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The ever-popular world of "alternative" medicine - be it old or new, Western or Eastern - has a lot to offer for the acne sufferer. This is good news for everybody, but adult sufferers who find their skin no longer responds to treatments designed for people in their teens will be especially interested in new ways to handle skin problems.

Although the dietary connections to acne have been widely discredited (with the exception of food allergies), most alternative practioners look here first: while chocolate and French fries do not cause pimples, a diet lacking in essential nutrients will not do troubled skin any favors. Essential fatty acids are major components of all cellular formations and they are critical for a healthy complexion, but are frequently noted as an item lacking in most North American diets. EFAs can be easily found in the form of flax or evening primrose oil supplements, along with a diet high in vegetables, seeds and grains.

In a perfect world, nobody would need one, but a daily multivitamin also has a lot to recommend it, for the reasons mentioned above. "Megadoses" of vitamins should be avoided unless prescribed by a reputable health care practioner; many people are aware that vitamin A is critical for skin health, but few people are aware that an overdose leads to severe liver damage.

More innovative supplements include saw palmetto. The saw palmetto plant is recognized as a treatment for prostate disorders, because it interferes with the production of certain male hormones. The same process that helps with prostate disorders has also been seen to be useful for acne patients, especially for those whose troubles are obviously linked to hormone production; pre-menstrual acne responds particularly well.

Topical treatments for acne that are "natural" are legion in health-food stores. It is useful to remember what is considered "natural" - salicylic acid, the main ingredient in many over-the-counter drugstore remedies, is derived from willow bark. There are also a lot of bits of advice floating around that are nothing more than "old wives' tales": we've seen a lot of alternative health gurus suggesting lemon juice as a topical treatment, but there is nothing to support the idea that disrupting the skin's acid balance will be beneficial.

Your job here, then, is to sort out the useful from the simply silly (and overpriced). Obvious as it may seem, effective treatments tend to be the most popular ones: the use of tea tree oil in personal care preparations has skyrocketed in recent years, and for good reason. Tea tree oil is a natural antibiotic and antibacterial agent, and has a drying effect on the skin. Keeping the P. Acnes bacteria at bay along with decreasing facial oiliness makes this oil a worthwhile investment indeed. You can try prepared remedies, small applications of undiluted oil, or, in a frequently overlooked option, you can simply add the tea tree oil to the skin preparations you are already using.

A less widely seen but increasingly popular option involves the topical application of zinc, long believed to be useful for acne when taken internally but only recently recognized as a topical treatment that may help with skin oiliness. Herbs categorized as "calming" such as chamomile and lavender are also useful, particularly if the skin is inflamed from overly aggressive anti-acne treatment.

The standard "consult your local library for more information" is particularly relevant here. Reputable books on herbal healing, nutrition, and, increasingly, essential oils are good sources for more information on acne treatments. Mainstream acne advice is also more and more likely to include non-mainstream therapies, so make sure your sources are as up-to-date as possible.

As with any lifestyle change, you should consult your health care provider before making any dramatic changes to your diet. Good luck!