Acne is a common skin condition which is synonymous with young adolescents going through puberty; it's one of the signs of hormonal changes, though it can affect older people. It can also be due to much oil production and sometimes heredity. Too much stress, a hectic lifestyle, lack of sleep and unhealthy eating habits, can also contribute to the cause of acne.
What Does Acne Look Like?
Acne happens when the skins pores get blocked by oil and dead skin mainly on the face, but it can occur on the back, chest, shoulders and neck. Acne can be broken down into six main groups, ranging from a mild form of whiteheads and blackheads, to quite severe and sometimes permanent, inflamed, deep cysts and pustules.
- Whiteheads occur when dirt or sebum (excess oil) gets trapped under the surface of the skin which forms a firm white bump.
- Blackheads occur when the pores in the skin open up, this causes dirt and sebum to rise to the surface, when the air reacts with the melanin, which is the pigment in sebum, it oxidises, and this is why the pimple appears black.
- Pimples, sometimes called pustules, are formed when excess oil and dirt stays trapped below the skin, causing irritation and inflammation with redness and swelling. They often contain pus, a yellowish, thick substance made up of dead bacteria and white blood cells.
- Nodules and Cysts form deep under the skin, Nodules are large, hard, inflamed pimples and Cysts are painful, pus filled pimples that often cause scarring.
Some Myths Surrounding Acne
Acne is considered a major skin condition but it is one of the least understood, Acne has many misconceptions and myths attached to it, here are just some of them:
Poor Diet can Cause Acne: Research so far has not been able to connect poor diet with acne and has not been able to find any foods that cause this condition.
Dirty Skin and Poor Hygiene can Cause Acne: The cleanliness of skin has no effect on the cause of acne. The majority of biological reactions that trigger acne don’t occur on the surface of the skin, but underneath the skin, therefore, keeping the skin ultra clean by washing it too much, will only aggravate the condition.
Acne can be Cleared by Squeezing the Spots: Actually, squeezing spots and pimples will only make them worse and could cause the acne to spread which could leave the skin scarred.
Acne is not Infectious: Acne cannot be passed on to other people.
Acne can be Improved by Using a Sunbed, Sunlamp or Sunbathing: The medications used in the treatment of acne can make the skin more sensitive to light. So prolonged exposure to sunlight, whether it is natural or otherwise, could cause painful skin damage and also put you at risk of skin cancer. As yet, no conclusive evidence has been found that exposure to sunlight or using sunlamps and sunbeds will improve acne.
How can Acne be Cleared?
First of all, you need to find out what type of acne you have, a visit to the doctor or dermatologist will determine this. You can then decide whether you want to follow conventional medication and applications to clear your acne or opt for clearing it naturally and effectively.
There are many natural ways in which you can clear acne but first you need to follow a good skin care routine, starting as early as possible, it will help to keep your skin in good condition, which will lead to the acne healing faster and more effectively. It’s also a good idea to think about improving your diet, watching what you eat and avoiding foods which will cause your acne to worsen or stop it healing.
By Using Oils
There is no definitive ‘cure’ for Acne but there are numerous natural ways in which you can help to heal the skin, thus healing the acne. Many of these applications are made from simple ingredients or foodstuffs found in many households or local stores.
1. Jojoba oil
Jojoba oil is considered light oil that is easily absorbed into the skin; it tricks the skin into producing less oil by mimicking the skin’s sebum. Jojoba oil gives a feeling of oil frees skin and is best applied though the day and mixed with dry oils for maximum benefit.
2. Castor oil
Castor oil is ideal for acne prone skin; it’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory oil, high in vitamin E, minerals, proteins and unsaturated fatty acids. Castor oil can heal the scars and discolouration which occur with acne and also reduce the inflammation it causes.
3. Rosehip oil
Rosehip oil penetrates the skin to the deepest layers, this is where oil can regenerate cells and increase the production of collagen. It’s a dry oil, rich in Omega=6 and Omega 3 fatty acids, which have been proven to help heal scar tissue. Studies have shown that its high level of retinoic acid can brighten the skin while reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
4. Tamanu oil
Tamanu oil also helps to regenerate skin and is a good oil to repair sun damage and broken skin, as well as acne. It contains lipids called calophyllolide, which are not found in any other oils, it also has antibiotic, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Juniper oil
Juniper oil is a good face cleanser and toner; it’s a natural astringent so it does a good job of clearing blocked pores in acne, eczema and dermatitis. An application of 1=2 drops on a piece of cotton wool after washing is all it needs to treat acne, but avoid overuse as it can sometimes cause irritation and could possibly make the condition worse.
6. Hemp Seed oil
Hemp seed oil contains around 60% of linoleic acid, which is a nutrient that helps to balance the quality and production of the skins sebum oil, so it won’t clog the pores. If you use Hemp seed oil internally, you will find that it will increase your levels of linoleic acid, which will regulate the amount of the skin’s own oil. It’s safe to take it daily but try to use the unrefined, cold pressed, organic oil.
7. Grape Seed oil
Grape seed oil is more beneficial in preventing aging, rather than in treating acne, but it is still a good oil to use. It contains some enzymes which have certain health benefits, as well as containing vitamin E, linoleic acid and flavonoids. These little health bundles can help to keep the skin looking firmer and younger by smoothing out the skin, filling in the spaces between skin cells and keeping acne prone skin clear.
8. Tea Tree oil
Tea tree oil is well known for use in combatting skin problems. It helps to absorb excess oil, yet it won’t strip the skin of its natural oil. It is considered to be a good anti-bacterial treatment but it should never be taken orally. For us on the skin only, just apply direct to the problem area a few times a day.
9. Avocado oil
Avocado oil can be used in one of three ways; it can be used as a moisturizer, a topical spot treatment or taken internally.
- Avocado oil is a great moisturiser, applying it to the skin will prevent inflammation caused by the skin’s own ‘sebum oil’, which is responsible for blocking the pores and causing pimples and spots to appear.
- It is perfect for a topical spot treatment or for use on scars and blemishes; it is a good oil to use in the fight against blackheads and in reducing the inflammation of the pores, which can sometimes lead to the formation of pustules and cysts.
- Adding avocado’s to your diet, either in the oil, salad dressings or eating them raw, will give you a healthier skin because they are high in good fats and low in bad fats, (which are linked to acne). Eating or cooking with avocados will increase your vitamin E levels and help to tone your skin.
Some Other Natural Acne Treatments
1. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is a natural plant with spiked leaves full of thick rich gel that has powerful properties for healing. It is an all-round medicinal plant, which is used for many ailments, but its best use for acne is in reducing the redness and swelling. It can also help to relieve the pain caused by the irritation of cysts. Aloe Vera can be applied to the skin daily, either as a spot treatment, face mask or moisturizer. Stop using it if you find a rash developing as you could be allergic to its gel.
2. Sea Salt
Sea Salt can be used as a face mask to help in the reduction of stress, it has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties and protects against harmful UV radiation. However, if you have dry or sensitive skin or moderate to severe acne, then it is wise to consult a dermatologist before trying this treatment as sea salt can dry out the skin and cause irritation.
3. Raw Honey
Raw Honey contains antibacterial and healing properties and is perfect as a mild cleanser; with its moisturising qualities it can help the skin to retain moisture. Just two teaspoons of raw honey spread over dry skin, will help to heal acne, though it’s worth noting that it cannot cure acne on its own, it needs to be used in conjunction with other natural remedies.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar naturally balances the PH of skin; it allows the skin to breath because it’s good at cleansing and closing pores. It has strong antibacterial properties and will gradually reduce spots, pimples and cysts with regular use. There are a few ways to use Apple Cider Vinegar, you can mix it ½ and ½ with water and use it as a toner or as a cleanser that can be left on the skin for up to 20 minutes. It also works well as a quick spot treatment for troubled areas of the skin. Apple Cider Vinegar can also be taken internally; it helps to balance the stomach’s PH.
Lemons are a good natural disinfectant and help the scars from the acne to fade naturally. They are simple enough to use as a natural acne treatment, just cut in half and apply the flesh of the lemon to the skin for around 10 to 20 minutes and rinse off.
Aspirin can be used externally, it can be made into a paste using 1 part aspirin to 3 parts water, leave it to thicken then apply to the affected area with a cotton bud (Q tip). It takes around half an hour before it hardens and starts to flake, then simply wipe the paste off with a damp cloth or tissue, then pat dry. Aspirin is anti-inflammatory and most of us have them in the medicine cupboard so it makes it a cheap and easy way to reduce the appearance of pimples
Toothpaste contains silica, a substance found in bags or boxes to keep moisture out. Therefore, it is effective in reducing the size of spots and pimples overnight. Apply to the affected part of the skin before you go to bed, and then wash off in the morning.
Garlic is known to have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties and high levels of antioxidants, making it a great natural tool in the fight against acne. Adding more garlic to your diet will help to purify the blood, which can help to stop further outbreaks of spots and pimples. Peeling a clove of garlic then rubbing it on the acne a few times a day, will give immediate results, but if you have sensitive skin then mix to a paste with water and apply in the same way.
9. Steaming the Skin
Steaming the skin opens the pores so it can be quite useful in the treatment of acne. Steaming will also detoxify and moisturise the skin. There are machines on the market that are specially designed to steam the face without damage, or you can simply hold your head over a bowl of hot water and drape a towel over so the stream does not escape. This is just as effective but you may want to pause now and again as it can be quite claustrophobic.
Cucumber is considered to be an anti-inflammatory and can reduce the redness of the spot or pimple. Try combining two to three teaspoons of lemon juice with a finely grated cucumber, apply to the affected area and wash off after about ten to fifteen minutes.
Some Do’s and Don'ts
Don’t Keep Touching Your Face: Dirt and bacteria on your hands can clog your pores and make acne worse. Don’t squeeze or pop your blemishes or you may risk developing scars. Squeezing a pimple might even spread the bacteria further.
Don’t use a Cleanser with Sodium Laureth Sulphate in it: This detergent contains a foaming agent that caused irritation. Look for a mild cleanser that doesn’t contain soap or one that contains natural ingredients.
Do Try to Stick to a Good Hygiene Routine: Wash your skin in the mornings and before you go to bed at night, using your fingertips, and make sure you rinse thoroughly afterwards
Do Eat a Healthy Diet Which Includes a lot of Fiber, Fresh Fruit and Vegetables: Try to avoid any type of meat that could contain hormones, as this could throw your own hormones out of balance, thus causing acne. Including lots of foods rich in vitamins A C and E as well as zinc, will help to control the acne.
Do Drink Lots of Green Tea: It isn’t linked directly to the prevention of acne but the antioxidants it contains have shown to help protect the skin from damage, therefor making the skin appear healthier and fresher.
If you keep to a regular hygiene routine as well as a sticking to a healthy diet, you should be able to control and eventually heal your acne effectively and naturally.