July 02, 2018
Acne is the most common skin disease with around 80% of the population experiencing it at some point in their life. It can range from mild (the odd pimple) to severe (multiple sites, severe redness and pitting). Because it often presents in puberty, it can cause embarrassment and leave not only physical scars, but mental ones too.
When I developed acne as a teenager I picked, squeezed and basically went to town on any zit that dared present itself (seriously regretted now because of the scarring I caused). I tried Clearasil and any other acne treatments my Mum would supply me with. I was so embarrassed by my acne. If only I knew then what I know now!
So what causes acne?
It’s a complex beast. There is generally not one cause but many factors which play a role in its development including diet, stress, genetics, hormones and barrier dysfunction.
What can I do about it?
Because of its complexity and its tendency to vary from person to person, there is no one size fits all treatment approach. Having said that, the following recommendations have been helpful to many of my naturopathic clients and can reduce acne occurrence:
Cleansing is key. You want to keep your skin clean and remove excess oil, without stripping it and upsetting the natural sebum balance. That’s why it’s important to steer clear of foaming cleansers and opt for light cream cleansers instead. I also recommend cleansing only once daily where possible. Choose the time of day when your skin is at its dirtiest, most commonly the evening, to use our Refining Cleanser. When you’re not cleansing, you can simply splash your face with cool or warm water or use a moistened face cloth.
Exfoliation should take the place of cleansing 2-3 times weekly to increase skin cell turnover and reduce scarring. Use a gentle exfoliant (steering away from the micro-bead varieties) such as our 2 in 1 Face Exfoliant + Mask and don’t over-scrub.
It’s also important to keep pH levels in check and reduce any inflammation with a gentle toner. After cleansing or exfoliating, spritz with a mild astringent to balance pH levels and soothe any redness. Our Tone + Hydrate Spritz comes highly recommended!
Last but not least you need a moisturising product that is non-comedogenic (won’t block pores) and contains all the right vitamins to help repair scar tissue. Our Repair Face Serum is the perfect combination of moisture + repair.
Reduce your dairy intake. Several studies, including a recent meta-analysis, have shown that high dairy intake is associated with a higher incidence of acne (particularly milk and ice cream). Yoghurt and cheese shows no significant association.
Increase anti-inflammatory foods, such as those that feature in the Mediterranean diet. This diet is high in antioxidants and has a low glycaemic index. It’s also rich in whole grains, low in refined sugar, and contains those all-important, skin-loving omega 3s (e.g. avocado, olive oils, fatty fish).
Probiotics should also be added to your diet (e.g. kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee, supplements). Good gut flora can help improve the absorption of key nutrients necessary for healthy skin, including zinc and vitamins A, C, D and E. It also benefits the immune system and is anti-inflammatory.
Stress can aggravate acne because it affects hormone levels, particularly the key stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol has an inflammatory effect on skin and can contribute to flare-ups. To reduce stress, use daily stress management practices e.g. yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Exercise can also help regulate cortisol levels.
Get some sleep! When you sleep your body goes into repair mode, increasing collagen and elastin production to repair damaged skin. Cortisol levels also decrease significantly as you slumber.
Spend 10-15 minutes in the sun each day. UV light has been shown to reduce acne by killing bacteria known to aggravate acne. It also stimulates production of the all-important vitamin D, necessary to reduce acne occurrence.
I have put together a Naturopathic Skin Protocol on Acne which goes into further detail on my recommendations above. You can also hit the ‘Shop by Skin Condition‘ link for Acne to view recommended skincare products.
As always, I’m here to help so please feel free to reach out if you have any queries.
I hope you find it helpful.