Physical and Spiritual


Mental and Physical well-being are essential elements of overall health. Psychological and physical stress can disrupt the delicate balance of the human body, weaken the immune system and contribute to the development of acne symptoms. There are many physical and mental activities that have been shown to benefit overall health. This section discusses some of these activities and their relationship to acne.

Physical and Spiritual Activities (A-Z)

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Endurance Training


Endurance Training are exercises designed to increase aerobic performance, as well as cardiovascular and muscular stamina. Common forms of Endurance Training include running, swimming, cycling and cross country skiing. Endurance Training is a common element of healthy lifestyle changes. Endurance Training is not generally used as a treatment for acne, but it may have a small impact on acne symptoms in some individuals.

Running the NYC Marathon
Running the NYC Marathon

Sustained Endurance training triggers a range of physiological adaptations that are beneficial for overall health and wellness. Cardiovascular changes include improved heart performance and blood circulation. Muscle stamina also improves in response to increased mitochondrial capacity, glycogen storage and other metabolic changes. Endurance Training is often associated with adoption of other healthy lifestyle changes, such as improved dietary choices. Improving overall health and reducing stress can enhance immune function and this may help improve acne symptoms in some individuals.

Endurance Training Images


Endurance Training @ Wikipedia
Dermatologic problems of the endurance athlete. Heymann. 2005.
Training-specific changes in cardiac structure and function: a prospective and longitudinal assessment of competitive athletes. Baggish, et al. 2008.
The role of exercise in the rehabilitation of idiopathic inflammatory myopathies. Alexanderson, et al. 2005.
Haemoglobin, blood volume and endurance. Gledhill, et al. 2000.
Acne, sedentary behaviour, malnutrition, and COPD. Rashid. 2014.

Strength Training

Free Weight Strength Training

Strength Training exercises are designed to increase the strength, density and size of muscle tissue. Most Strength Training exercises use resistance (eg. weight training) to induce the cellular processes associated with muscle growth. Strength Training has many health benefits, including increased ligament and tendon strength, increased bone density, reduced risk of injury and elevated basal (resting) metabolic rates. Strength Training may also induce metabolic and hormonal changes that can affect acne symptoms in some individuals.

Strength Training Squats
Strength Training Squats

Strength Training is not generally prescribed as a direct treatment for acne. Strength Training programs themselves are unlikely to have a significant impact on acne symptoms for most individuals. However, many Strength Training programs are coupled with significant dietary and lifestyle changes. These accompanying changes are much more likely to have a direct impact on acne. Overall, healthier lifestyle choices (eg. Regular exercise, balanced diet, reduced stress, sufficient sleep, etc) are known to improve the function of the immune system and should help reduce the frequency and severity of acne outbreaks.

Extremely rigorous Strength Training programs may induce metabolic and hormonal changes that can affect the development of acne symptoms. However, these changes vary greatly between individuals (and women vs men). The specific relationship between rigorous Strength Training and acne remains unclear. The use of Anabolic Steroids is fairly common among some groups of people pursuing rigorous Strength Training programs. Anabolic Steroids mimic the function of Androgen Hormones, which help support gains in strength and muscle growth. Elevated levels of Androgen Hormones are known to cause or worsen acne symptoms. Many individuals who use Anabolic Steroids experience a significant increase in acne symptoms.

Strength Training Images


Strength Training @ Wikipedia
Neuromuscular and hormonal adaptations during strength and power training. A review. Hakkinen. 1989.
The Anabolic 500 survey: characteristics of male users versus nonusers of anabolic-androgenic steroids for strength training. Perry. 2011.
Training-specific changes in cardiac structure and function: a prospective and longitudinal assessment of competitive athletes. Baggish, et al. 2008.
Antiandrogens in hormonal contraception limit muscle strength gain in strength training: comparison study. Ruiæ, et al. 2003.
Effect of testosterone and anabolic steroids on the size of sebaceous glands in power athletes. Király, et al. 1987.
Effects of high intensity interval training and strength training on metabolic, cardiovascular and hormonal outcomes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A Pilot Study. Almenning, et al. 2015.
Effects of heavy-resistance training on hormonal response patterns in younger vs. older men. Kraemer, et al. 1999.
Muscle hypertrophy, hormonal adaptations and strength development during strength training in strength-trained and untrained men. Ahtiainen, et al. 2003.
Strength training effects on physical performance and serum hormones in young soccer players. Gorostiaga, et al. 2004.

Meditation and Prayer

Meditation and Acne

Meditation and Prayer are both mental practices where one focuses on their own consciousness and its connection to the larger universe. Prayer often involves communicating with God or either deities, and most religions have their own unique prayer practices. Meditation is often more focused on looking inward into one’s own consciousness and freeing it from the influences of external forces. Meditation and Prayer are both common techniques for people with and without acne. However, neither Meditation nor Prayer is widely used on its own as a treatment for acne symptoms.

Muslim Prayer
Muslim Prayer

Prayer and Meditation both take many forms. There is little scientific research on the direct connection between Meditation or Prayer and acne. One possible reason that Meditation or Prayer might help improve acne symptoms is through a reduction in stress. Mental stress is believed to disrupt the balance of the immune system, which could trigger the development of acne. Although there does not appear to be any hard evidence that Meditation or Prayer is likely to help reduce the frequency or severity of acne breakouts, there also does not appear to be any negative risks associated with these techniques. Thus they can be readily incorporated into all holistic acne treatment regimens.

Meditation and Prayer Images


Meditation @ Wikipedia
Relaxation, meditation, and hypnosis for skin disorders and procedures. Shenefelt. 2008.
Natural Treatments for Acne. Kroll. 1996.
Complementary therapies for acne vulgaris. Leonard, et al. 2006.
Significance of Serenity Prayer and patient satisfaction. Siegfried. 2014.
Breaking Out: A Woman’s Guide to Coping with Acne at Any Age. Voutier. 2005.


Diet and Acne

Dietary choices – what you eat and do not eat – have a huge impact on your metabolism, immune system and overall health. Dietary choices can also have have an impact on acne symptoms. This section covers common dietary regimens that have been reported to help reduce the severity and frequency of acne outbreaks.

Dietary Regimens (A-Z)

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Dairy-Free Diet

Whole Milk

Dairy-Free Diets exclude the consumption of milk and all milk-based products, such as yogurt and cheese. The natural function of milk is to provide the nutrition necessary for the growth and development of young offspring. All female mammals produce milk and the name “Mammal” derives from “Mammary”, which is the gland responsible for milk production. Humans, cows, dogs, cats and mice are all mammals. Milk is a rich nutritional source that contains abundant concentrations of essential compounds, such as proteins, sugars, vitamins and minerals.

Dairy Cows
Dairy Cows

Unfortunately for some adult humans, consumption of milk and other dairy products can cause unpleasant side effects. Some people are lactose-intolerant, which means that they are not able to properly digest lactose (a sugar naturally found in milk). Dairy-Free Diets are commonly prescribed for people who are lactose-intolerant. Consumption of dairy products can also cause allergic or auto-immune reactions in some people. Although this process is not entirely understood, certain milk proteins (eg. Casein) are known to cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

Milk consumption is one of the dietary factors that has been most frequently correlated with acne symptoms. There have been numerous scientific studies to investigate the relationship between dairy intake and acne. Although there is some disagreement between studies, many of the studies have found that high dairy consumption was associated with more acne symptoms.

There are several possible reasons why dairy consumption might cause more frequent or severe acne outbreaks. One possibility is that some molecules found in milk might trigger hormonal changes that can contribute to acne. Another possibility is that the hormones in milk (milk naturally contains hormones, most milk products no longer contain synthetic hormones, such as bGH Bovine Growth Hormone) directly affect the hormonal balance in the body. A third possibility is that milk can contain high levels of specific molecules (eg. Iodine) that can trigger acne in high doses. Overall, the causative relationship between dairy consumption and acne symptoms remains poorly defined, but warrants deeper investigation.

Dairy-Free Diet Images


Dairy Products @ Wikipedia
Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Adebamowo, et al. 2006.
High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. Adebamowo, et al. 2005.
Food allergy. Its manifestations and control and the elimination diets. A compendium. Rowe, et al. 1972.
Evidence for acne-promoting effects of milk and other insulinotropic dairy products. Melnik, et al. 2011.
Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. Adebamowo, et al. 2008.
Acne and milk, the diet myth, and beyond. Danby, et al. 2005.
High glycemic load diet, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study. Ismail, et al. 2012.
Role of insulin, insulin‐like growth factor‐1, hyperglycaemic food and milk consumption in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Melnik, et al. 2009.
Family history, body mass index, selected dietary factors, menstrual history, and risk of moderate to severe acne in adolescents and young adults. Landro, et al. 2012.
The role of diet in acne: facts and controversies. Davidovici, et al. 2010.
Diet and acne. Bowe. 2010.
Acne: the role of medical nutrition therapy. Burris, et al. 2013.

Low Glycemic Diet

Refined Cane Sugar (Sucrose)

Low Glycemic Diets are dietary regimens that minimize the consumption of sugar and other easily digestible carbohydrates (eg. refined flour, cereals or mashed potatoes). The purpose of the Low Glycemic Diets are to prevent large spikes in blood glucose (sugar) concentrations. Individuals with Type 2 diabetes have difficulty regulating their blood glucose levels, and Low Glycemic diets are commonly prescribed for this population. Low Glycemic Diets (especially when combined with protein supplementation) are also commonly used to support healthy weight loss.

Chocolate Chip Cookies are a High Glycemic Food
Chocolate Chip Cookies are a High Glycemic Food

Reducing consumption of sugars and refined carbohydrates may help improve acne symptoms for some individuals. There is scientific evidence that high-sugar diets suppress immune function and can trigger hormonal changes, both of which can contribute to the development of acne. Many popular diets, such as the Paleo Diet, are versions of a Low Glycemic Diet.

In general, consumption of significant amounts of sugar (particularly sucrose aka cane sugar) is bad for your health. The reason why sugar, and sucrose in particular, is bad for you is because the human body is not metabolically adapted for its consumption. Refined sugar is a very high-energy, rapidly digested substance that is not readily available in nature. The human metabolic system has been slowly evolving for hundreds of thousands of years based on a diet of largely unrefined plant, fungal and animal products. Refined sugar only became widely available to the general population in the last 200 years. It is no coincidence that rates of obesity, dental caries, heart disease and diabetes track very closely with rates of refined sugar consumption. The bottom line is that eating less refined sugar is a good idea for virtually everyone.

Low Glycemic Diet Images


Low-Glycemic Diet @ Wikipedia
Evidence that supports the prescription of low-carbohydrate high-fat diets: a narrative review. Noakes, et al. 2017.
Sugar consumption in acne vulgaris and seborrhoeic dermatitis. Bett, et al. 1967.
Diet and acne: a review of the evidence. Spencer, et al. 2009.
A systematic review of the evidence for ‘myths and misconceptions’ in acne management: diet, face-washing and sunlight. Magin, et al. 2005.
The role of diet in acne: facts and controversies. Davidovici, et al. 2010.
Diet and acne. Bowe. 2010.
Acne: the role of medical nutrition therapy. Burris, et al. 2013.
Relationships of self-reported dietary factors and perceived acne severity in a cohort of New York young adults. Burris, et al. 2014.
Nutrition and acne. Danby 2010.
The effect of a low glycemic load diet on acne vulgaris and the fatty acid composition of skin surface triglycerides. Smith, et al. 2008.
A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. Smith, et al. 2007.

Essential Oils

Essential Oils and Acne

Essential oils are plant extracts that contain significant quantities of biologically-active molecules. Many of these molecules are part of the plant’s natural defense mechanism against viral, bacterial and fungal infection. Some essential oils are highly toxic to acne-causing bacteria, such as Propionibacterium acnes.

Essential Oils and other plant extracts have been used in traditional medicine for millenia and they are an important component of modern Naturopathic medicine. This section includes many of the essential oils and carrier oils that are used in the Naturopathic treatment of acne.

Essential Oils (A to Z)

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Carrier Oils

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Basil Essential Oil

Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Basil Essential Oil is extracted from the leaves of several species of Basil (Ocimum spp). Basil is widely used for culinary purposes and many strains of this plant are cultivated around the world. Basil Essential Oil is also a popular component of many Naturopathic skin care treatments. Basil Essential Oil is occasionally included in topical Naturopathic acne treatments.

Thai Basil Leaves
Thai Basil Leaves

Basil has been cultivated for thousands of years and plays an important role in the traditional cuisine of many cultures. Basil Essential Oil has been shown to have a wide range of antimicrobial properties. Laboratory testing indicates that Basil Essential Oil is moderately toxic to many gram-positive bacteria, a group which includes the acne-causing P. acnes bacterium. Basil Essential Oil and other basil extracts are used in some Ayurvedic treatments for skin diseases, including acne.

Composition of Basil Essential Oil Extracted by 3 Different Methods (Charles)
Composition of Basil Essential Oil Extracted by 3 Different Methods (Charles)

When used for the treatment of acne, Basil Essential Oil is often blended into topical formulations that contain other essential oils and active ingredients. Basil Essential Oil has been purported to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and diuretic properties. Although there are few clinical research studies about the efficacy of Basil Essential Oil for the treatment of acne, the observed antibacterial properties of this essential oil warrant further investigation. Basil Essential Oil contains significant concentrations of several biologically-active molecules, such as Linalool and Methyl Chavicol.

Basil Essential Oil Images


Basil @ Wikipedia
Comparison of extraction methods for the rapid determination of essential oil content and composition of basil. Charles, et al. 1990.
Chemical composition, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of basil (Ocimum basilicum) essential oils depends on seasonal variations. Hussain, et al. 2008.
Inhibitory effect of thyme and basil essential oils, carvacrol, thymol, estragol, linalool and p-cymene towards Shigella sonnei and S. flexneri. Bagamboula, et al. 2004.
Analysis of the essential oils of two cultivated basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) from Iran. Sajjadi, et al. 2006.
Composition and antimicrobial activity of essential oils from aromatic plants used in Brazil. Sartoratto, et al. 2004.
Evaluation of in vitro antimicrobial activity of Thai basil oils and their micro‐emulsion formulas against Propionibacterium acnes. Viyoch, et al. 2006.
In vitro bioactivities of essential oils used for acne control. Lertsatitthanakorn, et al. 2006.
Antibacterial and antifungal properties of essential oils. Kalemba, et al. 2003.
Antimicrobial activity of essential oils against five strains of Propionibacterium acnes. Luangnarumitchai, et al. 2007.

Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver Grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides)

Vetiver Essential Oil is extracted from the roots of Vetiver or Khus Bunchgrass (Chrysopogon zizanioides). Vetiver grass is a fragrant grass that is widely used for culinary and Naturopathic purposes. Vetiver Essential Oil is not as well-known or widely-used as many other essential oils, but it has some unique properties that make it a useful addition to Naturopathic treatments for certain skin conditions, such as acne. Although Vetiver Essential Oil is not currently a common ingredient in Naturopathic acne treatments, it does appear to be gaining popularity for this application.

Vetiver Grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) 2
Vetiver Grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides)

Vetiver is a perennial bunchgrass that is native to the Indian subcontinent. It is a fragrant grass that is similar in appearance to Lemongrass and Citronella. Like these other fragrant grasses, the essential oil of Vetiver appears to have strong antibacterial properties. Laboratory testing indicates that Vetiver Essential Oil is highly toxic to the acne-causing P. acnes bacterium, as well as other gram-positive bacteria.

Chemical Composition of Vetiver Essential Oil (Adams)
Chemical Composition of Vetiver Essential Oil (Adams)

Vetiver Essential Oil is used in a range of aromatherapy, ayurvedic, cosmedic and naturopathic skin care products.  Vetiver Essential Oil has been claimed to have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and sedative properties. Although there has been very little clinical research to verify these claims, the antibacterial activity of Vetiver Essential Oil suggests that this essential oil deserves to be further investigated as a topical treatment for acne. Vetiver Essential Oil contains many biologically active molecules, including significant concentrations of a unique molecule called Khusimol, which may be responsible for some of the reported effects of this essential oil.

Vetiver Essential Oil Images


Vetiver @ Wikipedia
Computer-aided identification of individual components of essential oils using carbon-13 NMR spectroscopy. Tomi, et al. 1995.
Extraction of vetiver essential oil by ethanol-modified supercritical carbon dioxide. Danh, et al. 2010.
Preliminary comparison of vetiver root essential oils from cleansed (bacteria- and fungus-free) versus non-cleansed (normal) vetiver plants. Adams, et al. 2004.
A Study on the Composition of Commercial Vetiveria zizanioides Oils from Different Geographical Origins. Champagnat, et al. 2006.
Qualitative and quantitative analysis of vetiver essential oils by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography and comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Filippi, et al. 2013.
The in vitro Antimicrobial Activity and Chemometric Modelling of 59 Commercial Essential Oils against Pathogens of Dermatological Relevance. Orchard, et al. 2017.
Antibacterial and antifungal activities of essential oils. Hammer, et al. 2011.