Those who study the global burden of diseases put acne among the top ten worldwide. Wikipedia offers a succinct description of its prevalence: “Acne commonly occurs in adolescence and affects an estimated 80–90% of teenagers in the Western world. Lower rates are reported in some rural societies. Children and adults may also be affected before and after puberty. Although acne becomes less common in adulthood, it persists in nearly half of affected people into their twenties and thirties and a smaller group continue to have difficulties into their forties.”
Because acne only affects appearance, it’s easy to dismiss it as trivial. But in a media-obsessed society, appearance is a decidedly nontrivial part of living, especially to adolescents, who are most likely to have it, because of their hormones.
Acne occurs because hair follicles can clog up with oil and dead skin particles. You might think that keeping your skin clean would prevent it, but that doesn’t have much to do with it. Hormones stimulate the oil glands, and more oil means more opportunities for acne. Your immune system perceives a clog as invasive and creates inflammation to fight it. The inflammation is the unsightly part of acne.
You may be able to control your acne with topical medications (creams, lotions, and gels) that work by killing bacteria, fighting inflammation, or plugging hair follicles (which is where the oil glands are located). The follicle-plugging medications are retinoids and are derived from Vitamin A. There are also oral medications that fight bacteria or balance hormones, as well as one — isotretinoin — that has such bad side effects you aren’t allowed to take it without participating in an FDA risk management program.
The Promise of Sauna
There’s also infrared sauna, which probably won’t cure your acne, but offers three mechanisms by which it may help to control it.
1. Sauna cleanses pores and follicles. A sauna session makes you sweat. Sweat can soften and carry away the bits of dead skin that cause the blockages that lead to acne. It can also carry excess oil to the surface and wash it away. Sweating then, may help to control the basic cause of acne.
2. Sauna may reduce inflammation in your skin. A sauna session increases your heart rate in much the same way that exercise does. The resulting improved blood flow helps to carry away waste and inflammation byproducts. Reduced inflammation means reduced acne. Improved blood flow also means an increase in nutrients delivered to the skin, which is why so many users say they come out of the sauna with a healthy glow. The heat of the sauna, then, may help to alleviate existing acne.
3. Sauna relaxes you. Most people associate their acne with stress. This is because stress can lead to hormone imbalance, and excess hormones can trigger the excess oil production that leads to pore- and follicle-clogging. Sauna-induced relaxation means less stress. Less stress means less chance of hormone imbalance. The relaxation promoted by sauna may help to prevent acne.
You won’t find any clinical studies on infrared sauna as a method for managing acne. But there is good reason to believe a pore-cleansing, inflammation-reducing, thoroughly relaxing infrared sauna session might help to prevent, alleviate, or control it. Book an infrared sauna session at Peak Recovery & Health Center.