Addressing the multiple causes of Acne

In both adolescents and adults, acne affects nearly 15% of the US population, and the cause is often different for each person.

It is most common that people presenting with acne, regardless of the actual cause, are often given conventional topical treatments that work temporarily but do not solve the underlying issue long term. Many people who try topical treatments report that they work for a little while, then they stop working, or they need to try several different topicals over the course of months or years. From a holistic medicine perspective, getting to the root cause of acne is the most important factor before a treatment strategy can be addressed and this often takes some investigative work.

The development of acne is caused by a blockage of sebaceous follicles with sebum and represents unregulated tissue growth, especially at the endothelial cells that surround the follicle. Often, androgens (or hormones) cause this increase in sebum production, however other factors including digestive inflammation and liver stagnation can cause this downstream effect as well. When the follicle is blocked, this causes inflammation in that localized area, leading to redness, pain and scarring. The cause of the androgen imbalance specifically is often the most difficult thing to pin point, however this is only one of the many potential causes of acne.

Other causes of acne include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency
  • Hormonal insufficiency or hormonal dysregulation
  • Liver detoxification issues
  • Food intolerances
  • Environmental allergens or toxins
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Topical products
  • Genetics

More than half these potential causes are an internal issue – not a topical issue. Therefore treatment of acne with topical remedies alone usually fail to solve the problem if we do not address the underlying cause. Usually the first thing people with acne do is try to address it with an onslaught of facial or body care products, often exacerbating the symptoms and making them worse. For example, it is common for acne specific products on the market to contain alcohol which is extremely drying to the skin. These products of course dry out the oily blemishes, but then the skin works double time to produce even more sebum to replenish, making the skin extremely unbalanced and the blemishes worse over time due to the excessive drying inputs trying to counterbalance the overproduction of oil. Many people use dozens and dozens of topical treatments before seeking help and getting to the root cause.  This may take more time, but is a more long term, individualized solution.

When working with a naturopathic doctor, they will often inquire deeply into your lifestyle, your diet, your environment, your previous health history and your current body care items.  They will also likely do some allergy or food intolerance assessments to see how each of these factors comes in to play with your specific symptoms. Appropriate supplementation may be recommended as well as lab work to look into hormones and androgen production. With these helpful clues, it’s is far more likely to create a long term solution to dealing with acne than with topical treatments alone.

Topical skin conditions, including acne, are one of the most common health issues that our practitioners at Richmond Natural Medicine work with. If you struggle with acne at any age, consider making an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors to get to the root cause of your symptoms, and address them individually and holistically.

About the Author:

Lindsay Kluge is a Clinical Herbalist & Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist and received her Masters of Science degree in Herbal Medicine from the Maryland University of Integrative Health in 2012. She has been with Richmond Natural Medicine since 2013, and specializes in therapeutic holistic nutrition, circadian rhythm balance and sleep physiology, digestion, and Ayurvedic nutrition. She offers individualized nutrition and herbal medicine consultations that include meal planning support, custom compounded herbal formulas, nutrition guidance and general wellness support.  Learn more about services that Lindsay offers at Richmond Natural Medicine by clicking HERE.