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What is acne? Acne is a common skin condition caused by oils that get stuck in the pores forming "whiteheads" or "blackheads," which can subsequently become infected and inflamed causing pimples or cysts. Since they have the highest concentration of oil glands, the face, neck, chest, shoulders, and back are typically the most affected parts of the body. Acne ranges in development from really moderate to extremely severe. Although generally not dangerous, it can cause scarring and emotional anguish.

Common acne usually affects people in their teen years, with three out of four developing symptoms. Although both sexes produce acne, boys tend to have more intense, longer-lasting acne. While teenagers are the most impacted group, acne is also common in individuals in their 20s and can also appear in children or individuals in their 30s, 40s, or 50s.


Statistics suggest that genetics (family history) is a strong predisposing factor in the development of acne. The main physiological aspects contributing to the development of acne are: overactive oil glands, clogged skin pores, activity of normal skin bacteria and overgrowth of fungal organisms, diet, hormonal stimulation of the oil glands, and inflammation.

Overactive oil glands (or sweat glands) make sebum that flows to the surface of the skin through canals containing a hair follicle; sebum is made to lubricate the hair follicles and the surrounding skin. Oil glands are stimulated to make sebum by androgens (hormones produced by both men and women). Puberty, stress, and hormonal changes can cause the body to produce more androgens and therefore more oil.

Blocked skin pores

If oil can not move through the follicular canal and out of the pore due to blockage, it becomes trapped and builds up within the pore. Such blockage is due to skin cells that have been shed, but bunch together at the pore for unknown reasons. People with acne have a tendency to produce more dead skin cells, but do not shed them properly. A simple blocked pore will manifest as a whitehead or blackhead.

Activity of regular skin bacteria

The bacterium P. acnes is a healthy, normal part of the skin surface; it prevents harmful bacteria from entering the skin. Although it is not the source of acne, it can contribute to making it worse. When oil gets trapped, P. acnes grows in the blocked pore eventually leading to inflammation and pimple formation.


In the case of acne, the body's immune system works to rid itself of bacteria or irritating substances in the pores. Inflammation is identified by redness, swelling, warmth, and discomfort. When infection and inflammation have taken hold the issue can become greater than a pimple and pustules, nodules, and/or cysts can form in the pores.

Factors that can further stimulate the above processes include oily cosmetics, comedogenic skin care or hair care products, nutritional deficiencies, Candida overgrowth, particular drugs like steroids and estrogen medications, and friction or pressure as due to clothing, helmets, phones, etc. In some individuals, food sensitivities may also play a contributing role. A lot of over-the-counter and prescription medications for acne like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, antibiotics, and retinoids address one or more of the sources discussed previously in a non-curative manner.


  • Psychological stress
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Genetics
  • Hormone Fluctuation or Imbalance
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Poor Diet
  • Poor digestion and detoxification


  • Balance hormone levels with herbal and/or bio-identical hormone therapies.
  • Nutritional Status-- Improve the diet by identifying food sensitivities with in-office testing and inflammatory foods that trigger acne.
  • Supplement with nutrients and supplements shown to improve acne like zinc, vitamin A, and guggul.
  • Use natural topical anti-acne agents like tea tree oil and vitamin C.
  • Improve digestion and elimination.
  • Treat systemic fungal overgrowth that contributes to acne.


A study in the American Journal of clinical Nutrition confirmed the benefits of a low glycemic diet for improving acne vulgaris. A low glycemic diet means the foods are less likely to increase glucose and insulin levels. The twelve week study included forty-three male acne patients aged 15-25 years of age. The participants were placed on a low-glycemic-load diet comprised of 25% energy from protein and 45% from low-glycemic-index carbohydrates while the control group was on a regular American carbohydrate rich diet. Acne lesion counts and intensity were assessed during monthly visits, and insulin sensitivity was measured at baseline and at 12 weeks. Researchers found the overall lesion counts had decreased by 22 whereas the control group had a reduction of roughly 12. Also, the low glycemic load diet group had a greater improvement in insulin sensitivity.