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Five Natural Acne Treatments: Zinc, Glycolic Acid, Niacinamide, Tea Tree Oil, and Guggul

Acne vulgaris, the technical term for what most people simply call acne, is the most common skin disease in the US of emotional distress and can lead to scarring of the skin.

Conventional medical treatment prescribes topical treatments and oral antibiotics for acne. If these don’t work well enough or you prefer to use a natural approach, consider these five herbal and nutritional remedies proven to help clear acne.

Five natural acne treatments

1. Zinc. People with acne have lower levels of zinc in their bodies than people without acne, and those with severe acne have lower levels of zinc than those with milder cases.

In a scientifically rigorous study, patients with inflammatory acne who were treated with 200 mg. per day of zinc gluconate experienced a significantly greater reduction in inflammation compared to those who did not receive the treatment.

Keep in mind that it may take up to 12 weeks before you see any improvement from taking zinc. Also know that long-term use of zinc requires 1-2 mg. of copper every day to prevent a copper deficiency.

2. Glycolic acid. This substance, often isolated from foods such as sugar cane, beets, pineapples, melons and green grapes, speeds up the skin’s renewal process. In over-the-counter products, it may be listed as an alpha hydroxy acid.

Glycolic Acid penetrates through cell walls and stimulates the skin to produce new, healthier collagen and elastin fibers in the deeper dermis. Glycolic acid also weakens the “glue” that holds dead cells to the skin’s surface. When these cells dissolve, smoother, softer skin is revealed. It also helps unclog pores and thus decrease the tendency to develop acne.

3. Niacinamide. In a controlled clinical trial, 38 patients with moderate inflammatory acne were treated with 4% niacinamide topical gel, while an equal number received 1% clindamycin topical gel. Patients in the first group achieved slightly greater improvements than those in the second group. Because it’s safe, effective, and without the risk associated with antibiotics of developing resistant strains of bacteria, consider Niacinamide 4% Topical Gel as an alternative treatment for your acne.

4. Tea tree oil. When researchers compared the use of topical tea tree oil (5% gel) with benzoyl peroxide (5% gel) in the treatment of mild to moderate acne, both had a significant effect in reducing the number of lesions inflamed and non-inflamed, although the tea tree oil took longer to start working. Fortunately, patients who were treated with tea tree oil experienced fewer side effects.

However, the 5% tea tree oil solution is probably not strong enough for moderate to severe acne. Stronger solutions (up to 15%) should provide even better results.

5. Guggul. This is an herb that comes from a flowering plant common in North India. The resinous gum extract of this plant is called gugulipid. In a study that randomly assigned 20 patients to take Tetracycline 500 mg. twice a day for 90 days, or gugulipid twice a day for 90 days, patients in the guggul group had slightly better results. Additionally, participants with oily skin seemed to respond better to gugulipid treatment.

Why try natural treatments?

Antibiotics and many other prescription drugs often cause unrelated symptoms as side effects. Where natural substances are equally effective, or where you can’t tolerate prescription medications, it may make more sense to use natural alternatives.

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