Acne and Mental Health

This February, the British Journal of Dermatology published a massive population-based cohort study showing that those suffering from acne are at an increased risk of depression. 

Researchers followed 134,427 men and women with acne and 1,731,608 without over a period of 15 years. Ages ranged from 7 to 50. Though the exact reasons for this association are not yet clear, the link between increased mental health risks and acne was apparent. 

Those suffering from acne probably don’t need a study to confirm the negative impact it can have on self-esteem and social interactions. Acne can be especially difficult during adolescence while self-image is still developing and the value placed on social acceptance is typically at an all time high. This doesn’t mean adult acne is much easier. 

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association acne affects 5.6 million Canadians - nearly 20 per cent of the population. About 90 percent of adolescents, and 20-30 percent of adults ages 20 to 40 suffer from acne. The prevalence of this condition makes it an important mental health issue as well a physical issue. 

Just as there are a host of factors that may contribute to acne, there are fortunately a wide variety of treatments options available. While most acne treatments target just the surface of the skin (which can include some good options),  I want people to know that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can offer emotional and physical support simultaneously. 

Many triggers for acne are also triggers for anxiety and depression such as: stress, hormone imbalances, and inflammation. Chinese medicine has a long (very long) history of treating all of these things. To me, it doesn’t matter if depression developed because of the acne or if the acne and depression arose from the same root cause, I am going to address both of these symptoms at the same time. 

A few treatment modalities I use to treat acne in my own clinical practice are: 

  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • LED light therapy

Additionally, I work with patients to create customized diet and lifestyle plans to give them tools to support their health goals outside of the clinic. We review topical skincare routines to make sure it is helping and not hindering recovery. I also feel it is important to offer a confidential, safe space where patients can talk about their emotional health or even just offer a sanctuary from their day-to-day stress.

Acne is a complex issue and there is no one-size fits all solution. I use Chinese Medical Diagnosis to look at individual constitution and a person’s overall health. The goal of Chinese medicine is to correct any imbalances so that the whole mind and body can get back into a state of health.

I love this holistic approach to treating acne as it is a health issue that goes well beyond the surface of our skin. Acupuncture is fantastic for soothing the nervous system and can help relieve the depression and anxiety associated with acne while simultaneously working to heal the skin from the inside out - a rare mind-body treatment option. 

Another benefit of these modalities is that they are all safe, non-toxic options with no harsh chemicals to potentially further irritate the skin. It’s a great choice for teens, breastfeeding moms, or anyone looking to avoid unwanted side effects.

If you want to chat more about whether Chinese medicine might be an appropriate natural acne treatment option for you, feel free to book a free 15-min Q&A 

To find out more about how LED light therapy is used as one of our all natural acne remedies, click here.

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