Acne vulgaris, or acne as it is commonly known, is an inflammatory skin disorder that often develops in adolescence and usually improves during adulthood. Most acne surfaces in adolescence and up to 85% of teens and preteens develop acne to some degree. Teenage boys are the most likely individuals to have severe acne that can produce scarring. Adult acne can afflict some people, both men and women, well into their thirties and forties. The most common locations where acne breaks out are on the face, chest, back, buttocks and scalp. From these statistics, you can see why acne answers are sought out by just about all age groups.
Acne Answers – Identifiable Factors
Researchers are not certain as to the exact cause of acne, but there are a number of identifiable factors.
- Age: Teenagers are the most likely age group to develop acne. This is due to the hormonal changes they are going through during puberty. The most common trigger for acne is androgen, a hormone initially produced during puberty. Androgen is a male sex hormone (but females have it too) that stimulates the production of skin oils. When too much skin oil (sebum) is present, the sebaceous glands that produce sebum may become clogged. This can lead to bacterial infections from a common skin bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes. These plugged glands become inflamed and swollen, and the development of acne has begun. In severe cases, the glands may burst under the skin and form cysts, the most severe form of acne lesions.
- Gender: Quick quiz: Who experiences more acne, girls or boys? If you answered boys, you are correct. Boys have acne more often than girls, and it is usually more severe for them as well. This is probably due to the fact that boys produce more androgens (see above) than girls.
- Hormonal Changes: Acne often attacks women during pregnancy and menopause, and two to seven days before their menstrual period. Be aware that many personal care products contain synthetic chemicals that are also known endocrine (hormone) disruptors. Read labels and do the research on the chemicals in anything that you put on or in your body.
- Heredity: If your family of origin has a history of acne, your chances for getting it are increased.
- Diet: While foods do not cause acne, some may aggravate the condition and cause flare-ups in certain people.
- Stress: Stressful situations have been linked to outbreaks of acne. This may be due to the release of certain stress hormones under such conditions.
- Medications: Some pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medicines contribute to acne. Examples include: oral contraceptives (due to messing with your hormones), antibiotics, tranquilizers, antidepressants, and some steroidal drugs.
- Environment: Polluted air (synthetic chemicals), perspiring in hot weather, and exposure to oil or grease (perhaps in an industrial atmosphere) can also increase your risk of acne.
- Skin Care: Good hygiene is important, but too much of a good thing can be harmful as well. Don’t make the mistake of using harsh or abrasive soaps, which can bring on acne. It is important to understand that acne is not caused by dirt, and cannot be washed away.
- Cosmetics: Stay away from oil-based cosmetics, which can worsen acne or cause a flare-up. Many hair sprays can do the same. (They’re bad for you to breathe too). Read labels and research ingredients.
- Abrasives: Some things can be abrasive to the skin and cause an acne break out. Examples include clothing that is too tight, purses or backpacks, helmets, and telephones held against the face. (See, mom was right. Talking on the phone too much is bad for us, even more so with a cell phone). Even holding your face in your hands or sleeping on one side of your face is discouraged.
- Sun Exposure: Some folks have to watch how much sun they get in order to avoid acne. This is especially true if you are taking certain acne medications.
Acne Answers – Healthy Diet is Foundational
Acne is a puzzling disease and it can be difficult to prevent and treat acne. The link between diet and acne can be quite confusing, and researchers are still trying to nail it down. The bottom line is that acne is an inflammatory disease, and what you eat affects the way your body responds to inflammation.
There is some evidence to suggest that acne may be linked to a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Such foods tend to increase amounts of insulin in the body, as well as an insulin-related growth factor called IGF-1. This substance is known to stimulate the production of androgens, which are hormones that in turn stimulate the oil glands of the skin to secrete increased amounts of sebum. Excessive levels of sebum are directly related to the development of acne.
Many with acne find that going on a gluten-free diet is very helpful. Read more about going gluten-free.
Healthy Foods To Eat
Fish: Certain types of cold water fish, including tuna, salmon, sardines, and halibut, are excellent for the health of the skin. They are high in crucial omega-3 oils like EPA and DHA. Make sure they are NOT farm raised. If you choose not to eat sufficient amounts of fish (at least twice weekly), supplementation with good quality fish oil is always an option.
Fresh Vegetables: Your body needs approximately 40 different nutritional building blocks every day in order to operate at peak efficiency. Eating a varied selection of organic vegetables daily will help ensure adequate nutrition. Loading up on cold-water fish and organic vegetables is a great one-two punch for your overall health and to fight of acne as well.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants are potent weapons in the battle for healthy skin. They neutralize free-radicals that can damage your skin through exposure to sunlight, toxins, and other environmental pollutants. In season, organic vegetables and other foods high in antioxidants will definitely help to defeat acne.
Purified Water: Drink more purified water. It’s one of the best health habits you could ever develop – great for your skin and the rest of your body. Try for at least 8 glasses every day, and more if you are very active or the weather is hot. (Try to avoid bottled water that is packaged in plastic.)
Foods to Avoid
Sugar: Refined sugars stimulate the body to increase the production of insulin, and this tends to cause acne or aggravate existing blemishes. Avoid donuts, cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream, pies, processed flour, fruit juices and other similar foods. If you must get your sugar fix, save it for a rare treat or better yet, bite into a juicy, cold piece of organic fruit! Also most refined sugar comes from GMO sugar beets.
Soft drinks: Sodas are extremely high in sugar. Just one can of soda can contain a tablespoon or more of sugar. As we previously mentioned, sugar is not your friend when it comes to fighting acne. Sodas also contain phosphorous and sodium, which tend to dry out your skin. Quench your thirst with lots of water, herbal teas, and organic, freshly made vegetable juices.
Nuts: Certain nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, filberts, and Brazil nuts, contain substances that may irritate your skin. Peanuts, and peanut butter in particular may trigger acne in some people. If you must eat nuts, keep the portions small, and choose only raw, organic nuts.
Dairy: Commercial dairy products, including milk, cheese, butter, and ice cream generally contain high levels of hormones. Most cow’s milk contains progesterone, 5-alpha reduced steroids, and other steroidal hormones. When you ingest these hormones, they can break down and introduce a chemical called dihydrotestestosterone (DHT). DHT promotes excessive production of sebum, which in turn can lead to acne. Researchers have found a clear link between milk consumption and acne. Try rice or almond milk as alternatives. If you are worried about calcium, you can get enough calcium from supplements and/or other dietary sources such as leafy, green vegetables.
Keeping Your Liver Clean and Supported – It’s Important for Healthy Skin
Keeping your liver healthy and strong is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain overall wellness. This critically hard-working organ, which is located in the right abdominal area, has been called the “laboratory of the body,” and for many good reasons. Researchers estimate that the liver performs over 500 functions in the body. Some of these include:
- Filtering all food and liquids
- Assimilating and distributing nutrients, and removing toxins and waste products
- Creating bile, necessary for digestion of fats and other substances
- Burning and metabolizing fat and calories in the body
- Regulating hormones
- Purifying the blood and removes damaged blood cells
- Performing many necessary circulatory functions
- Balancing blood sugar
- Regulating fluid levels in the body
- Storing and distributing vitamins, minerals, and other crucial nutrients
- Boosting the immune system
The liver is actively involved in keeping your body free from disease of all types. It is also true that a poorly operating liver can contribute to a mired of illnesses and debilitating health conditions.
When the liver becomes sluggish because of built-up toxin’s, these toxins begin to leave the body through the skin. Acne and other skin disorders can result. A sluggish liver can also have difficulty in removing and regulating hormones thus causing hormone imbalance which can actually cause acne.
Liver cleansing. Choose an effective and non-toxic liver cleanse such as The Optimum Wellness Liver and Gallbladder Cleanse that will effectively flush, purify and support your liver so that it can operate at peak efficiency. There are many herbs that are great for the liver, but they should always be either be organic or wild-crafted. Even if you do your best to live a clean life, a yearly liver cleanse is highly recommended, to “head off trouble at the pass,” so to speak.
Acne Answers – Natural Remedies
Natural is always the safest and best, so that is what we will focus on. As difficult as acne can be, the good news is that over 90% of patients respond well to many natural therapies. Therapy, however, can be quite a long process, lasting for months or even years. Below are a few methods that are commonly used on acne.
Natural Skincare – I highly recommend the Oasis Serene Botanicals rejuvenation program: Hydra-Cleanze™, Polish-N-Glow™, Hydra-Tone™, Oxy-Balm™ and Purely Ageless™. Make sure that you use an organic sunscreen when out in the sun for more than 30-45 minutes at a time.
Herbal remedies can be quite effective against acne. Some suggested herbs include dandelion root, burdock root, chamomile, bergamot, juniper, lavender, Echinacea, and poke root. All of these help to detoxify the skin, and thus reduce inflammation that can produce acne.
Colloidal Silver – Research on the broad spectrum antimicrobial effect of colloidal silver has exploded in recent years. Colloidal silver is also thought to possess cell renewing properties, which may contribute to its effectiveness against many cases of acne.
Acupuncture – Stagnant of Chi in the channels of the face is believed to be the cause of acne. Acupuncture performed on these points of the face is often helpful against acne.
Homeopathy – Patients with pustules and blind boils, especially on the face, neck, and back, may be helped by Kali brom. Selenium is often recommended for acne sufferers with oily skin, blackheads, and pustules. And hepar sulph. Is usually suggested for patients who suffer from painful, swollen pustules that are filled with yellow pus.
Healthy Oils – Don’t be afraid of using products that contain healthy organic oils. Using oils that mimic your skin’s natural oils (coconut and jojoba) can help to rebalance the oil production of your skin. And these oils will not block your pores. The following are healthy oils that can be found in natural products:
- Organic Tea tree oil – antiseptic and antibacterial, great for existing infections
- Organic Lavender oil – soothing and healing, great for accelerating healing of scars
- Unrefined Coconut oil – look out for products that use this as a base. Can also be used on its own.
- Organic Jojoba oil — look out for products that use this as a base
- Organic cold-pressed Argan oil
Sleep – Your body does the most repair and healing work during the hours of 11:00PM – 3:00AM. If you are awake during these hours, you will sacrifice this important repair work. Restful sleep also helps to repair over-worked and stressed adrenals. It is wise to sleep on a clean pillowcase every night. This makes sure that your skin is not infected with bacteria from the previous night. Wash your pillowcases with non-toxic detergents.
Vitamin A and Zinc – Vitamin A impacts the physiology of the skin by encouraging epidermal differentiation, modulating dermal growth factors, inhibiting sebaceous gland activity, and suppressing androgen formation. The highest vitamin A-rich foods include liver and cod liver oil, with other sources including cream and butter from pastured cows as well as egg yolks from pastured chickens. Using cod liver oil as a supplement provides a balance of vitamin A and vitamin D reducing the risk of vitamin A overdose. Studies indicate that dietary zinc may reduce acne as effectively as antibiotics including tetracyclines. Most likely it interacts with vitamin A as a part of retinol-binding protein necessary for transporting vitamin A in the blood. Supplementing with zinc is shown to notably increase the level of vitamin A in the blood. This indicates an interaction between the two nutrients possibly explaining its positive effect on acne. It is worth noting that men and women with serious acne have been found to have lower levels of serum zinc than healthy controls.
Purified Water – Water is really the only beverage that the body needs for repair and healing. It replenishes skin tissues, flushes out toxins and wastes and is anti-aging. Every cell in your body is bathed in water. However, it is very easy to become dehydrated by not drinking enough water throughout the day, drinking too many caffeinated and sugar laden sodas and heavy exercise. If you wait until you are thirsty to drink water, your body is already dehydrated. See Health Benefits of Drinking Clean Water
People with acne are often prescribed antibiotics, which can destroy the bacteria that breed inside the blocked pores. However, antibiotics will not only destroy the bad bacteria in your gut but also the healthy bacteria which will cause an unhealthy imbalance. The result can be a buildup of toxins which in the long run can actually aggravate acne. Your body can also build up a tolerance to antibiotics, meaning you will need larger and larger doses in order to get the same effect. If you have been taking antibiotics for acne, be sure to incorporate an effective probiotic supplement. To help heal and support the gut, It is a good idea to drink 1-2 ounces of organic aloe vera juice every day.
A high quality probiotic such as Latero-Flora can hellp restore the good bacteria in your gut. As mentioned above, probiotics can improve the health of your digestive system, enabling it to effectively absorb and assimilate vitamins and minerals from your food. A sluggish digestive tract is often linked to acne because toxins are not being eliminated effectively by the liver and digestive system and thus are eliminated via your skin.
Acne Answers – Synopsis
Acne answers really quite simple but you must understanding the main causes of acne. Consuming an organic and healthy, vitamin-rich diet as well as supplementing with vitamins and other supplements. Keeping your liver clean and supported. Avoid putting synthetic chemicals both in and on your body. Using organic and natural skin care and personal care products. Avoiding the overuse of antibiotics. It’s very important to keep in mind that your body cannot maintain itself with an unhealthy diet. And one cannot eat mostly processed foods and expect to stay healthy simply by adding supplements.
In a nutshell all of the answers above will provide a synergistic effect in naturally fighting acne. A synergistic effect is an effect arising between two or more agents, entities, factors, or substances that produces an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. When synergistic parts work together, they accomplish more than they could alone.
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Amer M, Bahgat MR, Tosson Z, Abdel Mowla MY, Amer K. Serum zinc in acne vulgaris. Int J Dermatol. 1982 Oct;21(8):481-4.