How to beat acne naturally
Acne is the most common skin disorder. The lesions most commonly occur on the face but can also develop on the neck, back, chest and shoulders. In acne, sebum usually drains to the surface but gets blocked by excess skin cells and so bacteria starts to grow inside the hair follicle. This is called a microcomedone and both blackheads and whiteheads start in the same way. A blackhead is different to a whitehead in that the pore opens to the surface and the sebum oxidises and turns black. Blackheads are not caused by dirt and cannot be washed away..
Conventional medical treatment of acne mostly includes topical therapies. There are several different types which include:
Retinoids which decrease excess skin cells sloughing off in the follicle.
Oral antibiotics if acne is more severe which is usually treated for 6 months.
Isotretinoin more commonly known as Accutane is reserved for the most severe cases. The treatment is effective but the drug comes with many adverse side effects including extremely dry sensitive skin, lips and eyes. Some of the more severe side effects are depression, inflammation of the liver and or brain which may cause migraines.
The most serious side effect affects pregnancy. The drug is so harmful to a growing baby that all women at risk of conceiving must enter the pregnancy prevention programme. The programme recommends that two forms of contraception be used usually a barrier method like a condom as well as an oral contraceptive pill. Pregnancy tests will be undertaken each month and the final one 5 weeks after finishing the course of medication.
There are other options and taking a natural approach to supporting acne can be very successful, although it may take longer than using a medication. Find my approach below.
There are many mechanisms which support the growth of acne. One of the first places I always start with my clients is their blood sugar levels. Having unbalanced blood sugar levels can increase the likelihood of acne in many ways. Having chronically high insulin and insulin like growth factor levels in the blood can cause an increase in sebum production and growth of the cells in the follicles. Insulin and IGF-1 also stimulate androgen production which in turn stimulates sebum production. They also decrease levels of sex hormone binding globulin which binds to excess androgens. So, less SHBG means higher androgen levels too. The best way to support this is to eat a balanced diet.
Certain foods have a pro inflammatory effect on the body. These foods when digested stimulation pro inflammatory cytokines which in turn stimulate sebum production.
Excess fat and processed carbohydrates increase sebum and lipid (fat) secretion in the skin which stimulates acne lesion production.
I’m sure you can start to see how eating a balanced diet can target acne from many different angles.
A balanced diet should include:
7-10 portions of vegetables and fruit (max 2) per day
Whole grains, beans and legumes as main source of protein
Organic grass fed meat (not processed) and fish
Seeds including pumpkin
2 litres of water per day
All fizzy processed sugary drinks
Sweets, sugary cakes and desserts
White bread, white pasta and breakfast cereals
Dairy (this raises blood sugar levels and contains IGF-1 it also contains many hormones which affect acne.
Exercise is a wonderful way of lowering insulin and IGF-1 levels in the blood. Try exercising 3 x week. There are loads of great exercise videos online you could try but nothing beats getting outside in nature.
Support your liver and digestive system to help rid the body of toxins. Eating fibrous foods like vegetables help the body to clear out toxins. Flaxseeds are another great fibrous food. You should be consuming at least 30g fibre per day. Check out my handout on high fibre foods.
Supplements to consider
Zinc has been shown to be effective in acne treatment in many studies. Recent studies suggest that there is a link between low serum zinc levels and the severity and type of acne.
Zinc rich foods
Probiotics have been studied for their ability to support acne. It has been established that they can alleviate the inflammation in acne as well as promote the skin to heal
Always consult your practitioner before taking any supplements.