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Can Acupuncture Help Chronic and Severe Acne?

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

While acne is a condition that affects nearly 85 percent of all adolescents, the American Dermatologist Association reports that 20 percent of adults have an active acne condition. So, though some are led to believe that acne is a problem that only teenagers experience, the fact is that acne can impact any age group.

Acne often occurs when the hair follicles or pores become clogged from oil, dirt, dead skin cells, bacteria, environmental toxins or physical irritations on the surface of the skin. Hair follicles are connected to sebaceous glands, which secrete an oily substance known as sebum. Ordinarily, the secretion of sebum provides a luscious, healthy sheen to hair and skin. But there are times when the substance builds up, causing the pores to become plugged. This can lead to the following types of acne:

  • Whiteheads: closed, clogged pores
  • Blackheads: open, clogged pores
  • Papules: red, painful bumps
  • Nodules: larger, thick, painful lumps
  • Cystic lesions: tender lumps filled with pus

For some, any of these types may just simply be a nuisance from time to time, but for others the problem is chronic and not only do they suffer from frequent acne breakouts, but also acne scarring. What's more, only as little as 11 percent of the 60 million Americans struggling with acne will seek professional treatment. This means that if over-the-counter products are not effective, they constantly find themselves battling with an acne condition.

If you are showing symptoms of acne, even if it's not chronic and severe, you may want to consider an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. In addition to directly treating your skin condition through a personalized acupuncture treatment plan, you can also receive treatment if you experience emotional distress from your skin condition. Plus, if you seek treatment earlier rather than later, you may help reduce the incidence of permanent scarring.

In order to prepare for your appointment, it may be helpful to provide lists of the following information:

  • Current medications
  • Allergies
  • For women, your menstrual history and use of oral contraceptives

Before your appointment, however, you can start with a few things to help relieve your symptoms of acne. Do not be tempted to pick at your acne as this can irritate the condition further and increase your chances of scarring. Use a non-oily cleanser twice a day on the afflicted area. Consider rinsing your skin with luke-warm green tea, brewed in the same way as if you were going to drink it. This may help reduce the presence of oil and bacteria found on your skin.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine generally views conditions of acne as heat and damp conditions. Usually if the skin presents as red, swollen or painful, this is considered a heat condition. In this case, your practitioner may need to clear heat by selecting the acupuncture points that can drain heat from the body. If the acne condition presents as a tender, pus-filled lump, this may be treated as a damp or damp-heat condition. In addition to clearing heat, the acupuncture treatment protocol may call for draining damp.

While acupuncture needles will never be directly inserted into acne or a broken area of skin, an acupuncture technique called 'surrounding the dragon' may be used. For this technique, several needles are inserted into the area surrounding the troublesome spots, all spaced about one inch apart. In doing this, blood flow to the area is invigorated, which may help reduce the symptoms of acne and reduce the chances for permanent scarring.

Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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