If you’ve never dealt with the occasional unsightly red bump on your face, then consider yourself blessed. As for the rest of us, we’d like to avoid the embarrassment of acne, always popping up at the worst possible moment.
It’s one thing to deal with the occasional pimple, but quite another to suffer from constant, painful acne. It’s not only bad on your self-esteem, but it reflects a deeper, system-wide imbalance in your body. There are 3 major systems that, when they get thrown out of whack, can cause your skin to become inflamed and bumpy.
The Digestive System
In Chinese medicine, the skin and the large intestine both belong to the Metal element (need a refresher on the 5 elements?) This is why, in pretty much every case of acne, there is a digestive component. Many people will notice gas, bloating, reflux, indigestion, constipation or loose stools or both (!). Even if you don’t seem to have any issues in that department, treat this system anyway.
The Hormonal System
Many women notice cyclical changes in their face in tandem with their menstrual cycles. In fact, for many (too many) years, this was the way I knew my period was about to start. If this is the case for you, make sure to add the hormone support herbs listed below to your daily routine.
Ok, so this isn’t officially a “system” per se, but your liver and other organs, hormones and enzymes play a part in helping your body getting rid of waste products. The Liver, in acupuncture theory, controls the smooth flow of qi, and when that qi stops moving and gets stagnant, acne can result. Herbs, lifestyle choices, and clean products can support your body in its natural detox pathways.
When you get stressed, a cascade of hormones flood your body, your nervous system amps up, and your entire system gets thrown off balance. That’s ok occasionally, for shorts bursts of time, but in this day and age, we’re hanging out here all day long. Your body goes into survival mode, all the blood and energy goes to running from that proverbial saber toothed tiger, and doesn’t have time to think about your skin, digestion or detoxification.
So, are you ready to fix your insides – and your skin along with it? Let’s learn how. Each step works synergistically with the others, so in order to get the full benefits, take a few weeks to experiment by diving into all of them. Then you will really be able to see improvement in a short amount of time, which is great motivation to keep going.
I bet you’re already doing pretty well in this department. Whole foods, lots of fresh veggies, clean protein sources, healthy fats. If you need more detail, my Ultimate Guide to Nutrition has got you covered.
In addition, specific to helping your body detox and get rid of stagnation, steer clear of sugar and dairy. I know it sounds difficult, but it’s not forever, just until your body heals. Sugar of course includes the white stuff, and food products that list any form of sugar (corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, etc.) on its label. Honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and fruit are ok in small amounts, but not daily. There are a number of good dairy replacements if you feel like you need them, just lean more towards the nut/seed ones and away from the soy.
2. Detox your products
And by products I mean what you are putting on your face/body, and anything you use around the house. Conventional cleaning products contain estrogenic compounds that affect your hormones in subtle, but profound ways over time. My general philosophy is: If I can’t eat the ingredients, I don’t use it. EWG.org is a great resource for checking the safety of products if you ever have a question whether your laundry detergent, hand lotion, or mascara is safe.
3. Herbs and supplements
There are a number of herbs and supplements I recommend to patients that address one or more of the specific systems we talked about above. For the digestive system, a good probiotic is essential. Gelatin, in the form of collagen hydrolysate, can be stirred into a drink, and not only heals your gut, but also benefits skin, hair and nails.
If hormone imbalance is part of your picture, add in the herbs vitex and maca root. And for detoxification, burdock, dandelion root, and red clover are all blood purifiers to support your detox pathways.
4. Stress Management
The human race was not built for desk jobs and texting, driving in cars, staying indoors or watching Netflix all night. Our modern lifestyle puts undue stress on our system just by being a part of it. Which is why it is imperative for all of us to have a stress management system in place. Find a daily practice that you enjoy, that gets you out of your head and into your body and the present moment. Yoga, tai-chi, running, gardening, hiking, playing or listening to music, making art, meditation and prayer are all ways to release that pressure valve.
In addition, give yourself 30 sec mini breaks throughout the day, to hit the reset button. Choose something that you do a lot, like washing your hands, and take that time to breathe deeply and take stock of how your body feels.
If you’re still struggling after working through all the steps above, it’s time to call in the professionals. Acupuncture balances hormones, reduces stress, supports digestion and detoxification pathways. It’s like hitting restart on your computer. Everything functions a little better after that brief pause.
If you live in the Greenville area, I would love to help you out!
Elizabeth Allen is an acupuncturist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of AcuMed Spa, on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313, or scheduled online here.