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Why Natural Approaches Don't Work for Acne

acne diet Nov 10, 2022


If you have acne, you've likely tried some version of the following to get your skin under control: organic skin products, essential oils, coconut oil, honey, oil cleansing, apple cider vinegar, "skin" vitamins and supplements, elimination or anti-inflammatory diets (no: sugar, dairy, caffeine, gluten), charcoal cleansing, body detoxification, fasting, juice cleansing, allergy testing, not using any skin products, etc.

In theory, some of these ideas make sense: acne is an inflammatory issue within the body. To correct the issue, simply reduce inflammation, bring the body back into balance, and the breakouts will go away. The problem is, this theory doesn't actually work.

Here's why: the root cause of acne is a condition called retention hyperkeratosis, which means your pores fill up with excessive dead skin cells on a daily basis. While tea tree and lavender oil are antibacterial and eliminating sugar, dairy and gluten will reduce inflammation in your body, none of these things can control the excessive skin build-up inside your pores that happens daily. This build-up forms comedones, which are the start of all acne lesions. 

Here's a guideline to keep in mind when trying something new for acne: if your skin has not significantly improved within 3 months of starting a new product or treatment, whatever you're doing is not preventing acne from forming, which means it is likely not going to work for you. It takes about 1-3 months for a pimple to get to the surface of the skin once formed, and if you're beyond that timeframe without any improvement, it's a clear indication new acne is still forming.

Acne is an aggressive condition and at our clinic, we control it in two ways: managing retention hyperkeratosis topically and by eliminating the specific issues that cause breakouts in the first place. The large majority of our clients get their acne under control in 3-4 months. Those who take longer usually have an underlying issue working against them, such as birth control or medication that causes acne. 

In nearly 20 years as an acne specialist, I have rarely had to have a client resort to dramatic dietary changes to get their skin under control - it's just not necessary and causes stress, which can lead to  breakouts. 

The most effective way to keep your skin clear is to use topical products daily to prevent dead skin cells from accumulating inside your pores. This is not to say that diet, for example, doesn't play a role in acne (it does!), but things like elimination diets and detoxification should be a last resort and not a starting point. 


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