Acne
Description

Although most people associate acne with the troublesome teenage years, it can erupt at any age. Indeed up to 8% of those who had clear skin in their youth develop acne as adults. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to control outbreaks - no matter how old you are when they occur.

What it is
Spots and other eruptions are the hallmarks of acne, a sometimes chronic condition of the face back chest neck shoulders and other areas of the body. The most common form (acne vulgaris) encompasses blackheads, whiteheads, and raised red blemishes with semisolid centres In severe cases (cystic acne) clusters of painful fluid filled cysts or firm, painless lumps appear beneath the skin's surface; both can lead to unsightly permanent pitting and scarring. For teenagers especially, acne can be an embarrassing and emotionally difficult condition

Symptoms
• Hard red bumps or pus-filled lesions on the skin.
• Red, inflamed skin with fluid-filled lumps or cysts

What causes it
Acne occurs when the sebaceous glands at the base of the hair follicles of the skin secrete too much sebum. This thick, oily substance is normally released from the pores to keep the skin lubricated and healthy. If the sebum backs up, it can form hard plugs, or comedos, that block the pores and cause spots. Should one of these oil plugs rupture beneath the skin's surface, a localised bacterial infection can develop.

Hormonal imbalances can lead to an overproduction of sebum - a common problem during adolescence, especially in boys. In women, menstrual periods or pregnancy can also create acne-producing hormonal disturbances. Other acne triggers include emotional stress; the friction or rubbing or clothing against the skin; and certain medications, particularly steroids, contraceptives or drugs that affect hormone levels. Heredity may play a role as well.

Contrary to popular belief, acne is probably not caused by eating chocolate, shellfish, nuts or fatty snacks or by drinking colas. However, some doctors - and patients - contend that acne can be brought on or aggravated by certain foods or food allergies.

How supplements can help
Most people will benefit from trying all the supplements recommended in the chart; they can be safely combined. It often takes three to four weeks, or longer, to notice results. All can be used long term.

Vitamin B6 may be useful for acne aggravated by menstrual cycles or the menopause. Vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium promote a healthy immune system, helping to keep acne-causing bacteria in check. Taken with any or all of these vitamins, Zinc enhances immune function, reduces inflammation and promotes healthy hormone levels. Long-term use of zinc inhibits copper absorption, so it should be taken with that mineral. It may help to take zinc together with omega-3 essential fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids, found in margarine, vegetable oil and many processed foods, tend to predominate in the modern diet, and a correct balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids helps to reduce inflammation.

Vitex, also known as chasteberry, is traditionally used to help with the treatment of menstruation-related acne. Other herbal remedies that are traditionally used for the treatment of acne include burdock, yellow dock, red clover and echinacea. Evening primrose oil may be used when the lesions are disappearing. It should not be used during acute flare-ups.

All of these supplements can be used long term, as well as in conjunction with conventional medications.

SUPPLEMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
Vitamin B6

Dosage: 50 mg each morning.
Advice: long-term intake of this amount of vitamin B6 may lead to mild tingling and numbness.

Vitamin C

Dosage: 500 mg twice a day.
Advice: reduce dose if diarrhoea develops

Vitamin E

Dosage: 400 iu a day.
Advice: consult a doctor if you take anticoagulant drugs.

Selenium

Dosage: 200 pg a day.
Advice: in the form of Seleno-L-Methionine

Zinc

Dosage: 15 mg twice a day.
Advice: supplementation with 30 mg or more of zinc should be accompanied by 2 mg copper.

Vitex Agnus-Castus (Chasteberry)

Dosage: 100 mg standardised extract once a day.
Advice: often used for premenstrual acne.

Evening Primrose Oil

Dosage: 1000 mg twice a day.
Advice: do not take during acute flare-ups. Often useful when lesions are resolving.

Note: consider using supplements in red first; those in blue may also be beneficial.
Some dosages may be supplied by supplements you are already taking.

 

RECENT FINDINGS
When evaluated by a group of physicians in one study, patients with acne who received 30 mg of zinc daily for two months had clearer complexions than those in a control group who had received a placebo. In another study, zinc produced results equal to those of the antibiotic tetracycline. But not many dermatologists have embraced zinc supplements because other research has failed to show that this mineral has any benefits to offer against acne.

DID YOU KNOW?
Holding the receiver of a telephone too tightly against your skin can cause acne to break out above your ear or along the side of your chin.

FACTS & TIPS
• Fighting acne with natural supplements may be an attractive option for women of childbearing age, most of whom cannot take the powerful prescription drug isotretinoin (a derivative of vitamin A) because it may cause birth defects.

• A 5% solution of topical tea tree oil is as effective as, but gentler than, 5% benzoyl peroxide for drying up mild acne blemishes, according to a study conducted in Australia. Higher doses, containing up to 15% tea tree oil, may be helpful for more severe cases of acne.

What else you can do

  • Wash daily, using ordinary soap and water.
  • Eat a balanced diet; avoid foods you feel may act as acne triggers.
  • Choose cosmetics labelled 'noncomedogenic' or oil-free'.
  • Avoid squeezing spots; it increases inflammation and can cause scarring.

SEE YOUR DOCTOR....

• If acne does not respond to self-care within three months.
• If severe acne develops; fluid-filled lumps, red or purple inflammation, cysts or hard nodules under the skin.
• If skin is continually red and flushed, even if no spots actually appear.

REMINDER- If you have a medical condition, consult your doctor before taking supplements

Based on 'The Practitioner's Guide to Supplements'. This 416 paged book is packed with information covering over 70 popular supplements and more than 90 common disorders. PLUS 400 photographs and charts. RRP £24.99.

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