AcneNet Article
The Naked Truth About Natural Acne Treatments

Have you ever been tempted to try a natural treatment for your acne? An all-natural supplement or diet certainly seems like a safe option. The truth is that all-natural supplements may not be as safe as you think. And, despite the claims, studies have not proven that any acne diet works.

All-natural supplements can have serious side effects
Supplements sold in health food stores and online should be safe, right? Two women who started taking a supplement to improve their health thought so. Both wound up seeing a dermatologist for problems with their skin, hair, and nails. Their problems included a rash, scaly skin, breakouts on the scalp, lots of hair loss, and discolored nails. One woman felt dizzy and exhausted.

An all-natural supplement was causing their problems. Testing revealed that this supplement contained more than 200 times the amount of selenium stated on the label. Our bodies need selenium for healthy skin, but too much can be toxic. Too much causes selenium poisoning.

Signs and Symptoms of Selenium Poisoning

If you are looking for a home remedy for acne, you may see selenium for sale. Taking too much selenium can cause serious health problems. Selenium poisoning can cause:

Skin, Hair, and Nail Problems

Stomach Problems

  • Rash

  • Scaly skin

  • Itchy skin

  • Acne-like breakouts on the scalp

  • Hair loss that gets worse

  • Changes to fingernails and toenails

  • Fingernails and toenails may fall off

  • Feeling sick to your stomach (nausea)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Other Problems

  • Hard to breath
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling very tired

If you think that you have selenium poisoning, stop taking all vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other supplements. See your doctor right away.

Hundreds of people reported health problems after taking the supplement that contained too much selenium. One man still has problems breathing. Eventually, stores stopped selling this supplement.

Why are harmful supplements sold?
In the United States, supplements do not need to be tested and found safe before they are placed on store shelves or sold online. Companies that make supplements do not need to prove that a supplement works. The government does not require safety testing of the ingredients that go into supplements. Even when the ingredients come from another country, safety testing is not required.

Because of these practices, harmful supplements do appear from time to time. It can be very hard for the U.S. government to order retailers to stop selling a supplement. Instead, the government issues warnings. This means you need to listen to the news for recall information.

The government also may ask a company to recall products considered unsafe. Recalls are voluntary, but companies usually comply. Recalls only happen after problems occur.

This makes it very difficult to know which supplements are safe.

Diets should be safe, so why can’t studies prove which foods affect acne?
It certainly seems possible that what people eat and drink can affect their acne. Research shows that taking the medicine, lithium, can make a person’s acne worse. When it comes to food and drink, the truth is that we just do not know for sure.

Here’s why we do not know. When researchers conduct studies, they start by testing an idea. For example, when dermatologists wanted to know whether acne patients who followed a certain diet had less acne than patients who eat whatever they want, the dermatologists designed a study to test this idea. In the first study, dermatologists found that the patients who followed the diet had less acne.

The dermatologists also found that the patients who followed the diet lost weight and had healthier insulin levels. This means that the diet could have caused the improvement. Less acne also could have been caused by the weight loss or healthier insulin level. To find out what happened, the study was repeated.

When the study was repeated, the patients given the special diet did not have less acne. This means that we really do not know for sure whether the diet leads to less acne. When it comes to research about diet and acne, there are many examples like this one. That’s why we do not know for sure.

What do studies prove can treat acne?
While researchers are still studying the connection between acne and diet, there are studies that show what can safely and effectively treat acne. This is what the research shows:

  1. Skin care makes a difference. Skin care can be just as important as the treatment(s) you use to clear your acne. Proper skin care can reduce possible side effects from prescription medications. It can make a product that you can buy without a prescription more effective. Proper skin care can even help you prevent new breakouts once your skin clears.

  2. Healthy foods deliver more nutrition than supplements. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other foods found in a healthy diet contain many beneficial nutrients. For example, plants contain phytochemcials. These may sound harmful, but they actually interact in so many ways to keep us healthy. Your body cannot possibly get all it needs from a pill or powder.

  3. Supplements can interact with prescription medicines and cause unexpected problems. Be sure to tell your dermatologist about all vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other supplements that you take. Your dermatologist needs to know to protect you. And before starting a supplement, be sure to tell your dermatologist.

  4. Medicine prescribed by your dermatologist has been tested and found to work on acne. Before a medicine can be used in the United States, it must be tested in clinical trials and found to be safe and effective.

Many effective acne treatments are available. If a treatment worries you, be sure to tell your dermatologist. A dermatologist does not want to prescribe a treatment that you will not use. Treatment cannot work if you do not use it.

More Information
Skin Care for Acne-prone Skin

Reference:
Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Berkey CS et al. “Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology; May 2008; 58: 787-93. 
 

Bowe WP, Joshi SS, Shalita AR. “Diet and acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology; July 2010; 63: 124-41.
 

Consumer Reports, “Dangerous supplements.” Consumer Reports; September 2010; 16-20.

Lopez RE, Knable AL, Jr., Burruss JB. Ingestion of a dietary supplement resulting in selenium toxicity. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology; July 2010; 63: 168-9.
 

Michaelsson G. “Decreased concentration of selenium in whole blood and plasma in acne vulgaris.” Acta Dermato-Venereologica; 1990; 70: 92.
 

Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A et al. “The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology; August 2007; 57: 247-56.
 

Webster GF. “Commentary: Diet and acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology; March 2008; 58: 794-5.


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