Acne vulgaris has always been a common skin condition in teenagers. In most cases it used to cease by 20 years old, bug as you are experiencing, the age range can be much broader these days. Children as young as eight are getting spots and the problem may continue until the age of 40 or later.
There are two types of gland in the skin: sweat and sebaceous. The latter are the oil- or fat-producing glands that lubricate the hair on our heads and bodies to make it waterproof. Acne is an inflammation of the skin caused by a disruption in the sebaceous glands. Spots usually appear on the face, and to a lesser degree on the chest, back and shoulders. They are usually raised (medically called papules) and often hard (nodules). Sebaceous glands are directly controlled by male hormones (androgens)W. omen produce androgens too – though a lesser amount – through the ovaries and the adrenal glands. In both sexes, an excess of these male hormones leads to the overproduction of sebum and then acne.
Sebum is a waxy mixture, which is normally sterile. In the case of acne, it is infected by a certain type of bacterium, which seems to convert the sebum into fatty acids. This causes inflammation of live cells in the inner layer of the skin, resulting in sore, red, swollen spots containing fatty pus. which is released when the spots burst. Some people squeeze them, but if you do this prematurely it causes further hardness and scarring, which can be pigmented.
Whiteheads and blackheads( comedones) are sterile papules that have not become inflamed. Whiteheads remain closed but blackheads are open, the sebum turning black as it oxidises in the air.
The medical approach to treating acne is varied. Topical creams are prescribed for mild cases. The contraceptive pill is given to women to balance the ratio of androgen production with the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Long-term antibiotics are also used to suppress bacteria growth. Other drugs based on retinol are used to control cystic acne, where the follicle is really swollen with sebum, but these have serious potential side effects. In general, conventional doctors believe that diet has no effect on acne and the other problems you mention, but I find that good nutrition helps to regulate the body’s functions, so that there is no excess production of androgens and thus of sebum. Building up the body’s immunity helps prevent the bacteria infecting the sebum.
Here is my advice:
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables and non-citrus fruits for their vitamins – at least five portions daily. (Eat fruit as snacks, rather than at the end of meals, if you have any digestive problems.)
- Avoid all fatty, oily fried and rich foods.
- Eat fish, chicken breasts, turkey and game.
- Avoid yeast products and citrus fruits, which both tend to make the skin sensitive.
- Do not drink prepared juice drink of any kind (however pure the label says they are): they tend to be very acidic.
- Avoid sugar and sugary foods.
- Drink freshly juiced carrot with mint every other day, to help skin condition and to control stomach acid.
- Soak three twigs of kadu and ½ teaspoon kariatu in a cup of hot boiled water overnight in the morning, strain and add a little freshly boiled water, then drink on an empty stomach. Take these cleansing herbs for two months.
- Take shatavari : one daily for three months to regulate hormonal functions.
- Mix one tablespoonful of chickpea powder (or besan, available from Indian grocers), a pinch of sandalwood powder and a pinch of turmeric into a paste with warm skimmed milk or water. Gently massage the spots so that they burst and some of the contents are released. Wash your face with warm water. Do this last thing at night then apply Dr. Ali’s Skin Oil on a fresh cotton bud to each visible spot. Also squeeze a fresh aloe vera leaf and smooth the raw pulp on the affected area.
- Consult a qualified and experienced homoeopath.