods, refined carbohydrates, white bread, cakes, biscuits
  • Chocolate
  • Ice cream
  • Salt
  • Burgers, sausages & Hot dogs
  • Fried food
  • All processed meats
  • Fizzy pop (including diet sodas).

Drink 2 litres of water daily to help flush toxins out of the system.

Wash your face twice a day with a mild cleanser. Make sure you wash your skin whenever it becomes sweaty. Do not scrub your face as this will only make your acne worse.

Avoid hairstyles in which the hair is constantly touching your face. Shampoo your hair regularly.

Do not squeeze or pick at the pimples. This makes them worse and may cause scarring.

Avoid exposing your skin to too much cold, heat and sunlight. Sunlight may improve your acne for a while, but it won’t cure it. Too much exposure to sunlight can lead to burning and skin cancer.

Use a water-based moisturiser. Greasy or oily creams and foundations block the pores and may cause pimples. Substitute natural tea tree oil for harsh benzoyl peroxide. A lotion of 5 per cent tea tree oil, although slower to work, has proven to be more effective – and to have fewer side-effects – than a preparation of 5 per cent benzoyl peroxide.

Cosmetics and toiletries as well as hair products with oil and suntan lotions can all worsen acne. Watch out for ingredients such as synthetic lanolins (for example, acetylated lanolin alcohol, lanolic acid or anhydrous lanolin), mineral oils, isopropyl myristate, butyl stearate, capric/caprylic triglyceride, and octyl palmitate and stearate. Certain D&C red pigments, such as those used in blushers, can also clog pores. In particular, teenage girls should use such pore-clogging ‘beauty’ products sparingly.

Given the link with fluctuating hormone levels and the possible underlying genetic influences, many doctors believe there is no way to prevent acne. This means that most are practising disease control rather than prevention, often with powerful antibiotics, steroids or other anti-inflammatory medications.

Recommended further reading




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