Acne, A Holistic Approach

By Toni Lewis

Acne is a skin condition that few people can avoid. 

It is an inflammatory response brought on when bacteria, oil or dead skin cells become trapped within the pores of the skin becoming infected.  

Hormones, genetics, and stress can contribute to an outbreak and blockages are caused by an overproduction of sebum or oil. 

The areas usually affected are the forehead, temples, cheeks, chin, chest and back.  In rare cases, the entire body may be covered.

Mild acne is something the majority of us have experienced.  But for those who suffer from the extreme breakouts, lasting for extended periods of time, the skin can become damaged leaving visible scars.  

This can ruin the day for young and old alike.  It affects the way you look and drastically affects your self-esteem.

Often if there is an internal imbalance, the skin will be affected. As the body repairs itself, scar tissue will form as part of a natural healing process.  This scaring may appear as pits or depressions within the skin because support structures of the dermis and epidermis have been damaged from the prolonged irritation by severe inflammatory cysts.   

Collagen is produced to mend the skin, but if there is an overproduction of collagen during healing, a keloid or thick raised scar will develop.


Some dermatologists will tell you that diet is not a factor.  The continued call for more evidence surrounding diet means they are turning a blind eye in efforts to sell you something. 

After all, acne is big business. It isn’t shocking that their studies need further research before real solutions are found.

Diet alone may not be the cause, but processed foods and poor eating habits play a role in the onset and recurrence.   Irregular hours of eating, excessive starch consumption, too much sugar, fried and fatty foods, and chronic constipation are other causes.

If the bowels do not move properly, the waste matter is not eliminated as quickly as it should be and the bloodstream becomes surcharged with toxic matter.  The skin then has to go an extra mile to eliminate excess waste.  This results in acne and other forms of skin diseases.

If you have a severe condition, you should consult a dermatologist, but do your research to find someone who is open to a holistic approach to treatment and healing.

Conventional Methods

The following are some conventional methods of treatment currently used by most dermatologists.  

Dermal Fillers 

Cosmetic dermal fillers include collagen, hyaluronic acid, fat and other substances. ArteFill, Radiesse, Sculptra, Juvederm, Hylaform and Resylane are used to add volume to specific areas. 

Be careful!

There are risks that include hematoma or blood pooling beneath the skin and though rare, infection and tissue death is possible.

Chemical Peel

A chemical peel is a technique used to improve and smooth the texture of the facial skin using a chemical solution that causes the dead skin to slough off and eventually peel off.   The result is usually smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid Peel 

AHAs are naturally occurring organic acids such as glycolic acid. AHAs can be used in the treatment of fine wrinkles, areas of dryness, uneven pigmentation and acne.

There are five main fruit acids: 

  • Citric acids (citrus derived)
  • Glycolic (derived from sugar cane)
  • Lactic acid (derived from milk, but still considered a “Fruit acid”)
  • Malic (derived from apples)
  • Tartaric (derived from grapes)

Citric Acid peels are simple and effective.  But repeat treatments are necessary for results.

Glycolic Acid peels work by exfoliating the top layer of the skin. Collagen growth is stimulated and the higher strength is effective, but they irritate more.

Lactic Acid peels will remove dead skin cells, and promote healthier, softer and more radiant skin.

Malic Acid peels can open up the pores and allows for faster healing.

Tartaric Acid peels will give the same results as the above treatments.

Going Deeper

Beta Hydroxy acid peel 

BHA peels get deeper into the pore than AHA’s.  Salicylic acid is a biosynthesized, organic, BHA that is often used.  

Retinoic acid peel 

Derived from retinoids, this acid is denatured vitamin A.  Chemically similar to Retin-A, this type of facial peel is a deeper peel than the Beta Acid peel and is used to remove scars as well as wrinkles and pigmentation problems.  Patients leave the dermatologists office with the peel solution on their face.  The peeling process takes place on the third day.

Trichloracetic acid peel

TCA is used as an intermediate to deep peeling.  It is preferred for darker-skinned patients.  These treatments are done in the dermatologists’ or plastic surgeons’ offices with minimal discomfort.

Phenol Peel 

Phenol is the strongest of the chemical solutions and produces a deep skin peel. The active component is croton oil.  Phenol peels are long lasting and in some cases still readily apparent up to 20 years following the procedure. Improvements in the patient’s skin can be quite dramatic. A single treatment usually achieves the desired result. This procedure is very painful and most practitioners will perform it under either general anesthesia or heavy sedation given intravenously or intramuscular. There is the possibility of an adverse effect on the heart.


Dermabrasion techniques will resurface the upper layers of skin decreasing the scars visibility. 

In addition to these procedures, antibiotics are often prescribed.  I know some people who are given these drugs to take daily for long periods of time.  Antibacterial drugs kill ALL bacteria, even the good ones.  Just know that taking these drugs everyday will affect your body's ability to fight off other infections and will take a toll on your liver.

The above treatments can also come with a hefty price tag because most insurance companies will not cover the cost of cosmetic treatments.  This along with the added discomfort and risk make a holistic approach much more attractive.


The first step to healing holistically is through a gentle internal cleansing program.

Do your research.  Find the cleanse that's right for you.  Everyone is different in how their body responds to certain things.

Your first cleanse really should last one day. I find that even after you've mastered the cleanse process, the body still reacts differently each time. So, take it slow.

Work your way up!

My favorite go-to cleanse is a tea using Dandelion Root

Dandelion root has been used safely as medicine since ancient Roman times.  It is a natural vitamin supplement containing choline, vitamins A, B, C, iron, Silica, magnesium, and calcium.  It can be used to treat problems of the Gall bladder, jaundice, hepatitis and skin problems such as boils, eczema, psoriasis, and acne.  It corrects hormone imbalances and even lowers cholesterol.

Dandelion root works by decongesting and restoring the liver.  It does this by stimulating the flow of bile.  It is safe for almost anyone and inexpensive.  Persons with diabetes and women who are pregnant should consult a physician before use.  Dandelion root could interfere with certain prescription drugs.

A piece of root, two to three inches long, will make tea or a tincture for a day’s use.

Make the tea by simmering a heaping teaspoon (2-8 grams) of dried root in a cup of water for about 10 minutes. 

I recommend using organic or growing your own to ensure that there are little to no pesticides or parasites present.  A cup of this tea is taken three times daily for one or two months along with a wholesome diet free of processed foods.


The number one thing you can do to help keep your skin's bacteria level to a minimum throughout the day?


No picking, No squeezing, No popping!

Hands transfer bacteria so if you must touch your face, it should only be to wash and moisturize. 

Controlling the symptoms and treating outbreaks when they first appear is the best way to avoid or limit the extent of scarring.  The type of scar depends on how the acne was treated when it first appeared.  

There are temporary scars that appear as red marks left behind when the blemishes healed.  The post-inflammatory redness can take anywhere from six to twelve months to go away completely.  

Permanent scarring develops as the skin tries to heal itself with new skin.  As I said above when these lesions heal they leave a depressed pit on the skin.

Smoking takes a toll on the body and ages the skin.  If you are a smoker with acne, you might consider quitting or drastically reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke per day.


Environmental factors also come into play.   


Have you ever tried orange zest?  It is considered an effective home remedy because of its mildly acidic nature.  It also helps to cleanse the skin of excess sebum.

Take a few pieces of (organically grown) orange peel and grind them lightly so that you get a coarse powder. Mix with an equal gram of flour and add water to make a paste. Massage the paste into the skin and leave for five minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm or cold water.

(You can substitute carrot or tomato juice to the powder if you prefer. Carrot juice is rich in vitamin A while tomato juice is mildly acidic in nature.)

Niacin and Vitamin A

Niacin and Vitamin A have been used successfully to treat the skin from the inside out. 100 mg niacin, three times daily, and 50,000 international units of vitamin A, three times daily. Vitamin E at 400 mg should be taken once daily.(Check with your physician before starting any vitamin regimen.)

If you want to save money, you could boost your diet with these vitamin rich foods.

Sources of niacin include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • White meat

Sources of Vitamin A:

  • Liver
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cantaloupe

Zinc has shown dramatic results in some cases. 50 mg three times a day in tablet or capsule form.

Foods rich in zinc:

  • Wheat germ
  • Pine nuts
  • Cashew nuts
  • Pecan nuts

Aloe Vera Gel speeds acne scar healing. It can be used as a moisturizer or as an ingredient in a homemade facial mask.


Honey contains enzymes, which help to heal any and all skin injuries. It can also be applied as a facial mask.

(Wearing any mask to bed can be messy. I choose a day on the weekend and leave the mask on while I work around the house.)

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider Vinegar can be mixed with water and applied to your face as a facial toner, to be used after cleansing, and also can be dabbed directly on acne pimples to help them heal more quickly.

(Fill a spray bottle to use daily.)

Try a facial steam using boiling water and adding some apple cider vinegar.


For stubborn acne, garlic has been used successfully. The external use of garlic helps to clear the skin of spots, pimples and boils. Garlic contains allicin, which is a natural antibiotic agent, and this helps to prevent the spread of acne. Mash it and apply directly to the blemish.

If you have sensitive skin, you could add garlic juice to a spoon of yogurt and apply this mixture to your face. The fatty acids and vitamins in yogurt moisturize your skin without making it oily. Organic Yogurt has lactic acid, which has a mild exfoliating effect and contains natural alpha hydroxy acids, which reduce acne scarring and help heal the skin.

Baking Soda

Mix baking soda and water to make a paste, after steaming the face for one to three minutes, apply. Let this mixture stay on the skin for one to three minutes, depending on how your face feels. Rinse with cool water and pat dry with clean, soft towel. When face is completely dry, apply organic aloe vera gel mixed with 2 drops of tea tree oil. Massage this mixture into your skin until it is completely absorbed.

If you find that tee tree oil is too strong for your skin, try lavender oil or only use the aloe vera gel.


Oatmeal makes a very effective mask that clear up acne and reduces scarring. Grind oatmeal in a blender, mix with water and apply to the skin.

Keeping your skin clean and moisturized daily is important especially with acne. Gentle organic products can help your skin heal faster. This along with attention to the food you are eating will contribute to your overall health. That means eliminating refined and processed foods.

No one remedy works for everyone.  My advice is to give the one you choose at least a month to see results.  That, along with a healthy diet and exercise could make all the difference in the world.  Like I said before, doing a cleanse to clear the toxins out of the body is a good way to give any home remedy a fighting chance.  Cleanse at the outset and build up your immunity.  

The key is to think HOLISTIC.  Look to treating the whole body as a remedy for acne.   This will take discipline and patience, but a healthier you is the best defense against breakouts.


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