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Alternative therapies

There is a lot of interest in these therapies and there is some good news regarding their use in treating acne.

Zinc, tea tree oil and Vitamin A can have benefits for people with milder forms of acne only. 


This can be useful in some people with mild to moderate ‘inflammatory’ facial acne lesions, as long as they are not severe. These are red lumpy lesions, which may also be topped by pustules. In one trial, it was nearly as effective as one of the antibiotics usually used to treat similar types of acne.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil does help acne but only to a limited degree. If you have mild acne it may be worth giving it a go.

One of the problems with natural products is the huge variation between different products containing similar ‘natural ingredients’.

If tea tree oil is not carefully purified and processed it can actually become cause allergies and even irritation. Some poorly made tea tree oil products cause severe allergic reactions in around 1 in 20-40 people who used these products.

Most good tea tree oil producers understand the importance of good quality control processes but you need to be careful when you buy ‘natural products’ from markets. They are not always gentle, or safe, as they have not undergone stringent testing and quality controls.

Vitamin A

High dose vitamin A does help acne but it ’s actually toxic at the doses needed to improve acne. A number of prescription creams contain vitamin A derivatives.

If you are planning to become pregnant you should avoid taking high dose vitamin A.

Colloidal oatmeal

If you develop irritation from harsh cleansing etc, colloidal oatmeal can have a calming and anti-irritant effect. It can also protect or minimise irritation. There are a number of gentle washes containing oatmeal. 

Fruit acid

Fruit acid can also help remove the top layer of dead skin cells. These are contained in a number of facial treatments (alpha hydroxy acids - AHAs). Although these are used in many products sold and marketed for acne, there are no good quality studies to actually show they work.


A facial can be relaxing and calming which can have some good therapeutic benefits but in general, facials are not an effective acne treatment.

Keep in mind that not all facials use only natural products.

If you only have mild acne, occasional gentle facial treatments may provide some improvement, but if you’re using medicated acne creams, you should avoid facials as they may contribute to skin irritation.

Sunder vati

Sunder vati is an oral Indian ayurvedic medicine that may help reduce acne, but little is known about any adverse effects it may cause.

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