acne interviews science vegan skincare

Honey, Humors & The History of Healing Acne

Much like many might tweak their LinkedIn profile photo to correct the complexion, you can’t imagine that portraits, sculptures and wet-plate photographs including imperfect skin (although with the skin-positive movement being pioneered, this is definitely a thing of the past!), and you’d be forgiven for thinking that acne and blemishes were something of a modern-day ailment (caused by too much convenience food, a desk-based working week and a cortisol-rich diet of deadlines and a hectic social life).

I love a dermatology journal, and this week I searched up “the history of acne” and found this article by NF Mahood & AR Shipman, published in the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology in 2017, and it’s a very interesting read.

The authors detail the evolution of the medical articulation of acne, it’s causes and the popular treatment methods of the times, and for your enjoyment, I’ve pulled out what I think are some of the most interesting go-to acne-cures.

Honey:“While Greeks preferred vegetable-based treatments for acne, Egyptians typically opted for animal-based products…the one common treatment they used was honey.” Now, while definitely not falling into the vegan skincare category, honey certainly has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties – even used to treat wounds – and this antibacterial trend has definitely not let up in mainstream acne-targeting products today.

Humors: “Skin disease was…thought to represent the need to balance the four humors defined in ancient Greek medicine. Humors existed as liquids within the body and were identified as blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Pores in the skin were regarded as orifices through which humors could pass.” And how does one go about balancing these humors and achieving flawless skin? Herbal remedies, bleeding and of course the proper diet and exercise!

The 5-Step Facial:In 1936 Dr Herman Goodman wrote about his “keratolytic therapy” 5-step treatment, including “Vleminckx solution (16 parts lime, 24 parts sublimed sulfur, and 100 parts water)…injections of salt solution… ergot ointment (0.8 part phenol, 8 parts ergot, 8 parts chalk, 8 parts zinc oxide, 24 parts cold cream, and 100 parts lanolin).” Many of these ingredients used in these therapies have modern counterparts – zinc oxide across physical sunscreens, lanolin (now the star ingredient of a highly popular lip balm), and sulfer-based acne masks and spot treatments (a little harsh for most skin types!).

The Big Guns:“…it was not until 1959 that dermatologist Gunter Stüttgen worked with retinols for the treatment of dyskeratosis disorders and discovered that retinol was effective after metabolic activation.” The first paper on topical retinoid use was published in 1969, and all forms of vitamin A have long been worshipped as the ultimate defender against ageing skin and acne.

Do you have an acne treatment handed down to you from family, or are you firmly in the front row of the 2020 skincare train?

XX Holly

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