Treating Acne with Salix nigra (AKA Black Willow Bark)

Acne can be quite an uncomfortable condition—both painful and embarrassing. If you have acne, you probably want to know how to clear up and smooth out your complexion without all the harsh chemicals. Ideally, you want something that is both strong enough to be effective and gentle enough to protect your delicate skin tissue from further damage. Salix nigra, or black willow bark, is a wonderful, natural remedy for dealing with annoying outbreaks.


What Causes Acne?

Acne effects a huge portion of the population at some point in their life. But what causes it? To understand that, it’s important to understand the structure of the skin.

You probably know that most of your skin is covered in pores—actually, all of your skin, except for your palms, soles and lips. You may not know that every single pore, also called a hair follicle, also has a sebaceous gland opening into it. These glands produce an oily substance called sebum which helps to keep the skin and hair healthy and lubricated.

Acne is a condition in which the glands begin to overproduce sebum. This excess sebum can then mix with dead skin cells, creating a thick substance effectively plugs up the follicle.

You can probably guess what a plugged up follicle looks like: pimples, black heads, white heads, papules and pustules. Not so awesome.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, in addition to preventing the skin from breathing, excessive oil also provides food to bacteria that in turn can infect the plugged pores. They can then become inflamed with swelling and pain.

But what causes the sebaceous glands to over produce oil in the first place?

Well, a few things can cause this rather annoying condition:

Hormones are the main culprit. The sebaceous glands are actually stimulated by testosterone which is naturally produced in both men and women by the adrenal glands. These hormones can be especially active during puberty (thus the high occurrence of acne during this phase of life) and can also be exacerbated during various phases within the menstrual cycle.

Changes in sebum production can also happen as a response to changes of environment, temperature, and humidity level.

So how can we treat this sebum over production? Salix nigra is a great place to start!


What is Salix nigra?

Salix nigra is the scientific term for black willow, also known as pussy willow. Black willow can be distinguished from the dozens of other varieties of willow tree by its large size (it’s one of the biggest willows) and its nearly black bark (thus giving it the name). The bark is also extremely rough and furrowed, while the leaves are long and lance shaped. Salix nigra is native to North America, and loves to grow along rivers, lakes and flood plains.

As a medicine, people primarily use the bark of the tree. Black willow bark contains tannins, which make it astringent. It also contains salycin, which gives it pain killing properties. In fact, the original aspirin recipe included willow thanks to the salycin content, which also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, making it helpful for treating muscular and joint pain.

And as it turns out, salycin is also great for treating acne.


How Does Black Willow Bark Work on Acne?

Black willow bark helps to treat acne, in part thanks to the salycin content. Salycin is actually a precursor to salicylic acid, which is widely used in chemical acne treatments. Salicylic acid works by penetrating the pores and removing the dead skin cells. It is thought that salycin works in much the same way—exfoliating the skin on a deep pore level, the acid helps to prevent dead skin build up, keeping the pores clear—which in turn diminishes the development of acne!

However, unlike salicylic acid, which can be rather harsh for the skin, drying it out if overused, black willow extract is much gentler and less irritating.

In addition to the salycin, black willow bark also has several other properties that make it super effective in treating acne:

Astringent: The astringency of the black willow helps to both remove oils from the skin. It does this by tightening pores, or shrinking the tissues, which means less sebum will be produced. It also has the added plus of evening the skin’s appearance.

Analgesic: A natural pain killer, black willow bark will help to minimize any pain associated with infected follicles.

Anti-inflammatory: Black willow has anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it will work to reduce the redness and swelling of any infected pimples.

Anti-microbial: Thanks to the anti-microbial properties of black willow bark, it will help kill the harmful bacteria that is exacerbating your acne.


Take Away

Salix nigra, also known as Black willow bark extract, is a natural and effective, plant derived treatment for acne. And thanks to its gentle nature, it can be used on a regular basis without irritating your skin.