Smiling woman with clear skin, acne treatment with Ayurveda and acne causes.

Acne Causes + Natural Acne Treatment In Ayurvedic Medicine

Acne affects roughly 85% of young adults aged 12–25 years.1 If you know acne, you know it is a menace. As soon as you feel your skin clearing up, the pimples reemerge like nobody’s business. To put an end to this recurring problem, you need a permanent solution. In order to understand acne treatment, let’s first take a look at acne causes and the types of acne that can occur.

Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll cover in this article.

Acne Causes
Acne Treatment In Ayurvedic Medicine
Vata Type Acne Treatment And Remedies
Pitta Type Acne Treatment And Remedies
Kapha Type Acne Treatment And Remedies
Simple Tips For Clear, Acne-Free Skin
Ayurvedic Cleansing (Panchakarma)
Simple Must-Do Tips For Acne-Prone Skin

Acne Causes

1. Fried Food And Junk Food 

Fried food and junk food vitiate Kapha and Pitta dosha, two Ayurvedic fundamental principles (we explain these a bit further down in the article). In turn, the blood becomes vitiated and acne develops.

2. Night Waking 

Waking at night leads to an imbalance of the body’s daily rhythms, stress, metabolic imbalances, undigested food or ama and acne.

3. Overuse Of Cosmetics

Overuse of cosmetics has a direct impact on facial skin, clogging pores and wearing down the delicate, natural top layers of the skin.

4. Stress And Anxiety 

Stress and anxiety lead to metabolic imbalance and again, undigested metabolic waste or ama.

5. Physiological Changes

The physiological changes that take place in adolescence can be attributed to hormonal imbalance, which may lead to acne.

6. A Heavy Meat Diet

An excessive intake of meat and dairy can easily burden the digestive system, leading to other disturbances in health.

7. An Irregular Menstrual Cycle

Testosterone levels will likely be higher than female hormones in the days prior to menstruation and during menstruation. This can be a starting point for acne. The imbalanced hormones affect the performance of sebaceous glands, produce more sebum and your chance of getting acne.

8. Certain Medications And Steroids

Acne or acneiform (acne-like) eruptions can occasionally be caused by medications. Some may have side effects that can alter your body’s chemistry or hormones and lead to an acne outbreak. Androgenic steroids, DHEA, progesterone-dominant forms of birth control, and medications containing bromides or iodides also fall into this category.

9. Pregnancy Related Hormonal Fluctuations

Even pregnancy related hormonal fluctuations can lead to acne. There are many reasons for the breakout of pimples during pregnancy. Increased levels of androgens (male sex hormones) can result in increased acne-causing secretions. The body’s increased retention of fluids can cause acne. Dietary changes and genetic tendency can also be causative factors.

Some women have severe flare ups of acne throughout pregnancy.

READ MORE: How To Breastfeed The Ayurvedic Way

Acne Treatment In Ayurvedic Medicine

In Ayurveda, the ancient natural medicine of India, the five elements (Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth) act and dwell within us as three doshas, or mind-body principles. When these five elements or doshas are imbalanced, either in excess or in lack, the disease process sets in.

The Doshas

We all have some combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha dosha within us, just in different ratios.

1. Vata dosha is formed of Air and Space. It’s movement, creativity and agility.

2. Pitta dosha is formed of Fire and Water. Pitta is the intelligence, metabolism and temperature of the body.

3. Kapha dosha is formed of Water and Earth. It’s the structure and glue of our bodies and expresses as love, compassion and solidity.

Again, when these doshas are in balance, there is health. When they are vitiated, there is disease.

Acne, in Ayurveda, is called Mukhdushika. Mukha means face and dushika is that which destroys the beauty of a face.2 In the Ayurvedic classical texts, acne is also called Yuvan pidika. Kapha dosha, Vata dosha and Rakta dushti, contamination of blood tissue, are considered the causative factors of the disease.

Acne typically involves an imbalance in all three doshas, which is why you need to approach it through multiple modalities.

An imbalance in Vata dosha results in impaired digestion and accumulation of ama, undigested food matter that clogs the body’s systems. An imbalance of Pitta dosha affects the blood and liver leading to inflammation. Excess Kapha, which controls the production of sebum, results in clogging of the pores. This combination of impaired digestion, accumulation of undigested food or ama, inflammation, and excess production of sebum creates the perfect environment for the overgrowth of bacteria resulting in chronic acne.

A core philosophy in Ayurveda is that a healthy inside is necessary for a healthy outside. 

The Ayurvedic approach to acne treatment is to pacify the internal aggravating factors while simultaneously addressing the topical issues. In order to tackle an acne problem, in addition to topical Ayurvedic skincare you need to change your lifestyle.

Now let’s look at the type of acne that shows up in each dosha.

READ MORE: Vata Diet: Everything You Need To Know, Pitta Diet: Everything You Need To Know, Kapha Diet: Everything You Need To Know

Vata Type Acne Treatment + Remedies

Acne aggravated by an excess of Vata dosha tends to present itself as tiny milia or blackheads. In general, the skin feels congested and bumpy, but the acne tends to be small and dry, not deep or pus-filled.

Two very common culprits are dehydration and constipation. Dehydration occurs with too much of the Air element and dryness. Constipation occurs with a lack of movement and too much dryness. Vata type acne is usually not caused by oil as you would expect, but from the opposite: systemic dehydration.

Vata Type Acne Remedies

  • Combat dehydration. Increase your water and fluid intake. Add vegetables and foods rich in fluid like melons, okra and zucchini to the diet.
  • Eat healthy fats. Oil is the other part of the equation. Healthy fats include omega 3’s like fatty fish, flax, chia, avocado, grass-fed ghee, hemp seed and olive oils.
  • Decrease dehydrating foods such as alcohol, coffee, soda and salt.
  • If you are still constipated, add more water, more fiber, and consider taking a teaspoon or two of castor oil at night on an empty stomach before bed.
  • You must deal with the stress. Routine and ritual are huge supports. Meditation and gentle yoga are also great.
  • Topically, gentle exfoliation, water-based moisturizer, oil massage and oil cleansing are all recommended.

READ MORE: Ayurvedic Massage, How Ayurvedic Massage Works + Ayurvedic Massage Oils, Everything You Need To Know About Shirodhara

Pitta Type Acne Treatment + Remedies

Pitta type acne tends to be red, inflamed and painful. It may also appear as milia, tiny white bumps or cysts, surrounding the eye. Or it may cluster around the nose and top lip.

The liver, the blood, stomach and small intestine are all governed by Pitta. If you are breaking out on your cheeks and nose, you are also breaking out in other places like your back, chest and shoulders as well.

Here’s the Ayurvedic acne treatment for Pitta type acne.

Pitta Type Acne Remedies

  • Topically, be more gentle with this type of acne than any other. Soothing and light moisturizing are key. No exfoliation or drying of any sort. Anti-inflammatory herbal gels can be used.
  • Internally, support both the liver and the digestion. Cooling and healing foods are important. Ideally aloe vera juice and Milk Thistle is helpful.
  • If it is rash-like and has been diagnosed as acne, then it is also caused by a food intolerance or sensitivity. Take an objective look at your diet. Anything could be the cause.
  • To purify the blood, the liver must be in good health. Make sure you are eliminating your bowels regularly and drinking lots of water.
  • Have green vegetables and chia seeds. Stay away from greasy, spicy, salty, processed foods and eat smaller, blender-made meals that are easy to digest.

READ MORE: 10 Easy And Practical Tips To Get Rid Of Indigestion Caused By Pitta Dosha, 25 Snack Foods For Pitta Dosha, 10 Easy Ways To Get Rid Of Pitta Skin Problems + Their Root Causes

Kapha Type Acne Treatment + Remedies

Kapha type acne tends to be deep, large, cystic, fluid-filled, painful and slow to resolve, reflecting the slow, fluid, heavy qualities of Kapha dosha.

A diet rich in Kapha-aggravating foods may be the culprit.

Kapha Type Acne Remedies

  • Eliminate or reduce dairy, sugar, wheat, carbs, and thick, creamy, damp foods. If you are already eliminating all of these, you may need to go further and eliminate soy, fermented foods, shellfish and rice.
  • Increase bitter, astringent tastes, so consider including more cooked greens and astringent foods in your diet.
  • Exercise and movement is a must – preferably early in the morning. Kapha governs the lymphatic system. Lymphatic fluid will quickly stagnate if we do not move. Unlike our blood, the lymph fluid is not pumped through the body – the only things that move it are exercise and gravity. 

READ MORE: Kapha Diet: Everything You Need To Know, Kapha Pacifying Date Pickle Recipe

Simple Tips For Clear, Acne-Free Skin

Follow these simple and effective Ayurvedic tips for acne-prone skin. Achieve clear, lovely and gorgeous skin with the right diet and lifestyle.

Tulsi (Holy Basil)

Tulsi or Holy Basil is considered sacred in Ayurveda for its wonderful healing properties. It is one of the best herbs to heal acne, pimples and blemishes naturally. Crush some fresh and clean tulsi leaves, take out the juice and massage on your face. Let the face absorb the juice for 15-20 minutes and rinse off.

If you don’t have fresh Tulsi, you can use dried Tulsi powder and mix it with rose water to form a paste. Apply this as a mask or take an organic Tulsi capsule.

READ MORE: The Sacred Benefits Of Growing Tulsi, Tulsi (Holy Basil): Tulsi Benefits, Research, Contraindications, How To Take Tulsi

Turmeric

Turmeric is a staple of Ayurvedic cooking and medicine. It is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse and can help in hyper-pigmentation, scarring and other skin damage. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend consuming nearly a teaspoon of turmeric every day (you can also use it topically). Luckily, there are many ways to get your fill. Cook with it, drink it in your favorite green juice, or pop an organic turmeric capsule.

READ MORE: Turmeric Benefits (Curcumin), Dosage, Side Effects + More, Will Turmeric Lower Blood Pressure?, Turmeric Can Help You Lose Weight

Aloe Vera Juice

Drink ¼ cup of organic aloe vera juice in the morning on an empty stomach. Aloe vera juice is a natural way to remove toxins from your body, especially the liver and blood.

Amla

Amla is known as an elixir for your skin. It removes excess sebum, fights acne-causing bacteria and prevents scarring. Make a paste of amla, available at most Asian markets, and apply on your face. Wash it off after 15-20 minutes.

READ MORE: Amla: The Sour, Anti-Aging Ayurvedic Super Fruit + Amla Recipes

Triphala

Triphala is a popular Ayurvedic remedy for the skin. It balances the tridosha (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), detoxifies the whole body, fights against bad bacteria and helps in healing acne. Take one teaspoon of Triphala with hot water on an empty stomach every morning.

READ MORE: Can Triphala Cause Acid Reflux?, Triphala For Weight Loss, Triphala Benefits, Side Effects, Uses, Triphala Churna, Triphala Guggul

Beets And Carrots

Beets and carrots are excellent natural sources of iron. Iron is also a foundation of healthy skin as iron deficiencies can lead to shallow, dry, itchy and prematurely aging skin.3

READ MORE: Vata Pitta Pacifying Beetroot And Carrot Soup

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is well-known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows it can help reduce mild to moderate acne breakouts. Be sure to use diluted tea tree oil because the undiluted variety can burn and irritate skin when applied directly.

Potatoes

Potatoes are useful in treating acne. They fight off bacteria and give a natural glow to the skin. Slice thin disks from a potato and massage your face gently with them. Make sure to use a different piece of potato disk on different parts of you face to avoid spreading bacteria.

Papaya

Papaya is a great Ayurvedic remedy for acne and pimples. Wash your face, pat dry and apply papaya paste on your face. Leave the mask on for 20 minutes and rinse off with warm water. Repeat daily.

Neem

Neem has many healing powers, including strengthening the immune system and helping to heal acne. Because Neem is a blood purifier and detoxifier, it works well to cleanse your system and skin. It’s also antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and reduces inflammation. It’s perfect for pimples that don’t seem to go away.

Bottle Gourd (Lauki)

Bottle gourd cools the skin and cleanses your system, thereby improving digestion and excretion. It also helps you sleep better. Peel the outer skin, blend it and drink the juice.

Coriander

Be it acne or pigmentation, oily or dry skin, pimples or blackheads, coriander juice works like magic. Coriander’s anti-fungal and antimicrobial elements are even known to relieve eczema. It is a detoxifier, a disinfectant and even treats dark lips.

READ MORE: Oily Skin: 14 Ayurvedic Herbs, Essential Oils And Natural Ingredients For Balance

Manjistha

Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) purifies the blood, improves blood circulation and helps in healing acne. It makes skin radiant and evens out skin tone.

READ MORE: iYura Manjish Glow Elixir, Manjishtha: Lymph Purifier, Ayurvedic Blood And Toxin Purifier, Manjistha Tea Benefits, How To Take Manjistha, Side Effects, Contraindications

Nutmeg

Nutmeg or jatiphala is useful for black spots and scars. Make a paste along with honey or lime juice and apply to the affected area.

Shatavari, Ashwagandha, Ashoka

Shatavari, Ashwagandha and Ashoka can also be used in hormonal imbalance and resulting acne.

READ MORE: How Ashwagandha Helps Acne, Can Ashwagandha And Tulsi Be Taken Together?, 21 Ways To Take Ashwagandha (Ashwagandha Remedies + Recipes)

Ayurvedic Cleansing (Panchakarma)

The Ayurvedic cleansing series called Panchakarma can help too. In particular, these particular aspects of the days-long treatment series can be beneficial. 

Please note, Panchakarma should only be administered by a qualified Ayurvedic professional. Even simple Ayurvedic cleanses performed at home should be guided by a trained practitioner.

Vamana Karma (Emesis): According to Ayurvedic master Sushruta, vamana or therapeutic emesis is particularly beneficial for acne.4

Virechana Karma (Purgation): Virechana is indicated especially to subside Pitta dosha. The purgative formulation expels the excess Pitta dosha from the body.

Nasya Karma (Nasal Insufflation): Ayurvedic master Vagbhatta also described this process for Mukhdushika.5

Shiravedha (Bloodletting): To get rid of these vitiated doshas, bloodletting is one of the best procedures explained in the Ayurvedic classical texts.6

In modern day India, bloodletting is still in legal practice by Ayurvedic practitioners for various ailments. Hair loss and skin conditions like psoriasis, acne and arthritis may be treated with bloodletting. In place of bloodletting, one may also purify the blood with blood purifying herbs like Guduchi (Tinospora Cordifolia), Manjistha (Rubia Cordifolia) and Neem.

READ MORE: Detox Dal: Ayurvedic Winter Soup For Cleansing, What Really Happens During A Panchakarma Cleanse

Please note, Panchakarma should only be administered by a qualified Ayurvedic professional. Even simple Ayurvedic cleanses performed at home should be guided by a trained practitioner.

Simple Must-Do Tips For Acne-Prone Skin

If all of this feels a little confusing, take simple steps to cut out additives and preservatives first, so you’re eating foods that are as whole and natural as possible. This will help keep the body calm and clean from the inside out.

Don’t pop the pimples. It can lead to more swelling, redness and even scarring. Feel a pimple is on its way? Just clean the area with rose water, and place a chilled green tea bag for ten minutes. Also, if you wear glasses or sunglasses, make sure you clean them frequently to keep oil from clogging the pores around your eyes and nose.

Use chemical free products, even when it comes to things like laundry powder and household cleaning sprays—they will have an impact on your skin as well.

Remove makeup completely before going to bed. This is the first and foremost step to naturally glowing skin.

Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. A minimum of eight glasses, if not more will keep you hydrated.

You are what you eat. Keep a note of what you put on your plate. Eat fresh fruits, greens, sufficient protein and vitamins. A diet rich in vitamin C and low in fats and sugar promotes radiant skin. Consider a low-sugar diet, which can keep insulin levels down, allowing cells to maintain a healthy balance.

American author and Ayurvedic practitioner Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc in The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies advises, “Don’t eat spicy foods, fermented foods, salty foods or fried foods. Instead favor blander foods such as rice, oatmeal and applesauce.”

READ MORE: Rice + Ayurvedic Diet: White Rice, Brown Rice, Types Of Rice, The Doshas

Sleep at least seven hours a night. Cortisol, the stress hormone, ages the skin and can cause acne. Sleep reduces the cortisol level in your body. So it’s a simple equation: sleep = younger, clearer skin.

It could be time to reconsider a regular meditation practice or reignite your interest in yoga.

Do aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week. The increased circulation and sweating naturally removes toxins from your body.

Finally, as frustrating as it may be, remember that beauty comes from within. There is no need to feel anything less than fabulous. Don’t let a simple thing like acne ruin your confidence.

READ MORE: 21 Sleep-Inducing Healthy Foods And Beverages For Insomnia, The Gorgeous Glory Of The Goddess Body Shape

References
1. Department of Dermatology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, CO, USA
2. Sushruta Samhita Acharya yadavji Trikamji, Nidana Sthana 13/39, Chowkhamba publication 2005 Varanasi.
3. Schagen, Silke K., et al. “Discovering the Link between Nutrition and Skin Aging.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 July 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/.
4. Vd. Anantram Sharma. Sushruta Samhita Chikitsa sthan, Varanasi: Chaukhamba Surbharti Prakashan; 2010. Verse 20/36-37; 332.
5. Dr. Brahamanand Tripathi. Astanga Hrdayam, Uttar sthana, Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan; 2009. Verse 32/3; 1119.
6. Kavraja Ambikadatta Shatri .Bhaisajya Ratnawali- Ksudrarogchikitsa; Varanasi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Sansthana; 2001. Verse No.60/37-38; 663.

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Jayashree Meher, B.A.M.S has been in the Holistic Health Field and working as an Ayurveda Practitioner for the past 7 years, and is passionate about Natural forms of Healing, Healthy living, Meditation. Jayashree also teaches Yoga and Pranayama and has worked with various NGOs. She is a Graduate of S.S.N. Ayurveda College & Research Institute, Sambalpur University, Odisha. After graduation, She received a Diploma in Hospital Management from R.M.T.I. College, Bhubaneshwar, India. Presently working at Transformative Learning Solution, NewDelhi India, and theayurvedaexperience.com

3 comments

  1. Informative blog. Nowadays acne is a problem who affects most of people. But Ayurveda medicines can control it and cures completely.Ayurveda medicines extracts from natural methods and it will not show any side effects.

  2. Wonderful Article. Very useful blog. Thank you for sharing this information with us. I have this pimple related issues. So i am definitely going to try this out.
    Keep up the work!

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