I saw a woman in my clinic this week who was struggling badly to get her acne under control. As is often the case, she was understandably really stressed about it. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle though, as stress tends to exacerbate outbreaks. Chinese medicine has a good track record when it comes to skin issues, not least because it tends to try and correct the underlying imbalance rather than just treating the symptoms. Herbs and acupuncture do work especially well here, but there are also things you can do yourself which may help.
Let’s start by trying to pinpoint the cause. Any number of factors may be causing your acne. But most commonly I see two main types:
*Too much heat in the stomach and lungs – which will usually present as acne on the face with oily or shiny skin.
*Acne due to stagnation of phlegm, dampness and blood (basically a build-up of phlegm and poor circulation) – this type is dark red and appears in clusters.
If you aren’t sure which of these is you, don’t worry. Whatever the cause, taking steps to lower your stress levels, calm the heat and restore your circulation will almost certainly help.
3 ways to tackle Acne
*Get to work at clearing the internal source of the heat. In Chinese medicine the skin is controlled by the lungs; which is why acne is commonly a sign of heat in this area. It’s a good place to focus your attention first. Gua Sha directly onto the chest area – allow it to go red and sha to come up. Learn more about gua sha.
I don’t recommend Gua Sha on acne itself. However, it can be effective to lessen the marks left by an acne outbreak. Never treat broken skin, and don’t use oil on congested skin – working over clothes is still effective.
*Try to start building Qigong into your daily routine. Even just a few minutes will support your circulation. Lifting the sky is a great one to start with – learn more here. (link to qigong exercise page)
*Eat for your skin. Mung beans are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants. You can also buy mung bean powder to mix with Greek yoghurt and apply topically as a mask.
You can find out more about supporting your stomach and lungs here:
Link to lung help sheet and stomach help sheet.