Effective Alternatives to Oral Medication for Acne Sufferers

In her weekly column, Bradford West Gwillimbury licensed nutritionist Nonie De Long shares holistic solutions for acne before trying oral medications.

Dear Nutritionist,

My children and I sincerely thank you for your article last week! My husband had learned that a symptom of COVID19 was losing a sense of smell and had taken to passing gas in our vicinity as “a public service,” to ensure our noses were working. We are delighted to report we no longer have these daily check-ins after 3 days because the enzymes work! My husband’s missiles have been decommissioned! Ha ha! Since that was so effective I want to ask if there is anything I can do for my teen daughter’s acne. It really bothers her confidence. We’ve tried all the creams (had it for 3 years) and she goes to college next year (if college will happen next year) and she is getting more sensitive as time goes on. Have you any idea what we could try? I am hesitant to put her on birth control (doctor’s suggestion) or long term antibiotics (another suggestion) and she is asking about Accutane. If you can’t answer this in your article kindly contact me privately and we can arrange for her to see you if you feel you can help.

Thank you!


Dear Beena,

I’m so happy you wrote me with this question! I suffered for many years with teen and adult acne and it can impact self-esteem horribly. Our faces are what the world sees of us every day! It impacted my confidence horribly so I feel for your daughter. You’re doing her an incredible service to look for holistic solutions to help her!

Unlike her, I did not have parents who knew how to help or direct me and my doctor put me on all of the medications you listed after the common topical prescriptions failed. I would caution parents strongly from going that route before exploring natural therapies that can be equally (or more!) effective, as these therapies ultimately made me very sick for a number of years. I will outline the side effects of these common prescriptions and tell you about an alternate treatment today. Holistic therapies are the only therapies I have seen solve acne without disturbing long term side effects.

For anyone suffering from serious acne, I recommend 1:1 support because people need guidance in making lasting dietary changes, which are necessary to solve this problem, and there are usually food intolerances and some digestive and hepatic issues in tandem with skin issues. These need to be addressed. If they aren’t apparent at the onset, they manifest within a few years and if they are suppressed the disease goes to the internal organs - often the mind. In cases of mental illness (all psychosis I have seen) there is a history of skin and digestive issues.

that have been suppressed. As you may know, I have a special interest in holistic mental healthcare due to my son’s suffering and I can tell you digestion, skin issues, and mental health issues almost always dance in tandem. This is why your daughter needs 1:1 help. What you are seeing on her skin is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. It’s an indicator of a deep imbalance in the digestive and hepatic system and it needs to be addressed, not suppressed, if you want to help her to overcome it and be healthier in the long run.

First, let’s look at the common medical prescriptions and their side effects:

Topical agents to dry the skin’s oils from soaps to peroxide to scrubs to antibiotics:

These are harsh agents intended to scrub away or dry the skin’s surface. In the long run, the skin works hard to make more oil as a result. This is because the oil is actually the skin’s protective mantle. It’s slightly acidic and meant to be a protective barrier to bacteria. Stripping it continually makes the body ramp up oil production. So clients often end up with skin that is flaky yet oily, in need of washing more and more frequently. This therapy works against the body’s natural mechanisms, not with them. In the long term these can cause scarring, as the skin requires it’s protective layer to heal itself when we pick at it, which often happens with acne.

Holistic alternative:

Wash the skin with a cleanser that is ph balanced for the skin, so as not to strip the protective barrier. Add a little food grade diatomaceous earth to this for a gentle, yet effective scrub. Thereafter use a cotton ball soaked with 50% apple cider vinegar with water or witch hazel for sensitive skin. This tones the skin and does not damage the acid mantle. Use a moisturizer of shea butter infused with essential oils to help control oils at night. Yes, this will make your skin greasy at night, but it will in fact cut the amount of oil your skin produces, because like cures like! Do not use commercial moisturizers or products during the day except if you need a 100% natural sunscreen, but hats are preferred to allow skin to breathe. Use a mask of 1 lemon mixed with honey 1x per week, leave on for 30 minutes. This helps remove dead skin cells.

Oral antibiotics:

These are given long term to help stop the bacteria that cause acne. It can be effective on acne in the short term, but the problem with this therapy is it’s indiscriminate and the intestinal bacteria is wiped out, as well. The long term results of prolonged antibiotic use are only now being investigated, but we know yeast infections, urinary tract infections, mental health issues, and cystitis are all correlated.

Holistic alternative:

Wipe face with colloidal silver on a cotton ball to naturally reduce bacteria on the skin without harming the acid mantle or gut biome.

Birth control (oral, injectable or ring):

This is often prescribed to girls/women for acne and we do not understand the long term impact, but I believe there is a case to be made that it is dangerous. Aside from causing horrible mood swings and depression/ anxiety in many females, these chemicals often cause somnolence, weight gain, a lack of libido, and long term hormonal havoc. Many women who have used these long term come to me with chronic hormonal imbalances and skin troubles, as well as yeast infections and chronic, antibiotic-resistant urinary tract infections. I do not believe these chemicals have been tested for safety long term and suspect their proliferation is related to the uptick in estrogen dominance in youth (early sexual development, obesity, adult illnesses, feminization) as these chemicals are released via our urine into the collective water system. As such, I feel it’s always better to go the natural route vs using birth control to treat skin conditions, especially when skin conditions can be treated naturally.

Holistic alternative:

Use herbs to balance any hormones that are imbalanced and remove excess testosterone from the system. There are many such herbs, but it’s important to make a remedy specifically for each client’s imbalances containing only what they need. This is something I offer in my clinic.


This drug (Isotretinoin) is composed of a synthetic form of vitamin A in large doses to treat acne specifically. It has many many dangerous side effects, including impaired vision, and severe birth defects if you are to get pregnant while using it. The full list of side effects can be found here.

Holistic alternative:

Natural vitamin A is also good for skin and we are often not getting enough of it. Adding quality cod liver oil to your diet and beef liver is a great way to start to get the form of vitamin A that helps with skin conditions.

In addition, specific supplements help many people with chronic or systemic acne. But the primary way to control acne is through an anti-inflammatory, omnivore, probiotic diet and food intolerance testing to determine foods that trigger inflammation for you. Some basic measures you can take at home are:

  • Increase your water intake and add apple cider vinegar (unpasteurized) to your water

  • Reduce your dairy consumption

  • Reduce your wheat consumption

  • Learn how to make fermented foods (I teach this)

  • Add any digestive support that is needed for optimal digestion and if symptoms still persist, use homeopathy to correct the underlying problems. With these combined, I have yet to see acne that is not fully resolved.

I am so thrilled people like yourself are exploring holistic solutions, Beena, and this is why I write this column, so thank you for writing in! If I can help one reader avoid the horrible side effects and suffering I endured it’s so worth it!

As always, if readers have a health or nutrition-related question for the column, I welcome you to write to me at nonienutritionista@gmail.com. And if you’re looking for more specific health information, check out my website and blog at nonienutritionista.com. I provide 1:1 health coaching (online) to help sick people to overcome physical and mental illness using science-based, holistic interventions.


Nonie Nutritionista

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The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only and nothing herein should be misconstrued as medical advice, for which you should consult a licensed physician.

Copyright 2016 Nonie De Long.