Acne Treatment Without Medication
Severe acne can leave disfiguring and unsightly scars. That's why many people with acne, especially teenagers, experiment with over-the-counter medical remedies or ask a dermatologist for a prescription medication if their condition seems particularly severe. However, you often can successfully treat acne without medication.
Acne results when skin follicles or pores become blocked, causing oil to stop draining to the skin surface and bacteria to begin growing. Scientists aren't certain what causes the initial blockage; hormones, diet, stress and vitamin deficiency have been identified in various research studies. Regardless of the cause, the end result is a pimple. In mild cases, a few pimples might appear on one area of the face; the chin and the nose are common sites for acne. In severe cases, bright pink and red lesions can cover most facial surfaces and can leave behind pitting and scars when the sores finally heal.
Soap, Water First
For mild acne cases--generally small lesions, such as blackheads, whiteheads or pustules near or at the surface of the skin--dermatologists recommend starting simply. Wash the affected areas with warm water and a mild soap at least twice a day to remove excess oil and dead skin cells. The key to success with this method is to avoid harsh or abrasive soaps or other facial products. Also, avoid trying to scrub your face clean, since that irritates acne-prone skin and leads to further breakouts. Many mild cases of acne will clear up on their own with simple, gentle skin care.
Diet and Acne
If acne fails to respond to simple skin techniques, consider your diet. Some foods, including sugar and other carbohydrates, have been implicated in moderate and severe acne outbreaks. A 2007 study from The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, considered the effects on acne of a low-glycemic load diet (a diet focusing on the carbohydrates that don't spike blood sugar levels). That study, which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, found fewer lesions in people who followed the diet for 12 weeks when compared to a control group. In addition, some physicians report that their patients who avoid gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) see their acne improve, in a few cases dramatically.
Nutritional supplements also can be helpful in treating acne without medication, since deficiencies in such nutrients as zinc and omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to acne cases. Several well-designed medical studies have found that up to 135 mg of zinc daily reduces acne lesions when compared to results from a placebo. Vitamin A also is important; in fact, medications derived from vitamin A (known as retinoids) are used by dermatologists to treat acne, and some nutritionists recommend taking up to 25,000 IU of vitamin A daily for acne treatment. However, too much vitamin A can be dangerous, so consult your physician before beginning mega-doses of any vitamin. In particular, women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should limit their vitamin A consumption to no more than 10,000 IU a day.
Tea Tree Oil
Some natural health experts recommend tea tree oil as a natural substitute for over-the-counter acne treatment benzoyl peroxide. Tea tree oil, an essential oil created from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, an Australian plant, has antiseptic properties and traditionally was used to heal cuts, burns and infections. In 1990, clinicians at Royal Prince Albert Hospital in Camperdown, Australia, compared 5 percent tea tree oil gel to benzoyl peroxide treatment in 124 patients and found tea tree oil worked as well as benzoyl peroxide, although it took longer to start working. In the study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, they also reported fewer side effects in the tea tree oil treatment group.
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