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Acupuncture for acne vulgaris

On this page

  1. Overview
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Treatment
  5. Factsheet

1. Overview

The most common form of acne is called acne vulgaris. It 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 (cystic acne).

2. Symptoms

Symptoms of acne include whiteheads, blackheads, small red, tender bumps, pimples and large, solid, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin.

3. Causes of acne

In traditional Chinese medicine theory, skin issues such as acne are caused by too much heat in the body. Heat can be caused by:

  1. Stress
  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.

4. Treatment for acne

Treatment of acne vulgaris depends on the type of acne the person suffers from. Patients with acne would benefit from medical advice, which 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.

Acupuncture treatment is very safe and effective at treating acne. It helps to regulate a woman's hormones, which improves their skin health. It reduces excessive hormones such as testosterone allowing for clear skin.

Randomized controlled trials have shown that the stimulation of specific points with thin needles can treat acne and may work by:

  1. Regulating hormones which can reduce hormonal acne problems
  2. Reduce inflammation (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007)
  3. Enhance immune cell types (Kawakita 2008)
  4. Increase local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling
  5. Regulate the nervous system

I am a member of the British Acupuncture Council and use acupuncture and moxibustion in the treatment of acne.

5. Acne factsheet

For further information, read the acupuncture for acne factsheet.


Kavoussi B, Ross BE. The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory 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.