Functional Medicine for Acne

Causes, Symptoms, & Effective Management Strategies


Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, characterized by the presence of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and sometimes cysts. It mainly appears on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and back.

Acne can be a source of significant emotional distress and can affect individuals of all ages, though it is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults.

What Causes Acne?

Understanding the causes of acne is crucial for effective treatment.

Several factors contribute to the development of acne:


  • Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormones, particularly androgens, can cause the sebaceous glands to enlarge and produce more oil (sebum). This is common during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
  • Clogged Pores: Excess oil and dead skin cells can clog pores, leading to the formation of blackheads and whiteheads.
  • Bacteria: The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) can thrive in clogged pores, causing inflammation and the formation of pimples.
  • Diet: Certain foods, such as dairy products and high-glycemic foods, may trigger or worsen acne in some individuals.
  • Stress: Stress can exacerbate acne by increasing the production of hormones that stimulate the sebaceous glands.
  • Genetics: A family history of acne can increase the likelihood of developing the condition.

What Symptoms Will I Experience with Acne?

Acne manifests in various forms, each with distinct characteristics:


  • Blackheads: Open comedones that appear as small, dark spots on the skin.
  • Whiteheads: Closed comedones that appear as small, white bumps.
  • Papules: Small, red, tender bumps.
  • Pustules: Red, inflamed bumps with a white or yellow center.
  • Nodules: Large, painful lumps beneath the skin.
  • Cysts: Deep, painful, pus-filled lumps that can cause scarring.

What Should I Try at Home Before Seeing a Provider for Acne?

Before seeking professional help, there are several at-home remedies and lifestyle changes you can try to manage acne:


  • Gentle Cleansing: Wash your face twice daily with a mild cleanser to remove excess oil and dirt.
  • Avoid Scrubbing: Harsh scrubbing can irritate the skin and exacerbate acne.
  • Non-Comedogenic Products: Use skincare and makeup products labeled “non-comedogenic” to avoid clogging pores.
  • Healthy Diet: Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting dairy and high-glycemic foods.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Stress Management: Practice stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or exercise.
  • Over-the-Counter Treatments: Consider using over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or alpha hydroxy acids.

Best Treatment Options for Acne

When at-home remedies are insufficient, professional treatment options can provide significant relief – especially functional medicine for acne:


  • Topical Treatments: Prescription-strength topical treatments such as retinoids, antibiotics, and azelaic acid can reduce inflammation and bacterial growth.
  • Oral Medications: Oral antibiotics, hormonal treatments (such as birth control pills), and isotretinoin can be effective for moderate to severe acne.
  • Chemical Peels: Chemical peels use acids to remove the top layer of skin, promoting the growth of new, clearer skin.
  • Laser and Light Therapy: These treatments target bacteria and reduce oil production, improving skin appearance.
  • Extraction Procedures: Dermatologists can perform extractions to remove blackheads and whiteheads safely.
  • Steroid Injections: Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation and pain in severe acne lesions.

Our Process for Treating Acne

At Heal MD, led by Dr. Kayla Milano, we take a holistic approach to acne treatment, focusing on identifying and addressing the root cause of the condition rather than just treating symptoms.

Our process includes:


  • Comprehensive Evaluation: We begin with a thorough evaluation of your medical history, lifestyle, and dietary habits to identify potential triggers.
  • Personalized Treatment Plan: Based on the evaluation, we create a customized treatment plan that may include topical and oral medications, dietary adjustments, and lifestyle changes.
  • Functional Medicine Approach: We incorporate functional medicine principles to address underlying imbalances in the body that may contribute to acne. This includes evaluating hormonal levels, gut health, and stress factors.
  • Nutritional Guidance: Our team provides personalized nutritional advice to support skin health and reduce inflammation.
  • Holistic Therapies: We offer holistic therapies such as acupuncture, stress management techniques, and herbal supplements to support overall well-being.
  • Regular Follow-Ups: We schedule regular follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed.

Functional Medicine for Acne: Our Approach

At Heal MD, we believe in treating the whole person, not just the symptoms.

Our holistic treatment plan for acne includes:

  • Dietary Modifications: We recommend a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as leafy greens, fatty fish, and nuts, while reducing intake of dairy and high-glycemic foods.
  • Gut Health Optimization: We focus on improving gut health through probiotics, prebiotics, and a balanced diet to reduce systemic inflammation.
  • Hormonal Balance: We evaluate and address hormonal imbalances through natural supplements, lifestyle changes, and, if necessary, bioidentical hormone therapy.
  • Stress Reduction: We provide stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and acupuncture to reduce the impact of stress on your skin.
  • Natural Skincare: We recommend natural, non-toxic skincare products that are gentle on the skin and free from harsh chemicals.
  • Detoxification: We support the body’s natural detoxification processes through dietary adjustments and supplements to eliminate toxins that may contribute to acne.

At Heal MD, our goal is to empower you to take ownership of your health and well-being while providing the treatment needed to overcome acne and achieve clear, healthy skin.

By addressing the root causes of acne and focusing on the whole person, we help our patients achieve lasting results and improved quality of life.

We are currently accepting patients worldwide.