Acne is a skin condition that commonly occurs on the face, neck, chest, and back. It starts with the presence of oil and dead skin cells and can develop into red, swollen, and pus-filled bumps, called pimples, if germs get into the pores. Acne lesions can also appear as whiteheads, blackheads, or cysts.
Natural Remedies for Acne
Here is a look at some natural remedies that are commonly used to fight acne.
1) Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a popular home remedy for acne. It is an essential oil that is diluted and applied topically to acne lesions.
How is tea tree oil believed to work? Tea tree oil contains a constituent called terpinen-4-ol that's thought to be responsible for most of tea tree oil's anti-bacterial activity. Because tea tree oil can kill bacteria, applying topical tea tree oil to acne lesions is believed to kill Propionibacterium acnes, the skin-dwelling bacteria involved in acne.
2) Low Glycemic Load Diet
A dietary factor that has been linked with acne is foods with a high glyemic load, such as sweetened fruit juice, sugary beverages, candy, white rice or pasta, french fries, baked potatoes, low-fiber cereals, macaroni and cheese, pizza, and raisins and dates. High glycemic load foods affect levels of the hormones insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1, which increases the production of androgen hormones and may stimulate the development of acne.
Instead of high-glycemic load foods, choose lower-glycemic foods such as beans, fruits and vegetables, high-fiber cereals, nuts, and whole grain breads. Some people may have a sensitivity to gluten or wheat, in which case gluten-free or wheat-free foods should be substituted.
Related: The Gluten-Free Diet.
3) Reducing Dairy Intake
There is evidence that dairy products may be linked with acne. Milk naturally contains androgens and growth hormones which may stimulate the development of acne. The Nurse's Health Study examined 47,000 nurses and found that those who consumed more milk when they were teenagers had higher rates of severe acne than those who drank little or no milk as teenagers.
Although there are many dairy-free milk substitutes, such as rice milk, be sure to choose unsweetened products (or avoid them altogether), because the added sugar in some of these products may have an adverse effect on acne.
Zinc is another popular home remedy for acne. Preliminary research suggests that zinc may help to improve acne inflammation.
Zinc is a mineral that's found naturally in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, certain types of seafood, whole grains, and fortified cereals. Zinc is also available as a nutritional supplement.
For adults, the tolerable upper intake limit is 40mg. It's important to check all of your supplements for zinc content (it is added to multivitamins and cold and flu remedies), because excessive zinc intake may result in zinc toxicity and nausea, appetite loss, vomiting, cramps, headaches, and diarrhea. Intakes higher than 150 mg have been associated with decreased levels of copper, reduced immune function, and reduced levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Zinc may also interfere with the absorption of magnesium from food.
Zinc should not be taken together with quinolone antibiotics (such as Cipro) or tetracycline antibiotics, because taking them together can inhibit the absorption of both zinc and the antibiotic. To minimize the effect, zinc should be taken at least 4-6 hours before or 2 hours after taking an antibiotic, or zinc supplements should be avoided altogether.
Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barnetson RS. A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust. (1990) 153 (8): 455-458.
Dreno B, Moyse D, Alirezai M, Amblard P, Auffret N, Beylot C, Bodokh I, Chivot M, Daniel F, Humbert P, Meynadier J, Poli F; Acne Research and Study Group. Multicenter randomized comparative double-blind controlled clinical trial of the safety and efficacy of zinc gluconate versus minocycline hydrochloride in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Dermatology. 203.2 (2001): 135-140.