Acne Attack: Banish Breakouts For Good
By Allison Riehs | Naturopath
You might have hoped your days of bad breakouts were behind you.
Perhaps you’ve been struck down with adult acne or a hormonal breakout, or maybe you’re supporting teenagers with problem skin.
Whatever the situation, we all want a fresh face and clear, healthy skin. So what is acne, why do we get it, and what can be done to improve skin health naturally?
What exactly is Acne?
Acne is a common inflammatory skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, and can lead to permanent scarring and long-lasting psychological effects if left untreated.
Acne is a condition of the skin presenting as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or cysts1 and is most common in teenagers because of the hormonal changes that come with puberty. Unfortunately, if parents had acne as teens, it’s more likely their children will, too.
Approximately 85% of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 25 are affected by acne2. representing the eighth most common health disorder worldwide.
For most people, acne goes away almost completely by the time they reach adulthood. But research suggests acne persists in as much as 41% of the adult population, with women affected more commonly than men.
What causes Acne?
The hair follicles, or pores in your skin contain sebaceous glands. These glands make sebum, a natural oil that lubricates your hair and skin. When the body is in balance, the sebaceous glands make the right amount of sebum. But hormonal changes and environmental factors can stimulate the sebaceous glands to make too much sebum, clogging the pores.
Dead skin cells and bacteria get trapped inside those pores and quickly multiply which causes swelling and redness – the start of acne.3
But treating acne isn’t as simple as cleaning the skin – which is why topical skin treatments don’t work for everyone.
The skin is the body’s largest and fastest growing organ. So the health of the skin on the outside can tell us a lot about the health of the body on the inside too.
Contributing factors to acne include:
Stress and hormones: While stress alone isn’t a cause of acne, it can make our skin more reactive4 and sensitive, which may trigger breakouts or make existing acne worse. This is because stress causes a chemical response in the body to produce more of the hormone, cortisol, which tells glands in the skin to make more oil – and unfortunately, oily skin is more prone to acne and other skin problems. Similarly, hormonal fluctuations and conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can be underlying factors in the development of acne.
Solution: Most of us could benefit from lifestyle changes to reduce stress levels and be kinder to our adrenals and hormones. This might include exercise, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises or simply taking time to stop and smell the roses. Nutritional supplements, herbal medicine and dietary changes can also be introduced to support hormonal health.
The gut-skin connection: Research has revealed the gut microbiome influences distant organ systems, including the skin5.
Solution: Some strains of probiotics have been found to have a beneficial effect on both gut health and skin health. Certain foods such as fermented vegetables and kombucha have also been shown to offer benefits for the microbiome and skin6.
Diet and deficiencies: It’s no surprise diet plays a role not only in how we feel, but in how our skin looks too.7 While there is no evidence that any particular foods cause acne, some foods may be more prone to causing inflammation such as processed foods, and foods high in sugar or saturated fats. Some individuals may even notice skin flares are triggered by foods such as dairy, grains or yeast. Deficiencies in certain vitamins including Vitamin A, B5 and Zinc can also hamper the skin’s cell turnover and healing capabilities.
Solution: Foods rich in fibre and polyphenols have proven beneficial in providing natural and low risk treatments for acne.8. And some diets may benefit from supplementing key skin-supporting nutrients.
Detoxification and elimination: When toxins accumulate in the blood and bowel, the liver works less efficiently and cannot metabolise hormones effectively, which leads to skin eruptions.9
Solution: Simple dietary changes can be a great start to a healthier liver. Drinking at least two litres of filtered water daily, eating the rainbow and choosing organic foods where possible may support healthy detoxification and elimination. Also speak to your naturopath about effective herbal support for healthy skin, like burdock, dandelion, chaste tree berry, milk thistle, red clover and tea tree.
Ready to stop the spots? Book an appointment with Allison today!
- Williams. HC, et al., 2012, ‘Acne Vulgaris’, Lancet, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21880356>
- Yentzer. BA et al., 2010, ‘Acne vulgaris in the United States: a descriptive epidemiology’ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20919604>
- Lynn. DD et al, 2016, ‘The epidemiology of acne vulgaris in late adolescence’, Adolescent Health Medicine and Therapeutics, issue 7, pp 13-25 <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4769025/>
- Hunter. HJ et al., 2015, ‘The impact of psychosocial stress on healthy skin’, Dermatological Sciences, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25808947>
- Iman. S, et al., 2018, ‘The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis’, Frontiers in Microbiology, issue 9, p 1459 <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/>
- Bell. V et al., 2018, ‘One Health, Fermented Foods, and Gut Microbiota’, MDPI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6306734/>
- Melnik. BC, 2018, ‘Acne vulgaris: The metabolic syndrome of the pilosebaceous follicle’, Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Osnabrück. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29241749>
- Clark. AK et al., 2017, ‘Edible Plants and Their Influence on the Gut Microbiome and Acne’, International Journal of Molecular Sciences. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454980/>