An ancient practice is a new way to treat it.
Acupuncture is a fairly common way to treat everything from migraines to depression to sports injuries. But acne? Some acupuncturists believe the oldest technique of acupuncture is the newest way to handle outbreaks. “Acne is an imbalance of hormones that throw the neural system out of whack,” says Philip Trigiani, a licensed acupuncturist in New York City. “Acupuncture restores balance.”
The 5,000 year-old Chinese practice of acupuncture, primarily used to treat pain, is based on the premise that the flow of energy through the human body is essential for health. When that energy flow is disrupted, the function of tissue, muscles and organs is impaired and disease or infection can occur. The placement of hair-thin, sterile needles at specific acupoints in the body reinvigorates that flow.
The stress of modern life can wreak havoc on our ‘flow’ too, and it also triggers an assortment of hormones into the bloodstream. These stress hormones can increase oil production, which in turn can contribute to acne (other steps in the acne process include pore—clogging dead skin cells, proliferation of the p. acnes bacteria and inflammation). It’s believed that acupuncture can help reduce stress and therefore lower stress hormone levels, helping to calm acne. I had suffered my own skin outbreak of fever blisters that Trigiani said was stress-induced. He successfully treated my condition with acupuncture.
Dermatologists, who usually recommend a combination approach to treat acne with the FDA-approved medicines benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and salicylic acid, are not convinced. New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD for example, says she’s heard of acupuncture cures, but that more research needs to be conducted to back it up.
Meanwhile, Trigiani’s gung-ho for the method’s effectiveness on everything from acne and other skin legions to rashes. “If I saw 100 people, 100 people got relief.” Adding, “Acupuncture goes to the root, not the branch.”
The stress/acne connection is real. Katie Rodan, MD dermatologist and creator of Proactiv+ says, “I have had a few patients who have tried acupuncture for acne to no avail. The only possible way I can fathom acupuncture benefitting acne is if it helps with stress reduction.”
Lowering stress through acupuncture certainly can’t hurt, and if it clears up your acne, even better.