It is the choice of the individual to use natural and alternative therapies in the treatment of acne, either by itself, or to compliment conventional medications. These natural remedies can help to reduce inflammation, and infection, and in severe cases a combination of treatment might get the best results.
Vitamins A and E. The benefits of vitamins A and E in acne treatment was highlighted in a study in which investigators compared the plasma vitamin A and E concentrations in 100 untreated patients with acne, compared with 100 healthy controls. In the patients that suffered from acne the plasma concentrations of both vitamins were significantly lower than those of the healthy individuals. This showed a strong relationship between a decline in vitamin A and E levels and an increase in the severity of acne.
These findings supports previous research which found that supplementation with vitamin A is beneficial in inflammatory conditions, including acne. Equally, vitamin A deficiency induces inflammation and aggravates existing inflammatory conditions. In fact, vitamin A in its retinoid form has long been an important treatment for acne.
Lipoic acid. It has been tested for several decades how effective lipoic acid is in the treatment of acne. Reportedly, lipoic acid activates a factor in the body known as AP-1, which produces enzymes that digest damaged collagen and helps erase scars, including acne scars. Topical ointments that contain lipoic acid as an ingredient can assist in improving scarring, and this can be taken in oral supplements as well.
Zinc. This mineral is very potent in the treatment of acne as it appears to perform a threefold role. Firstly Zinc can help to reduce inflammation, secondly it kills Propionibacterium acnes (the main bacteria associated with the condition), and lastly zinc produces changes in the skin environment that make it more hostile to this bacterium for a longer time. A two-month study of the efficacy of zinc gluconate (30 mg once daily) in 30 patients with inflammatory acne showed a reduction in the number of inflammatory lesions after the treatment period, and improved effectiveness of the antibiotic erythromycin among patients with antibiotic-resistant organisms. In a double-blind study, a combination of 1.2% zinc and 4% erythromycin in a topical lotion was used by 14 individuals with acne. It was founds that the combination of zinc and erythromycin significantly reduced secretion of sebum after six weeks of treatment. Further, a topical preparation of zinc acetate was found to prolong the duration of erythromycin on skin, potentially overcoming some mechanisms of erythromycin resistance.
It is very interesting to note that clinical trials of zinc preparations have demonstrated their equivalence to antibiotics, with the added benefit of having more convenient dosing schedules, and less harmful effects of antibiotic treatment. A study that compared a cream containing chloroxylenol and zinc oxide showed no difference in efficacy compared with 5% benzoyl peroxide, but it did find significantly less skin drying and irritation with the zinc-containing cream. Finally, a 2005 study demonstrated that a gel containing clindamycin plus zinc, applied once or twice daily, achieved the same benefit obtained by clindamycin lotion alone used twice daily.
Niacinamide (nicotinamide). Niacinamide is one of the two principle forms of niacin, and proves to be very effective in acne treatment when applied topically to the skin. In a State University of New York study, a 4% nicotinamide gel was compared to a 1%clindamycin gel for the treatment of moderate inflammatory acne in 76 patients. Treatment was applied twice daily for eight weeks. At the end of treatment, 82% of the nicotinamide patients and 68% of the clindamycin patients were improved. An additional fact to keep in mind with the use of topical clindamycin is that it is also associated with the development of resistant microorganisms, which makes the use of niacinamide even more preferred. Nicotinamide cream has also been shown to reduce the amount of sebum present on the skin, thus assisting in acne treatment.
Essential Fatty Acids (EPA /DHA). The two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are well-known tried & tested anti-inflammatories that have been shown in dozens of studies to reduce general inflammation. Although their effect on acne and skin inflammation has not yet been extensively studied, their ability to reduce inflammation in general suggests they might be beneficial with a role in the treatment of acne. Several studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids are absorbed through the skin and can reduce inflammation in a particular area.
Herbal Therapy. Even though herbal therapy is often suggested for acne, there are few controlled scientific studies that have been conducted to confirm any claims. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of Ayurvedic (ancient Hindu) herbal preparations, researchers randomly assigned either placebo or one of four Ayurvedic formulas to 82 people with moderate cases of acne. One formulation, Sunder Vati, significantly reduced the number of inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions. Sunder Vati consists of a combination of ginger (Zingiber officinale), Holarrhena antidysenterica, and Embelia ribes.
Several other herbs have anti-inflammatory properties that may be helpful in the treatment of skin conditions, although there are no scientific studies that have been performed with acne. The herbs include calendula (Calendula officinalis), German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), and licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra). These herbs are found in some natural skin-care products, and may be effective on an individual basis.