I have struggled with acne since my twenties.
My experience is that traditional or conventional dermatology practices and products have been largely unsuccessful at stopping or treating my outbreaks.
In my twenties, I had good success with proactive products. But these stopped working after ten years and my acne transformed from clogged pores to cystic acne.
The cystic acne became intractable. I would have between 1 and 4 cysts at a time, predominantly on my cheeks and my chin area. These erupted when I was stressed, around my period, or I had too much sun. They would become inflamed, and then not come to a head or resolve for weeks and sometimes months. At other times, they might resolve and then after a reprieve of about a week another form in the same place. So I would have relatively no time when I did not have either scarring or acne showing on my face.
This was a painful process physically but also emotionally as it distorted my face and left me dealing with scarring and discoloration to cover when facing the public. Sometimes when I would get a flareup the cyst would be so inflamed I would have pain from the pressure on my face or cheek, or on very few occasions I would have difficulty seeing out of my eye.
The scarring was very difficult and left a light red, blue or purple tinge on my face.
Although this was a useful way to practice my meditation and self-esteem skills, it was deeply challenging when I had to put my face out there in a world so focused on smooth, uncluttered skin as a sign of beauty and health.
For the most part my acne has not been helped by retin-A, or any of the typical dermatological topicals and in some cases these made the acne worse. In fact, they would cause redness which resulted in a dermatologist inaccurately diagnosing me with rosacea. The products for rosacea made my acne worse as well.
I gave up on these products ten years ago. I have recently reviewed the literature from conventional medicine and although there are many new products these are predominantly along the same lines of retin-A, antibiotics by mouth, topical antibiotics and topical anti-inflammatory.
As an Oriental medicine practitioner I investigated Chinese Medicine treatments. The focus of this medicine is to treat stagnation, and deficiency as well as inflammation and stress.
The traditional patents were not beneficial for the type of acne I experienced.
In the process of investigating natural, alternative, and home remedies for the treatment of acne I discovered a commonly accepted picture of underlying causes of acne based on where on the face the outbreaks occurred. This is a common practice in Chinese Medicine to observe where the acne is breaking out to understand the underlying deficiency or stagnation. Here is one chart/ picture of this facial map: http://www.skinacea.com/acne/acne-face-map.html#.VS6EETt4qxM
Here is another: http://www.youbeauty.com/skin/face-mapping-what-acne-is-trying-to-tell-about-your-health .
I knew that acne across the chin had to do with stress and liver stagnation. Once I changed my diet and increased my meditation and exercise to keep moving my liver Qi, it got better. Also, I added milk thistle to my daily supplements, along with a soothing Liver Qi oriental medicine patent. After a short time, I had no more break outs on my chin. This has continued for a period of two years.
I continued to have break outs under my left eye on my upper cheek. These were very painful and on two occasions resulted in so much inflammation I had difficulty seeing out of my left eye. These lasted 6-9 weeks at a time and when the inflammation began to resolve it would leave a dark red-purple discoloration on my cheek. Additionally, the inflammation cause my skin to loosen and my pores around the area to enlarge and disrupt.
This chart identified that I still had a respiratory problem: http://thelovevitamin.com/5335/where-your-acne-is-and-what-it-looks-like-can-tell-you-whats-causing-it/ . I have a long standing lung, metal respiratory problem since childhood, so I immediately understood that this was my underlying problem. Because I was also dealing with broken capillaries and I knew I had a long standing blood deficiency I wanted to investigate how to strengthen my circulatory system, focus on my stress, and build my lung Qi.
I decided to investigate what possible foods or supplements I could add to my diet to help with this and my pore enlargement.
I found an amazing chart that indicated which kind of skin issues might be treated by various supplements. I immediately added a b100 supplement to my diet as well as a zinc supplement. Now when I can’t control my stress, or lack of sleep and I get a cystic acne I simply use zinc and b100 ( b2,4,6,folic acid, and 12) to my diet and the cyst resolves in 3-7 days, without the intense swelling. Here is a great article about these supplements and acne: http://www.livestrong.com/article/463015-b-6-zinc-acne/
Here is one of my favorite charts>
This is another excellent article about the positive effects of A, C, B and zinc on skin problems. http://chriskresser.com/nutrition-for-healthy-skin-part-1 .
Here is what I have done, and my face is glowing in response.
- First, I wash my face twice a day using a mild cleanser and a clay product to help keep my pore size smaller and clarify my skin tone. This also keeps the cystic acne at bay.
- Second, I use a vitamin C serum on my face mixed with a sweet black tea and ginger moisturizer to assist with my pore size and clarify my skin tone.
- Third, I take a supplement of zinc, vitamin C, B100, Magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D daily. I increase the B100 and zinc when I have extra stress, sleep deprivation and too much sun and get an acne break out.
- Fourth, I use a daily vitamin C tint makeup mixed with zinc oxide sunscreen to protect my skin from the sun (I have a history of melanoma insitu and train in the sun 2-4 hours a day, so have to have a good sunscreen protocol.)
- I use a mask to clean, clear, calm,heal, moisturize at night. I vary these according to my skin’s needs.
Here are some of the products I use.
The first two are Vitamin C and sweet black tea and ginger moisturizer; the second picture shows two sunscreen products; the third picture shows two excellent pore smoothers and detoxifying masks; I wash my skin with the Kiehls clay mask and it as greatly reduced acne breakouts, rather than using it as a mask); the fourth picture are other helpful masks to help with pore diminishing and clarifying tone and color; the fifth picture shows excellent daily products for younger skin (teenage, twenties to mid thirties); the sixth picture is a whole plant moisturizing product that is beneficial at night for all age skin; the final picture shows supplements, it doesn’t include a vitamin D3 product.
I receive no support from any of these companies for putting these pictures here. You may find other products that are better for you.
This strategy bridges knowledge in Chinese medicine, alternative medicine, and conventional medicine. If you are having difficulty clearing your acne, you can use these charts and the information above to discern what may be causing it to be intractable. Then institute these strategies.
One final note, consider the use of benzyl peroxide and salicylic acid in a short term. Most respond best to one over the other. If you get too dry or too red with one then the other is probably better for you.
I find if it’s more about inflammation then the salicylic acid is your best bet. You may also find that witch hazel, tea tree oil, neroli oil, or cucumber oil are helpful also.
Best of luck, hope this case study is helpful to you, dr beth gineris.
You can find out more about beth at http://www.bethgineris.com