Acne treatment – Natural and Pharmaceutical

Acne is no fun at any age!
We see a lot of clients seeking acne treatment at Body Institute. There’s so much confusion around what you should and shouldn’t be doing in terms of both your diet and your topical skin care regime. 

So let’s clear the air, and your skin!

Start with finding the cause

Let’s look at where your acne is surfacing to give us an indication of where your body needs the most support.
When I look at the face, I can map it out to these 4 general zones. 

Forehead = Liver Stress
Cheeks = Digestive Issues
Chin = Hormonal Pattern 1
Jawline and Neck = Hormonal Pattern 2

A Band-Aid Approach

There are 3 common acne ‘treatments’.

1 – The OCP
2 – Antibiotics
3 – Roacutane

Let’s explore these a little further…


Commonly prescribed to balance hormones, the Oral Contraceptive Pill actually does no such thing. The Pill replaces your naturally produced oestrogen or progesterone and it can even replace both.
While for a lot of women, taking a high dose oestrogen OCP seems to work as an acne treatment and clear up their skin, this can cause a whole lot of other problems. Known side effects include everything from nausea, weight gain, headaches and migraines right through to the more serious, blood clots and breast cancer. 

Whats more, many women experience even worse breakouts when they decide to stop taking the OCP.

If you are taking the OCP or considering taking the OCP to ‘treat’ your acne, make sure you read the consumer information leaflet and inform yourself fully of all the risks and side effects.

Antibiotic Therapy

For Acne that is considered to have a bacterial component, often an extended (3 month minimum) course of strong antibiotics are prescribed. 

Antibiotics wreak havoc with our gut microbiome, the special little eco system that lives within our digestive tract and is involved in everything from your metabolism to your immune system. 

More often than not the moment you stop the antibiotics, your skin flares back up – with vengeance. So what’s the treatment? More antibiotics!! 

It’s also important again to understand the potential side effects of taking such medications. These include everything from oral and vaginal thrush, sore mouth, black and hairy tongue, through to depression, hallucinations and jaundice. Not convinced? Check out the Consumer Medicine information leaflet for Doxycyxline (the most commonly used antibiotic for acne) by clicking here

We’re also living in a time of antibiotic resistance. Meaning that many truly sick people are dying, because the bacteria that is making them sick has become resistant to the antibiotics we use to treat such illness.
Why is this happening? Over prescribing of antibiotics.
Let’s leave the antibiotics for those truly life saving moments. 


This drug is a Vitamin A derivative (retinoid), so your body reacts to it in a similar way that it does to Vitamin A. Seems harmless, yeah? No! Vitamin A can build up in your tissues and then it can very quickly become a problem. 

Hypervitaminosis A is the official term for where there is too much Vitamin A in your body.
Symptoms of Hypervitaminosis A include: changes to vision, bone pain and skin changes. Chronic toxicity can lead to liver damage and increased pressure on your brain – Eeek!!

Now that is some pretty serious stuff!

Again we have included the Consumer medicine information leaflet so you can make an informed decision for yourself. Simply click here to read the long list of cautions and known side effects that come with this medication. 

So what is a better treatment approach?

Let’s focus on treatments that support and heal your body. Treatments that have little to no side effects. 

Treatments that fix the problem, long term not just temporarily mask the symptoms.  

Your Body is a Team

It’s time to stop looking at your body as a bunch of individual organs, because it’s a team.
A team that is hell bent on keeping you alive.
So when one team player (or organ if you will) is injured, the rest of the team pulls together.
If you’ve ever played team sports or even worked as part of a team you’ll know that when one key person is unable to pull their weight, the rest of the team is put under more pressure and more stress to pick up the slack. 

So here is your key message:

If your acne is hormone related, ie. flares up with your periods or mid cycle or is most prominent on your chin, jaw line, back or chest, treat your gut first, then your liver and then and only then can you effectively address your hormones. 

Why? It’s because your body is a team! 

If you’re constipated, it’s a clear sign that your gut is not in it’s best working order.
What’s the role of the gut in team body? To eliminate waste.
If you’re not eliminating waste effectively, this puts more pressure on to the liver because the waste material is recycled around the body and the liver gets to deal with it all over again. 

What’s one of the main roles of the liver? To convert and clear hormones.
So in order to get these hormones converting effectively and therefore to bring balance, we first need to insure the gut is in top condition. 

First we support the gut

Let’s look at some things you can do right now to support your gut. 

1 – Drink more water.

Yep, we do go on and on (and on!) about this one. But seriously, if you’re constipated in particular, it’s time to up your water intake. 

Sure we’ve all heard the 2L bench mark, but all I want you to do it aim for 500mls more today than you drank yesterday. Simple, achievable improvements. Set yourself goals and reach that 2L.

2 – Eat more vegetables.

There is some great research circulating that suggests a diet containing more than 30 different types of fruits and vegetables must be consumed every week, in order to support a healthy micribiome (remember that eco system that lives deep inside of you). So count them, aim for 30+ and keep trying new fruits and vegetables. 

3 – Bacteria is good.

Include fermented foods in your diet. Try Kombucha, Kim Chi, Sauerkraut, Tempeh, Kefir and Coconut Yoghurt. Most are readily available from your local supermarket or health food store, or if you’re keen, you could try fermenting your own! 

Then we take the pressure off of the Liver

Chemicals make your liver work harder, so let’s reduce the chemical load

1 – Avoid Processed Foods.
If you’re eating 30 different fruits and vegetables each week, you won’t have much room or need to consume processed foods, so this should come easily. If you do feel the need to grab pre-packaged foods, check the ingredients. Some can sneakily hide a whole bunch of additives, colours, flavours and preservatives. Many of these put pressure on your liver and while your liver is busy dealing with the artificial rubbish, it’s not focusing on converting hormones, or utilising stored fats for energy. 

2 – Go Organic.
Increasing your fruits and vegetables shouldn’t mean increasing your toxic load.
So go organic wherever possible. Even if you choose the top 10 fruits and vegetables that you eat and make sure they’re all certified organic. That’s a great start towards decreasing the load of organophosphates you’re inadvertently consuming. 

3 – Put Down The Wine.
Yep, you know this one already. Alcohol is no good for your liver. Keep your alcohol consumption minimal. Aim for some alcohol free weeks and when you do choose to have a cheeky beverage, opt for an organic wine or a clear spirit in soda water with a dash of fresh lemon or lime. This way your liver only has to deal with the actual booze, not the colours, flavours and sweeteners that can be hiding in soft drinks and pre-mixed beverages. 

Now we look at those hormones

1 – Track your cycles.
Jump on your phone and download any one of the hundred, free period tracking apps and start tracking your periods.
Be sure to take note of not only when you’re bleeding, but also: how heavy is the flow? Are you spotting? Are your breasts swollen or tender? Do you get headaches at a particular point in your cycle? Does your skin breakout with your period or mid-cycle?
All of these things are important in determining exactly what your hormones are doing. 

2 – Ditch the plastics.
Plastic often contains BPA – bisphenol A. This is a chemical that’s a known endocrine disruptor. So clear out your plastics cupboard and opt for glass or stainless steel drink bottles and food containers. If you have to use plastic containers, line them with a bees wax wrap to create a barrier between the plastic and your food. 

3- Watch what you put on your skin.
What goes on, goes in. We absorb a huge amount of toxins via the skin so be mindful of what you’re putting on your skin. Check your beauty products for chemicals that can cause hormonal imbalances. These include Pthalates, Sodium-Laurel Sulphate (SLS) and Parabens. With so many amazing natural alternatives around, there is no excuse for using these nasties.
For a clean skincare alternative, we LOVE Maaemo Skincare.

Are you ready to delve even deeper?

There are tests, supplements and natural skin care products that can fast track your journey to clear, glowing skin. But because no two people are the same, it’s important to discuss these options with a professional.  

Karina has over 10 years of clinical experience and a clear passion for treating acne. 

Testing Options

At Body Institute we use a combination of in-house blood testing and functional pathology to determine how your gut, liver and hormones are contributing to your acne.
Correct functional testing is so important when treating acne, because if we don’t know the cause, the treatment is guess work.
The most commonly used test when treating acne is the Dried Urine Test for Complete Hormones (also known as the DUTCH test).
From this test we can see a full overview of not only what hormones your body is producing and storing, but also how your body processes these hormones. This give us the real picture and allows us to make an informed, accurate treatment plan. 

To view a sample report of the DUTCH test and understand just how comprehensive this test is, click here.

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