Natural Acne Medication
Natural. Organic. Herbal. These marketing descriptors may lure you into reaching for an acne treatment that proposes to be kinder and gentler to blemish-marked skin, rather than a conventional over-the-counter acne medication, which often causes irritation and dryness. The problem with many natural acne medications, says the American Academy of Dermatology, is that they haven't undergone rigorous clinical testing, so their effectiveness and overall value is "generally unknown."
Two topicals mentioned by the Mayo Clinic include tea-tree oil, which is purportedly as effective as 5 percent benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic acid, which is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid derived from cane sugar. When used for cosmetic purposes, it may help remove dead cells on the skin's surface, unclog pores and reduce the appearance of acne scarring. Integrative physician Andrew Weil also mentions tea-tree oil cleansers as one type of natural acne medication. Additionally, he suggests calendula (pot marigold) as a topical treatment in lieu of topical benzoyl peroxide. The bright orange flowers of the calendula plant are often used in various cosmetic potions. Weil suggests washing your face with a "tea" brewed with the flowers or using over-the-counter calendula skincare products.
Prescription antibiotics are one of the mainstays in treating acne. However, Weil notes that oral Chinese herbs may also be a natural alternative, citing one such example as astragalus, which helps fight infection. The Mayo Clinic notes that the supplement zinc also has anti-inflammatory and healing properties and may be of benefit in treating acne.
Natural acne medications can have undesirable side effects. The Mayo Clinic states that products containing glycolic acid may result in redness, stinging and irritation. Tea-tree oil causes contact dermatitis in some people who use it. The Mayo Clinic experts advise those with acne rosacea to steer clear of tea-tree oil, as it exacerbates symptoms. Zinc may cause you to have a strange taste in your mouth, but it can also cause nausea. Taking zinc supplements with meals can help reduce side effects.
The American Academy of Dermatology notes that certain active ingredients in drugstore acne medications may be used to treat acne that's mild, moderate or severe. Weil gives preference to conventional acne treatments, including cleansing the skin with a mild soap and using an acne treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide, which is also touted by the AAD as the "mainstay" in over-the-counter acne medications. However, Weil notes that severe cases of acne often warrant use of a prescription medication called isotretinoin. This is echoed by the AAD, which indicates that severe nodules and cysts require an "aggressive treatment regimen and should be treated by a dermatologist."
Weil advises making simple changes to your diet to improve acne, including eating more fruits and vegetables and increasing consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild Alaskan salmon and ground flaxseed. Restrict processed and refined foods and drink plenty of water. There's no harm in reaching for the occasional piece of dark chocolate, Weil says. Not only is there no link between acne and chocolate, but dark chocolate is an antioxidant.
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