Would you consult TCM for your skin problems?

So recently I sought treatment at a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic over my backache problems. However, as some of you who understand TCM knows, the doctor typically takes on a holistic approach when diagnosing a health problem and the usual practice is to read the pulse, make observations of the color of the patient’s skin and tongue amongst others and ask detail questions about the effects of their problem. In the end, the diagnosis for me was that I am suffering from blood heat and that also explains the reason for my recurring acne.

Four types of heat leading to acne
As a Chinese, I often hear about being “heaty” (not on heat!) but I have no idea that there are different types of heat.  According to Jenny (Jian Ping) Shi, MSc, CMAAC who wrote an article Clear your Complexion – TCM for Acne, there are four types of acne, which can be caused by lung heat, stomach heat, blood heat or damp heat.

Generally speaking, ‘heat’ means inflammation or toxin-caused inflammation. In ‘lung heat’ acne cases, the patient often has respiratory symptoms such as a dry cough or a congested nose. ‘Stomach heat’ acne indicates the patient has digestive problems. ‘Blood heat’ acne patients feel heat throughout their body and their acne can become a long-term problem. ‘Damp heat’ acne means that dampness could be the cause, or the patient has a damp factor in their system.

No wonder I was having so much problems with food and  my acne won’t go away!  It’s a good thing though that I only have blood heat as I understand that some patients have a combination of both blood heat and damp heat causing them to not only have breakouts on their faces, but their bodies too.

Powdered form of herbal medicine
So in addition to administering acupuncture and ba guan on my back, the doctor also prescribed me Chinese herbal medicine in powdered form plus some herbal powder for the acne.  And after taking the medicine for two weeks now, my acne has calmed down and new eruptions are fewer. However, the herbal powder for my face doesn’t do much for me and I’ve stopped using it.  Instead, I’m just relying on my own DIY concoctions to clear up my complexion.

Why TCM?
If you’re a frequent reader of Viva Woman, you can probably get a sense of my interest in alternative treatments that takes on a more holistic and natural approach.  However, I just want to highlight upfront that this is a personal choice and it doesn’t mean that it’s the best for everyone. The reason why I sought TCM treatment is because I know that my recurring acne is a result of an internal issue.  I am not keen on seeing the other doctors who might just treat the skin issues, and are usually less sympathetic about internal health issues.  In addition, I had suspected my acne to be a result of hormonal issues and the TCM doctor also confirmed that the symptoms are in line with that problem and her plan is to help me attain a balance again.

Hoping for the problem to be cured at the root
Do note that because it is TCM, the results are not instantaneous.  I’m quite a *ahem* patient person and so I’m able to accept a more slow and steady sort of recovery.  More important for me is that, the problem should be cured at the root so that the skin issues will also get resolved along the way.


  1. miyo says:

    Hello Sesame,

    Which tcm did you went to ??
    i’m keen to try out tcm as well

    Many thanks in advance..
    p.s. or u have any recommendations of tcm which is of affordable range.

  2. estranghenya says:

    I haven’t been to a TCM before so I don’t know the price range, too. However, there was a time when I kept having a single big pimple on my nose (it’s the one that grows from deep within the skin and can lead to a scar). Everytime a pimple heals, another would come out from almost the same spot. Then I took a reall awful-tasting herbal tea which is supposed to be for people who have flu (due to being heaty) then my pimple disappeared and my complexion went back to normal. ?

  3. sesame says:

    This one I go to is at Blk 208, Hougang St 21 #01-209. It is known as Mountain Herbal TCM Medical Centre. The first time I went, I paid $85 for one week of medicine (internal and external) and the acupuncture plus ba guan. Second time, I paid $55 for one week of medicine.

    I’ve also gone to the Eu Ren Sheng one but I found it a bit costly, the diagnosis a little weak in my opinion and the place inconvenient for me.

    As always, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Just ask around…don’t go to those that keep pushing you expensive medicine. I know of one at Serangoon Gardens that does that. Pushed my husband $500+ of pills that did nothing much for him. I think those modern looking ones with a clinic are more trustworthy.

  4. sesame says:

    If it isn’t due to the product, then most probably skin issues are a manifestation of internal health problems. Sometimes the problem is mild and something like a herbal tea can help and there’s no need to consult a doctor. I’m glad you got rid of that bugging pimple. ?

  5. kiwi says:

    hmm… I went to a tcm for my eczema (it was reallyreally bad at that time,now it has calmed down a bit, but not completely healed yet), but my eczema got worse then. I know it’s supposed to be a healing curve and all that, but that practitioner did not mention anything about it, but only said things like, it should not be this way, it should heal. And her costs are horrifying. For 1 week of med + acupuncture on the face (because of my eczema on the face) + ba guan, it was $120. I’ve since stopped going there after around 2 months? Because I don’t see the point in continuing…

  6. sesame says:

    $120 is very expensive. I’m surprised acupuncture is used for treating eczema. Anyway, go with your gut feel. If you think it’s useless, then it probably is. I think even in TCM, you need to meet the right doc. Usually the diagnosis is telling. If what he/she said doesn’t make sense, then most probably, they’re not able to help your problem much.

  7. pf1123 says:

    Yes. Better to be careful when selecting a TCM.

    My friend’s father has some skin problems. Sensitivity and itch. He went to a TCM in chinatown who gave him some creams and pills. Subsequently, his skin grew boils all over. The TCM told him that his skin is purging the toxins. They burst and the blood flowed and soaked his shirt. It was a bloody scary sight to behold!!!

    My friend brought his father to the hospital. The western doctor asked to see the creams and pills. They cannot determine the ingredients. There is no written indication.

    So, its better to go for those which are properly licensed and qualified.

  8. sesame says:

    Aiyoh…that’s terrible! Actually I wouldn’t go to a TCM over just a skin issue. I think you have to know what’s causing the problem in a way. If it’s internal, then it’s okay to seek their advice. Like I don’t think they can treat cyst and stuff like that. It’s still a skin issue and I would go to a dermatologist.

    However, for me, I started out asking about my back and then letting her check my state of health. So it’s not so much to treat my acne but my internal problems. Anyway, like I mentioned, the herbal medicine for my acne wasn’t of use and I stopped using it. In fact, I asked the doc what was it but she only told me it’s herbal medicine and I was kind of skeptical. But the medicine I take is quite effective even for my back problem so kind of happy with it. Hopefully, she can get rid of my blood heat completely.

  9. pf1123 says:

    Yes. We have to keep a healthy skepticism ourselve since the certification of TCM is still not so common.

    I also believe that it works, especially long term chronic illness. The western medication often have side effects which further harms the body. Therefore, if I have anything I think is gonna be a long term issue, I will consider to go TCM.

    Do you mind if I ask what back issue do you have? My back pains really badly when I have gastric reflux. Very badly. I’m taking western medication whenever it occurs. But I think my issue has no cure unless I watch my diet closely and not eat anything too oily or overeat.

  10. sesame says:

    It’s just backache and gets bad when I have PMS. Not too serious but I was hoping to get it treated. At least the TCM doc didn’t say it’s related to my childbirth and asked me to take note of my sitting posture and hours I spend in front of my PC. The one at ERS said I need to give birth again and have a good confinement to get rid of the ache. *slaps forehead*

  11. pf1123 says:

    Aiyahhh…at least half the world’s female population out there don’t have the concept of confinement. And they get by fine!

    I think most of use just suffer from office illness. I don’t think we’re made to sit at a desk all day. Unfortunately, now we do.

    Have you tried Pilates? Its with physiotherapy background and helps posture. I remember the way I carry myself did get better when I was practicing it with pilates DVD or attend class. But I stopped due to laziness.

  12. Hayashi says:

    New knowledge learned today ?

    Always heard about acne (besides hormonal cause) is mostly due to toxic from internal organs. But their description is never clear. Now I need to find way to identify if my acne is of lung-heat, stomach-heat, blood-heat or damp-heat.

  13. Leon says:

    TCM is a part of my alternative healing course and it definitely sounds promising:)

  14. zhenling says:

    seen a tcm doc at eu yan seng before.
    just went for the herbs cause im afraid of needles haha. it was expensive and ineffective for me. not to mention yucky. so i don’t think i will consider TCM for skin ailments unless i have exhausted all other alternatives

  15. Jyoan says:

    haha, the only time I ate TCM for feng mo/hives, I hated it so much I never want to eat TCM again. But I am fine with application or tablets etc. I find it rather expensive too… …

  16. fwy says:

    I trust TCM. Years ago, my neck has this rashes that itches quite often & no cream from the GP was able to clear it. After taking a few doses of TCM, they cleared.

  17. fwy says:

    Another solution I trust is applying Tea Tree Oil. It solves most of my skin problems.

  18. sesame says:

    Never tried Pilates. Thinking of going back to do yoga but like you, I’m also lazy. ?

  19. sesame says:

    You need to consult a TCM doc to know if it’s due to that. But based on what you’ve described to me before, yours really sound more like an internal issue.

  20. sesame says:

    Wow…you really inspire me. I think we do have something on TCM here…maybe if it isn’t that costly, I might try my hands on learning some basics.

  21. sesame says:

    I know what you mean. Typically, I go to them for my aching issues. Don’t mind the needles cos I used to see them being used on my grandma as a child. But still, when I had skin problems due to pregnancy, I went to a dermatologist and GP. However, no effect too. But my husband had a cyst and got it resolved by a dermatologist and an operation.

  22. sesame says:

    Not so cheap…but I think the other options for my issues maybe costlier.

  23. sesame says:

    Now that you mentioned it, I have to share this. I had these red spots the size of coins on my body when I was pregnant and even after delivery. I consulted derms and doctors, only to be given creams/lotions that helped as long as I used them. But the spots never went away until I used tea tree oil on them. Miraculously, the spots all disappeared! But it doesn’t work that well on my acne though.

  24. kris says:

    emu oil? have you tried this? i was just re-searching about this. and i found out that its good for acne scarring and acne as well. i was just wondering. ive read some video reviews and articles about it and its pretty interesting. im goin to buy it tom. im a follower of your blog and i just want to share about this because ive read your past topics and you consistently mention your acne scars. i, indeed, have tons of acne scars. so im hoping that its works for me.

  25. ann says:

    I haven’t really seeked TCM treatment directly for skin issues but was really treating for digestive issues that also lead to skin problems. My digestion system doesn’t get rid of heat (toxic) well and it always rises to my face. Hence, acne and eczema.

    The pimples were the first to go after starting treatment without even realising it. The eczema is better now but I still struggle with it. When it gets hot or i eat too much heaty stuff, it comes back on quite quickly.

    Not all TCM docs can help. I saw at least 2 others before the 3rd one could explain clearly to me what was wrong and prescribe the right treatment. But as sesame rightly pointed out, you really need patience. But the improvement can be seen in one’s general health.

  26. sesame says:

    Have tried emu oil…in fact using it now. I find it good to get rid of the acne but it’s slow plus it depends on the quality. Some are not good enough.

  27. sesame says:

    Eczema seems like a tricky one to tackle. But at least you managed to find one who can tell you what’s wrong. I usually go with their diagnosis…if they sound vague or funny, then I can’t trust them too much.

  28. chenyze says:

    ann: which TCM doctor did you go to? sounds like you had a pretty good experience!

    sesame: i’d love to try TCM but it’s so hard to find a good one who would give explain information to you and advise properly, instead of giving a generic “oh don’t eat so much heaty food”. and all those different types of heatiness sound possible for me! how do we know which one we are suffering from, or are they not mutually exclusive?

    also, do you distinguish TCM practitioners from just chinese clinics (i.e. consult in addition to selling medicines)? because some of these clinics are really cheap (I went to get flu medication and it was only $8 incl. consultation!) and the $50 and above prices you guys quoted sound a lot!

  29. ann says:

    Hi Chenyze, I go to SK Lim at Telok Blangah. He was actually recommended to me by an Indian muslim colleague! His costs is $38 for consultation, medicine (abt 3 days) plus accupuncture. He is especially good with muscle strains/injuries.

  30. sesame says:

    I think only a qualified TCM doc can tell you which type of heat you have. I can’t tell…in fact, I was surprised to learn I have blood heat. And surprisingly, she didn’t diagnosed my husband with any heat issues because that’s usually what others would say.

    The one I go to is a very modern looking clinic…like YRS one but not so upmarket. They don’t sell medicine so there’s a differentiation. I don’t like to consult those that operate behind a medical hall unless the doc is recommended.

  31. loveless says:


    I’m actually exploring alternative healing and therapies for my chronic condition, since the medicine prescribed wasn’t helping and my body was suffering badly from the side -effects. Besides TCM, there is also Integrative Medicine, which is a Western holistic approach similar to TCM, but they use conventional medication and diagnostic methods as well. Like TCM, it’s a long term solution and it doesn’t always work for everyone because everyone has different body constitutions.
    In Singapore, I think there are a few such doctors, but they are mostly in private practice. It’s best to find one through recommendation.

  32. sesame says:

    Another reader mentioned about the Integrative Medicine to me and pointed out the clinic too. But it’s very expensive! So I’m going to give TCM a try first and see how it works out for me…

  33. babybunii says:

    I have been goin for TCM regularly for my acne/rosacea skin problems..

    I went to Ma Kuang that is near my house.. And it has been nearly a year since I seek treatment there by a sinseh that specialize in Skin problems.

    I used to have very red skin, bad stomach when I first went there..
    But after goin through acupuncture, cupping and medicine,
    my condition have gradually improve..
    And I will be continuing treatment until it fully recovers though its kind of ex$…

  34. sesame says:

    Oh you saw one that specializes in skin problems? Is yours connected to an internal issue? But it’s good your condition has improved…

  35. babybunii says:

    yes, mine problem is definitely cause by my stomach heat, there are also other heat in my organ that makes me have very frequent breakout..
    Plus i m still at my puberty age,
    hormonal imbalance also contribute to my skin problem..

  36. sesame says:

    Are you doing anything to curb it?

  37. Lara says:

    Hello Sesame,

    I am suffering from melasma. I read your post about TCM. I believe melasma can be treated by Chinese medicines and herbs. I am in search of a good TCM around Jurong or nearby that specializes in treating melasma. Please help me if you have an idea. I would be grateful to you.


  38. sesame says:

    Hi Lara: I don’t know any in Jurong or any that are good in treating melasma. TCM might take quite a long while to see results though…

  39. sunday says:

    Hi Sesame,
    I came across your post when searching about TCM treatment for Acne problem. May I know how long did it take you to see result for the TCM medicine and treatment?

  40. Sesame says:

    I didn’t persist with the treatment. I found it slow and eventually I went through a detox and figured out how to get rid of my acne.

  41. Blurdolp says:

    Hi Sesame,

    Did you experience purging when you undergo TCM?

    I went for TCM, been going for 3 weeks and my hormonal acne seems to be worsen.

    I wonder if it is due to dispelling of internal heat?


  42. Sesame says:

    Hmmm…no, did not experience that. Did you ask the physician? It should not get worse for so long.

  43. zhang xiangjun says:

    The clinic moved to new address: 756 upper serangoon road, #04-27F, singapore 534626.

    You can check more details at http://www.hougangtcm.com

  44. Zhang Xiangjun says:

    The clinic moved to new location: 183 Jalan Pelikat, B1-63, Singapore 537643. Visit http://www.hougangtcm.com or call 63820826 for more details.

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