16 August, 2019 Physician Sheryl Tay

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

Blackheads – An open, clogged pore

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

Pustules – 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. 

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.



About the Author

Physician Sheryl Tay Physician Sheryl Tay is a TCM Practitioner in PULSE TCM Clinic. Inquisitive by nature, Sheryl continually looks for ways to expand her TCM knowledge in order to provide the best treatment programme for her patients. As a strong believer of individualised treatment for every patient, she seeks to formulate the most suited and tailored treatment with her knowledge.

Comment (1)

  1. Mike

    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? 😂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *