Dr (TCM) Attilio D'Alberto
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The most common form of acne is called acne vulgaris and is a skin disease that occurs when hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and oil.

Acne is one of the most common types of skin problems and can include inflammatory lesions.

Causes of acne

In traditional Chinese medicine theory, acne is caused by too much heat in the body. Heat can be caused by:

  1. Stress (cortisol)
  2. Testosterone
  3. Hormone imbalance (luteal hormone-LH)
  4. Eating too much spicy foods
  5. Drinking too much alcohol
  6. Eating too much sugar

As heat rises, it tends to just affect the upper body, hence why acne tends to just appear on the face, chest and back.

Acne is commonly seen in women due to the fluctuation of their hormones. For this reason, acne can typically occur around a woman's menstrual cycle. Women with PCOS commonly have acne.

Pharmaceutical drugs can be warm in nature, which causes heat that can lead to acne.

Acupuncture for acne

Treatment of acne vulgaris depends on the type of acne the person suffers from. Medical advice includes good hygiene practices such as cleaning of the face and skin pores. Steroid creams are sometimes prescribed to combat the acne but don't treat the root cause.

Generally acupuncture treatment is very helpful at treating acne. It can help to regulate a woman's hormones, which improves their balance and reduce excessive hormones such as luteal hormone and testosterone allowing for clear skin.

Controlled trial have shown that it can treat acne and may work by:

  1. Regulating hormones which can reduce hormonal acne problems
  2. Reduce inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007)
  3. Enhance natural killer cell activity and modulate the number and ratio of immune cell types (Kawakita 2008)
  4. Increase local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling


Download my acne factsheet.


Kavoussi B, Ross BE. The neuroimmune basis of antiinflammatory accupuncture. Integr Cancer Ther 2007; 6: 251-7.
Kawakita K et al. Do Japanese style accupuncture and moxibustion reduce symptoms of the common cold? eCAM 2008; 5: 481-9.
Komori M et al. Microcirculatory responses to accupuncture stimulation and phototherapy. Anesth Analg 2009; 108: 635-40.
Zijlstra FJ et al. Anti-inflammatory actions of accupuncture. Mediators Inflamm 2003; 12: 59-69.