Chinese Medicine to Clear Your Acne

Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc

Understanding Acne And Tips To Clear Your Skin From A TCM Perspective

Acne is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages, causing frustration and negatively impacting self-confidence. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) not only offers an interesting perspective on the causes of acne but also offers a holistic approach to clear skin by addressing the underlying imbalances within the body. 

Acne is attributed to imbalances in the body’s internal environment. It’s not just a superficial issue as many may perceive it to be. 

TCM views acne as a result of various factors or causes. We call these “patterns of disharmony”. Here are some patterns of disharmony that relate to acne from a TCM perspective:

  • Heat and Dampness: This is the most common culprit of acne that I see in my clinical practice. Heat can arise from stagnation of Qi (energy), while dampness refers to an accumulation of heavy fluids. Heat and dampness combine to create an environment conducive to the formation of acne. Heat and dampness can increase inflammation and clog pores. 
  • Blood Stagnation: Poor blood circulation or stagnation can lead to the formation of acne. When the blood flow is obstructed, toxins and impurities can accumulate, resulting in the development of acne lesions.
  • Qi Deficiency & Qi Stagnation: TCM places great emphasis on the flow of Qi throughout the body. Qi imbalances, such as Qi deficiency or Qi stagnation, can disrupt the normal functioning of the body and contribute to the development of acne. Qi deficiency may weaken the body’s ability to combat acne-causing factors, while Qi stagnation can impede the proper movement of energy and blood, leading to acne formation.

Emotional Factors:
TCM recognizes the impact of emotions on overall health. Emotional imbalances, such as stress, anxiety, unfulfilled desires, or frustration, can affect the body’s internal environment, including the appearance of the skin. Emotional stress can disrupt the free flow of Qi and blood, leading to acne flare-ups.

Hormonal Imbalances:
Hormonal fluctuations, particularly during puberty, menstrual cycles, or hormonal disorders, are considered significant factors in acne development according to TCM. These imbalances can affect the flow of Qi and blood, leading to heat accumulation and increased sebum production.

Diet and Lifestyle:
TCM greatly acknowledges the role of diet and lifestyle in acne formation. Excessive consumption of greasy, spicy, or sweet foods, as well as poor dietary habits and irregular eating patterns, can contribute to internal heat and dampness, exacerbating acne. Additionally, factors such as lack of sleep, inadequate exercise, and improper skincare routines may also affect the body’s internal balance and contribute to acne.

TCM aims to address the underlying imbalances within the body to effectively treat acne. Treatments involve herbal prescriptions, acupuncture, acupressure, dietary adjustments, lifestyle modifications, and stress management. All of these treatments are individualized. 

By restoring balance, freeing the flow of Qi, clearing heat and dampness, and promoting blood circulation, TCM aims to clear acne and improve overall skin health. It is recommended to consult with a qualified TCM practitioner (like myself) for a personalized diagnosis and treatment plan based on your individual imbalances and constitutional factors.

  • Follow a Balanced Diet: Diet plays a significant role in TCM’s approach to clearing acne. Emphasize a balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid or minimize greasy, spicy, and processed foods that can contribute to heat and dampness. Focus on nourishing your body with foods that support skin health, such as cucumber, mung beans, and leafy greens.
  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for overall health and maintaining clear skin. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help flush out toxins and keep your skin hydrated. Additionally, you can incorporate herbal teas like chrysanthemum or dandelion root tea, known for their detoxifying properties.
  • Manage Stress: Stress can disrupt the balance of the body, leading to hormonal imbalances and triggering acne. Practice stress management techniques such as daily walks, meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or tai chi. These practices help calm the mind and free the flow of Qi.
  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity is beneficial for overall well-being and can help improve acne. Exercise promotes blood circulation, frees the flow of qi, and supports detoxification processes. Incorporate activities like walking, jogging, swimming, or practicing qigong into your routine.
  • Follow a Consistent Skincare Routine: Maintaining a consistent and gentle skincare routine is essential for managing acne. Cleanse your skin with mild, natural products suitable for your skin type. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubs that can irritate and disrupt the skin’s natural balance. Moisturize your skin to keep it hydrated and protect the skin barrier. 
  • Seek Acupuncture and Herbal Remedies: Acupuncture and herbal remedies are integral components of TCM for acne treatment. Acupuncture sessions help rebalance the body’s energy and address specific imbalances contributing to acne. A qualified TCM practitioner, like myself, can design a customized treatment plan for you. I also prescribe customized herbal remedies that target internal imbalances, clear skin, and promote healing of acne scars.
  • Optimize Sleep Habits: Proper sleep is essential for skin health and overall well-being. Establish a regular sleep routine and aim for sufficient quality sleep each night. Create a conducive sleep environment, free from distractions, and practice relaxation techniques before bedtime to ensure a restful night’s sleep. Try to go to bed before 10:30 pm. 

Clearing acne from a TCM perspective involves a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of imbalance within the body. By following a balanced diet, managing stress, engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a consistent skincare routine, and incorporating TCM therapies like acupuncture and herbal remedies, you can support your body’s natural healing processes. Remember, consulting with a qualified TCM practitioner will provide you with personalized advice and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

Find out your Premenstrual Acne Type:

If you notice that your acne flares up around the time of your menstrual cycles, you have premenstrual acne due to hormonal imbalance. I have created an online assessment of premenstrual acne that will help you determine your premenstrual acne type and give you customized recommendations to start you on your way to clearer healthier skin and balanced hormones. 


Dr. Maryam’s Services

In addition to taking the above online assessment, you can also book an online health consultation with me to speak further about your skin health and delve deeper into your differential Chinese medicine diagnosis and customized recommendations. 


If you are in the greater Vancouver, BC area, you can book an
in-person appointment for acupuncture and herbal services. 

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Not from the area? No problem, I can support you remotely from anywhere you are in the world.  All you need is either a computer, tablet or smartphone, and an internet connection (for videoconferencing). Read more below about my Online Services (Click here).

Also check out my Self-Treatment Online Courses for women and men offering simple ways to improve your health, with a special focus on fertility, pregnancy, and women’s health conditions and to look and feel your best. My online self-treatment programs help you and your partner right out of the comfort of your home. Check back regularly as I continue to add new courses.

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