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Does Chinese Medicine Work for Acne?

Explore how Chinese Medicine promotes clear skin


A common skin concern that affects many people, acne can be physically and emotionally debilitating. Thankfully, however, there’s a lot that can be done to help. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acne is viewed holistically and – by many accounts – healed with herbs. 


But does Chinese medicine work for acne, really? Or is it just hope in a jar? Read on to learn about the underlying causes of acne according to TCM. And the proven role of specific herbs in reducing the severity and frequency of breakouts.

What is acne? 

Acne is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that can involve either non-inflammatory or inflammatory lesions. Typically painless, non-inflammatory acne refers to blocked pores that turn into whiteheads and blackheads. Inflammatory acne, on the other hand, results in skin redness and discomfort with painful papules, pustules and cysts. 


A common condition, acne affects around 85% of Australians aged 15-24. It regularly appears in young people during hormonal changes in adolescence. Yet, contrary to popular belief, adult acne is also very common. If untreated, existing acne can persist into adulthood. Or you may experience acne for the first time, due to a mix of genetic, lifestyle and hormonal factors. 


What is Chinese Medicine? 

Practised for centuries, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) involves a mix of therapies, including herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping, tui na (massage) and acupressure. Primary medicine in Asian countries such as China and Taiwan, it’s classed as complimentary medicine in Australia and other western countries. However, the modern and western world is increasingly turning its interest toward Chinese Medicine, and there are now numerous and growing studies proving its efficacy. 

In Chinese Medicine, the body is viewed as a whole, interconnected system. So if you have acne, for example, it’s considered part of a broader pattern – not just something happening in your skin. And whatever you’re presenting with, TCM treatment is always focused on the root cause, not just symptoms. 


What causes acne according to Chinese Medicine?

Where the West views acne primarily as a build-up of oil, bacteria and dead skin cells, Chinese Medicine looks deeper. In TCM, health conditions such as acne are believed to arise due to imbalances in the body. So it follows that if you’re struggling with acne, you may also be experiencing other health issues. 


Generally, in Chinese Medicine, acne is seen as a build-up of heat and toxicity that causes skin inflammation, and it can also be due to poor circulation. However, different types of acne can signify specific imbalances and go hand in hand with symptoms like PMS and digestive issues. 


How is Chinese Medicine for acne different from Western treatment?

Chinese Medicine addresses acne holistically by reviewing underlying causes and imbalances in the body. The goal is to provide long-term solutions, not quick fixes. Western treatments often use harsh topical products that intend to treat acne quickly. They can therefore be aggressive or drying to the skin, with potential side effects.


According to founder of Zilch Formulas Vivian, Chinese Medicine tackles acne in several ways.


“A Chinese Medicine practitioner will be able to prescribe herbs to help resolve your acne. They may also recommend acupuncture, which can be very beneficial in improving blood flow and is particularly useful for acne scarring. 


“I know it’s not always possible to see a practitioner, however, and this is why I created Zilch Acne Formula to be a non-prescription product, easily purchased online. TGA ARTG listed, it combines 17 Chinese Medicine herbs specifically chosen to address the underlying causes of breakouts.”


Which herbs can help with breakouts?


Alongside acupuncture, herbs are a core pillar of Chinese Medicine. Hundreds of herbs are used –classified according to The Four Natures (from cold to hot), The Five Tastes (pungent, sweet, sour, bitter and salty) and The Meridians (or the organ the herb acts upon)1. 


In Chinese herbal medicine, natural ingredients are used to treat the body without the need for chemicals. And, according to Vivian, this can be very beneficial for skin conditions and chronic breakouts. 


Herbs that boost circulation like Peach Kernel, Safflower and Red Sage Root help to relieve blood stasis which can cause difficult-to-treat types of acne. Meanwhile, Viola, Dandelion and Fragrant Angelica Root encourage the removal of toxins from the body. And Chinese Angelica Root is another Chinese Medicine herb that improves the skin’s appearance. Promoting tissue generation, it assists with healing damaged skin, such as acne scarring. 


These herbs – and others – are found in Zilch Acne Formula. With no nasty chemicals, preservatives or fillers added in the mix. 


Chinese Medicine for acne herbal ingredients with mortar and pestle

Can topical treatments work as well as oral herbs?


Chinese Medicine herbs are also used successfully in topical treatments for acne. The right type of herbs at the right concentration can reduce skin inflammation, promote healing, dry out pus and alleviate redness.

Herbs can be added to topical products like creams, serums, ointments and face masks. Stay tuned – a Herbal Acne Mask is coming soon to the Zilch Formulas range!


Is Chinese Medicine for hormonal acne effective?


Hormonal acne occurs when there’s an imbalance of, or increased or decreased amount of, hormones in the body leading to increased sebum production and androgen levels2. Often, a rise in progesterone before a women’s menstrual cycle can cause acne breakouts. However, hormonal acne can also affect men.


Traditional Chinese Medicine can assist with hormonal irregularities that can exacerbate acne symptoms, and help regulate hormone-related symptoms like bloating, headaches, cramping and muscle pain. The herbs used in Chinese Medicine harmonise irregularities in the body’s systems to find balance when hormone levels spike.


Can Traditional Chinese Medicine treat all types of acne?


Most types of acne can be healed with Chinese Medicine herbs if they target the related imbalances in the body.


“Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at changing the underlying patterns that the body is struggling with to create a long-term change,” explains Vivian.


Different imbalances may trigger different types of acne. “If your breakouts occur less frequently and align with PMS or your period, then the focus should be on balancing hormone levels,” explains Vivian. “Whereas consistently inflamed acne indicates a build-up of heat and toxicity and requires a different approach.”

Understanding the root cause of acne is key to treating it with Chinese Medicine. And looking at your acne patterns will tell you most of what you need to know. 


A final word on Chinese Medicine for acne… 


Chinese Medicine is based on the central belief that all systems are linked. By prescribing herbs, your practitioner can help you manage stress, anxiety and other emotional imbalances which increase cortisol levels (stress hormone) and inflammation – both known contributors to acne. Or you could try Zilch Acne Formula – a patented herbal acne supplement with real results and hundreds of genuine and real-user 5-star reviews.


Ready to get started on your clear skin journey with an effective, all-natural supplement? Shop Zilch Acne Formula today. 

Additional References


  1., Traditional Chinese Medicine. 
  2. Thomas. J, Parimalam. K, & Sindhu. R.B. (2013) Hormonal acne: leading to a paradigm shift in the management of acne, Expert Review of Dermatology, 8:3, 225-227, DOI: 10.1586/edm.13.21

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