Zap your zits

March 2014

By Deepak Acharya

Pulverise your pimples into extinction with a panoply of herbal easy to source ingredients, says Dr Deepak Acharya


Acne may not rank as a life-threatening disease, but for almost all teenagers, it constitutes a major tragedy. At a time when self-esteem is most intimately tied with one’s appearance, along comes the acne to rain upon our parade. But there is hope. There exist a plethora of herbal options which safely, naturally and effectively eliminate that spoilsport, and restore our complexion.

 Acne starts with the over-production of sebum from the sebaceous glands which results in the blockage of the pores with a sticky mass of dead cells and oil. It results in infection that occurs due to bacteria normally present in the skin. These convert the mass into compounds that cause inflammation and unattractive raised surfaces. Skin irritation may also result from the use of synthetic cosmetics. The problem worsens by pinching, squeezing, scratching or rubbing the affected skin area.

Common triggers

One of the most common causes is hormonal imbalance that occurs during adolescence. Other factors are emotional stress and surging sex hormones. During puberty, androgen (a sex hormone), stimulates the oil glands typically seen on the face, chest, back and shoulders. Many girls are prone to acne during the week before menstruation.

The prime suspects are sugars, saturated fat and iodised salt (liberally used on crisps, chips, and other fast food).  A diet based on junk food, snacks, chocolates, soft drinks, and alcohol is low in several vital nutrients. Deficiency of these nutrients may result in eruption of acne.

Eat well to beat acne

A nutritious diet eaten at regular meal times is essential as this plays a big role in preventing and treating acne. It is not just a matter of what you eat, but more about what you do not eat.

  1.  Many acne sufferers are deficient in zinc. Nuts, yoghurt, skimmed milk and skinless poultry can supplement this mineral in the diet.
  2. A diet rich in polyunsaturated fats has been known to counteract the problem in people suffering from acne.
  3.  People with acne should eat plenty of green and orange vegetables and fruits (carrots, spinach, apricots, and mangoes), and eggs. These are a good source of Vitamin A which helps to maintain healthy skin.
  4. Several of the B complex group of vitamins is believed to prevent blackheads and acne. It also helps in oil control. A diet rich in Vitamin C helps to combat infections. Vitamin E has a healing effect on the skin. It is found in wheat germ, eggs and cold-pressed vegetable oils.

Herbal remedies

There are several herbal remedies available for curing acne. Take your pick:

  •  Rub your acne with raw garlic several times a day.
  • The pulp of aloe vera is an exceptional skin cleanser. The juice of the plant counteracts infections and promotes healing. Tear off a portion of the aloe vera leaf and rub the fleshy portion directly on the skin.
  •  Make a tea infusion from amaranth seeds, and use as a face wash. To make the tea bring three cups of water to boil, add two teaspoons of seeds. Cover and boil for five minutes; remove from heat and add one teaspoon of leaves and steep for
    30 minutes.
  •  Neem is valued in ayurvedic medicine for its varied healing properties due to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral capabilities. Five fresh leaves chewed everyday in the morning helps in removing stubborn acne.
  •  Clean your skin, and apply lemon juice with a cotton ball. The acid in lemon helps flush out the pores and keeps the skin glowing. Another method using lemon juice is to steam your face over boiling water infused with lemon to loosen the dirt and oil from the pores. Wipe the face with a cotton ball. Make this a weekly ritual.
  •  Drink tea made by combining 0.5 teaspoons of coriander, cumin and fennel, and steeping it in boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink the tea after breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  •  Make an infusion of basil leaves. Put two to four teaspoons of dried basil leaves in a cup of boiling water, steep for 10 to 20 minutes, cool, and apply to the acne.
  •  Liquidise a peeled cucumber in a blender and apply the juice to the acne. Another variation of this remedy is to drink four or five cups of cucumber juice daily for a week. This is said to purify the blood and lymphatic system, resulting in a clear skin.
  •  Grape seed extract is a powerful all-around antimicrobial agent, and is an excellent disinfectant. Make a solution of 4-40 drops in four ounces of water and apply to the affected areas with a cotton ball two or three times a day.
  • Wash your face with chickpea paste (mix one teaspoon of chick-pea flour with a little water). Dry with a clean towel. This is also a good remedy to cure acne.
  •  Make a blend of one part beetroot juice, three parts carrot juice and two parts water to stimulate the liver and to cleanse the system.

Skin care

First of all, get rid of associated infections such as skin irritants and dandruff. Keep your hands off your face as squeezing the acne will worsen it, and spread to the other areas of skin. It also leaves ugly marks even after it is healed. Minimise consumption of coffee, tea and soft drinks as the caffeine content is harmful to the skin. Cut down consumption of chocolates, fried food, salted snacks and added sugar. Yoga, meditation and exercise are great for a healthy body and healthy mind.

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