Name a frustration like thinking you’ve graduated past your teenage breakouts, to clear-skinned adulthood when all of a sudden, you’re again, sporting the face of your spotty-teenage self. Only this time, you’re not hanging out under the monkey bars.
Acne, and in particular, adult acne, can feel like a particularly difficult beast to reason with, and often, the cause totally mystifying. So, when we recently discovered alternative acne brand, Zilch, whose fundamentals lay in the ancient art of Chinese Medicine, we were keen to explore what our pimples look like – and mean – through the lens of Chinese Medicine dermatology.
Below we speak to Dr Vivian Tam, founder of Zilch and Doctor of Chinese Medicine, as she explains her approach to breakouts, and in particular, how acupuncture can be used to treat acne.
According to Chinese Medicine what causes adult acne?
In Chinese Medicine, adult acne can be the result of a number of different disharmonies in the body. The main ones are:
1. Heat and toxins in the body. These toxins have to find a way out, so they vent through the skin and present as pimples. More than likely, the acne suffer will have poor digestion with the body unable to clear toxins the way a healthy digestive system would. An imbalance of heat in the body can cause skin breakouts. A perfect analogy is the Earth’s core getting too hot, causing eruptions on the surface – volcanoes!
2. Blood circulation in Chinese Medicine is integral to the optimum well-being of one’s health and promoting healthy blood circulation for skin health is no exception. When there is blood stagnation (blockages) in the body, swelling and inflammation and build-up of toxicity can occur. To better understand this concept, imagine a blockage in a car engine. Eventually, this blockage will cause the car to overheat and “blow up”. This is similar to the body accumulating inflammation and toxicity, leading to acne breakouts.
How long does adult acne last? Or can it be a life-long condition?
There is no usual guide as everyone’s body runs in a different way. How long it lasts will also depend on the cause of the acne, for example, if it’s from coming off the pill, the skin will be at its worse between four to 12 months and skin should start to calm down after that naturally. But if your adult acne is due to stress and lifestyle changes, this can be a shorter-lived problem if you focus on regulating stress and diet.
Are actives are the best way to treat adult acne?
Yes and no. There is no “best” way to treat acne, you have to find what works for you. Yes, because actives are components or ingredients that are proven to help with acne as they have a specific action and work on clearing the skin through that action. For example, actives in skincare, help balance oil production and unclog pores, revealing healthy and clear skin. Actives in oral supplements work on reducing inflammation, detoxing skin, promoting skin healing and promoting blood circulation to help with deeper nodules and bumps. The no answer is around the fact that there is a lot you can do with simple lifestyle changes like diet and sleep patterns. Sleeping enough and at regular times, will promote overall body health that can play a big role in keeping hormones balanced and regulated. Changing your diet to cut out dairy and sugar and focusing on plant-based foods can help reduce inflammation and encourages skin healing too.
How does acupuncture help with acne?
Both acupuncture in the body and cosmetic acupuncture can help with acne. Body acupuncture will focus on points that help with balancing. Think to regulate hormones, reducing inflammation in the body, reducing stress in the body, improving digestion to help the body to rid of toxins. Facial acupuncture (cosmetic acupuncture) uses tiny painless specialised needles to increase blood flow and promote healing in acne-prone areas. It also flushes out toxins by promoting blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. It is also beneficial for treating post-acne pigmentation and scarring.