Beyond Blackheads and Breakouts: The Real Causes of Acne and How to Treat Them Holistically


Introduce acne and its prevalence

Acne is a common skin condition characterized by pimples that appear on the face, back, chest, neck, shoulders and upper arms. It occurs when the pores of the skin become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Acne is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults, with around 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experiencing at least minor acne. The primary causes are hormonal changes during puberty that stimulate oil production and clog pores. However, acne can persist into adulthood as well. While often considered just a cosmetic nuisance, severe acne can lead to permanent scarring and negative psychological effects like poor self-esteem and depression. Overall, acne is an extremely common condition that most people will experience at some point in their lives.

Acne is Caused by Internal Imbalances

The textbook definition of acne focuses solely on the skin. While acne manifests as lesions on the skin, the root causes are much deeper and tied to internal imbalances in the body. Acne is not simply a superficial skin condition.

Stress, worry, and diet all contribute to acne by disrupting the normal functioning of our organs and glands. For example, constant stress taxes our sympathetic nervous system and throws it out of balance. Excessive worry damages the kidneys’ ability to properly support other organs. An unhealthy diet high in greasy, fried, spicy, or cold foods can impair digestive function.

When our organs and systems are out of harmony, this creates an internal environment prone to acne breakouts. The skin is a mirror of our overall health. Acne indicates that something deeper is out of balance. To clear acne for good, we must address the root causes inside the body, not just treat the outward symptoms on the skin.

The Root Imbalances That Cause Acne

Acne is often seen as merely a skin condition, but it’s far more complex. At our clinic, we’ve found most acne cases stem from one of three underlying imbalances in the body:

Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance

Constant stress and anxiety can over activate the sympathetic nervous system. This winds up the body and disrupts hormonal balance. The result is increased oil production and inflammation, leading to acne breakouts.

Kidney Imbalance

Chronic worry and fear hurt kidney function in Chinese medicine. The kidneys are responsible for cooling the heart, supporting the liver, and balancing the pancreas, spleen, and lungs. When the kidneys are weak, these organs are thrown off, contributing to acne.

Digestive Issues

An unhealthy diet high in greasy, fried, spicy, or dairy foods can impair digestion. This negatively affects the liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas. Toxins build up and hormonal balance is disrupted, triggering acne.

Chronic Stress Leads to Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance

The sympathetic nervous system controls the body’s fight-or-flight response. When someone is under chronic stress, this system becomes overactive and imbalanced. The constant release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol causes widespread effects:

  • Blood vessels constrict, reducing blood flow and oxygen to tissues and organs
  • Heart rate and blood pressure increase
  • Muscles tense up
  • Blood sugar rises
  • Digestion slows down or shuts off
  • Immune system is suppressed

Over time, these physiological effects of chronic stress lead to inflammation, high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, fatigue, skin issues like acne, and more.

People whose bodies are stuck in sympathetic nervous system dominance from constant stress have lowered immunity, impaired tissue healing, and are prone to acne breakouts. By identifying and treating this root cause, we can restore balance and help clear acne.

Chronic Worry Hurts the Kidneys

Worry and stress can take a major toll on our kidney health over time. The kidneys play a vital role in cooling the heart, nourishing the liver, and supporting the balance of other organs like the spleen, lungs, and pancreas.

When we are in a constant state of worry, the kidneys become strained and start to underperform many of their key functions. As a result, the intricate balance between our organs is disrupted. The heart may become overheated, the liver undernourished, and the spleen, lungs, and pancreas destabilized.

This chronic kidney imbalance then starts to manifest in various ways, including acne breakouts. The skin is often the first place our inner imbalances reveal themselves. By addressing the root kidney dysfunction through acupuncture and other holistic care, we can restore harmony and help clear up acne symptoms.


Explain digestive imbalances

A poor diet high in fast food, fried food, dairy, and other imbalanced choices can wreak havoc on the digestive system. When we consistently eat foods that are difficult to digest, it places strain on several key organs involved in the digestion process.

Over time, this strain disrupts the healthy functioning of organs like the liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas. For example, a diet high in dairy and cold foods creates dampness that taxes the spleen’s role in transporting and transforming nutrients. Meanwhile, excessive fried and greasy foods impair the liver’s ability to spread qi and regulate emotions.

The end result is a cascade of effects that throws off the balance of the entire digestive system. Acne can be just one outward manifestation of these inner imbalances. By restoring digestion using acupuncture and diet changes, we can resolve acne at its root causes.

Our diagnosis approach

At our clinic, we take a unique approach to diagnosing the root causes of acne. Rather than just looking at the skin, we use Japanese medical techniques to find the exact imbalances in each individual patient.

Our skilled practitioners apply a specialized form of Japanese diagnosis. This involves a comprehensive health examination, looking at many aspects of health beyond just the skin. We look for signs of imbalance in the body’s systems and organs.

The key is finding the specific disharmonies that are contributing to breakouts. Common culprits are stress, kidney function, and digestive issues. But every person is unique. Our Japanese diagnosis identifies the subtle imbalances particular to each patient.

This personalized approach allows us to get to the root factors behind acne. Instead of general treatment, we develop customized plans to restore balance and harmony to the body, mind, and skin. Our goal is to find and resolve the underlying causes for each individual. This is the secret to our lasting success in eliminating acne.

Our treatment approach

At our clinic, we use Japanese acupuncture techniques to restore balance and health for acne sufferers. Japanese acupuncture has a long history and tradition of holistic healing that addresses the root causes of imbalances.

Rather than just treating the superficial symptoms on the skin, we use palpation and pulse diagnosis to uncover where your body is out of balance. Once we determine the underlying disharmony, we can select customized acupuncture points and needling techniques to rebalance your system.

Our Japanese acupuncture treatments work to regulate the sympathetic nervous system, nourish the kidneys, and improve digestive function. Gentle needling helps reduce stress responses, improve kidney function, and optimize your digestion. This restores harmony to your body as a whole, reducing inflammation and allowing the skin to heal.

Acupuncture also increases circulation to nourish the skin and remove impurities. Overall, it works to balance the body, mind, and spirit. Our patients find it is a calming, therapeutic treatment that leaves them feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Rather than ongoing medications or frustrating topical treatments, acupuncture offers the potential to fully resolve acne by treating its root imbalances. We see outstanding results and satisfaction from patients who complete a customized course of Japanese acupuncture with us.

Benefits of our Approach

Our holistic approach to treating acne provides numerous benefits compared to other options. By addressing the root causes rather than just the symptoms, we enable long-lasting results free of side effects.

Holistic Healing

At our clinic, we don’t view acne as merely a skin condition. We recognize it as a sign of deeper imbalances in the body and spirit. Our treatment plans take a holistic approach that heals the entire individual. We restore harmony and balance to the body, mind, and emotions.

Treat Root Causes

Superficial treatments like creams or antibiotics only mask the symptoms temporarily. Our acupuncture treatments address the underlying root causes of acne like stress, kidney dysfunction, and digestive imbalances. By resolving these core issues, we eliminate acne at its source.

Long-Lasting Results

The holistic healing and balance restored by our treatments means results that last. Patients find their skin clears up and stays clear long after finishing treatment. There is no need for ongoing medication with side effects. Our acupuncture brings natural, sustainable wellness.


Acne is more than just a surface skin condition. It’s often a sign of deeper imbalances in the body. Stress, worry, and poor diet habits can cause issues with the nervous system, kidneys, liver, and digestive organs – which then manifest as acne on the skin.

At our clinic, we don’t just treat acne. We perform a full Japanese-style diagnosis to identify the root causes in each patient. Then we develop a personalized treatment plan using advanced acupuncture techniques to restore balance and harmony. Our holistic approach provides lasting relief by addressing the underlying factors, not just the surface symptoms.

If you’re struggling with acne, we encourage you to explore this integrative approach. Acupuncture and Asian medicine have helped many patients achieve clear, healthy skin again without harsh medications. You don’t have to live with acne – take control of your skin and your health today. Schedule a consultation at our clinic to get started on your journey toward wellbeing.

Dr.Ac Yelena Grabko treating Acne in Edmonton

Being a master of Kiiko Matsumoto’s style of acupuncture, she is representing the culmination of centuries of Japanese acupuncture wisdom and innovation while advancing its methodology for the modern era in her daily clinical practice. Through masterful palpation and sensitive needling, Yelena Grabko is able to pinpoint and resolve underlying issues with minimal intervention. She encourages Patients to explore this dynamic modality, either as a complement to Western medicine or as a holistic system for self-care. Founded by Yelena Grabko, Live by Design Health Centre is dedicated to patient-centered care and gentle healing of body and soul.

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