Having stubborn acne, how to get rid of spots?
What is acne? What causes acne? Acne is a disorder that occurs in the hair follicles in the face, chest and back. This is known as black heads, white heads, pimples, pustules and cysts on the skin. It is a common condition in teenagers and younger adults. Acnes can be on and off for a few years and disappear by mid 20s. Acne can have a big impact on psychological well-being.
Acne is thought triggered by hormone imbalance. Too much
androgen secretion is the major trigger. Changing of hormone levels makes glands
in the skin produce excessive amounts of an oily substance- sebum. Increased
male hormone stimulates the oil gland attached to the hair follicles-small
holes in the skin. Increased male hormone alters the oil production which
causes the follicular pores clogged and hair follicles enlarged. Bacteria can
access to the deeper layers of the skin through these follicles causing
inflammation. Inflammation closed to the skin surface causing a pustule;
inflammation in deeper layer leads to pimple and a cyst. And sometimes scar can
form from abnormal wound healing following inflammatory damage. White head is
caused by oil clogging to the skin surface while black head is caused by
oxidized oil or accumulated melanin pigment. The factors that don’t cause acne
include heredity, food, dirt, or stress.
Acne vulgaris (acne) is a chronic condition that begins in
adolescence and can last over 10 years. Globally, acne vulgaris affects 85% of
individuals aged 12 to 25 years. The condition affects 80% of people in the
United States at some point in their lives. 25% of women over 30 are still
experiencing acne. Acne is characterized by inflamed and noninflamed comedones,
oily skin, and cysts.
From Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, there are
several factors causing acne: heat and damp is accumulated in lung and stomach
meridians causing skin blockage. Spleen dysfunction makes food transportation,
digestion and transformation abnormal and produces more heat. This also makes
obstruction in the skin.
Acne has great impact on quality of life
Acne is a very common disease in adolescents. Acne has great
impact on quality of life. A study involved in 600 high school students
investigated this aspect. There were 303 girls and 260 boys aged between 13 and
19. 83% of them was self reported acne. 40% was mild, 36% was moderate and 6.5%
severe. This was correlated with dermatologist’s assessment. Acne was more
prevalent and severe in boys than girls. There was a direct link between
subjective, severety of acne and symptoms of anxiety, depression and lower
Stress makes acne worse
Psychological stress has also been identified amongst
factors that worsen acne. Recently a study involved in 160 students was carried
out to investigate the association between acne severity and stress levels as
well as the mechanism for this. They demonstrated a statistically significant
positive correlation between increased self-reported stress and increased
severity of acne; there was no correlation between increased stress and sebum
levels. They explained that increased acne severity may result not from
increased sebum secretion and excretion but from changes in neuropeptide
secretion and sebum lipid composition. Other studies have shown that
stress may affect the production of inflammatory mediators and specific lipids
involved in inflammation by the sebaceous glands rather than the quantity of
Acne nodules, cysts and acne scarring
Acne nodules and cysts are the most severe type of acne.
Nodules are large hard lumps that build up beneath the surface of the skin
and can be painful and cysts are large pus-filled lumps. The nodules and
cysts and surroundings are inflamed and become red. The nodules and cysts are
very destructive to the skin and deep tissues and carry the greatest risk of
causing permanent scarring. They can be there for long time and are
difficulty to treat which is very upsetting and depressing. Acne scarring can
sometimes develop as a complication of acne. Any type of acne spot can lead to
scarring, but it's more common when the most serious types of spots (nodules
and cysts) burst and damage nearby skin.
When you have pimples on the face, you want to pop them to
make them go. But popping a pimple is not a good idea. It causes a disruption
in the skin, it increases the chance of infection, worsening inflammation and
even scarring, especially repetitively picking/scratching at acne pimples could
lead to not only infection but scarring and possibly permanent change in
pigment. If you have painful cystic acne, avoid popping it at all costs.
Squeezing the contents of acne cysts through their small opening creates
pressure, this pressure can rupture the cyst inside, creating a severe
inflammatory reaction and possible infection that will likely require drainage
and taking oral antibiotics.
Acupuncture reduces inflammation and is used to treat acne
effectively. Acupuncture can effectively treat acne nodules and cysts and
reduce acne scarring formation and make the skin smooth. Have you tried
There was a study using acupuncture to treat acne. In this study
the criteria of participant selection is that they (older than 13 year old) had
more than 10 papules and less than 10 nodules on the face and had acne for more
than 3 months (chronic stage). They did not use retinoids, antibodies or herbal
medicine for acne before. They did not have chemical peeling, intense pulsed
light or laser treatment within the past month. After 6 week treatments, there
was a significant reduction in the inflammatory acne lesion counts. They
suggested that acupuncture treatment of moderate acne vulgaris was associated
with reduction of inflammatory lesions and improvement of the quality of life.
The significant effects can be obtained in 6 weeks.
There were many case reports that acupuncture can treat
acne. For example, Son BK et al studied the effect of acupuncture on acne. They
found that 12 sessions of acupuncture over 6 weeks reduced inflammatory lesion
counts and quality of life in patients with acne. Recently Li B et al studied
the current situation in research to evaluate the therapeutic effect and safety
for clinical randomized and controlled trials of treatment of acne with
acupuncture and moxibustion in China. They analysed 17 papers involving 1613
cases with acne and they found that acupuncture and moxibustion is safe and
effective for treatment of acne and it is possibly better than routine western
Here is an example of a case. Lily is 30 year old. She had
acne on her face on and off for 6 months. There are many newly formed pimples,
cysts and some of them are infected by bacteria forming pustules. Scars can be
seen on her face. She also had mouth odour and constipation. She heard from a
friend that acupuncture may help her and wanted to try acupuncture. After a
course of acupuncture, the acne symptoms were improved significantly. Also
mouth odour was improved and there was no constipation at all. After 3 courses
of treatment, acne was cured.
Study has shown that acne patients used antibiotics too long
Acne is not a life threatening condition, however it affects patients quality of life so much. The spots take their happiness away. Women cannot go out without covering the spots up first. They often use over-the-counter creams, prescription gels, and finally: oral antibiotics. Antibiotics was used too long and increased the antibiotic resistance makes antibiotics loss their effects. A research study at a dermatology practice in an academic medical center has shown that the average duration of antibiotic use was 331.3 days. In all, 21 patients (15.3%) were prescribed antibiotics for 3 months or less, 88 patients (64.2%) for 6 months or more, and 46 patients (33.6%) for 1 year or longer. Patients treated only at the study site had a mean duration of antibiotic treatment of 283.1 days whereas patients who also received antibiotics from another institution had a mean duration of 380.2 days.
Acupuncture has better effect for treating acne than
A study has compared the efficacy differences between acupuncture and oxycycline tablets for the treatment of moderate to severe acne vulgaris. Sixty cases of moderate to severe acne vulgaris were involved in this study and they were divided into acupuncture group and medication group with oxycycline treatment). The treatment duration was 20 days. The fading time of skin damage, including papule, pustule, nodule and cyst in the two groups was recorded and clinical efficacy was compared. After the treatment, two-month follow-up was performed to observe the recurrence rate in the two groups. The results have shown that the curative rate was 69.0% (20/29) in the acupuncture group, which was significantly higher than 40.0% (12/30) in the medication group. The fading time of each type of skin damage in the acupuncture group was shorter than that in the medication group. Recurrence rate was similar between two groups.
Li B et al Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2009) 29:247-51
Son BK et al Acupunct Med (2010) 28:126-9
Gong and Qian J Tradit Chin Med )2007) 27:255-7