Let's be real, no one likes to deal with acne. It is an especially vulnerable condition because it is so visible.
And it doesn't discriminate. Acne can affect all genders, ages, and backgrounds and has been shown to be the most common skin condition encountered (1). It can also show up on various areas of the body though most commonly affecting the facial region.
Acne occurs when pores and hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and excess oil which then cause inflammation and breakouts to erupt.
This skin condition can not only affect someone physically, but also psychologically. It comes as no surprise then that acne sufferers want a solution as quick as possible and commonly seek topical treatments or pharmaceuticals to reduce the breakouts. Though these may provide some relief in the short-term, it rarely works in the long-term as this type of approach is focused on treating symptoms instead of the root cause.
Acne is largely caused by internal imbalances such as inflammation, blood sugar issues, stress, dysbiosis, hormonal imbalances and an overburdened liver.
When it comes to treating and managing acne, nutrition and lifestyle changes are absolutely key in order to overcome this condition.
Remember, our skin is our largest organ and whatever it is telling us is a good indication of our internal environment.
Today we are sharing natural ways to get your acne under control so you can start to experience clear and glowing skin, as you deserve!
Natural solutions to acne
Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet
Inflammation is at the core of most skin issues, including acne (2).
The good news? Our diet plays an important part in either feeding or fighting inflammation.
Inflammatory foods that can exacerbate acne typically include refined sugars and flours, alcohol, processed foods, trans fats, excess saturated fats, vegetable oils and dairy. Individuals may also experience improved skin by avoiding common food allergens such as gluten, soy, corn, and eggs.
A lower glycemic diet centered around plenty of whole fruits and vegetables and quality fats and protein can be particularly beneficial in reducing inflammation and improving skin health by also supporting good blood sugar balance (3).
What kinds of foods would be included in an anti-inflammatory diet?
Leafy greens, berries, raw nuts and seeds, wild fatty fish, cruciferous vegetables, squash, sweet potato, olives, avocado, lean meats, whole grains, and beans and legumes are all excellent choices however remember this will still need to be individualized to your needs and tolerances.
This type of diet will supply important skin supporting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Omega 3 fats are a particular type of fat that are known for their anti-inflammatory effects (4)(5). Rich sources of omega 3's include chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and wild fatty fish.
A more Westernized diet revolving around processed and packaged foods is best avoided as this tends to aggravate the acne condition (6).
Work on your gut
Continuing on from our last point, inflammation largely originates from the gut. This is why it's absolutely essential to heal any gut imbalances you may have especially if you want to improve your skin.
We know that our gut really does impact our entire body and all of its systems and we cannot afford to neglect it if we truly want thriving health.
There is a very real connection between the state of our digestive system and our skin health. This connection has been emphasized with the discovery of the gut skin axis.
The gut-skin axis is a pathway that connects the gut to our skin. Our skin is actually shown to be influenced by the microbes living in our gut which have the ability to shift the skin's barrier and oil production (7).
When we address any gut dysfunction and inflammation we see an impact on the state of our skin and this can help to alleviate skin problems such as acne as a result (8).
Just like the gut, the skin can also become "leaky" defined as "leaky skin". As a physical barrier and defense system to the external world, our skin's barrier must be integral in order to provide optimal protection. However, gut imbalances and inflammation can actually impair this barrier, increasing inflammation and risk of infection of the skin (9).
What's more, digestive conditions such as SIBO have been shown to be more prevalent in acne sufferers than non acne sufferers (11).
Where do you even start with gut healing? Cleaning up your diet is a good place to start however further investigation with a skilled health care provider may likely be needed in order to identify any gut pathogens and infections that need to be addressed. Probiotics may also be worthwhile to look into as their use has been shown to provide relief to those experiencing acne (12)(13).
"If you want to heal your skin, you have to heal your gut." - Chris Kresser
Use clean beauty products
Toxins are showing up pretty much everywhere, and though we can't always control our exposure to chemicals in our environment, we can control what we put on our skin!
The average woman uses 12 different products every single day. That adds up to a lot of ingredients!
Why is this important? Well, our skin is our largest organ and it is permeable, which means that what we put on our skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream (14). If toxins gain access to our circulation then this can contribute to many internal imbalances and consequences, including hormonal issues.
Hormonal acne is very common among young adults but also particularly in women nowadays due to ever increasing rates of hormonal imbalances.
These harsh chemicals in most beauty products today not only interfere with our internal environment, but also our external environment by stripping the skin of its natural protective oils and altering its microbiome (15).
If you don't recognize the ingredient or can't pronounce it, it's probably no good.
So what can you do?
Look for clean beauty brands, free of toxic chemicals. Some of our favourites include Viva Organics, Sukin, Basd, and Urban Juve.
The Environmental Working Group is a great resource to sort through brands and find more information on clean beauty.
Or you can DIY!
Aloe vera's antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and hydrating properties may help to combat acne and soothe the skin (16)(17). You can use aloe vera gel to help speed up the healing process and reduce scarring and dark spots (18).
Yes you can even find ingredients to combat acne in your own kitchen!
Manuka honey has skin healing properties and the ability to fight acne through its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial compounds, destroying acne causing bacteria and accelerating the skin's healing (19).
Tea tree is a common essential oil used to treat acne topically as it is also anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial (20)(21). Always be careful using tea tree as it is quite powerful and can cause skin irritation if used in excess. We recommend looking for it as part of a formula or diluting it before use, and always applying a very small amount!
Give your liver some loving
As the body's largest organ of detoxification, if the liver is congested and sluggish, this may very well show on your skin as acne or other conditions.
Your skin is a direct reflection of what's going on internally, especially within this organ.
The liver is responsible for over 500 functions and if it is overburdened and consumed by excess hormones, toxins, inflammatory foods, and stress, it needs to get rid of this excess some way or another. This is why making sure your pathways of elimination and detoxification are working optimally is such an important part of the acne puzzle.
How do you love on your liver? Avoid processed and packaged foods and choose to fill your diet with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Avoiding inflammatory foods such as vegetable oils and excess meat consumption will also help support your liver.
Herbs that are particularly liver supportive include dandelion and milk thistle.
Though it's vital to address the foundations such as diet when it comes to managing acne, supplements often are necessary during the healing phase. the good news? There are a variety of natural options shown to help!
The acne fighting mineral, zinc is naturally anti-androgenic which means it can reduce androgenic hormones associated with increased oil production and breakouts (22).
Zinc can fight bacteria associated with acne and is naturally anti-inflammatory, helping to relieve redness and acne scarring.
Low zinc status has been associated with increased acne breakouts (23).
Omega 3 fats
As the western diet is particularly high in omega 6 fatty acids and low omega 3 fatty acids this can cause an imbalance between the essential fats we need to obtain, promoting inflammation. Supplementing with sources of omega 3 fats such as wild fatty fish may help to reduce inflammation and calm skin conditions like acne (24)(25).
Vegan? You can supplement with algae to obtain omega 3 fats while including plant based sources such as chia seeds and flaxseeds.
We've gone over the gut skin connection, so we think you know by now how important our digestive health is for our skin, which is why we had to include probiotics. Probiotics supply beneficial bacteria to the intestinal tract which help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, improve blood glucose control and lipids levels, and reduce pathogenic bacteria (26).
By improving the state of our digestive tract and the ecosystem of our microbiome we can influence our skin for the better.
Probiotics differ immensely when it comes to dosage, strains, ad sourcing so we recommend seeking out support to find the appropriate supplement for you. All of our Vitasave locations have in-store health advisors to help you make the best choice for your needs.
Manage your stress
What does stress have to do with skin you ask?
Chronic stress affects literally all systems of the body. And you might have noticed specific stressful periods of your life correlated with worsened breakouts.
Now stress doesn't directly cause acne, however there does exist a significant correlation with breakouts (27).
This is because when the body is under chronic stress it lacks the resources for wound healing and repair. This can make acne worse and slow down the healing process.
When the body is under a lot of stress and over producing stress hormones this can cause an overproduction of inflammatory compounds but also sebum, an oily substance which can clog pores and trigger acne breakouts (28).
Hormonal imbalances can occur when cortisol is continually elevated resulting in unwanted symptoms such as breakouts.
Though we cannot entirely eliminate stress, there are many ways we can manage and reduce it in our day to day lives.
Acne is a rather complex skin condition which can be triggered and worsened by various factors. This is why it's important to address the foundations and target your root cause in order to get to the bottom of your acne.
Though acne does take some time to heal, when you do address the underlying imbalances and adopt a holistic approach toward acne healing, you can experience a change quite quickly!
About the Author