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The Best Chinese Herbs for Acne Prone Skin

Struggling with the constant pimples and cysts of acne-prone skin? Chinese herbs for acne offer a simple and natural solution to get the clear and healthy skin you deserve. 

If you’re one of over 85% of Americans who have some point in our lives, you know that acne can be one of the most frustrating skin conditions to manage. While there are many acne cleansers and medications on the market that promise results, they often come with a slew of side effects. 

Rather than rely on harsh medications, Chinese herbal medicine offers gentle, yet effective oral and topical formulas that help your skin heal while stopping acne from the root. Read on to learn more about why we struggle with acne, and how Chinese herbs for acne help reverse this pesky skin condition. 

What is Acne?

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition affecting what’s called the pilosebaceous unit. This is where the hair bulb, hair shaft, and sebaceous gland meet. When the pilosebaceous unit produces too much sebum (oil) or gets inflamed, the oil blends with dead skin cells, dirt, or bacteria, which clogs the pore and a blemish or cyst occurs.

What Are the Different Types of Acne?

  • Blackheads
    Dark open pores that fill with excess oil and dead skin.

  • Whiteheads
    White-colored bumps that are closed pores, clogged with oil and dead skin.

  • Papules
    Small red or pink bumps that become inflamed.

  • Pustules
    Pimples that contain pus. They are usually pink or red with a white center.

  • Fungal acne (pityrosporum folliculitis)
    A certain type of acne caused by yeast infecting the hair follicles (rather than bacteria).

  • Nodules
    Solid, large, painful pimples that develop deep in your skin.

  • Cysts
    Pus-filled pimples that often cause scars. Cysts are commonly related to severe hormone imbalances and conditions like PCOS. 

Western Medicine Acne Treatment 

Western dermatology views acne as a skin condition caused by hormone imbalances or genetics. They treat it by offering hormonal medications (like birth control) or retinoids (like Accutane). Topical treatments like face wash, cream, or spot treatment may also be used.

Traditional Chinese Medicine for Acne 

Like Western dermatology, Chinese medicine does consider hormone imbalances to be a leading factor in acne. But it takes the condition one step further and looks into why hormones are imbalanced and work to address this deeper root cause. 

For many people, hormone imbalances in Chinese medicine are due to a foundational imbalance in the body’s yin or yang. Certain hormones are more yin in nature (estrogen), while others are yang (testosterone). 

In many cases of acne, an excess of yang (testosterone) causes the sebaceous glands to produce more oil than necessary. This causes a buildup of oil that clogs the pores and creates breakouts. This type of acne is often seen with other hormonal fluctuations and imbalances (such as PCOS or PMS in women, and during puberty in males). 

But acne can also be due to:

  • Excess heat (red, hot, angry lesions) 
  • Damp-heat and phlegm (cystic acne)
  • Liver Qi Stagnation (PMS breakouts) 
  • Blood stagnation (purple cysts and scarring)

Chinese herbs help ance prone skin in two ways: They heal skin after a breakout and they prevent the reoccurrence of acne lesions. Many of the herbs used (like jin yin hua, or honeysuckle flower) address excess heat in the lung meridian and stomach meridian – two key organ systems that correspond to the skin. Others clear dampness and phlegm, encourage healthy circulation, or regulate hormones.  

Along with managing the skin itself, Chinese herbs for acne also help address many of the symptoms that come along with acne:

Chinese Medicine Acne Treatment 

There is no one-size-fits-all medicine for treating acne in Chinese medicine. Instead, TCM looks at the underlying factors that are causing acne and uses Chinese herbs to achieve balance. 

But, if you learn to read the signs your skin is giving you, you can determine what your root causes are and choose the best formula for you. Here are some of the most commonly used formulas in the Chinese medicine treatment of acne:

Best Chinese Herbs for Acne Breakouts 

  • Margarita Acne Pills
    Margarite Acne Pills are a famous Chinese herbal acne remedy made with powdered mother of pearl. This cooling formula helps to clear heat in the body, soothe irritation, and reduce breakouts or chronic acne. You can also crush these pills into a powder, add a bit of water or your face wash to make a paste, and apply directly to pimples or other types of inflamed skin (like rosacea, rashes, or hives). 
  • Reishi 415
    Does your skin always seem to erupt when you’re under stress? Stop the acne by addressing your stress response. Adaptogens are medicinal herbs that help the body grow more resilient to stress. One of the most calming adaptogens is the reishi mushroom. Along with easing stress, reishi is also known to help the liver with detoxification, which can reduce the number of toxins that end up clogging your pores.  Take Real Mushrooms Reishi 415 daily to keep stress (and breakouts) at bay. 

Best Chinese Herbs for Hormonal Acne

  • Jia Wei Xiao Yao San
    Jia Wei Xiao Yao San is a modified version of the famous Xiao Yao San. It contains two added herbs that cool inflammation, making it a go-to formula for those with hormonal acne that tends to be red or angry looking. This formula is also a good choice if you struggle with jawline acne, irritability, mood swings, loose stools, or trouble sleeping – especially around your menstrual cycle. 

Best Chinese Herbs for Cystic Acne

  • Dan Shen Pian
    Dan Shen Pian is a formula that treats phlegm and blood stasis, TCM conditions in which old fluid and blood get stuck in the vessels and cause issues like cysts, pain, and scarring. You can use Dan Shen Pian to clear cystic acne and encourage faster healing of acne scars from old cysts. 

Best Chinese Herbs for Acne Scars

  • Bai Hua She She Cao Tincture (Topical)
    Along with Dan Shen Pian, you can use a topical treatment for acne scars. If your acne scars are inflamed, painful, or infected, try the potent Bai Hua She She Cao herbal tincture. Bai Hua She She Cao is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immune-boosting herb. Apply directly to pimples or blend into a gentle non-comedogenic moisturizer to apply to the whole face, back, or affected skin. 

Best Chinese Herb Tea for Acne

  • Clear and Smooth Skin Tea
    Clear and Smooth Skin Tea is an herbal tea that helps fight acne-causing inflammation and dampness. Along with jasmine tea, herbs like yi mu cao and da huang support normal blood flow and detox the body to keep the skin clear. Drink 1-3 times daily for the best results.

How Long Do Chinese Herbs Take to Work for Acne?

Because Chinese herbal medicines are working on a deep level to stop acne from the root, it can take some time to see lasting results. After a few weeks, you should see fewer breakouts and notice some positive “side effects” like better digestion, more restful sleep, and balanced moods. 

In most cases, at least 3-6 months of consistent use is necessary to establish the skin’s natural healing process and maintain your results. 

Get a Clear Complexion with Chinese Herbs for Acne

Let’s put your best face forward! Start by healing your skin from the root with Chinese herbs for acne-prone skin. These and other Chinese herbal formulas can help you stop the inflammatory cycle of acne and feel more confident in your own, clear skin. 

Shop our full collection of acne-clearing herbal formulas now, or learn more about using Chinese medicine to heal your skin. 

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About the Author

Kaitlan Downes, MSAOM, L.AC

Kaitlan Downes, MSAOM, L.AC

Kate Downes is a Chinese medicine practitioner with a passion for herbal medicine. In fact, it was her love for plant and earth medicine that first drew her to study Chinese medicine.

Kate has a MSAOM (Master of Science, Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine) certification and practiced acupuncture in Indianapolis, IN for five years before packing her bags to roam the world. In order to stay in touch with the wellness community and continue to help others thrive with herbal medicine, she transformed her work from face-to-face patient care to spreading wellness through words. Her life as a remote herbalist and writer has allowed her to work with a variety of wellness brands, health pioneers, and her wonderful clients. She has a special interest in working with women’s health.

Kate thoroughly enjoys writing educational and useful pieces for Best Chinese Medicine. Her goal is to help the public gain a better understanding of the wonders of Chinese herbal medicine so they can be empowered in their own quest for natural, vibrant health.

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