This blog post is the third in a series of four on skin health. In this post, I’ll be focusing on how to heal acne.
The information in the first two blog posts of the series may come in handy as you’re reading this, so feel free to check out the very first post all about skin basics and the second post which is full of helpful information to help you keep your skin healthy, so you’re up to speed.
Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting 50 million people each year.
While anyone can develop acne, it affects teens and young adults most frequently, with an estimated 80 percent of people ages 11- 30 experiencing at least a minor acne breakout during this time period (1).
It’s no wonder with these statistics that I treat patients for acne frequently in my clinic!
My approach to treating and helping my patients heal acne differs from most medical doctors. Typical acne treatment can include over-the-counter creams, cleansers, and prescription antibiotics. These treatments don’t address the root cause of the acne, however.
As you know from the last blog post, your skin is an external reflection of what’s happening inside your body. If there is an imbalance internally, it can show up externally on your skin.
This brings me to the first cause of acne:
Having too much or not enough of certain hormones can cause acne, especially a rise in androgens, like testosterone.
A rise in androgen levels can cause your body to produce more sebum – a yellow, oily substance that is secreted by the sebaceous glands to keep your skin and hair moisturized. It can also cause changes in skin cell regeneration, inflammation, and build up of a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), all of which can lead to acne (2).
Hormonal acne can also be caused by:
- Excess estrogens, especially toxic estrogens
- Imbalance of thyroid hormones
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
If you want to heal acne caused by a hormonal imbalance, the first step is to have your hormones tested. Once you’ve had your hormones tested, your health care practitioner can recommend the best course of action. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy may be needed. If so, insist that your health care provider prescribe only natural, bio-identical hormones. Herbal supplements may also be an option.
Toxins and Heavy Metals
We are exposed to a plethora of chemicals on a daily basis – environmental pollution, heavy metals, pesticides, preservatives, and other chemicals that increase our risk of developing illnesses, like cancer. They also contribute to skin irritation and acne, especially cadmium, zinc, and copper (3).
I personally experienced acne and breakouts after eating California greens grown in soil that was contaminated with thallium and arsenic.
You can’t avoid all toxins and chemicals, but do your best to control what you can. Be mindful of the food you put in your body and the products you use on your skin. Choose organic, sustainably farmed fruits and veggies when possible, and use skin care products that are free of phthalates and parabens.
If you suspect that you may have been exposed to heavy metals, request a blood or urine test through your healthcare practitioner to check your toxin levels.
You can also support your body’s natural detoxification process by incorporating regular saunas into your routine since sweating helps to release toxins and bacteria from the lymphatic system. Supplementing with glutathione may also be beneficial.
It’s easy to forget that your skin is a functioning, vital organ. Part of your integumentary system, which also consists of your hair and nails, the health of your skin can reveal lots of information about what’s happening inside your body, in your digestive tract specifically.
Your gut contains trillions of bacteria, good and bad. When the bad bacteria begin to take over, it creates inflammation in your body, which weakens your immune system. When the immune system is dysfunctional due to an overgrowth of yeast or parasites, your skin will reflect that dysfunction in the form of acne and other skin conditions.
Clear skin starts with a healthy gut, so doing what you can to populate your gut with healthy bacteria is essential to heal acne. You can do this by supplementing with a high-blend probiotic, and eating probiotic foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.
Saccharomycin, a probiotic yeast that supports the health and integrity of the gut, can also be beneficial if the direct cause of your acne is due to an imbalance of gut flora (4).
When you experience a stressful situation, adrenaline and cortisol production increases in your body. Glucose is released into the bloodstream to give you a boost of energy and your digestion and immune functions slows down.
During a real crisis, these systems would come back into balance after the crisis was over – you would fight or flee to resolve the problem. However many of us are subjected to stress on a daily basis and never undergo this process of resolution, causing us to operate in a constant state of emergency, with no end in sight.
Such prolonged stress creates hormonal imbalances, imbalances in gut flora, and puts considerable strain on your adrenal glands, all of which can contribute to skin irritations and eruptions, like acne (5).
Make stress management a priority by incorporating the following into your daily life:
- Adequate sleep (7-9 hours)
Supplementation to help support the balanced production of stress hormones may also be an option. Be sure to check with your healthcare professional before adding medications or supplements to your routine.
A diet high in refined sugar, vegetable oils, processed foods, gluten, dairy, soy, and overconsumption of alcohol can affect the health of your skin since it creates imbalances in gut flora.
Clean up your diet.
Choose low-glycemic fruit, like berries over refined sugar. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, chard, collards. Avoid processed foods as much as possible and limit your alcohol consumption.
For a list of some of the foods I recommend for a healthy diet, click here!
Autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s, Lupus, and Lyme Disease, can cause skin eruptions and acne as they disrupt hormone balance and gut flora, and are often accompanied by internal inflammation.
This is one of the most difficult types of acne to treat, and while there are options, it’s best to work with a trained physician during treatment.
Since this type of acne can be stubborn, I sometimes recommend topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatory gels. These can help with redness, itching, and burning that often occurs. In less severe cases, turmeric, ginger, and fish oil may also help.
As you can see, the causes of acne are varied and there is no one size fits all way to treat it. In order to determine the root cause of your acne, work with a trained and qualified healthcare professional. They can help you get the testing you need, and offer treatment options that may mirror some of the ones mentioned in this blog post.
Remember, your skin is your largest organ. In order to keep it healthy, it’s important to be mindful of what you put in your body as well as what you put on your body.
In this blog post, I discussed ways to maintain the health of your skin and heal acne from the inside out. In my next blog post in this series, I’ll offer some solutions that will help maintain the health of your skin from the outside in by providing you with information about some of my favorite skin care products.