Acne is a life altering condition. That may sound strong because it does not effect one’s ability eat, sleep and exercise. It does however diminish self-confidence to such an extent that people will alter their lives to avoid showing faces, shoulders, backs or any other part of the body that is affected. Sometimes, even after acne has gone, it may leave deep scarring.
Current western acne treatments may include strong pharmaceutical drugs with lists of side effects and even stronger and harsher cosmetic therapies such as peels, the frightening FRAXEL and lasers.
These may be successful but:
a) they have side effects and can be painful.
b) They do not always address the cause of acne. The acne will come back the minute you stop the drugs if the underlying dysfunction has not been addressed.
At ben&biao we always look at the root of the problem. So what is the underlying problem in acne?
Actually it’s a pair of problems: hormones and inflammation.
You rarely see children with acne and that is because they haven’t hit puberty which is when all the sex hormones kick in. Hormonally the main problems are:
1. Androgens :
- Testosterone (T)
- Dihydrotestoesterone (DIT)
- DHEA – precursor for sex hormones such as Testosterone and DIT
- DHEAS – precursor for sex hormones such as Testosterone and DIT
2. Insulin and Insulin like growth factor (IGF-1)
The role of Androgens:
Androgens are needed as we evolve from children into adults. They are the backbone to all the changes in the body.
Testosterone and DHT cause acne primarily by increasing the size and activity of the sebaceous glands. They boost the amount of oil (sebum) the skin produces.
The increased amounts of sebum that the skin produces have many knock-on effects that contribute to acne:
- When the skin produces more sebum, the concentration of linoleic acid (LA) in sebum goes down. Insufficient amount of LA in sebum is known to irritate the skin cells.
- Increased amount of sebum feeds acne-causing P. Acnes bacteria, which thrives on sebum.
So, a couple of spots while going through puberty is normal.
Full blown acne into your 20s, 30s and 40s is indicative of a hormone imbalance.
It’s a bit of a myth to say, people with acne have excessive testosterone. While some studies have shown that women may have insufficient testosterone, It may also be that women have insufficient oestrogen levels making the testosterone levels appear ‘higher’ to their oestrogen counterpart.
It may also be that the precursor hormones such as DHEA and DHEAs that are excessive in the skin and not in the blood that provide acne forming environment.
What causes hormonal imbalances?
Puberty obviously as the body is trying to find its new levels, but the other factors that cause hormone imbalances are;
- high stress levels caused by things like worry, school exams, bullying, social media concerns, low confidence levels, working too many hours,
- Insufficient activity
- Alcohol and / or drugs
- Diet short on anti-oxidant foods such as vegetables and fruit,
- Diet big on carbohydrates
- Allergic reactions such as those to gluten, dairy
What about the role of insulin and IGF-1?
Insulin and IGF-1 both:
- Stimulate DHEA release
- Stop testosterone binding in the body which means that there is more of it floating around the body
Like the androgens they ALSO stimulate the skin cells to release more sebum.
What triggers insulin and IGF-1?
Insulin is released when we eat carbohydrates. Not all carbs are the same. The simple sugars, which are usually eaten in excess cause the greatest spikes of insulin.
So; Part 1 of the problem is hormones.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story, because the other mother ship of acne is Inflammation.This will be addressed in the next blog on ACNE and Inflammation and the Liver.
What can you do right now to address hormone dysfunction?
If you are a girl, your doctor may tell you ‘go on the contraception pill’ This interruption to the hormones may help to sort out the problem in the short term but may also cause other issues such as weight gain and mood changes.
If you are a boy they don’t have that option, even though it may be a problem. No pills for regulating hormones instead the focus is on the immune system and anti-inflammatory action.
Again both of these are addressed in the next blog.
At the clinic we offer Chinese herbs and appropriate lifestyle advice to balance out the hormones. In the Chinese medicine paradigm it is a lot more holistic. We will run through your family history, your diet, your lifestyle, your stress factors, your sleep patterns, your bowel movement and work out what exactly is causing the problem and then make an individualised acne formula for you. Our formula DOES attempt to stabilise your hormones. We use herbs known for treating hormonal imbalance in both men and women.
We of course do not forget EVER the other factors such as inflammation and the role it plays in your skin problem.
Our Chinese herbs are taken in powder form. Either dissolved in teas or they can be made into capsules if you prefer.
Acne will take at least a couple of months to properly clear but changes can be seen as quickly as two weeks with the correct formulations.
If you or your child has acne then come see what we at ben&biao can do for you.
Initial consultations are:
$145 for an hour consultation. This includes a Celluma treatment and three days worth of herbal tea.
BOOK NOW or call 0403 273 008 to find out how we can help you.