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Ultimate Skin Guide: Understand the causes of breakouts, acne, dry skin and what to do about it

Ultimate Skin Guide: Understand the causes of breakouts, acne, dry skin and what to do about it

Battling with breakouts, painful acne or dry, uncomfortable skin? Zilch Formulas founder Vivian clears up much of the confusion surrounding skin. To get started on the path to a clear and healthy-looking complexion, read on. 



Impacting around 85% of people aged 12 to 24, acne is often considered an adolescent issue. However, adult acne is also surprisingly common, experienced by 64% of 20 to 29-year-olds and up to 43% of those aged 30 to 39. While hormones and genetics play a role, from a Chinese Medicine perspective, there's more to the story.

A mistake you might be making… 

It’s a misconception moisturisers and oils are a no-go for those with acne or acne-prone skin. Not true. If you skip the moisturiser, your skin will only become dry and send feedback to your body that it needs to produce more oil to combat this dryness.

Moisturiser is beneficial no matter your skin type – as long as it contains only non-comedogenic ingredients that won’t clog your pores. Oil isn’t the enemy, either, and certain oils, such as jojoba, can help balance oil production and help you manage breakouts. 

TCM patterns and acne

In TCM, acne can arise when sluggish blood circulation and built-up heat and toxicity trigger inflammation, leading to an 'eruption' on the skin's surface. 

We don’t see acne as just an external problem but rather as the manifestation of an internal imbalance. Different imbalances result in different types of acne, as outlined below.

Pustules: Inflamed, red acne with a white/yellow head often indicates an excess of toxicity, heat and dampness in the body, which will present itself as inflammation and pus in the skin. Digestive complaints such as bloating, loose stools and stomach pain will also often accompany this pattern.

Nodules: Deep, sore, marble-like nodular acne, on the other hand, is seen as a sign of blood stagnation. This essentially means that your blood circulation is sluggish and needs boosting. PMS and painful, clotted periods are also linked to stagnation.


Acne and Diet Dos and Dont’s 

While the odd piece of chocolate needn’t spell disaster, in Chinese Medicine we always look at your diet when addressing acne. To promote a clear complexion, we recommend reducing 'heaty' and ‘damp'-producing foods, as these are TCM patterns known to trigger and exacerbate acne.

Confused? In TCM,  there is a lot of talk about ‘heatiness’ and ‘coolness’ in the body (Yin and Yang), and both need to be in balance. When the body is ‘heaty’, it can cause inflammation which exacerbates acne. Dampness occurs when the internal filtration system is faulty, causing the body to hold onto water and struggle to dispel waste and toxins. This can make the body feel sluggish and heavy, lead to fluid retention and trigger skin problems.

So what can you have instead? We suggest patients consume more cooling and clearing foods that promote healthy, blemish-free skin. 

Avoid (or reduce):

  • ‘Heaty’ and inflammatory foods, including deep-fried oily foods, spicy foods and hot chillies. 
  • Alcohol. Alcohol creates ‘damp heat’ and produces inflammation and toxin build-up which will eventually vent through the skin in a volcano-like eruption.
  • Sugar. In TCM, sugar is ‘damp’-producing – causing toxin build-up and leading to pustules and inflammation.
  • Heavy dairy like milk and cheese can be hard on the digestive system and result in 'damp'. This impacts the body’s ability to eliminate toxins, causing pustules and pimples to appear. (Note: yoghurt is OK as it is fermented.)



  • Pulses and grains, including Chinese barley, mung beans, oats and millet. These foods boost the body’s ability to eliminate toxins and waste and reduce inflammation.
  • Leafy vegetables, which are ​​packed with nutrients that decrease inflammation, enhance immune function and improve wound healing.
  • Gently cooling drinks. A good option is chrysanthemum tea, which assists with inflammation and dryness. And Chinese barley water can also help to resolve ‘damp’ and reduce water retention. 
  • Fruits. Apples, pears, watermelon, peaches, strawberries, lemons, grapefruit, mangoes, persimmons and peppermint are all cooling and nourishing and assist with skin healing. 


In TCM, skin dryness often means there's a deficiency in the body of hydration and nourishing fluids like blood and oils. Foods that help nourish dry skin include pears, melons, tofu, spinach, mushrooms, white fungus (a specialty type of dried mushroom available at Chinese grocers), seaweed, sesame seeds, goji berries, and nuts, seeds and beans such as almonds and mung beans.

Dryness vs dehydration

Did you know there’s a difference between dehydration and dryness? Dehydrated skin lacks water, whereas truly dry skin is lipid-dry – meaning it lacks oil. Dehydration is an often-temporary skin condition, and even oily skin can be dehydrated, while dryness is a skin type.

For skin to be balanced, it needs both water and oil. A lot of people will say, ‘But I'm using hyaluronic acid, and my skin still feels dry.’ This is a sign their skin is crying out for oil and won't be fixed by a hydrating serum alone.

Some good oils for dry skin include jojoba, hemp seed and rosehip (which is richer), and any non-comedogenic oil designed to be used for the skin – i.e. a cold-pressed oil versus an aromatherapy carrier oil.


Think beyond skincare

When your skin looks lacklustre, sometimes it’s also about the facial tissue lacking oomph. The facial tissue feeds nutrients and oxygen to the skin, so if your tissues and cells aren't happy, the skin won't be happy either. You’ll also be throwing good money down the drain using a $200 jar of face cream if your skin can't absorb and retain hydration. It’s basically the same as watering a plant with a dried-up root system and expecting good results…

To revive cells and tissue, you need to boost blood circulation to the area. How can you do that? With things like cosmetic acupuncture, facial massage, lymphatic massage and Gua Sha – as well as certain Chinese Medicine herbs.



They say that beauty comes from within, and guess what? It really does. Whether you’re dealing with puffiness, acne, rosacea or dryness, your face is a reflection of your internal system, so it pays to work on beauty from the inside out.

No matter your skin type or concerns, you’ll benefit from boosting your blood circulation through exercise, movement and massage and reducing stress with meditation, music and yoga. Getting enough good quality sleep at the RIGHT time of night (between 9pm and 5am) is also crucial, as is a balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

A supplement to support acne-prone skin

Acne can be a frustrating and persistent skin condition that can significantly impact self-esteem and quality of life. However, there are several steps you can take to support healthy skin and manage acne symptoms. From practising good hygiene to adopting a healthy diet and avoiding certain trigger foods, small lifestyle changes can make a big difference. 

Want to tackle your breakouts from the inside out? Our revolutionary patented product, Zilch Acne Formula is a 100% natural herbal acne supplement made with 17 Chinese Herbal Medicine ingredients – no chemicals or preservatives. Vegan and cruelty-free, Zilch Acne Formula’s powerful blend addresses the root causes of acne to provide real, lasting results.


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