Acupoint Stimulation for Acne: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

Med Acupunct. 2013 Jun;25(3):173-194. doi: 10.1089/acu.2012.0906.


Background: Acupoint stimulation-including acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, acupoint injection, and acupoint catgut embedding-has shown a beneficial effect for treating acne. However, comprehensive evaluation of current clinical evidence is lacking.

Objective: The aim of this review was to assess the effectiveness and safety of all acupoint stimulation techniques used to treat acne vulgaris.

Design: A systematic review was conducted. It included only randomized controlled trials on acupoint stimulation for acne. Six electronic databases were searched for English and Chinese language studies. All searches ended in May 2012. Studies were selected for eligibility and assessed for quality. RevMan 5.1 software was used for data analysis with an effect estimate presented as risk ratios (RR) or mean difference (MD) with a 95% confidence interval (CI).

Patients: Studies with subjects who were diagnosed with acne vulgaris, or papulopustular, inflammatory, adolescent, or polymorphic acne-regardless of gender, age, and ethnicity-were included.

Intervention: Interventions included any acupoint stimulation technique-such as acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, acupoint injection, and acupoint catgut embedding-compared with no treatment, placebo, or conventional pharmaceutical medication.

Main outcome measure: Reduction of signs and symptoms and presence of adverse effects were examined.

Results: Forty-three trials involving 3453 patients with acne were included. The methodological quality of trials was generally poor in terms of randomization, blinding, and intention-to-treat analysis. Meta-analyses showed significant differences in increasing the number of cured patients between acupuncture plus herbal medicine and herbal medicine alone (RR: 1.60; 95% CI: 1.19-2.14; P=0.002), and between acupuncture plus herbal facial mask and herbal facial mask alone (RR: 2.14; 95% CI: 1.29-3.55; P=0.003). Cupping therapy was significantly better than pharmaceutical medications for increasing the number of cured patients (RR: 2.11; 95% CI: 1.45-3.07; P<0.0001). Serious adverse events were not reported in all included trials.

Conclusions: Acupoint stimulation therapies combined with other treatments appears to be effective for acne. However, further large, rigorously designed trials are needed to confirm these findings.

Keywords: Acne; Acupoint Stimulation; Systematic Review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't