ACNE

Having suffered with acne (cystic and hormonal) throughout my teens to the present day, I completely understand how painful, frustrating and upsetting it is.

That’s why I have created this page; EVERYTHING I have learnt about acne causes and acne treatments. Plus, EVERYTHING I wish I had known about acne. I really hope it helps you. X

 

QUICK NAVIGATION

* Acne Myths
* Acne Causes
* Acne Treatments

ACNE MYTHS

“ONLY TEENAGERS GET ACNE”

Whilst the majority of adolescents (75%) experience acne, around half of adults (more commonly women) in their 20’s and 30’s experience adult acne.

“POOR HYGIENE CAUSES ACNE

The formation of acne occurs beneath the skin, so no matter how clean the surface is, spots will still occur. Over washing your face can actually lead to the skin being oilier and more irritated.

“POOR DIET CAUSES ACNE”

Your diet alone does not cause acne. It may contribute to it, especially if you are sensitive to sugars and dairy, but it does not cause it.

“SUNSHINE HEALS ACNE”

Excess sweating in summer can actually lead to more blocked pores. Moreover, sun damages your DNA, is extremely ageing and can lead to skin cancer. Always wear non-comedogenic (non pore blocking) sunscreen. I like La Roche Posay dry touch spf 50+ for high UVA + UVB waterproof protection without the sticky, shiney skin.

“WASHING WITH SCRUBS HELPS”

Oh how I regret this! Acne is already sore, red and inflamed, scrubbing it will make it even more sore, red and irritated. Plus, it could lead to the development of thread veins. Rather than using physical exfoliation (like brushes and scrubs), try chemical exfoliants (AHA’s & BHA’s) to remove dead skin cells and sebum. BHA’s (like salicylic acid) are best for oily, acne prone skin whilst AHA’s (like glycolic acid) are better for scarring and ageing skin.

“POPPING SPOTS HELPS THEM HEAL FASTER”

Try your best (I know it’s tempting) to not pop your spots. Popping spots can push bacteria into the skin causing further infection, it can also lead to scarring. If you want, see a trained beautician or a facialist for an acne extraction, but be warned that you will need to do this every 4 – 6 weeks to keep your pores clear.

“ACNE MAKES YOU UGLY”

I understand how self-conscious acne can make you feel and how painful it can be physically and emotionally. But, acne is not who you are. True friends will love you for your personality; the things you say or do, not the way your skin looks. If anything, acne makes you more empathetic towards others people’s insecurities.

ACNE CAUSES

THE SCIENCE

Acne occurs when your pores (tiny hair follicles in your skin) become blocked. Every hair follicle is attached to a sebaceous gland which secretes an oily fluid called sebum. When the gland produces too much sebum, it mixes with dead skin cells causing blocked pores.

TYPES
* WHITEHEADS ‘closed comedone’ : blocked closed hair follicle
* BLACKHEAD ‘open comedone’ : blocked open follicle (oxidisation turns it black)
* PAPULES : raised soled lumps
* PUSTULES : pus filled papules
* NODULES : deeper rooted, large, solid inflamed lumps beneath the skin
* CYSTS : painful, large, pus filled lumps beneath the skin that can lead to scarring

It is likely that your acne is caused by a mixture of the below causes.

GENETICS

Multiple studies have found a strong link between genetics and acne. Your genetics determine how your immune system responds to p. acnes bacteria; this is why some people get the odd spot, whilst others develop painful cystic acne.
Furthermore, if one of your parents had teenage or adult acne you are more likely to experience acne too. If both your parents had acne then you are more likely to experience more severe acne from an early age.

HORMONES

Your skins sebaceous glands are very sensitive to hormones. Increased levels of the hormone testosterone are thought to cause skin glands to overproduce sebum (oil) leading to blocked pores.
Post puberty, women are suspectable to hormonal acne due to fluctuating levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone throughout their menstrual cycle, which cause the skin to produce excess sebum. In addition, pregnancy, childbirth and PCOS (poly cystic ovary syndrome) can trigger acne.

STRESS

When you are stressed your body’s endocrine system (a collection of glands that produce hormones, regulate sleep, mood and many other things) releases cortisol and androgens (stress hormones) in response. It’s thought that the cells that produce sebum have receptors for these stress hormones and respond by producing excess sebum leading to blocked pores.

GUT HEALTH

I cannot stress enough how VITAL good gut health is to your overall health. Mental health, obesity, type 2 diabetes, asthma hormones and acne are all related to the health of your gut.
What you put in your mouth is as important as what you put on your skin. If you eat a poor diet high in processed, sugary foods, which are pro-inflammatory, then you are more likely to experience inflammation in your skin. Stress, poor sleep and lack of exercise also contribute to poor gut health.

FACE MAPPING

Ancient Chinese medicine and modern beauty practitioners often use facial analysis, or face mapping, as a tool to diagnose potential causes or contributors to acne.

ACNE TREATMENTS

Whilst there are many over the counter acne products and a ton of helpful information on the internet, sometimes more drastic treatment is needed.

WHEN TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

* If your acne is moderate to severe or at risk of leaving scars
* If acne is affecting your quality of life (there’s a big link between acne and mental health)
* If you have sudden onset adult acne (it could be an indication of an underlying health problem)

I like to think of treatment as a 3 STEP APPROACH:
1. DIET
2. LIFESTYLE
3. SKINCARE
I see the best results in my skin when I’m on top of these 3 things.

1. DIET

Whilst your diet doesn’t cause acne, it can trigger or worsen it. Everything you put into your body is broken down into nutrients to build healthy bones, muscles and skin.
Studies have shown that the main dietary culprits of acne are:
* HIGH GLYCEMIC CARBOHYDRATES (anything that spikes blood sugar levels can increase inflammation leading to acne)
* COW’S MILK (particularly the IGF-1 hormone)
* SATURATED & TRANS FATS
* HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS
* ALCOHOL
* GLUTEN (it’s pro inflammatory)

EATING FOR CLEAR SKIN

Think of anti-acne foods as ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS. You want to reduce inflammation in your body to reduce the risk of disease, because acne is actually on the auto immune disease spectrum. Also ensure that you are eating WHOLEFOODS (foods as close to their natural state as mother nature intended); no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial or genetically modified ingredients. Plus, fill your plate with a RAINBOW of fresh fruit and vegetables. Check out my healthy eating quick guide for more information.

LOW GI (glycaemic Index)
* limit your sugar consumption
* swap refined sugar for unrefined sugar
* opt for high fibre carbohydrates; the more fibre the slower the release of sugars into the blood stream

Learn more with my sugar quick guide

ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES
* FRUIT & VEGETABLES : leafy greens, tomatoes, berries, citrus fruits, melons
* OMEGA 3’s : walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cold pressed olive oil, oily fish, leafy greens
* WHOLEGRAINS : brown rice, quinoa, oats, spelt, buckwheat, sorghum, amaranth
* HERBS & SPICES : turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, parsley, basil, rosemary, paprika, garlic
* FLAVONOIDS : cacao, blueberries, green tea, kale, spinach, broccoli

ANTIOXIDANTS especially vitamins A, C & E
* SOURCES OF VITAMIN A : sweet potatoes, squash, leafy greens, sweet red pepper, mango, cantaloupe, watermelon, oily fish, eggs
* SOURCES OF VITAMIN C : camu camu, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, lemons, guava, papaya, pineapple, kale, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, cauliflower, bell pepper
* SOURCES OF VITAMIN E: sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, brazil nuts, mango, avocado, salmon, cold pressed plant oils like olive oil

HYDRATION
* WATER : a hydrated body is better able to flush out toxins
* COCONUT WATER : anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, source of vitamin C. Pick one lowest in sugar, with no added ingredients.

SUPPLEMENTS I encourage you to focus on diet rather than supplements but…
* PROBIOTICS increase good gut bacteria, reduce inflammation and may therefore reduce acne.
*VITAMIN A is one of the main ingredients in the powerful acne drug Roaccutane (the only thing that cleared up my acne and stopped my oily skin…but also gave me daily nose bleeds and gut problems). Vitamin A can reduce sebum levels (i.e annoying oily skin that needs to be blotted x100 a day) which means your pores will be less blocked. Dietary sources include liver, cod liver oil, mackerel and salmon.Warning: As vitamin A is fat soluble it can build up in your body and potentially cause liver toxicity, don’t take more than 10,000 IU in a day. Topically vitamin A (retinol) serum can resurface skin and reduce scarring.
*VITAMIN B3 a.k.a niacinamide has been shown to reduce inflammation in skin. Dietary sources include tuna, chicken, turkey, beef, peanuts, avocado and brown rice. Applied topically a B3/niacinamide serum can treat uneven skin tone and dullness.
*VITAMIN B5 a.k.a pantothenic acid has been found to significantly reduce acne formation in  certain individuals. Dietary sources of B5 include mushrooms, eggs, salmon, chicken, sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast.
* ZINC supresses androgens, fights bacteria and may reduce redness due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Dietary sources include shellfish, cashews, sesame seeds, legumes, eggs and wholegrains.
*DIM a.k.a diindolylmethane is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, sprouts etc) that may address hormonal imbalances. It might be worth a try if you have hormonal acne/PMS.
* CHINESE HERBS some people find Chinese herbal remedies, like chaste tree or saw palmetto, helpful (speak to a herbalist or naturopath) as they address internal imbalances and root causes of acne.

2. LIFESTYLE

REDUCE STRESS
* exercise
* eat apoptogenic foods like maca, ashwagandha, holy basil and cordyceps
* do something you enjoy
* spend time with people who make you happy
LIMIT ALCOHOL
* a small glass of red wine is your best option as it contains flavonoids, specifically resveratrol, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties
EXERCISE
* it’s the closest thing to a cure all
* reduces insulin output (insulin contributes to acne by generating insulin-like growth factor IGF-1 which stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, leading to blocked pores)
* reduces the stress hormone cortisol, reducing inflammation (as long as you don’t over do the intensity of your workouts)
*wash your skin straight after working out to get rid of pore blocking dirt and sweat
GET QUALITY SLEEP
* lack of sleep promotes stress, resulting in increased inflammation and oil production

3. SKINCARE

CLEANSING
* To paraphrase TLC ‘no, you don’t want NO SCRUBS’. Scrubbing will only further irritate your inflamed skin and could lead to thread veins
* Opt for soap free gels or creamy cleansers
EXFOLIATING
* Look for chemical, rather than physical, exfoliants i.e AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids) & BHA’s (beta hydroxy acids)
* AHA’s are best for dry skin, acne scars and ageing skin, they include glycolic, lactic, citric and malic acid
* BHA’s are best for oily skin and active acne, they are usually labelled as salicylic acid (naturally found in willow bark)
* I like using charcoal konjac sponges & sonic silicone cleansing brushes for a gentle deep clean
INGREDIENTS
* Your skin is your largest organ, 70% of what you put on it will be absorbed into your blood stream so look for natural, organic ingredients
* Natural acne healing ingredients include: tea tree, lavender, charcoal, oats, turmeric, honey, lemon, neem, willow bark
MAKE UP
* Choose natural, oil free, non-comodogenic make up brands
* Conceal with a non comodogenic concealer and conceal only the spots; the rest of your skin is young and beautiful, let it breath
* When possible, go make-up free (even if you are only confident enough to do so in your home)

NOTES

You are not alone & you do not have to suffer in silence; see your doctor, a naturopath, or a dermatologist if your acne is affecting your quality of life.

SKINCERELY HOPE THIS HELPED? CHECK OUT MY OTHER QUICK GUIDES.