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10 Holistic Approaches to Acne Treatment: Integrating Traditional and Alternative Therapies

Try treating your acne with traditional and alternative therapies. Learn about natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and more for clearer, healthier skin.

By SunsolveMD Team | 8 Min. Read

May 2, 2023

You know the annoying bumps on your face when you see them. Everyone is familiar with acne at some point in their lives. Your first instinct may be to get rid of acne by getting armed with various topical agents and prescription medications to prevent breakouts, redness, inflammation, and all the bad stuff. However, you can also use natural remedies to help clear up your skin. Let's look at a whole-body approach to managing acne that considers the health of the body, mind, and soul.

Change your diet

Although it's vital to point out that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to dieting, some foods are known to be acne-promoting: sugar, dairy products, refined carbs, and red meats. There is no need to cut on them completely, but it's good to be aware of the amount you consume.Recently there has been a flood of new research supporting individualistic diet approaches. These findings challenge traditional dietary guidelines and emphasize that certain foods may irritate some people more than others. Today there are a variety of food sensitivity tests available to help you understand which foods can cause reactions and internal imbalances.

It is vital to note that fluctuations in hormones generally cause acne. Researchers believe that androgens are vital hormones that contribute to acne and are caused by stress, puberty, certain medical conditions, and certain medications.

If you struggle with hormonal acne, you may find the following changes useful:

Low glycemic index foods

The glycemic index measures how quickly foods containing carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a high glycemic index are rapidly digested and cause a quick and dramatic rise in blood sugar levels. Eating lower GI foods helps stabilize blood sugar and can help clear your acne. Examples of low GI foods: are non-starchy vegetables, whole grains and cereals, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and fruits such as apples, berries, and plums.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Although no established research points at a direct connection between omega-3 intake and acne, omega-3 is an essential part of a healthy diet and may be beneficial in managing androgen levels in the body. Examples of foods rich in omega-3: oily fish (wild salmon and mackerel), fish oil supplements, algae oil, and nuts and seeds (flaxseeds and walnuts).


Dermatologists explain that antioxidants are the 'stressor-neutralizing' ingredients that help preserve our skin. Certain antioxidants also have additional benefits for skin issues like acne. Examples of foods rich in antioxidants: brazil nuts, fish, seafood, beef, turkey, red grapes, mulberries, peanuts, blueberries, leafy green vegetables, red cabbage, and green tea.

Low-carb foods

The impact of low carb diet on your acne is strictly individual, and the research is still somewhat preliminary, which means a low carb diet may work for some while triggering a counter effect for others. If you try it out, make sure to give diet some time as breakouts seem to improve with carb restriction long term in most people. Examples of low carb foods: chicken, turkey, and fish, as well as non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Try Chinese herbal medicine

Chinese herbal medicine has been practiced in China for thousands of years. Its base is in the philosophy that the body and its internal systems must be balanced to function optimally. An good Chinese medicine practitioner will approach your acne holistically by looking into the imbalances across your body and seeking a way to correct them. The practitioners may use various methods such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping, and gua sha.

According to Science Direct, Chinese Medicine offers two root causes for acne: heat in the lungs and the stomach and stagnation of mucus that originates in your lungs and throat (phlegm). What does this really mean? Heat in the lungs and stomach results in face acne, causing the skin to become oily or shiny. Herbs that could help clear the heat include Scuttellaria (huang qin), Phellodenbrium (huang bai), Rehmannia root (shengdi), and Tree Peony root (mu dan pi).

Chinese medicine suggests that the stagnation of phlegm causes clustered dark red acne. This type of acne is characterized by more severe type of sores. Activating your blood circulation may help treat the symptoms. Try blood-circulating herbs like Angelic root (dang gui), peony root (bai shao), or red peony (chi shao). Acupuncture, cupping, and gua sha types of therapies are known to improve circulation.

Integrating zinc in your diet

As an essential nutrient central for cell growth, zinc is relatively well studied compared with other natural treatments for acne. Zinc also plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. There are a few ways to integrate zinc into your diet:

Eating zinc-rich foods

Fortunately, there are plenty of food sources that are naturally high in this essential mineral: oysters, beef, pork, chicken, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.

Consider zinc supplements

If you cannot meet your daily zinc value through your diet, your healthcare provider can recommend taking zinc supplements. Ensure not to exceed the 40 mg daily dosage as too much zinc can be toxic and cause adverse effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is extracted from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, native to Australia. It has been known as a traditional medicine to the Aboriginal people of Australia for centuries for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. According to Healthline, a recent study found that participants using a tea tree oil ointment (compared with benzoyl peroxide) for acne experienced less dry skin and irritation. Remember that tea tree is very potent and should be diluted with water before applying to the skin.

Witch hazel

Although there isn't conclusive research that points to the witch hazel's ability to treat acne, its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties make it an ideal ingredient for toners, spot treatments, face masks, and steam treatments.Witch hazel is derived from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant native to North America. Here are some simple and inexpensive witch hazel combinations you can try at home.

Witch hazel toner

Witch hazel toner can help fight acne by reducing inflammation and redness while removing excess oil and impurities from the skin. Simply mix witch hazel with water in a 1:1 ratio, then apply the toner to your face using a cotton ball or pad.

Witch hazel and tea tree oil spot treatment

The tea tree oil and witch hazel duo make a natural remedy powerhouse for blemishes. It's as easy as a 1:1 mixing ratio and is applied to the affected area using a cotton swab.

Witch hazel and aloe vera face mask

Combine witch hazel with aloe vera to create a soothing and hydrating face mask that effectively reduces inflammation while calming the skin. To create the mask, mix aloe vera gel, witch hazel, and a few drops of tea tree oil to form a paste. Apply the paste to your face, leaving it on for 10-15 minutes before rinsing it off.

Make exfoliating your routine

Considering that exfoliation is one important step in your acne-fighting regimen that mustn't be overlooked, it's crucial to find an exfoliating formula and a suitable method. Exfoliating helps to remove dead skin cells that block the pores. Dead skin cells and oil can accumulate on the skin's surface, increasing acne-causing bacteria. By regularly exfoliating, you can help to remove these impurities and prevent future breakouts. Since acne-prone skin is highly sensitive, it's best to use a gentle exfoliator and not overdo it. Try to avoid physical exfoliants like face scrubs as they can be gritty and harsh on the skin, sometimes having a counterfeit and causing inflammation. Chemical exfoliants containing acids or enzymes to dissolve dead skin cells may be safer. Look for gentle exfoliators that contain ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), which can effectively exfoliate the skin without irritating it. When it comes to frequency, Allure suggests using your chosen formula around three times a week to begin with. Exfoliating every day could be overkill, although it might be tempting. Stick to no more than three times a week as a good rule of thumb. Trust your skin, it knows how to exfoliate itself for the most part. Instead of following a fixed schedule, listening to your skin is better.


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2. Jessica Cervantes, Ariel E Eber, Marina Perper, Vanessa M Nascimento, Keyvan Nouri, Jonette E Keri, The role of zinc in the treatment of acne: A review of the literature

3. How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

4. How to Get Rid of Acne: 14 Home Remedies for Pimples




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