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MORE THAN SKIN DEEP
By Claudio Dario

Preventing or Healing Acne

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Prescription and over-the-counter skin preparations can actually aggravate acne. Stress reduction, nutritional factors and proper skin care hold the keys to prevention and treatment.

Although acne is most common in the teenage population (about 80% of teenagers face this menace to their self-image), hundreds of thousands of adults also suffer with adult-onset acne. The result can be physical and emotional disfigurement. When you understand how acne develops, you'll see why alternative treatments are preferred to over-the-counter or prescription remedies. Natural remedies are gentler and more likely to get to the source of the problem.

The skin is an organ of elimination. Pores that are plugged with oil breed bacteria. Good skin care, including cleaning the pores, will assist the skin in its role of eliminating bacteria, toxins or dead cells--and eliminate the acne infection.

Sebum: friend or foe?

Acne begins in the hair follicle, with a duct connected to the sebaceous gland, that in turn connects to the pore at the skin's surface. The sebaceous gland manufactures an oily and waxy substance called sebum, which has three important functions. First, it pours through the duct and pore to prevent excess loss of water from the skin through evaporation. (Drinking plenty of water helps avoid stress to this delicate balance.) Sebum is also beneficial because it keeps the skin and hair lubricated. Sebum's third job is exfoliating dead skin cells in the follicle's duct as new cells replace them. The sticky sebum adheres to the dead cells and then transports them out through the skin's surface pores. But too much sebum can clog the pores and give bacteria a place to breed. Over-production of the sticky substance makes cells adhere to each other and to the duct wall like glue, resulting in a stagnant mass.

There is a good reason why acne is such a common condition among teenagers. The higher hormone levels and stress at puberty play a large role in acne. Both these factors stimulate the sebaceous glands in hair shafts to secrete extra sebum. In teenage boys mostly, but to a lesser de gree in teenage girls, the male hormone testosterone creates excess secretion of sebum. Changes in hormones also account for adult premenstrual acne, stress-induced acne and sunlight-induced acne (which attacks fair-skinned people).

Acne develops when the build-up places pressure on the walls of the duct. If the pore is closed, it balloons into a dome-like structure called a whitehead. When the pore does not close, oxygen hardens the accumulated fatty acids, forming an impenetrable shield over the duct--creating a blackhead. Either way, bacteria spreads inside.

Modern medicine falls short

Conventional medical experts deem acne unpreventable. Instead, they usually attack progressed acne with aggressive scrubs, exfoliants, antibiotics and other prescriptions that can be counterproductive. Acne can be prevented, but treatment needs to be gentler and more tolerable.

Using soaps and scrubs or abrasive pads and loofahs to remove unwanted surface skin and acne debris (epidermabrasion) with several aggressive washings a day is sometimes recommended. This is intended to create blood-flow for stimulation of new cells but it can also irritate the skin. A simpler way to increase blood flow to the skin is through exercise, which increases both circulation and oxygen penetration into the cells.

Similarly, peeling agents such as benzoyl peroxide compounds are antibacterial exfoliants that are abrasive and irritating to the skin. They can produce redness, swelling, burning and dryness, especially to sensitive areas around the eyes and neck. Astringents with petrochemical formulas leave toxic residues on the skin.

Antibiotics prescribed for acne include tetracycline and erythromycin, which kill off both friendly and unfriendly bacteria. Bacteria can become resistant to medication, so antibiotics may make the condition worse. And antibiotics tax the immune system, another element in infection. They also decrease the absorption of vitamin A, which is an important agent in healing acne.


SKIN CROSS SECTION
The activity of the sebaceous gland is the key to acne. Normally, the gland secretes a balanced amount of sebum, an oily substance that prevents loss of moisture via evaporation, and transports dead cells to the skin's surface for elimination. But hormone changes, stress and dietary factors can produce excess sebum which clogs the pores, creating a breeding ground for bacterial infection.

Although Vitamin A deficiency is a factor in acne, medications like Retin-A® (tretinoin, an acid form of vitamin A) have many side effects, including dryness, redness, crusting, blistering and scarring.

Acutane--another vitamin A offshoot--can cause inflammation of the lip and carries label warnings of possible fetal abnormalities for pregnant women and nursing mothers. One prescription medication in particular, isotretinoin, can cause serious birth defects, as well as nosebleeds and changes in blood lipids. Moisturizers like Alpha-hydroxy-acids will also cause irritation. There are safer ways to thin the debris of the impacted dead cells in the follicles and to stimulate new cell growth.

Birth control pills may control the hormones that cause acne, but have their own dangers, and are not appropriate for boys. The pill also interferes with the absorption of vitamin A. Other prescription medications such as dilantin, lithium and iodine can cause an acne flare-up.

What really works

Alternative treatments include diet and exercise, nutritional supplementation (especially vitamins A, B5, B6 and C, and the minerals zinc and selenium), non-irritating skin treatments and herbs to combat infection (tea tree oil gel applied topically, or burdock root, echinacea and goldenseal, to name a few.)

Diet is a key in controlling acne. For example, people in Okinawa, Japan, Formosa and Korea show less than a 5% incidence. But when they come to the U.S. and eat the American diet, the rate becomes the same as the U.S. rate. This eliminates race, climate and cleanliness as common factors.

Supplementation

When hormone levels increase, vitamin A is diverted from the skin and thus a deficiency of vitamin A allows acne to form. Every condition that causes acne seems to also decrease the vitamin A availability.

If you use the oil-soluble vitamin A, exercise caution. Vitamin A has had toxic effects in exaggerated amounts over a long period of time. During times of breakouts increase your intake of vitamin A by 5,000 to 10,000 IU. A teenage male can increase up to 15,000 IU. Mycelized vitamin A is the preferred form for limited periods of megadosing. Up to 400,000 IU of mycelized vitamin A taken for four or five days in a row has been recommended as part of a cold prevention regimen. But before using large dosages of any supplements, consult with a knowledgeable nutritionist or doctor.

Because hormone levels affect vitamin A levels, if you use birth control pills, do not use vitamin A supplements. This combination can raise blood levels and possibly create an overdose. Use caution while nursing, too. Proper amounts of vitamin A can be obtained by diet alone.

Supplements that contain acidophilus and bifidus culture will establish friendly bacteria that eliminate toxins released in your intestines. Pro-biotics are especially important after using antibiotics, to recreate balance in the gut. Keep in mind that your skin is the "third kidney" and it will and must eliminate impurities that are not eliminated by other means.

Stress also stimulates the adrenals to produce an androgen hormone similar to testosterone. B complex helps with stress. Vitamin C and pantothenic acid (B5) assist with the adrenal gland.

The right foods

Romaine lettuce is a great adrenal food with a good balance of calcium, sodium and potassium. Great foods to eat that contain vitamin A, in order of amounts, are: carrots, yams, parsley, turnip greens, spinach, chard, watercress, red peppers, winter squash, egg yolk, cantaloupe, endive, persimmons, apricots, broccoli, pimientos, crab meat, whitefish, romaine lettuce and mangos. Vitamin A can come from liver, but make sure that it is liver from free range, naturally raised cattle.



Pointers for Natural Healing:
Reduce Stress
Because stress is a factor in skin health, meditation, exercise and a myriad of stress management techniques can help control the acne as they relieve tension and anxiety.
Vitamin A-rich foods
Often in the yellow-orange or deep
green range, good fruit and vegetable sources include carrots, yams and squash; parsley, spinach and romaine lettuce; cantaloupe, apricots and mangos. Crab, egg yolk and whitefish are also good sources.
Vitamin A absorption
Sulfur foods, like eggs, onions
and garlic help absorb vitamin A. Zinc and potassium help also absorb
vitamin A. Many prescription drugs interfere with absorption.
Exercise
Exercise increases circulation and oxygen penetration
into the cells. Exercise also improves overall health by reducing stress.
Gentler skin care
Choose non-abrasive products and
techniques, and natural healing agents such as goldenseal or lavender.
Clays
Absorbent clays like koalin or bentonite act as sponges to pick up dead protein matter on the skin.
Water
Keep the vital flow going. Drink plenty of pure water. (See Issue #36, July 2000: “Is Dehydration Affecting the Life of Your Skin?




Also use whole grain flours that provide the full range of nutrients from the bran, pulp and germ. The fiber found in whole grains--as well as in vegetables, fruits and legumes--helps to transport toxins out of your intestinal tract.

The live enzymes in fresh, whole uncooked foods are particularly beneficial in promoting the breakdown of toxins and in helping them leave the body. Drinking plenty of pure water is also important to the skin's renewal.

What to avoid

Iodine supplements like kelp or compounds with potassium iodide can induce acne with surprising rapidity. Even iodized salt may cause a reaction in some people.

To keep the skin healthy, stay away from processed foods that are devoid of balanced vitamins, minerals and live enzymes--especially refined carbohydrates like sugar or white flour. High-sugar foods stimulate extra oil production in the skin. And, during times of breakout, lay low on fried foods and alcohol.


Choosing a skin care regimen

The right products and regimens can be good acne preventatives. Remember, acne is an infection. A good regime begins with washing morning and night with a healing soap and controlling oily skin without harsh chemicals. Read the labels: you'll see that the vast majority of products have synthetic ingredients.

Keeping these factors in mind, I have spent years developing skin care products--and I can't resist telling you about them. First, there is a soap I created made of high grade vegetable oils such as olive, palm, and coconut. It also contains oats and lavender oil, which was used during World War I for wound healing and is fantastic in healing burns.

I have also developed a skin care therapy called Claudio Dario® Skin Memory Serum composed of water with suspended liposomes (lipids found naturally in the tissue). Liposomes are smaller than skin cells, so they will penetrate into the follicle duct and skin pore to loosen up the congestion and allow free flow to resume. (See the article "Rose Hip Seed Oil: An Anti-Aging and Repair Wonder," Alternative Medicine, issue #31, September 1999.)

One spray of the skin serum contains 6.5 trillion liposomes. It also contains rose hip oil with a natural vitamin F complex plus an effective acid vitamin A, aloe juice and a botanical Swiss moisturizer inside a microcapsule of lecithin (an emulsifier). This Skin Memory Serum is especially effective for those with adult onset acne who have extremely oily skin.

Remember that no matter what topical product you buy, it should be gentle and free of pharmaceutical drugs or synthetic chemicals. And that proper diet, exercise, detoxification and stress management techniques are the real key to glowingly beautiful skin.





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