A-Z

Acne (young people)

Alternative and complementary therapies, supplements and home remedies for acne

Alternative and complementary therapies, such as herbal medicine and homeopathy, can be used on their own or alongside ‘conventional medicine’ (such as topical treatments, antibiotics and isotretinoin). A few people we talked to had used alternative or complementary therapies or said they were interested in trying them in the future. This section includes experiences of herbal products, home remedies and beautician therapies. Alternative medicines come in different forms – ingested (swallowed/drunk), topical (applied to the skin) or a procedure (having something done, like reflexology).

Some people who had grown up in South-East Asian countries has seen practitioners there and had not always seen doctors in the UK about acne. Yi finds it hard to access Chinese medicine now she lives in the UK. Yi and Becky had both had taken Chinese medicine in a drink form. Yi wasn’t sure what exactly was in the liquid but knew it contained over 20 different types of herbs. She drank it every day for over a year but says it tasted bad and she wasn’t sure if it helped.
 

Becky describes some of the alternative treatments she’s tried.

View full profile
Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 16
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
The first one is to, he suggested me to take some medicine. It’s a liquid in a, it’s a liquid in a, a small bottle and you kind of drink it. And also he suggest to apply some medicine on my face. But I don’t remember the name of the medicine and what’s, yeah, what’s inside it. So that’s the first doctor. The second doctor  suggest me to use a machine that produce steam.

Oh yeah.

Like, yeah, because he thinks that it’s because there’s some thing in my skin. Because I don’t really exercise very, very often, so there will, there will be something in my skin. And he wanted to like, the steam has a like higher temperature than my skin. And it, when it touches my skin it will helped my pore to, yeah.

Yeah.

Yeah, then after that there will be some medicine like, not medicine, treatment applied to my skin. And the third one is also some treatment like I have on my skin. And he also suggest that because my skin is kind of very seriously damaged underneath and he said that there will be future treatment for it. Like it’s not for the acne. It’s actually for the scars, yeah. I’m really worried.
Sometimes parents first told the young person about alternative therapies and herbal remedies. Chris says his mum is interested in “holistic therapies”, although he himself “never really got into that” or tried them. Yi says her Chinese medicine doctor has cared for her family members too. Alexandra’s mum went with her to her appointments for private treatment where she had a chemical peel of her back skin.
 

Before starting a chemical peel treatment, Alexandra had a bad experience with another beauty treatment.

View full profile
Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 13
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And what happened when she did it, she didn’t use that special fruit lotion she, she just used baby lotion, so she kind of infected one spot with the other one when she went all over the back with it. So, I was a bit, it didn’t help at all, it made it a- worse actually. So, and it hurts a lot to let people see your back and then, you know, get all the pus out and, yeah, it’s not nice. So, she yeah, I don’t know, she was OK with, then my mum and I we went to look for something else to really, make sure it really was OK. 

So then we ended up in this little clinic and they had skin treatment thingies, laser as well, so everything for people what they needed. And she showed, she was really nice in the beginning, the first appointment was just really making you feel comfortable, showing you that they do know what they’re doing and making sure that if we start the treatment that you can also be like, “OK, this is not working. Fine, it’s not working, but you have to give it a, a shot”. So I had to at least make sure I would give it half a year to try and see if it gets better. So that was every week for a half year and then from there on it got into two weeks, maybe once a month.

OK.

So it got better gradually.
Examples of home remedies were often found online, such as in forums and blogs. Hester tried drinking aloe vera juice and putting toothpaste on her spots. Harriet searched for home remedies for acne scarring and came across examples like almond oil. She was sceptical about some, saying “if this really worked then more people would know about it”. Friends were also a source of suggestions for home remedies, as for Marga whose friend showed her how to make a paste using aspirin to put on spots.
 

Harriet read online about home remedies for acne and tried some out.

View full profile
Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 12
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
[Laughs] It, like you just think, it’s the sort of thing where like, “If this really works then more people would know about it.” But you still try it anyway. So I remember doing all sorts. You make little scrubs out of, you know, honey and oil and sugar and all sorts of bizarre things. And the one that, the one that I’m still not really sure if it works is putting toothpaste on spots. Cos that does the same thing, it kind of dries them out but not very well. And then you end up with like a minty face, [laughs] yeah. So that, I don’t tend to do the toothpaste-based thing. But, yeah.

Did you try any supplements or any sort of herbal remedy style things?

I remember, it, this was mostly when I was trying to get rid of the scarring, I remember using a lot of vitamin E oil, almond oil. I used, while I still had some acne I used, what’s it called? Tea tree oil. Which, it does that thing where it kind of, you put it on and it burns a bit so you think it’s working. And that kind of helped, but obviously it’s really strong smelling. The same with TCP, that had the sort of drying thing, but it just, the smell just stays on your face for the next two days. So I try not to use it any more.
 

Marga and her friend made a home remedy with aspirin to put on her spots.

View full profile
Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 18
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think when you have acne you are literally willing to give absolutely everything a go. For example, I put, for quite a while [laughs] I put asp-, I got a pestle and mortar and put, got aspirin tablets and then made it into like a paste and then stuck it on my spots, and stuff like that. 

So, I've often been willing to try lots of different things and this will actually really, really-, I noticed it completely, and now I swear about; I wouldn’t drink milk again. Which is interesting.

Where did you hear about the aspirin paste?

[Laughs] It was also through a friend. He, he just said he used it for his skin and he was at my-, I was at his house one time and basically he put-, he like made a paste for me, I stuck it on my skin for about two hours or something, and like I felt like the redness had gone down, and the next day I did it again and-. I mean I don’t [laughs], I don’t know how useful it is but I did feel like the redness went down.

So, I did that for about maybe like a couple of weeks after [laughs], after that and then I sort of forgot about it. But, yeah, it's interesting how you're willing to definitely improvise [laughs].
Some people had bought ‘herbal’ products from shops (e.g. tea tree oil) and sometimes used this in mixing their own ‘DIY remedies’. Fatima says conventional medical treatments contain a lot of “chemicals”. She prefers "organic" options, although it isn’t always the case that these products contain less chemicals. Some people had tried creams high in ‘antioxidants’, thought to help with acne. Alexandra and Shu En had used vitamin C creams, and Harriet tried vitamin E oil.
 
Text only
Read below

Will bought a herbal cream whilst on holiday with his family.

View full profile
Age at interview: 21
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 14
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And actually I found, we went to, where did we go? It was either Slovenia or Slovakia and there was some sort of, oh I don’t know what you’d call it. What’s the? Oh, I don’t know. It was some person who kind of makes kind of like herbal sort of creams and whatnot and all this jazz and we found one that was really, really good for my skin. I can’t remember what it was. It was just some woman who just made it in her shop, but like it was just really great, so I used that quite a lot as well. 

It doesn’t sound particularly legit. 

[Laughs]

Thinking about it now, but, it was probably, you know, just some, you know, natural stuff, but, yeah. So I used that quite a lot as well.

Actually, I think I’ve still got a pot at home because I just brought back like five pots of them. So I think they’re knocking around in my cupboard. My brother’s got quite bad acne now at the moment as well so I should probably tell him to dig some of that out. 

That’s probably somewhere in our cupboard so. 
Often alternative or complementary therapies and home remedies were seen as unlikely to cause harm though some people had bad experiences. Becky had tried two cosmetic treatments – one involved extracting sebum from her skin pores and the other was a steam machine. She’s concerned that both might leave scars. Hester got a burn mark from using toothpaste on a spot. Molly tried using lemon juice on her acne but stopped after reading warnings that it can bleach and damage the skin. Ish says he wouldn’t go to a beauty parlour and let them “go at your skin” – instead he advises visiting a doctor.
 

Marga thinks herbal and home remedies are less likely to have side effects than conventional medicine treatments.

View full profile
Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 18
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I mean for the yeast one I really don’t think it made any difference; I think I was just eating yeast. So… [laughs]. I don’t think it had any side effects. I think, I guess the ones that are sort of more natural ones, say like, you know, the yeast and the cutting out wheat and the cutting out dairy, I guess you have more faith that they might not have side effects cos they seem more natural, like natural based, whereas for the antibiotics you're always a little bit worried what's in them because they're not as-, I don’t know, they don’t really feel as natural cos you're taking a pill and you feel like you're sort of medicating yourself.

So, I guess we’re always-, we’re more willing to try the more sort of homeopathic remedy, or the more natural remedies cos we didn’t really think it-, if it didn’t work it didn’t work and it's not going to be bad for us if it doesn’t work sort of thing.
Getting unwanted advice and suggestions about herbal remedies could be upsetting. It can also be disappointing to try a home remedy and it not work. Harriet was hopeful about even “weird” remedies “that don’t work but you think maybe they will”. Examples she had heard about included putting tomato skins and eggshell linings on the skin. Ish found that home remedies had made his skin worse and further knocked his confidence.
 

Hester felt uncomfortable being offered herbal medicines for acne whilst she was living in South Africa.

View full profile
Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 15
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Getting quite frustrated because I think a lot of people- especially in South Africa where it's culturally less , they don't mind people kind of being more confrontational, a lot of people came up to me in like the shops and like Boots, or the equivalent of Boots, and tried to sell me a lot of things. And like a lot of the, they have like a lot of sort of herbal traditional healers, and they'd like follow me down the street, like [laughs], “I've got this product to give you, like it'll really sort out you skin,” and this kind of thing. Which was really humiliating, because people in the street would be looking at us. And I’d just be trying to tell them, “I don't, I don't want it.” And they'd be like, “Well, how can you not want this? Like, look at your skin, it's really bad. But this will sort you out.” And I just [laugh]. It's like, “Leave me alone” [laugh].

It must have been really difficult to cope with, to sort of respond to emotionally, or-?

Yeah. I think- cos there's part of me that's really, really angry. But I think at the time like you're just really, really embarrassed. You're just like 'just go way, just go away, like I don't want everyone to stare at me'. Because they're already looking at , already having a look anyway, because it's quite an obvious like rash over the face. And people are like sort of glancing over and think-, you can tell they're looking at your skin anyway. So I don't need the attention. But I also just felt like, it just made me feel like really vulnerable, I think, as well. Because I couldn't really tell them to go away. And I could tell they were picking on me because of something that was, you know, wrong with me. And I just, yeah, just feeling like really vulnerable and just really exposed. But yeah, I think-. And then I'd be angry afterwards. But I did sort of thing like I was within my rights to tell them [laughs] just to I don't know, be a bit rude to them [laugh]. But [sigh], but then I just, I think you never are because you'd rather not cause a scene, but I think technically if someone thinks they can say that about your appearance, then you're kind of within your rights to just tell them to go away. 
There was uncertainty about whether home remedies, alternative or complementary therapies worked. Some thought these helped their skin, such as Harriet with tea tree oil. Becky thinks herbal medicines helped her but not as much as she had expected. Yi says she always has a bottle of tea tree oil to put on spots but is unsure whether it makes a difference. Marga tried eating fresh yeast for a while but saw no difference. Molly was sceptical about things offering a “miracle cure” and Yi was wary of advertisements online for acne remedies.
donate
Previous Page
Next Page