Acne: What Causes It and What You Can Do About It
Having acne can be upsetting for anyone but particularly when you’re a teenager and you’re discovering those urges for that boy/girl that you fancy and you’re not feeling the most attractive. In most cases it does clear up in late teens or early twenties but that’s no use when you want it to just take a hike now!
As is generally the case, acne often arises at puberty when the body increases its production of androgens (male sex hormones such as testosterone), yes both girls and boys have it!
The production of this hormone stimulates the production of keratin (a type of protein) and sebum (an oily skin lubricant) on to the skin. Sebum can make the pores of the skin sticky, causing your pores to become blocked which can cause the development of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads to you!) along with the development of those nasty pus-filled spots (pustules).
We all have a bacteria on our skin called acne bacterium (known as Propionibacterium acnes). Most of the time it causes no problem but for those people prone to acne the over-production of sebum can cause the bacteria to multiply and leads to inflammation and the formation of spots.
There are many contributing factors that can bring on the occurrence of acne such as:
Nutritional deficiencies and/or a diet high in saturated fats, hydrogenated fats and animal products
Premenstrual flare ups
Gut flora issues
Candidiasis (yeast infection)
A body pH that is too acidic/too alkaline can affect the reproduction of acne-causing bacteria
Build-up of toxins in the body
Did you know that the skin is the largest organ in the body and along with the kidneys and liver is responsible for the removal of toxic waste from the body? The more rubbish you put in your body the harder the kidneys and liver have to work. If they become overworked then the skin has to take over and toxins are excreted onto the skin through sweating. Overloading the skin in this way can cause imbalances in the health of the skin and further lead to the development of acne.
As I’m sure you can see just trying to tackle the problem topically with over the counter skin products such as Clearasil is not going to get to the root cause of the problem. You're only scratching the scabby surface, so to speak!
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Acne is a sign that there is something wrong with the chemistry of your body and a change in diet and skin care regime may be all that is needed. I have provided loads of advice below on action that you can take to sort the problem out once and for all. So throw away those “waste of time” spot clearing lotions & potions and let’s get stuck in to sorting it out properly and let that beautiful you shine through!
One of the most important factors (and I say this for everyone who comes to me with health issues) is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. It must contain plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, wholemeal grains & cereals, beans & pulses, fish & poultry, essential fatty acids e.g. hemp, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds, dark green leafy vegetables, olive oil, whole grain foods.
Yes I know this is not the sort of food you may have been brought up on or are used to but I’m afraid you can’t get away with eating that rubbish anymore, if you want to improve the condition of your skin.
You can find out exactly what constitutes a healthy diet in my free e-book “Leading a Healthy Lifestyle” which you can download by clicking here,details can then be found at the bottom of the page.
Increase your intake of raw fruits and vegetables, especially those that contain oxalic acid such as almonds, beetroots, cashews and swiss chard (but not spinach and rhubarb).
Certain fruits are rich in alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) which when applied to the skin can help to slough away the dead skin cells that can clog the oil glands. Grapes, pineapples and strawberries are a great source of AHA's. Just mash up the fruit in a liquidiser/nutribullet, apply to your skin and leave for 15 minutes and rinse. By the way you don’t have to use all 3 fruits in one go; just one type each time is fine. Do this a few times a week.
Eat more zinc containing food such as shellfish, soy beans, whole grains, sunflower seeds and nuts. People with acne have been shown to have a zinc deficiency.
Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
Potassium deficiency has been associated with acne therefore, eat potassium rich foods such as beans, dark leafy greens, potatoes, squash,yogurt, fish, avocados, mushrooms, and bananas.
Avoid alcohol, dairy products (except soured products such as yogurt, buttermilk, soured cream), caffeine, eggs, fatty foods especially those that contain hydrogenated oils, shortenings & margarine.
Ditch the sugar and associated products. Sugar can lead to hormonal imbalances and can impair immune function. Biopsies of people with acne have shown their tissues’ glucose tolerance to be seriously flawed. Sugar also promotes the growth of candida which may be a contributing factor to acne.
Eliminate all processed foods – sorry it has to go!
Keep the affected area as free from oil as possible. Use a natural soap that contains sulphur. The Dead Sea Soap has been shown to be really helpful for acne and can be purchased from Boots or other health stores.
Only wash your skin twice a day. Over-washing, vigorous scrubbing and repeatedly touching the skin will simply aggravate the problem.
Avoid wearing makeup - I know that is a hard one, especially if you like to cover up but the oil in the makeup simply aggravates the problem. If you must use makeup then use natural water based products.
Only wear makeup when you need to, for appearances sake, but clean it off as soon as you can to allow your skin to breath as much as it can.
Wash makeup brushes and sponges in alcohol every time you use then to avoid contamination.
Improve the pH balance of the skin by applying a mixture of 1 part apple cider vinegar and 10 parts water on the affected area. Use as you would a toner.
Keep hair away from your face to prevent the build-up of sebum.
Do not squeeze the spots as this can cause increased inflammation and scarring.
STOP using harsh over the counter, chemical laden, so called beauty products that are supposed to clear up the acne – after all does it actually work? Would you be reading this article if it worked? Chances are that it’s actually making your situation worse.
SUPPLEMENTS AND HERBS
I know some of the following things may sound weird, especially if you’re not into this sort of thing, but give it a go anyway, after all you’ve got a lifetime of weirdness ahead of you to get used to ;-)
Acidophilus is required for good gut health. Research has shown that if there is a buildup of harmful bacteria in the gut then this can lead to health consequences elsewhere in the body, including a flare-up of acne. Supplementing your diet with Acidophilus may help in reducing acne flare-ups.
Essential fatty acids are necessary for healthy hormone production. Any imbalances can lead to premenstrual problems and acne flare-ups. Supplement with ground up flaxseeds on your cereal, or you can take it in the form of capsules or an oil.
Zinc is an antibacterial agent and its presence in the body is necessary for the health of the oil-producing glands of the skin. Studies have shown that people who suffer from acne are deficient in zinc and supplementing can reduce acne by 50%
Vitamin E is needed to repair damaged skin, which is essential for people who suffer from breakouts. You can either supplement your diet with Vitamin E in capsule form or you can eat foods rich in Vitamin E such as almonds, spinach, sweet potato, avocado, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, butternut squash, trout, olive oil
Milk thistle, dandelion and burdock are great herbs that can be used to improve the function of your liver and so help the detoxification process.
Chaste Tree Berry (Agnus Castus) can help with pre-menstrual flare-ups
Facial saunas containing lavender, red clover and strawberry leaves can be used in a steam sauna. Simmer 2 – 4 tablespoons of dried herbs in 2 quarts of water. Remove from the heat and place your face at a comfortable distance over the steam with a towel over your head for about 15 minutes. Rinse your face with cold water afterwards.
Apply a clay face mask to the affected area. Mix 1 part of green clay with 1 part of raw honey, apply to the face and leave for 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
Lavender essential oil is a great antibiotic and antiseptic and can be applied directly to the affected areas.
Avoid stress as this can affect the delicate balance of gut flora. As mentioned above an imbalance can lead to health issues throughout the body including acne flare ups.
Get sufficient sleep
Try and get 15 minutes of sunshine a day.
And that's it!
If you have any questions give me a shout. I’m happy to help.
Good luck and just remember:
Being beautiful on the inside is what really counts.
Check out my website to see how else I can hep you.
Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor before embarking on any health regime.