Eric Bakker N.D.April 1, 2022

Acne or pimples, is the term which is commonly used for inflammation of the sebaceous glands of the skin. The sebaceous glands are the glands on the skin which produce oil which helps to lubricate the skin which keeps it soft and supple. Acne would have to be possibly the most common causes of facial rash, and a major reason why a young person would come and visit our clinic.


How To Get Rid Of Acne

Acne or pimples, is the term which is commonly used for inflammation of the sebaceous glands of the skin. The sebaceous glands are the glands on the skin which produce oil, which helps to lubricate the skin which keeps it supple. Acne would have to be possibly the most common causes of facial rash, and a major reason a young person would come and visit our clinic.

We have estimated that acne affects up to 80% of those aged between the ages of twelve to forty-four. I have discovered that acne is not just a cosmetic problem. For many who have acne, the consequences can include a large amount of emotional stress, as this visible condition can have a powerful impact on one’s self-esteem.

Acne is also a reason many young people visit a dermatologist, because of spots on the skin or peeling skin. More about this later. This condition has many names, such as spots, blackheads and pimples, and many adolescents experience this annoying and embarrassing skin condition during their teenage years. Acne can occur however at any age, and can also commonly occur in infants (infantile acne). Acne can also occur with prolonged use of skin care products (acne cosmetics) or as a side effect of some medications (especially steroids).

Acne Vulgaris and Acne Rosacea

There are two major types of acne; Acne vulgaris and Acne rosacea. This article is about Acne vulgaris, which is the more common of the two and is especially prevalent in teenage populations. A subsequent article will feature acne rosacea.

What Causes Acne?

Acne often arises at puberty, when the body is soaring its production of male sex hormones called androgens. Androgens stimulate the body’s production of sebum (an oily type of skin and hair lubricant) as well as keratin (a kind of protein). The problem happens often because our bod can produce sebum that much that it can clog up the skin’s pores. Dirt and oil become trapped and blemishes can form this way. Blackheads can form when the sebum and skin pigments plug up the skin pores. If the skin scales become clogged with sebum below the surface, whiteheads appear. In chronic cases, multiple whiteheads build up and spread under the skin and rupture causing patches of inflammation and redness.

While proper skin care does involve cleanliness, which we will go into a little later in this comprehensive article, it is important to remember that acne is not the result of an unclean person or habits of uncleanliness, it is much more likely to be the result of overactive oil producing glands at a time in a person’s life when they are producing too much sebum or keratin.

Acne Linked To Refined Carbohydrates and Insulin Production

Acne vulgaris has sometimes been called a disease of the modern western civilisation. Way back in the 1930’s, acne was considered to be a disease of disturbed carbohydrate metabolism because prior research strongly suggested that impaired glucose tolerance occurred in predominantly acne patients. Read: Cut the carbs & sugar to clear your acne.

Because of this past work, those with acne were discouraged from eating sugar and refined carbohydrate foods like sweets, candies, chocolates, biscuits/cookies, etc. More recent research has revisited this idea and is again showing a strong correlation between a person with acne and their refined food intake, any changes in insulin handling (insulin resistance) and the hormonal disruption which is also strongly associated with acne. Study: acne and insulin resistance.

Most of our sex hormones (like testosterone or androgen) are bound to particular proteins which circulate freely throughout our blood stream. This binding limits their ability to perform until they become liberated. Diets rich in processed and sugary foods (the typical teenage diet for example) stimulate more insulin production, and it is these higher than average levels of insulin which negatively affect the liver’s ability to produce SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin) which results in more active testosterone circulating in the blood.

Increased circulating testosterone levels result in higher sebum production in the skin, and increased sebum means more oil in the skin pores, potentially plugging up the skin pores and providing a rich food supply for the bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) which is then much more likely to colonise a person’s skin. This then results in the pimples, blackheads, or whiteheads which we know as acne.

Antibiotics Not Good For Acne

I’ve seen many patients over the years with acne, and too many who have taken antibiotics to “cure” their acne. Many years ago, I saw a male patient in his late twenties who had been taking an antibiotic for five years straight to resolve an acne issue. He still had acne, but had almost ruined his digestive system. You would think his doctor would have tried another approach. Five years is an awful long time to take an antibiotic drug and still have a disease you are trying to cure. Doctors abnd acne patients, please read: Avoid antibiotics for acne treatment when possible.

Sometimes, antibiotic therapy can have a good initial result in many acne patients but will often return because we did not address the cause. The antibiotic will kill bacteria, but the environment which feeds the bacteria and allows for its survival is still present and until the growing conditions are addressed (hormonal, high carbs and insulin for example), the bacteria will continue to repopulate when the antibiotic is not there to control it.

My advice therefore is NOT to take antibiotics with acne. You end up destroying your bowel flora, because you destroy a lot of bacteria which are bad and beneficial. You will never cure acne with antibiotics anymore than trying to gain peace by going to war. All you end up with is a lot of death and collateral damage.

PLEASE AVOID synthetic Vitamin A

Are you considering a course of the pharmaceutical drug Isotretinoin? This is a synthetic source of vitamin A. It may me called something else if you are reading this in a country other than New Zealand where I live. Please read this about Roaccutane (isotretinoin). There are just too many side effects with this type of drug. Please read all you can about this drug and become fully informed before use. A quick 10 minute visit to a dermatologist could result in many years of digestive misery, as several of our young patients diagnosed with ulcerative colitis discovered  after Roaccutane treatment. A study published in 2010 reveals that ulcerative colitis was strongly associated with prior isotretinoin exposure.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about this drug: Isotretinoin is a drug used mostly for acne was first developed for brain, pancreatic and other cancers. It is used to treat harlequin-type ichthyosis, a usually lethal skin disease, and lamellar ichthyosis. Its effects are systemic and nonselective. It is a retinoid, meaning it is related to vitamin A, and is found in small quantities naturally in the body.
Isotretinoin’s best-known and most dangerous side effect is birth defects. This is because of the molecule’s close resemblance to retinoic acid, a natural vitamin A derivative which controls normal embryonic development. Because of this, it is one of the most difficult pharmaceuticals to obtain in the United States.
In 2009, Roche pulled Accutane off the US market after juries had awarded millions of dollars in damages to former Accutane users over inflammatory bowel disease claims. Yet in New Zealand, Accutane somehow keeps on being prescribed. And the side effects will most probably continue, like IBD, require more drug-based treatments.

They have filed lawsuits over Accutane throughout the United States on behalf of individuals who have suffered severe bowel complications from Accutane. Among others, actor James Marshall (movie: A Few Good Men) sued Roche over Accutane-related disease that resulted in removal of his colon.

The most common brands are Roaccutane (Hoffman-La Roche, known as Accutane in the United States before July 2009), Amnesteem (Mylan), Claravis (Barr), Isotroin (Cipla) or Sotret (Ranbaxy).

washing_face_1Be careful of over-washing

So many people think they can wash acne away or cure it purely by hygiene is amazing. Washing the face too much can make matters worse, and too many “medicated” skin washes sold as acne cures only add to the problem by stripping away the natural oils the skin relies on for protection and lubrication.
What many are unaware of is that constant washing and oil-stripping actually reduces the skin’s natural acidic barrier, and only helps to pave the way for more bacterial infection. So what do you do? The best solution I have found is to wash your face with plenty of tepid fresh clean water, a clean soft flannel cloth, and to do this twice daily.

I’ve found that lemon juice mixed in a little water can be quite beneficial. If you want to reduce redness and scarring, try rose hip seed oil, it is a great moisturiser and does not clog the skin. This oil is also good to heal deeper scarring left by chronic cases of acne.

Acne Diet

As you are most probably aware, a fresh food diet is best with acne, just like it is with any other health complaint. A typical diet I see in those with chronic cases of acne would include plenty of refined sugars and bad fats. These diets which are poor are low in zinc, chromium, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin A, B Vitamins, and a host of other essential micronutrients. These nutrients are critical if you want to maintain optimal skin health.

Take Real Vitamin A

Why take synthetic stuff when you can take real Vitamin A? I recommend you take 50,000 international units of Vitamin A per day, and this represents NO problems unless you are going to get pregnant or are pregnant or if you have a serious liver disease. I guess that only will account for a small percentage of those who read this page, so if don’t count on getting pregnant and have a normal liver, then you are fine to take 50, 000 IU of Vitamin A daily. Watch what happens. It’s what the doctor would like to achieve with a toxic synthetic version of Vitamin A. Take Vitamin A with a meal containing fats preferably, and take the 50, 000 IU in divided doses.

Having not enough Vitamin A in your body may lead to an over-proliferation of skin cells, and when you combine too much skin cell production with an excess sebum (oil) production you end up plugging the skin’s pores which provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and then bingo, you have a case of acne. It is best that you take Vitamin A under the guidance of a health-care professional and you will be delighted with the results.

Sugar-free diet

Do you want to beat this acne once and for all? Then adopt a sugar-free diet, high in fish oils (take Omega 3 caps – 2 a day. Eat walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseed, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, oily fish and other good quality proteins which all have been shown to improve the hormonal causes of acne within weeks.


One of the best minerals to take when you have acne is zinc.I have often noticed in many young people that inadequate levels of zinc (especially when combined with Vitamin A and essential fatty acid depletions) appear to be a major contributing factor.

Zinc is so important because it is used to stop an enzyme found in the skin turning plain old ordinary testosterone into a much more potent hormone called dihydrotestosterone. The action of zinc at therapeutic levels reduces the level of sebum (oil) production in the skin making it much harder for the bacteria to thrive and survive.

As I have stated, therapeutic levels need to be used with severe cases of acne, so again, supervision of an experienced practitioner is recommended. Your health-care professional should also mention to you that high dose zinc will influence the copper levels in your body, which will need to be balanced accordingly.

Nutritional Medicine

Besides teaching many tricks and tips on curing acne I have not seen elsewhere, the difference I have seen in severe acne cases when nutritional medicine was applied properly is absolutely staggering, even in the most chronic and “incurable” of acne cases. It may take 3 to 6 months of treatment before you notice a breakthrough, but when you do, it will amaze you didn’t try this method ages ago.

Pimples – treat the body not just the skin

It is always important to remember that your skin is a mere reflection of your internal environment, and this depends on what you are feeding yourself on many levels. Have you read our Nutrition page and our Stress page for example?

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