Treating chronic acne

Q: I have severe acne and sometimes boils on my back and shoulders. As this is impossible to cover in cream I have been on Tetracycline for the past 2 years. This eases the acne but in no way cures it. As the summer is coming, is there any natural remedy which will clear my skin condition? I don’t want to go to the beach this summer in a T-shirt again.

A: Adult women who have acne can in fact have underlying hormone problems which are generally classified as androgen disorders. Excess androgen production can be coming from the ovaries or adrenal gland but skin can also have increased sensitivity to testosterone due to an excess in an enzyme in the skin. These issues are more complicated and need to be evaluated by a practitioner, but I think I would mention them because they are often overlooked, even by physicians.

Straightforward acne requires a diverse yet rigorous approach. Primary issues are dietary. Lower the fat and white flour/white sugar foods, avoid chocolate, and increase fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Food allergies and food sensitivities are also always suspect in chronic acne. There are many different methods of testing. I would find a practitioner who either does the Elimination method of testing or uses blood testing for antibodies to certain foods.

Retinols, including Vitamin A, have been shown in many studies to reduce sebum production in the skin. It’s important to use non-toxic doses (less than 50,000 i.u. a day) although higher toxic doses are more effective. Low levels of zinc increase the conversion of testosterone to its more active form which can aggravate the skin and particularly the pilosebaceous unit which is where the acne originates.

Use Zinc at 30-45 mg a day. Other considerations include Vitamin E, chronium, echinacea, goldenseal, increased dietary fiber, liver detoxification, and skin hygiene (scrubs, masks, etc.). I would recommend you consult Michael Murray’s book “The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine” (Prima Pub) for more information and direction. Acne requires patience and diligence; don’t give up without trying the recommendations for at least 6 months.

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