October 5th, 2023 • By: Dr. Pratima Raichur
Acne is among the most common skin concerns, ranging from mild, occasional breakouts to stubborn, chronic conditions. While there are different causes of acne, effective treatment methods always find their root in natural, holistic remedies that resolve the issue at the source for genuine results that last.
What is Acne?
Acne is a common inflammatory condition characterized by hair follicles or pores becoming clogged or infected with sebum, resulting in papules, pustules, modules, or cysts. This condition is most common during adolescence but can also occur in later stages of life. Acne is very treatable, and a holistic Ayurvedic approach will improve other aspects of your overall health.
Common Types of Acne
Acne vulgaris: An umbrella term that includes the most common types of acne lesions: comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.
Acne papulosa: Acne involving papules or solid, inflamed cone-shaped bumps that can be the same color as the skin. They are typically smaller than one centimeter and don't have a white or yellow pus-filled tip.
Acne indurata: Acne involving rosacea that results in reddened skin, usually on the nose and cheeks. It can appear similar to a rash with visible blood vessels.
Acne Cystica: Acne that results from a Kapha imbalance with excessively oily skin and overactive sebaceous glands, creating slow-moving and hardened cysts deep in the layers of skin, usually around the mouth and chin.
Acne Atrophica: Acne due to a Vata skin imbalance. An atrophic scar occurs when skin is unable to fully regenerate, and healing takes place below the normal layer of skin tissue, resulting in indented scarring.
Acne Keloidalis: Acne involving raised keloid-like scarring.
What Are Common Causes of Acne?
According to Ayurveda, the root cause for any imbalance is undigested food, thoughts, and emotions, or what Ayurveda refers to as ama. When food or emotions produce hormones that repeatedly fail to nourish or serve the body, they eventually accumulate, and corresponding symptoms emerge as the body's way of releasing these intolerable substances. Ama can also be genetic or through breast milk.
Ayurveda describes the skin as a "cream" on top of the seven tissues in the body: plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow, and reproductive fluid. The skin is the outer essence of all these tissues. Any imbalance that might occur within any one of these seven tissues will show up on the skin.
At a young age, acne is often related to eating habits and hormone balance. During adulthood, common causes of acne are mainly associated with high stress levels or undigested emotions and food, although hormones can still be a substantial factor at certain stages. Learning how to optimize digestion, clean and clear internal systems, balance stress levels, and implement balancing Ayurvedic lifestyle wisdom will lead the way towards clear skin while also improving quality of life in all aspects.
Internal Causes of Acne:
- Gut bacteria and constipation
- Hormone imbalance
- Stress and emotions
External Causes of Acne:
- Excess oil (sebum) production
- Clogged hair follicles and dead skin cells
- Bacteria on the skin from touching the face or other hygiene practices
Additional Factors That Can Aggravate Existing Acne:
- Hot, humid weather
- Harmful chemicals in detergents, soaps, laundry, and other personal care products
- Air impurities from smoke or pollutants
- Improper skincare
Doshas and Acne
In Ayurveda, there are three doshas, or mind-body types, which help illuminate different energy dominances in the body. The elements Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth are in everyone but occur in varying proportions, explaining our different traits and tendencies, even within the same categorial skin condition. Symptoms can emerge in different areas of the body for different people. Acne is a condition related to all doshas or mind-body types; however, excess Pitta (fire, heat, acidity) is the primary root cause.
Dosha Forms of Acne
Vata-Pitta Acne or Blemish: Appears as rough, reddish spots with dark brown centers and elevated edges that are elongated or round. They can be blue, yellow, or coppery shaded, with excessive burning, cutting, piercing pain with pus.
Kapha-Pitta Acne or Blemish: Appears as thick, swollen, raised, circular white and red spots with red edges covered with red lines and blood vessels. Excessive discharge of blood and pus often occurs, along with itching or burning sensations. These blemishes typically develop slowly.
Kapha-Vata Acne/Blemish: Appears rough and reddish or smooth, dusty, white, and red-shaded with fissured edges and a thin center. These blemishes are often grouped and are generally found on the chest.
Acne Treatment: The Natural Ayurvedic Method
Allopathic treatment often consists of antibiotics or prescription medication, like Accutane, which suppresses acne but is known to reoccur because it does not address root causes.
Using holistic, natural ways to treat acne, Ayurveda offers a multi-tier method that provides immediate and long-term results.
Avoiding some common inflammatory foods will help reduce acidity in the body and quell inflammatory responses in the system. These foods don't have to be permanently off-limits, but while mitigating an acne skin condition or during flare-ups, it's good to return to these general guidelines:
Foods to Avoid:
- Red meat
- Sugar (in particular added sugars)
- Fried foods
- Packaged and processed foods
- Dairy products and hard cheeses
- Hot spicy food
- Excessive caffeine
- Drink 7-8 glasses of water daily
- Drink a half cup of aloe juice two times a day
- Drink coconut water, especially during the summer or in hot climates
Digestions and Elimination:
- Incorporate more fiber into the diet
- Sip cumin, coriander, and fennel tea before or between meals
- Use a natural, enzyme-boosting digestive herbal supplement, like Natzyme, for proper nutrient absorption and to reduce acidity
- Use a natural, non-stimulating colon-cleansing herbal supplement like Suprabhat, or one level teaspoon of Triphala powder with warm water before bedtime
- Take probiotics
Skin Supplements and Vitamins:
Enhance good nutrition choices with the following:
- Beta Carotene
- B complex (B6, B12)
- Vitamin E
- NAT (Neem Amla Turmeric), a skin healing and anti-inflammatory blood purifier, or Neem Amla Capsules
- Shatavari 4 Stamina if acne is hormonal in those assigned female at birth
PRATIMA Skincare for Treating Acne and Blemishes
- Cleanse with your appropriate Dosha Herbal Face Cleanser
- Massage Purifying Face Essential Oil twice daily into all affected areas over slightly damp skin after cleansing. For sensitive or irritated skin, replace with Healing Neem Oil
- Apply Neem Purifying Cream as an antibacterial, protective, and healing moisturizer over the entire face
- Apply Sandalwood Soothing Lotion as a spot treatment on all affected areas. Use single, transparent layers during the day and multiple, thicker layers at night
- Incorporate Neem Soothing Mask for daily use or twice weekly. For best results, activate with Sandalwood Soothing Lotion for extra therapeutic effects
NEW from PRATIMA Skincare: Blemish + Congestions Clearing Set
Our Blemish + Congestion Clearing Set is a daily face care ritual for blemish-prone skin that purifies and heals complexions with natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory nutrients and reparative botanicals.
Promote a stress-reducing and anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
- Good sleep with regular resting and waking times is paramount for digestion, energy, and healing. Chamomile or passionflower tea before bed can help prepare the mind and body for sleep.
- Incorporate daily movement, like yoga, dancing, walking, swimming, or running. Choose something you can do at a regular time every day. Exercise benefits digestion, stress levels, and hormone balance.
- Develop techniques to manage stress levels. Include daily meditation and breathing exercises, or pranayama, that help regulate mental activity and promote inner resources of energy and focus. Alternate nostril breathing helps neutralize the hemispheric dominance within brain activity, resulting in a quieter state of mind beneficial for nighttime rest and relaxation. Shitali breathing is ideal at any peak moment of stress, helping to release excess heat, create an intentional pause, and recalibrate the nervous system in stressful moments.
- Practice good hygiene by changing pillowcases and sheets frequently.
- Eliminate harmful chemicals in your home-cleaning and self-care products. Opt for natural fabrics, detergents, and skincare.
- Make time for play and laughter!
Connecting With Total Health
The skin is a manifestation of what occurs internally every second of our lives. Skin problems are the language of the body telling us what is stuck, trapped, or imbalanced. When heat accumulates in one place, it becomes trapped and will try to escape. This heat can go in different directions, which is why Allopathy might not see a relationship between ulcers, for example, and acne, but Ayurveda does. For effective acne treatment, the underlying cause of excess fire must be addressed. External heat, the seasons, the food we eat, the natural aging process, our levels of stress or emotional patterns are all a dance of energies. When we breathe freely, we feel good, and when we hold our breath, we suffocate. The same happens with our emotions; when we hold them in, we suffocate.
Swastiya is the word Ayurveda uses as the definition of health, translating to "the one who is the realized self." It is knowing that I am not the body, I am not the mind. I am the soul. To understand the characteristics of the soul, you can picture a silent passenger inside of you that is unaffected by any storm or stressor. The soul state is a totally blissful one. If you truly understand that you are the soul - as more true than anything else before you - you will align yourself with a frequency of total health.
Dr. Pratima Raichur is an Ayurvedic Physician and Doctor of Naturopathy with over 50 years of experience. She also holds degrees in chemistry and botany as well as certifications in aesthetics and acupuncture. Known as the pioneer of Ayurvedic dermatology, Dr. Raichur is an international lecturer and author of the best selling book, Absolute Beauty, hailed as the ultimate natural beauty bible by top editors and influencers.
Along with her eponymous skincare line, Dr. Raichur's current practice includes personalized Ayurvedic Consultations that address holistic health and beauty, including skincare, chronic skin conditions, nutrition, hormonal balance, weight management, mental wellbeing and more. Read more or book an appointment with Dr. Raichur.