People with acne often turn to complementary or alternative treatments. These may include gels, creams, and lotions; dietary supplements and herbs; and special dietary routines.

Many people swear by alternative acne treatments. But the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that "all-natural supplements" have not been shown to be effective, and some may even be harmful. For example, the group cites an over-the-counter (OTC) acne supplement that contained more than 200 times the amount of selenium stated on the label. It caused a wide range of toxic reactions. The AAD also states that there is emerging research that suggests that high glycemic index diets (those high in processed carbs and sugar) and dairy (particularly skim milk) may be associated with acne.

Many people swear by alternative acne treatments. But the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that "all-natural supplements" have not been shown to be effective, and some may even be harmful. For example, the group cites an over-the-counter (OTC) acne supplement that contained more than 200 times the amount of selenium stated on the label. It caused a wide range of toxic reactions. The AAD also states that there is emerging research that suggests that high glycemic index diets (those high in processed carbs and sugar) and dairy (particularly skim milk) may be associated with acne.

Alternative acne treatments haven't been well-studied. Therefore, sources such as the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database typically offer only tepid recommendations. For instance, oral zinc supplements are rated as only "possibly effective." The same is true for topical preparations that contain zinc. Until there is better research, it's impossible to say which alternative acne treatments work and which ones don't.

The Rationale for Alternative Acne Treatments

acne-treatment-teenager

Acne treatment teenager

Conventional acne treatments don't always work for everyone. They can also cause side effects ranging from skin irritation to birth defects. Another concern, since antibiotics are used in so many conventional acne treatments, is antibiotic resistance. A study in the U.K. reported that more than one out of every two acne patients treated with antibiotics carried resistant strains of two different bacteria often found on the skin.

Proponents of alternative treatments point out that acne is unknown in so-called "Stone Age" societies. On the other hand, it affects up to 95% of adolescents in industrialized societies. This suggests, they say, that a Western diet may be a major factor in the development of acne.

Hundreds of alternative treatments for acne are promoted on the Internet and elsewhere as being safe and effective. Alternative treatments, though, do not need to be tested and shown to be safe before they are sold online or placed on store shelves in the U.S. So, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of any alternative remedy with your doctor or dermatologist before starting treatment.

Research is not conclusive, but some preliminary studies suggest that the following alternative acne treatments might offer some benefits.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey comes from New Zealand where the manuka bush is indigenous. So-called "active" manuka honey is widely promoted on the Internet as an acne remedy. The claim is mostly based on studies that suggest it has significant antibacterial and wound-healing properties.

Manuka-Honey

Manuka Honey

In one study, researchers observed that honey-impregnated wound dressings have gained increasing acceptance in hospitals and clinics worldwide. But they also pointed out it's unclear how they work. So they investigated the ability of three different types of honey to quench the production of free radicals. In their report, they stated that manuka honey was the most effective.

On the Internet, patient testimonials about manuka honey's effects on acne range from glowing to dismissive. To date, however, there have been no definitive studies to prove or disprove the effectiveness of manuka honey.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of a small tree native to Australia. It has long been touted as a safe and effective alternative treatment for acne. In 1990, researchers studied 124 acne patients. Some were treated with 5% tea tree oil in a water-based gel. Others were treated with 5% benzoyl peroxide, an ingredient found in many over-the-counter acne remedies.

Tea-Tree-Oil

Tea Tree Oil

Fruit acids include citric, gluconic, gluconolactone, glycolic,malic, and tartaric acids. These have natural properties that help them remove skin.

Other practitioners recommend treatments which have been approved by the German Commission E. The German Commission E is a European agency that studies herbal remedies. These include oral acne treatments such as:

  • Vitex, a whole-fruit extract for treating premenstrual acne. It's thought to act on follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone levels in the pituitary. It's said to increase progesterone levels and reduce estrogen levels. Vitex should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women.
  • Brewer's yeast, which has antimicrobial effects.

These practitioners also recommend topical bittersweet nightshade, which also has antimicrobial effects.

Acne Scars

What Are Acne Scars?

Acne scars are marks left behind after the acne itself has gone away. It’s common to have scarring.

Treatment can help make them less noticeable. A dermatologist (skin doctor) can help you choose the right ones for you. They’ll look at your scarring and make recommendations based on the type of damage to your skin and how serious it is.

Types of Acne Scars

Acne can leave different types of scars depending on what kind it is and how you take care of it. There are at least seven types:

  • Ice pick: deep but small pits
  • Boxcar: sharp angles and edges; can be shallow or deep
  • Rolling: tend to be wide and shallow (a wavy look) caused by damage under the surface
  • Hypertrophic: raised scar tissue where acne was
  • Keloid: raised scar that’s larger than acne was
  • Dark spots or staining: skin looks red to purple
  • Perifollicular elastolysis: flesh-colored or yellow

Acne Scar Clinical Treatment

You may need more than one kind of treatment to smooth your skin. Most are done in the doctor’s office or as an outpatient procedure at the hospital.

Acne-Scar-Clinical-Treatment

Acne Scar Clinical Treatment

Skin resurfacing. The goal is to remove damaged layers of skin so that new, healthy skin appears. There are four major ways your doctor can do this:

  • Laser. A laser creates a more even surface to your skin.
  • Dermabrasion. A rapidly spinning wheel with a rough surface removes damaged skin.
  • Chemical peel. A special type of acid removes the top layer of your skin. This can help with deeper scars.

Microdermabrasion. Tiny crystals sprayed onto the skin may help with mild scars.

New skin will begin to form about 7-10 days after resurfacing. The area may stay pink from several weeks to several months.

Fillers. Your doctor puts a filler (collagen or fat) into the damaged area with a needle. It puffs up the skin under the scar to help smooth it out. Because your body slowly absorbs the filler, the process needs to be repeated from time to time.

Microneedling (or rolling). The doctor rolls a device covered in tiny needles over your skin. It’s a safe way to stimulate the tissue under it to grow. You may have to do it several times. Sometimes, doctors call this collagen induction therapy.

Skin tightening. A doctor uses a type of energy called radiofrequency to tighten the skin.

Injections. A doctor will inject medicines such as corticosteroids, chemotherapy, or Botox, usually once every few weeks.

Electrodesiccation. This treatment uses an electric probe to heat and kill skin tissue. This can help with boxcar scars.

Surgery. Some people need an operation to remove bad acne scars or cysts. Your doctor cuts away or loosens the scars. The area is then repaired with stitches or a skin graft (skin from another area of the body).

Cryosurgery. Treatment freezes skin to help raised scars fall off.

PRP. Platelet-rich plasma is taken from your own blood and injected into scars once a month for 4 months.

Be Sure to Ask:

Regardless of which procedure you may be considering, you’ll have questions. Make a list and bring it to the appointment. Here are some you may want to ask:

  • Will I need other treatments?
  • Will it hurt?
  • What are the risks?
  • How long before I see a change?
  • Will I need to have the treatment more than once?
  • What can I do (or not do) after surgery?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What will my insurance cover?

Acne Scar Home Treatment and Prevention

You can take steps to help with acne scars at home. If the scar changes your skin color, you may be able to use over-the-counter bleaching products to lighten the area, or sunscreen to keep it from getting darker.

To lower your chance of scarring, take gentle care of your skin. Dermatologists offer these tips:

  • Don’t pick, pop, or squeeze your acne.
  • Use gentle cleansers. Don’t scrub.
  • Scar creams, gels, or silicone dressings can help scars fade.
  • Over-the-counter bleaching agents can help with dark spots.
  • Use sunscreen or avoid the sun.
Acne Alternative Treatments What’s Most Effective
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