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Dr. Pimple Popper has over three million subscribers on YouTube. While we are fascinated with the pussy gush of pimples being popped on other people’s faces, we try pretty hard to keep zits from showing up on our own mugs. What does Chinese medicine say about what causes breakouts? And is there anything we can eat (or avoid eating) to help improve or prevent acne?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition, touching 50 million Americans annually. Acne is most common between the ages of 12 and 24, but we can break out at any age.

How do Western and Chinese medicine approach acne treatment and healthy skin?

Generally, Western medicine (AKA “conventional medicine”) is an evidence-based practice that focuses on treating symptoms and diseases with medication or surgery. Illnesses are viewed as a sign that something has gone wrong with the body. When it comes to acne, Western medicine points to a handful of contributing factors, mainly oily skin, blocked pores, and bacteria. Other considerations in Western medicine include genes, hormones, menstruation, and emotional state. Mild acne is most often treated with topical therapies, while mild to severe acne is frequently treated with oral antibiotics. Scarring might be treated with dermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser resurfacing.

In contrast to Western medicine which seems to view the body in a more organ or tissue-specific way, Chinese medicine looks at the whole body and the energy balance existing in each individual’s body. The idea is that when the mind/body/spirit is balanced and in harmony, the body can heal. Chinese medicine considers one’s environment, blood flow, energy, toxins, nutrient status, and heat. To be healthy, one’s energy (known as “qi”) and blood must be flowing freely throughout the body, maintaining one’s yin (cooling) and yang (heating) elements. An imbalance of yin and yang can cause disease – or bad skin. One theory about acne in Chinese medicine is that when our qi and blood flow are out of whack, the body struggles eliminating waste properly, pushing toxins through the skin, causing acne.

Let’s take a closer look at specific foods that Chinese medicine encourages for healthy skin.

6 Foods Used in Chinese Medicine For Healthy Skin


Wolfberries (goji berries) are believed to support qi and blood circulation, thus providing more yin. The belief is that when a buildup of inner heat is causing acne, eating more cooling (yin) foods will help lead to balance and acne improvements.


It’s believed that honey can detox the liver, so mixing honey with water (one tablespoon to one serving of water) is recommended to help clear up acne.

Using honey as a face wash is encouraged due to reported antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Some Chinese medicine practitioners will suggest combining it with coconut oil before rubbing it onto the face.

Next: Can a wildflower really contribute to healthier skin?

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