Acne is one of the most common skin conditions I treat with acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine.
The goal of the treatment is to correct the underlying imbalance causing the acne. Correcting the imbalance does not mean simply treating the symptoms or masking the condition, but rather correcting the root of the problem by encouraging self-healing of the body. The key is to correctly identify the imbalance that is causing the acne.
Our treatment considers the whole person. We think not only about the skin but also about hormone imbalances, digestion, stress, sleep, and other factors.
As a doctor of acupuncture and a Traditional Chinese Medicine herbalist, I first identify the specific imbalance underlying the acne. Then, I use a combination of customized therapies including acupuncture, LED light therapy, and cupping. Most patients will also take Chinese herbal medicine formulas that help to balance hormones and decrease inflammation.
The Acne Cycle
There are many factors that lead to acne. Acne is a condition that begins when a hair follicle in the skin becomes clogged by sebum. Acne is most common in areas of the body with many sebaceous glands, such as the face, back, and chest. The clogging can result in a pimple.
A clogged follicle may become infected by bacteria which causes inflection and inflammation. The inflammation leads to the development of pustules and papules. Some will develop into cysts.
Our treatment helps to naturally reduce the cycle of acne development by using herbal medicine and acupuncture to regulate the hormones that affect skin secretions, using LED blue light to kill the bacteria associated with acne, as well as reducing inflammation with cupping and acupuncture. Food choices are also very important to help prevent acne from returning.
Acupuncture uses a customized combination of treatments for those with acne. We will start by examining and determining the underlying imbalance at the root of acne.
The Root Cause
Acne is most often associated with imbalances of heat, dampness, and blood stagnation. The correct analysis and treatment of these imbalances leads to the long-lasting improvement. The imbalances can develop from stress, interaction with the environment, hormonal changes, or other causes.
Dampness- Dampness is the main cause of white heads and black heads. People with dampness generally have oily skin and may sweat a lot. Dampness may occur from hormonal imbalances which is why teenagers often get acne.
Dampness also comes from a diet high in sugars and dairy. This is why it is important to also consider your diet for acne. Acupuncture and herbs that treat dampness help to decrease oiliness on the skin and regulate hormone imbalances.
Heat – Heat imbalances are reflected in red skin, red inflamed papules, and possibly pustules scabs and crusts. This is often reflected in inflammatory acne. Inflammation is called “heat toxicity” in acupuncture.
The acupuncture for inflammatory acne includes points close to the acne, called ashi acupuncture points, or ouch points. Herbs that clear away the heat have been shown to have many antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Blood Stagnation- Blood stagnation occurs from certain hormone imbalances or if the acne has persisted for a long time. Acne along the chin line that is worse around the period, hormonal acne, will have some aspects of blood stagnation. Acne that worsens with stress will have some aspects of stagnation.
Herbs and acupuncture that help with blood stagnation help to increase circulation in the area to release the clogged pore. Cupping will also be helpful for this type of acne.
Types of Acne
The personalized treatment must be based on the underlying imbalance causing the acne. Below are some common types of acne and their associated imbalances.
Whiteheads and Blackheads
This is also called comedonal acne. In Chinese medicine, dampness and heat are the main cause of white heads and black heads. Other signs of dampness may be oily skin, fatigue, and poor digestion.
Inflammatory acne occurs when pimples become infected and inflamed. In Chinese medicine, heat is a significant cause of inflammatory acne. Heat imbalances are reflected in red skin as well as red, inflamed papules and pustules. If there is very bad inflammation, it is called “toxicity.” Heat can also manifest as night sweats, excessive thirst, and constipation.
Cystic acne is a severely inflamed type of acne. The cysts are large,lie deep in the skin, and can be painful. In Chinese medicine, this is related to toxins and stagnation.
Many women find that their acne flares up during the premenstrual stage of their cycle. . The acne is often a combination of whiteheads and blackheads with some inflammation involved. In Chinese medicine, hormonal acne can be related to stagnation, which is a lack of circulation in the body. Stress may also be a factor in the development of hormonal as well as inflammatory acne, which is a common cause of qi and blood stagnation. Acupuncture and herb treatments would focus on moving the qi and blood stagnation. Herbs such as chai hu and yi mu cao can help move the qi and blood to stop acne.
This article is for educational purposes only and does not serve as medical advice. Please consult a Chinese Medicine Practitioner before taking Chinese herbs.
Feedback From our clients…
“Before visiting Dr. Alban’s office, I had been suffering with severe inflammatory acne for about 2 or 3 years. I tried topicals, face washes, and other remedies, none of which could keep the acne away. After the first few weeks of personalized herbs and acupuncture, I noticed less inflammation and my skin was healing and clearing up. Most of us want immediate results, but I knew that my body needed to take its time to come back to a balance. We were treating the root cause. Now, my skin is clear and I do not need to take herbs any longer. I always recommend Dr. Alban to friends and family because I truly trust his knowledge in TCM and I am super grateful for the work that he does.”
~ C.A., Connecticut