An Ayurvedic Approach to Curing Acne, Part 1

Almost everyone has experienced at least the occasional pimple during adolescence and many battled chronic acne during those tender teenage years. But 20% of Americans continue that battle with acne into adulthood.

Currently an estimated 60 million Americans have acne of which 20% have acne that is severe enough to cause scarring. Because acne can be such a socially embarrassing condition, only a small fraction of adults seek any medical treatment. Let’s face it, the world judges you on your appearance and walking into a job interview or going out on a date with adult acne is not easy, no matter how accomplished you are.

I was among the lucky teenagers who only suffered an occasional pimple. However, as an adult, I went through a very stressful time when a family member suffered a sudden, devastating illness. As a result, I experienced a brief course of adult acne. It was brief only because I approached it using an aggressive, yet natural, method to bring my body back into balance. Because I got to the root of the problem so quickly, I avoided any permanent scarring. The experience gave me a tremendous amount of compassion for my patients who struggled with the condition and insight on how to control this often mortifying skin condition. 

In order to win the fight against acne, you have to understand the underlying causes, which are often multiple. The current medical approach to the management of acne is very superficial and aimed at preventing the bacterial over-growth in the skin. This often requires going on medical treatments to keep future breakouts under control. If you don’t change the chemistry within your body that is causing the problem, acne can become a life-long battle that requires chronic use of antibiotics, in addition to expensive and harsh products on your skin. However, if you combine some simple lifestyle changes with your medical regimen, you can create a beautiful complexion naturally for the rest of your life without being dependent on products.

Ayurveda is the traditional medical system in India, which has been in place for thousands of years. According to ayurveda, there are three doshas, or mind/body types – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. An imbalance in the doshas causes disease. Acne typically involves an imbalance in all three doshas, which is why you need to approach it through multiple modalities.

An imbalance in Vata results in impaired digestion and accumulation of toxins. An imbalance of Pitta affects the blood and liver allowing for inflammation. Excess Kapha, which controls the production of sebum, results in clogging of the pores. This combination of impaired digestion, accumulation of toxins, inflammation, and over-production of sebum creates the perfect environment for the overgrowth of bacteria resulting in chronic acne. The overgrowth of bacteria is only an effect of the underlying imbalances, but not the ultimate cause of acne. That is why treating acne with antibiotics orally and topically may never fully cure the problem.

Given the multiple contributing factors to acne, we have to address each one separately to cure the condition. Since pimples typically come in 2-, 3-, and 4-week cycles, you will need to follow this ayurvedic program for 3-6 months to get permanent results. In my next blog, I will outline the five steps that will lead to clearer skin.