Learning about Acne

What is Acne and How is it Formed?

Acne happens when dead skin cells, bacteria, and/or oil builds up and clogs our hair follicles, forming whiteheads and blackheads. When inflammation happens, pimples or even cysts will form. Usually occurring on the face, chest and back, it is a skin condition that leaves people exasperated as it can affect their confidence and self-esteem. Not only that, acne can be painful, itchy, and some might take a long time to heal.

Types of Acne

Whiteheads – A closed, clogged pore


– An open, clogged pore

Papules – Pink/red bumps that are raised above the skin

– Yellow-ish pus filled bumps raised above the skin. They occur when a blocked pore becomes inflamed

Nodules – Hard, painful lumps. They can be skin-coloured or red. Occurs when inflammation goes into the deeper layers of the skin.

Cysts – Large, soft, painful, pus-filled lumps. Occurs when inflammation goes into the deeper layers of the skin.

There are four different grades of acne:

  • Grade 1 – Whiteheads and blackheads
  • Grade 2 – Whiteheads and blackheads and papules
  • Grade 3 – Whiteheads and blackheads, papules and pustules
  • Grade 4 – Whiteheads and blackheads, papules, pustules, cysts, nodules, scarring 

Why it Happens in a TCM context

  1. Lung Wind-Heat This kind of acne is usually itchy and commonly manifested as Grade 1 – 3 acne.
  2. Damp Heat: Usually seen in people who tend to have oily faces, chests, and backs. Typically manifests as Grade 3 acne.
  3. Phlegm-blood StasisUsually occurs in people with a weakened spleen system. Acne typically manifests as Grade 3 – 4 acne, which includes nodules, cysts, or scars that take a longer time to heal.
  4. Blood Heat: Usually caused by emotional turmoil, stress, or inadequate sleep. Commonly manifests as Grade 2 – 3 acne, which is usually red and painful, appearing on the forehead or between the brows.
  5. Toxic Heat: Found in people who have a lot of heat (stemming from the lungs and stomach) in their system. This kind of acne is more severe compared to Blood Heat acne, usually manifesting as Grade 2 – 4 acne.

What can TCM do? 

Acupuncture is a natural, safe, and holistic method to tackle acne problems. Besides using acupuncture on the face, other meridian points throughout the body will also be targeted to help restore balance in the body. A healthier inner self reflects a healthier outer self.

What acupuncture can achieve:

      • Reduce redness and inflammation of acne
      • Reduce sebum production 
      • Reduce discolouration of acne scars
      • Minimise pore size
      • Achieve a natural and healthy glow

Herbal medication is used to restore imbalances in the body, thereby alleviating the root cause of acne. Hence, not only does it help tackle acne, it also helps to reduce the accompanying symptoms that arise from acne. 

Every individual has a different body constitution and a different root cause for their condition. After a detailed consultation from a physician, herbal medication will be individually concocted to suit each patient’s needs. 

banner of pulse acne program

Tips to Manage Acne

  1. Do not squeeze acne.
  2. Manage stress to prevent hormonal imbalances.
  3. Use warm water and gentle facial cleansers to clean your face.
  4. Reduce the use of makeup to prevent pore irritation.
  5. Consume more fruits and vegetables, as well as reduce intake of fats, sugar, fried food, and spicy food.
  6. Maintain good bowel habits.
  7. Have plenty of rest and sleep.

Facial Representation of Organs

*Do note that the location of acne only gives an indication as to which organ is affected, but may not be accurate in diagnosing the root problem. Therefore, it is important to seek advice from a physician to fully understand your body constitution. 

Article by Physician Sheryl Tay

Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

4 thoughts on “Learning about Acne”

  1. Avatar photo

    I have pain in upper left arms for about a month, pain medicine is not able to dull the pain, arm is still capable to move without problem, in the last few days, numbness can be felt on the palm and fingers.

    Often woke up due to pain, lifting of arm upon wake up feel excruciating, pain get more bearable as the day progress. Another pain could be felt on Upper left shoulder and left neck, Bone rubbing sound could be heard when turning head.

    Another issue for is regard Skin abscess on buttock, near groin area and face, the abscess on button was remove via operation, the others ‘exploded’ and heal on its on, but the episode is recurring, could be hormonal as it happens to my daughter.

    Is TCM able to treat these situation?

    1. Avatar photo

      Hi Ruth,

      TCM can manage both conditions.
      1) It is likely a tendon tear on your shoulder. For treatments, you can consider starting with acupuncture, followed by cupping (which can only be done after circuit breaker measures have been lifted).
      2) TCM treatments such as acupuncture and herbal medication can reduce abscess, however if it is too severe – too deep or big – you may like to consider having it surgically removed.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Avatar photo

    Great article! Thanks for sharing blog on this topic. This is the most problematical skin issue that people commonly face. Many treatments, medicines and remedies I have used for it but all failed. Now I am using CBD serum it really helped me a lot curing acne and skin soothing.

  3. Avatar photo

    If I have pimples at the edge of my eyes, does it mean I am sad and stressed so drink alot of alcohol affecting my liver? 😂

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