5 Chinese Medicine Remedies For Acne That Are All Natural & Gentle On Your Skin

What really frustrates me about acne is there’s no cure-all cream or serum you can apply overnight. Ideally, the potion would seep into your pores, clean out all the bacterial junk, and like magic, blemishes would fade by morning every time. Instead, there’s a laundry list of products to choose from: balms, cleansers, those obnoxiously loud face-stimulating gadgets. Granted, some do the trick, but most of the time, its a trial-and-error process that's overpriced and risky for your skin. Personally, I’m on the lookout for solutions that are a little more natural, like Chinese medicine remedies for acne, that don’t require a prescription or a chunk of cash flowing out of my wallet.

What if the root cause of every physical ailment (illness, skin trauma, and the like) could be healed by the body itself? The idea behind Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that there’s really no need to toss back a bunch of medication when you have a cold or headache, or spend a ton of money on bottles full of product for separate skin ailments. According to TCM, the body is fully capable of making the necessary adjustments to heal itself from the inside out; your job is to help it along.

According to the Kootenay Columbia College of Integrative Health Sciences, TCM recognizes two types of acne: blemishes that sprout from "heat in the lungs and stomach," and acne that comes from phlegm build-up and poor circulation. Here's how to tell the difference: Overheating in the lungs and stomach leads to facial acne and oily skin. Phlegm build-up, on the other hand, produces "acne that is dark red and appears in clusters," which don't easily go away.

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Either way, acne is acne, and I don't know about you, but I could certainly do without it. The key is to identify what's going on internally so you can nurse the problem and clear up the issues externally. Interested in trying Chinese medicine remedies for yourself? Here are a few to get you started.

1Use Natural Topicals Instead Of Drugstore Products

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A lot of cosmetic products specifically made for acne contain ingredients that are actually super harmful on skin. Take salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, for instance. According to the Cleveland Clinic, salicylic acid can be very irritating, while benzoyl peroxide is a bleaching agent found in other cosmetic products, like hair dye — i.e. not necessarily something you want absorbing into your skin.

Chinese medicine, however, is all about taking advantage of the many nature-made topicals you probably already have tucked away in your kitchen cabinets. Mona Dan, a Beverly Hills-based acupuncturist and owner of the holistic medicine center and supplements line Vie Healing, told Well+Good that things like honey, turmeric, and oatmeal are just a few of the many kitchen items that can reverse the internal heat causing acne flare-ups.

2Pay Close Attention To Your Diet

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If I've learned anything from researching and writing about health and wellness, it's the simple truth that you really are what you eat. The foods you consume internally are going to be reflected externally, in one way or another. So when you eat a bunch of sugar-packed, processed junk foods, as tasty as they may be, your body is going to react to all that crap. Sometimes, said reaction comes in the form of forehead pimples. What can you do?

Well, I'll tell you what: According to Dr. Bobby Buka, a New York-based dermatologist and graduate of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, "hot" foods, raw foods, and poor digestion can all contribute to the onset of blemishes. In an article for MindBodyGreen, Dr. Buka wrote that eating calming foods like cucumber, as well as drinking green or herbal teas, should help.

3Get Active As Often As Possible

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You'd think working up a sweat would be a bad idea for someone battling oily, acne-prone skin, but according to acupuncturist Mona Dan, moving your body despite the blemishes can actually help clear 'em out. "It’s important to get your blood flowing, but in a moderate, non-taxing way,” she told Well+Good. “Be gentle with your body, but break a sweat.”

Stress and acne have been linked for ages, and according to Dr. Adam Friedman, an associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University, the root cause is usually a case of a stress-related hormone — otherwise known as CRH — getting all up in your skin's sebaceous glands. This causes an excessive amount of oil production, Dr. Friedman told TIME, leading to all the annoying blemishes popping up in all the wrong places. In order to prevent this domino effect, a solid plan would be to keep stress levels low, and engaging in regular exercise can help you do that.

Of course, when you're already trying to get rid of a bad blemish or two, it's a sign that your body's feeling some kind of pressure. So, rather than hitting up a bootcamp class, or trying to beat your PR in sprints, maybe opt for a relaxing yoga class instead.

4Take Advantage Of Adaptogens

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Ah, adaptogens. That health and wellness buzz word has been all over social media over the past several months, but if you (somehow) aren't familiar with the subject, allow me to explain. Adaptogens are herbal supplements you can add into recipes or drinks (or you can take them as a pill) that work to naturally reduce stress. What causes acne, again? That's right: stress. See where I'm going here?

In an article she wrote for Cameron Diaz's The Body Book blog, Mona Dan explained that taking adaptogens like ashwagandha and holy basil not only reduces stress, but it's also a way of assisting the body's natural healing process, which is what traditional Chinese medicine is all about. Dan wrote,

[Adaptogens] help the body adapt and adjust to its environment. The body is assisted in maintaining, fixing and adjusting its own natural functions and its own internal and external stressors. Lasting healing takes time, every 30 days the skin regenerates, so it’s important to keep the herbal regimen to achieve the results you’re looking for.

5Give Acupuncture A Try

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When I start to see acne pop up on my face around that time of the month, I know for a fact it's a hormonal thing. Think of it this way: Topical creams can't do much for your insides, right? At least, not in the way you need them to during your period. But even if it's not your time of the month, and your dermatologist says hormones are still to blame, you might want to try seeing an acupuncturist for relief.

"Acupressure helps to clear heat and toxins from the body," integrative health expert Dr. Taz Bhatia told Bustle. The goal is to regulate hormones first, so that inflammation and bacteria can subside afterward, thus clearing up your skin. Hey, it's worth a shot, right?