“It’s what’s on the inside that counts” they say, but sometimes we just want to look good on the outside as well. It may not be a life-threatening condition, but it can be painful, annoying, and certainly affect your self-esteem.
Most of us, except for the occasional lucky sods, suffer from hormonal acne at some point in our lives. Young males are the common victims during their teenage years due to the hormonal roller coaster ride, also known as puberty. During puberty, the levels of hormone called androgen increases, which can lead to excessive sebum (oily, waxy substance) production and abnormal follicle development and blockage. Throw in a bit of bacterial over-growth and voila!… you have a perfect recipe for acne.
Although acne is most prevalent in teenagers, it can certainly persist, begin or even become worse during adulthood. In fact, adult acne often involves a more complex hormonal interplay which can make treatments somewhat difficult.
However, there are plenty of things you can do naturally to get your skin looking healthy and clean! In this article, I have listed 5 simple tips you can take away to improve your skin and get rid of those pesky pimples.
Eliminating high sugar content is one of the most effective ways to help clear your skin. Constant consumption of high sugar foods can increase your insulin levels in your blood and promote the production of androgen, which can exacerbate acne formation. High sugar diet can also increase bacterial growth on the skin as bacteria feeds on sugar! Avoid the intake of high GI (Glycemic Index) foods containing processed sugars, such as fizzy drinks, fruit juices, chocolate, cakes, baked sweets, candies, ice creams, etc. Intake of trans-fats found in margarines and deep fried foods are also linked to inflammation of the body, which can contribute negatively to acne formation. Instead, increase the intake of fresh vegetables, fruits (although not too many), nuts and seeds (except peanuts), lean meats and whole grains. Basically, you would want to avoid any processed, packaged foods such as takeaways and fast-foods, and enjoy home cooked meals where you have control over what goes into your food!
Milk intake during teenage years has been associated with higher incidence of acne. This is hypothesized that it may be due to the hormonal component of cow’s milk. Higher oestrogen levels in dairy may also worsen hormonal acne in menstruating women. Substitute cow’s milk with almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, etc. Other forms of dairy such as cheese, cream and in forms of additives should also be excluded as many people have varying degrees of intolerance to dairy. Food intolerance tests are very useful to find out what you might be intolerant to.
Support the liver
Your liver plays a crucial role in processing hormones and detoxifying any aggravating substance out of your body. Alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs, junk foods, stress and long term use of certain pharmaceutical medication can add stress to your liver. When the liver is stressed out, it does not process your hormones and eliminate wastes out of your body adequately, leading to further acne breakouts. Support your liver by eliminating toxic substances listed above, unless the medication is necessary. You can also help the liver by having adequate water intake (roughly 2 Litres per day), increasing antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and increase cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, maca, etc) which promotes the detoxification pathway of the liver.
Have you noticed that your acne gets worse during times of stress? This can actually be explained through a complex hormonal cascade where stress triggers a release of hormones from an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, with the end result of increased androgen secretion from your adrenal gland. By incorporating relaxing exercises, you can help to avoid this cascade down to pimple-ville. Simple breathing techniques, meditations, or even just taking some time out to read your favourite book can reduce acne formation.
Many commercial cleansers, toners and moisturizers can contain harsh chemicals, such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, parabens, fragrances and alcohols, which could leave your skin vulnerable to further acne formation. These products are designed to clear out the natural oils you have in your skin. Stripping your oils everyday can leave your skin very dry, and your body may compensate by further increasing oil production, and over moisturizing can leave you dependent on creams as the body becomes accustomed to reduced need to excrete oils. Try apple cider vinegar toners and tea tree oil skincare products. The 2 ingredients are natural and friendly on the skin, and contains strong antimicrobial properties to help control the bacterial growth on your skin. Evening primrose oil, coconut oil, tamanu oil and jojoba oil are all excellent moisturizers. For females in particular, make-ups should be avoided or kept to a minimum as it can clog your pores.
Key nutrients and herbs
Nutrients such as vitamin A and zinc are some of the vital nutrients to improve the health of your skin. People that struggle with acne are often found to be low in vitamin A, and it may help to reduce acne by supporting collagen and skin cell production. Zinc is also known to improve your immune function and reduce inflammation, which helps to attenuate bacterial over-growth on your skin.
Herbs such as Chaste tree and Saw palmetto are also useful in balancing out your hormones. Saw palmetto may help reduce acne by reducing the conversion of testosterone to androgen, and Chaste tree can also reduce androgen levels by reducing another hormone called prolactin.
The above information is something you can take away today to start your journey towards healthy skin. However, as mentioned earlier, acne may involve a very complex hormonal interplay. If the acne is persistent, you may require professional assistance, particularly if you are experiencing other health issues. Also be aware that retail-range herbal or nutritional supplements are often low in dosage and quality, and you certainly need professional advice if you are taking any pharmaceutical medication.
Having a consultation with a qualified naturopath can save you a lot of hassle and take the guess work out of trying to figure out what is the best solution is for you. Contact the clinic today to book your free discovery session to find out how I can help you to beat acne once and for all!
Qualified Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Advanced Hemaview Practitioner.