Hello, my name’s Courtney, I’ve got a whole lot to say about acne! You may like to start by reading my previous blog post – How to Treat Acne: A Personal Experience, where you’ll find additional advice for acne-prone skin.
Let’s start with a disclaimer that the following advice is general in nature. For health advice that is targeted to the beautiful unique human being none-other-than YOU, please see a health professional.
It goes without saying, having dealt with acne in the past, I feel your desperation for an instant resolution. Whilst I wish I could simply recommend a skincare product or prescribe a magic potion to make it all go away tomorrow, the panacea for pimples really is too good to be true, regardless of what it says on the packet. Best we get to the root cause of your acne rather than giving you yet another band aid solution *massive eye roll*. OK. Let’s get serious.
What’s the difference between acne and pimples? What causes acne?
Acne and pimples are one in the same. Pimples are the symptom of the condition Acne Vulgaris. Acne Vulgaris, commonly known as acne, is a condition caused by excess sebum (oil) production, increased production of skin cells or keratinocytes, bacterial infiltration and inflammation. Acne can be diagnosed by health professionals based on the presentation of pimples alone.
What are the conventional treatments for acne?
The conventional understanding of the cause of acne is limited to hormonal changes (such as in puberty and pregnancy), use of occlusive cosmetics and increased sweating/humidity.
Western medicine offers few solutions for most acne sufferers, so chances are you’ve already tried or considered one of the following; topical/oral antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide (Benzac), high dose vitamin A (including retinoids and Roaccutane), androgen inhibitors (Spironolactone) or the oral contraceptive pill. The down side is all of these interventions have possible side effects and yet none of them address the cause of acne or guarantee lasting resolution or cure. If you put that on a Tinder profile, that’s a big deal breaker for me.
There are also a range of conventional facial treatments such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion, offered by skin clinics and day spas with varying expertise and efficacy. Be choosy with who gets to treat your precious skin barrier. Opt for trained and registered professionals, delivering chemical free options that are not going to further aggravate unhappy or inflamed skin.
How does Chinese Medicine view and treat acne?
The beauty of Chinese Medicine lies in its holistic approach to health. That means we’ll be treating all of you, not just your face to bring about lasting change and results. It’s important that we address the underlying drivers of acne, that means looking into your hormonal, digestive and mental health, as well as sleep hygiene and of course, skincare. We do this with the combination of cosmetic facial acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and diet/lifestyle advice. Treatment plans and time frames differ from one person to another and are discussed during your initial appointment. However, given the skin cycle is 28 days, you can generally expect to notice positive changes within a month of treatment.
So let’s talk about you. It’s likely you’ve got a hunch as to why acne is an issue for you. Perhaps you’ve discovered certain food triggers, have just come off the contraceptive pill or are experiencing a prolonged period of stress. You might just put it down to hormones, the skincare products you’ve been using, those pesky sugar cravings or too many espresso martinis on the weekend… However, having treated all kinds of people with all kinds of acne, it’s going to take a little more than just willpower and broccoli to get on top of it. That’s where Chinese Medicine comes in.
In Chinese Medicine we look at things a little differently. Acne stems from 4 main patterns – blood deficiency, blood stasis, accumulation of damp-phlegm and toxic heat, which have been broken down below. Patterns tend to overlap and can be more complex, so it’s best to consult a Chinese Medicine Practitioner first.
Acne is deep and stubborn, doesn’t come to a head and takes a long time to heal.
- weak/brittle nails
- thinning hair
- pale complexion
- visual floaters
- light/infrequent menstruation
Chinese Medicine Treatment Principle: Nourish blood, support Liver/Spleen/Kidney energetics
Food suggestions: Red meat, chicken, oily fish, oysters, muscles, bone broth, eggs, dark leafy greens, shiitake mushrooms, beetroot, sweet potato, goji berries, black currants, cherries, dates, figs, red berries,
whole grains, black beans, black sesame seeds, wheatgrass shot, seaweed (chlorella/spirulina/nori), fish oil, flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, licorice root
Herbs you may find in your formula: Bai Shao (White Peony Root), Da Zao (Chinese Date), Dong Gu (Shiitake)
Advice: warm cooked foods, meals at regular intervals as well as snacks, reduce high intensity exercise, avoid exercise during your bleeding phase, supplementation may also be advised
Acne is deep, painful, may be cystic and has a purplish appearance.
- dark/dusky complexion
- darkness around the eyes
- circulation issues
- painful/clotted menstruation
- sharp body pain
Chinese Medicine Treatment Principle: Invigorate blood circulation, treat underlying cause of stasis – could be heat/cold/deficiency/stagnation.Food suggestions: dark leafy greens, radish, garlic, dill, basil, pickles, eggplant, plums.
Herbs you may find in your formula: Chuan Xiong (Szechuan Root), Hua Jiao (Black Pepper), Hong Hua (Safflower)
Advice: stress management and movement practices such as yoga/Pilates/meditation
Acne is nodular or pustular with sticky or weeping fluid inside
- oily/sallow complexion
- fluid retention
- digestive complaints e.g. bloating, sticky stools
- muzzy head or brain fog
- heaviness in the body
- thickened skin or tissues
Chinese Medicine Treatment Principle: Resolve dampness, transform phlegm and treat underlying cause. Herbs you may find in your formula: Huang Bai (Phellodendron), Huang Qin (Skullcap), Ge Gen (Kudzu)
Food suggestions: Rice/oat milk, rye/spelt bread, porridge, roasted root vegetable, adzuki and kidney beans, barley, bulgur wheat, quinoa, rice, chicken, turkey, white fish, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper, soups and stews, blanched and/or steamed vegetables, stewed fruits
Advice: avoid greasy/oily/spicy/sweet foods, incorporate moderate-vigorous movement a few times/week enough to break a sweat, stick to 3 regular meals within the hours of 7am-7pm
Acne is very red, bleeds easily, feels hot and inflamed, pus filled or weepy.
- flushed/ruddy complexion
- sensation of heat in the body
- agitation/erratic behaviour
Chinese Medicine Treatment Principle: Clear heat, resolve toxin
Food suggestions: Bitter salad greens, peppermint tea, watermelon, mangos, cucumber, seaweed, miso soup, fresh fish, tofu, asparagus, honey, wholegrains, parsley, pears, tomatoes
Herbs you may find in your formula: Bo He (Peppermint), Ju Hua (Chrysanthemum), Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle), Zi Hua Di Ding (Violet)
Advice: reduce consumption of alcohol and oily/greasy/highly processed foods
What’s unique about the Quiescence Constitutional Facial Acupuncture Treatments?
At Quiescence, we offer Constitutional Facial Acupuncture Treatments, which have been designed to treat a range of cosmetic concerns. Acne is a common focus, however these treatments are modified according to your skin concern, whether it’s eczema, dry skin, fine lines and wrinkles or pigmentation, we can support you. These treatments and the Q Essence Skincare range are gentle and safe for sensitive skin and throughout pregnancy.
The unique combination of face and body needles, Q Essence Skincare products, facial massage and guasha creates a facial experience like no other. The treatment begins with an oil cleanse, followed by infusion of a warm herbal poultice to calm inflammation and clear toxic heat at the surface of the skin. Face and body needles are gently inserted and your relaxing acu-nap commences for 15-20 minutes. Light therapy (LED) may be additionally incorporated, to target bacterial infection and reduce inflammation and scarring. Once needles have been removed, a clay mask is applied to draw out impurities. Facial massage using the Q Essence botanical serums is followed by cooling guasha (jade stone massage) and jade rolling to assist lymphatic drainage. Facial cupping is also an option after infection has cleared, to shift focus from active acne to scarring.
You’ll walk out of these treatments feeling reborn!
Quiescence also offers a 10% discount on the Q Essence Skincare Range following Facial Acupuncture Treatments.
Help! I’m worried about scarring!
The potential for scarring is a common concern amongst acne sufferers.
The initial stage of acne treatment is mostly concerned with resolving infection and inflammation, as well as reducing the severity of new lesions. Once the infection has cleared, focus then shifts to reducing the appearance of scarring by stimulating the synthesis of collagen and elastin within the deeper layers of the skin with facial needling, cupping and guasha. Therapeutic skincare products and internal herbal medicine may also be prescribed to encourage blood circulation to the skin and soften scarring.
How do I find the right skincare?
Whilst you wait in eager anticipation of your next Cosmetic Facial Acupuncture Treatment, what you’re putting on your skin is important. There are SO many options out there. So where do you even begin?
Your skin is your largest metabolic organ, it is responsible for filtering everything you come in contact with, not just your skincare, but also your external environment such as environmental pollutants, the chemicals in your clothes, soaps, sweat, sunscreens, deodorant, perfumes, body lotions, fake tan, hair care, make up…the list goes on!
So here are a few tips to lessen the load and reduce the burden on your skin.
- Stop touching your face. Break the habit. (I know it’s hard! Wear mittens if you have to. Get your loved ones to slap your hand away from your face.)
- Be sure to cleanse your skin morning and night, as well as after exercise. (see cleansing ritual below)
- Have makeup free days as often as possible.
- Ditch the fake tan.
- Switch to low-tox products without artificial perfumes.
Reading ingredient labels can be overwhelming, Nourished Life is a transparent website that does the work for you. They only stock products that are true to their low/no-tox claims and exclude 1000+ harmful ingredients commonly used in skincare.
A few brands I recommend: Q Essence, Inika, Ere Perez, Herbario, Go-To, EcoSonya, Black Chicken and Mukti.
If nothing else, start using an oil cleanser. Your skin’s natural sebum (oil) production works on a negative feedback loop. The more you strip away oil, the more your skin will produce, which will perpetually exacerbate acne. Using an oil cleanser allows you to wash away any makeup, sunscreen or grime, while protecting that precious barrier.
Skin Cleansing Ritual
It’s difficult to whisper words of love and affection to your skin when you feel like it’s betraying you. Repair your relationship with your skin by engaging in a skin cleansing ritual each day.
Remove the day with Q Essence Oil Cleanser. 3 pumps is all you’ll need for full facial coverage. Use a clean flannel or make up round, soaked in warm water to wipe away the oil, makeup and grime.
Follow using a water based cleanser for a deeper clean. The Q Essence Botanical Clay provides a deep cleanse without drying, buffing away dead skin cells and leaving the skin feeling smooth and clean. Spoon half a teaspoon of botanical clay into your hand with a few drops of oil or water to create a thin paste. Gently massage into your forehead, nose, cheeks, ears, chin, jawline and neck using small circular motions with the pads of your fingers. Remove using warm water and a flannel.
Follow with your favourite Q Essence serum. Applying using the pads of your fingers in upward, lifting motions, working from the forehead to decolletage.
Oil cleansing is the all important first step to dissolve makeup and daily grime without stripping the skin. Plant based oils with a similar composition to our skin’s own sebum (oil) are able to penetrate deeply into the pores, binding to and dissolving impurities, allowing them to be easily washed away. This step is followed by a water based cleanser – we like to use our botanical clays – to gently remove dead skin cells and absorb any excess oil, leaving your skin feeling bright, smooth and thoroughly cleansed.
Step one – Oil Cleanse
Start the cleansing process with our botanical Oil Cleanser.
Apply 3-5 pumps of Purifying Oil Cleanser to clean fingers. Press into dry skin and massage gently to dissolve impurities, sunscreen and makeup. Hold a warm, damp cloth to your face for a moment to help open the pores before wiping clean.
Step two – Water-based Cleanse
Absorb any residue from step one and gently buff off dead skin cells with either one of our botanical clays.
Mix ¼ tsp of clay with water or hydrosol to form a thin paste. Gently massage into skin using small circular motions. Rinse off with warm water.
There’s no need to face the battle of acne on your own. If you have any questions about the treatment of acne with Chinese Medicine or our Constitutional Facial Acupuncture Treatments, I’m always happy to have a chat.
With Kindness, Courtney