Acne and the Houston Summer Heat: How Acupuncture Can Help
Do you know what’s bad for acne? If you said heat and humidity, you likely know where we’re going with this. Houston’s summers are legendary for both heat and humidity, so when the sun’s up, the acne flare-ups are up as well.
Millions of Houstonians deal with pimple problems, as acne is the world’s most common skin condition. Up to 85 percent of people between 12 and 24 experience acne to some extent, but make no mistake, acne is not just a young person’s condition. Among women 40 and older, one in four report experiencing acne.
The vast majority of these cases do not necessitate treatment, but several million seek treatment for severe acne every year. An emerging number of people are opting for alternative treatments like acupuncture and herbal therapies as they’re well-tolerated by most patients and can help manage some of the underlying factors affecting acne.
Why Are Acne Breakouts Worse During the Houston Summer?
Severe acne can be socially debilitating, and right when most people are about to hit their stride socially – the summer – that’s when acne is often at its worst. Several studies have looked into the summer/acne connection, and they confirm that people do experience more frequent flare-ups during the summer.
Why? Because summer means heat, and heat means sweat. As we sweat, our skin’s pores are more likely to become clogged, especially in areas where the body produces an abundance of oil. The face, for example. Add in thick sunscreen, lotions, and a bit of dirt and you’ve got a pore-clogging concoction.
However, there are other factors in play, as well. Genetics and hormones are two major drivers of the condition and are bigger indicators of future acne issues.
First-Line Acne Treatments: Better Hygiene, Better Habits and Over-the-Counter Options
The majority of acne cases can be treated without harsh medication. Acupuncture is one example, but more on that in a bit. Physicians experienced in allopathic (western) medicine will often recommend the following as potential first options:
- Better hygiene – Heavy sweating causes dirt, oil, bacteria, sunscreen, moisturizers, skin creams, and anything else on your face to get trapped in your pores. The best defense against this is consistent hygiene, but don’t overdo it. Washing your face after extensive sweating is recommended, as is a daily shower, but washing more than a few times a day may irritate the skin, often doing more harm than good.
- Better habits – During the summer, some of us need those thick sunscreens to survive the Houston sun, but for the acne-prone, stick with skin-sensitive formulas made without pore-clogging oils. The same advice goes for people who use a skin cleanser or moisturizer. Choose a formula that doesn’t include heavy creams or oils.
And though we’ve all done it, it’s best to avoid popping those pimples. When the skin is manipulated this way, it can cause scarring and irritate the skin further, increasing the likelihood of developing additional blemishes.
- Over-the-counter medication – There are a few over-the-counter options effective for mild cases of acne. Most of these include salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, and they work by entering clogged pores and dissolving the clog. Their side effect profile is mild unless the patient has an allergy to either ingredient.
How Acupuncture Can Help Those with Summer Acne
The challenge with treating acne is that everyone’s case is individual. What works for one person may not work for the next, and it can take several weeks before it is clear whether a particular run of treatment will work. For people suffering with severe acne, time is something they don’t have.
Acne medications aren’t intended to be used with each other, but they can be used in conjunction with alternative therapies like acupuncture and herbal formulations. Both have demonstrated promise with multiple forms of acne, including acne rosacea and hormonal acne. One 2018 case study, published in Medicine (Baltimore), considered a 52-year-old woman with rosacea who had tried several medications to resolve their condition. After a course of treatment that involved three 30-minute acupuncture sessions a week, the patient’s symptoms improved (the Dermatology Life Quality Index was the metric of choice).
Acupuncture and hormonal therapies are also recommended for hormonal acne. Acupuncture in particular is used to regulate hormone levels in many conditions. For example, it is used to reduce menstrual pain, regulate endocrine function, and improve fertility in women.
In addition to better hormone regulation, acupuncture and beneficial botanicals can help acne by doing the following:
- Reducing inflammation – Inflammation is a beneficial bodily process when it’s well-regulated, but when it is chronic, inflammation increases the likelihood of many diseases, including cancer. Inflammation is also responsible for acne in many patients, so reducing its impact can also reduce the chances of developing a flare-up.
Acupuncture stimulates the body into healing itself and keeping inflammation in check. When acupuncture needles are inserted into the skin, they trigger local nervous tissue into dumping a host of biochemicals (like endorphins) into the system. This helps the body regulate its own tissues better and prevent chronic inflammation from taking root.
- Improving circulation – Acupuncturists also believe that the practice can improve circulation and reduce the likelihood of “blood stagnation.” Acupuncture’s capacity to improve circulation is why it’s recommended for conditions like uterine fibroids and endometriosis. This advantage is also relevant to people with acne, as better circulation means better cellular maintenance, and that means it’s easier for the body to efficiently remove the waste that ends up in clogged pores.
Further, better circulation can help people with acne rosacea, which is characterized by excess heat and redness in the face. Blood vessels in the face may also be noticeable – a sign of potential circulation issues. Acupuncture’s circulation-enhancing potential may be why it’s effective in some acne rosacea patients.
- Reducing stress – Stress is considered a secondary factor behind acne, but some people swear that their skin is at its worst when stress levels are high. Acupuncture is a proven stress buster and is regularly used by people to improve anxiety symptoms and control stress levels. The flood of feel-good biochemicals that accompany acupuncture is partly responsible, but so is the calming nature of acupuncture treatment. Each session is administered in a quiet, relaxed setting – and this may be one of the few quiet stretches that the patient gets to enjoy on a weekly basis. As such, it is common for people to rely on their acupuncture sessions as a relaxing break to look forward to. In this way, acupuncture’s psychological effects go beyond the physical.
The Houston Summer is Bad on Acne, but Houston Acupuncture Can Reduce the Severity of Breakouts
Acne can be obnoxiously stubborn to begin with. Add in the Houston summer, and it may feel like that next pimple is just hours away.
There are plenty of treatment options, but working through them until the right one is identified can take months. That’s a tough timeline for acne sufferers to take, which is why many add acupuncture and herbal therapies to their treatment regimen. If administered by a licensed Houston practitioner, acupuncture and herbal formulations are tolerated well and can provide rapid relief for many.