Acne

Types of Acne

Acne is categorized into two main groups:

  • Non-inflammatory acne, also known as comedones, includes blackheads and whiteheads. Non-inflammatory acne is not red and painful because the body has not reacted to an infection.
  • Inflammatory acne, (also sometimes generically but mistakenly referred to as cystic acne) includes papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts, which result from the body fighting to contain an infection with infection-fighting white blood cells. Inflammatory acne is painful, deep, red and swollen. It can last for weeks to months and leave temporary dark marks, or in the worst cases permanent scars.

How a spot develops

There are four steps that create the red bump you see on your skin:

  1. Excess dead skin cells clog the pore
    Skin cells are in a constant state of renewal. As old cells die, they are sloughed off to reveal fresh skin every thirty days or so. But if you are acne prone, these dead cells mix with oil becoming sticky, so instead of sloughing off, they clog your pores, trapping oil and bacteria inside.
  2. Overproduction of oil (sebum)
    Your androgen hormones stimulate the release of oil from the sebaceous glands attached to your pores. During puberty or times of emotional stress, androgen activity increases, causing greater oil production and more clogged pores. As oil continues to be produced, it is trapped behind the plug, collecting and building pressure inside the pore.
  3. Overgrowth of bacteria in the pore
    With a plentiful supply of oil, the p.acnes bacteria naturally growing on your skin starts to feed and breed.
  4. Swelling reaction to the bacteria and its byproducts
    Finally, as the bacteria digest the oil, they release inflammatory byproducts that leak out of the follicle. Your body recognizes these byproducts as foreign and mounts an immune reaction. Red and white blood cells hightail it to this “infection”, causing swelling, redness and inflammation. The end result is the throbbing, red, tender bump you know as a pimple.

    The four-step acne process doesn’t happen overnight. Hidden from sight, it slowly occurs over the course of several weeks, long before a breakout becomes visible on your face. It may appear one morning as a spot on your face. But hopefully, now you can understand it took a while for that spot to get there. You can also see why it’s so important to address each step to halt breakouts from surfacing, as well as prevent future breakouts from forming.

Types of Inflammatory Acne

The closer to the skin’s surface these events happen, the smaller and more minor the breakout will be.

Papules are pink or red dome-shaped bumps, varying in size from a pinhead to half an inch. There’s no visible fluid and they don’t contain pus. They are usually painless unless scratched or picked. Like all pimples, papules are the result of an increase in oil and bacteria inside the pore trapped by dead skin cells. Your body’s immune system fights the infection with white blood cells, so papules are slightly inflamed.

Pustules form when a plug deep inside a pore traps oil and bacteria, attracting white blood cells to fight the infection. Puss is simply a collection of dead white blood cells. Pustules have a yellow or white pus-filled center with a red base. The greater the inflammation, the redder and larger the pustule will be.

Nodules are larger than pustules and papules and form deeper within the skin. They feel solid to the touch and can be quite painful. They develop when oil and bacteria deep inside a pore spreads, infecting adjoining follicles. Nodules can harden into deep cysts which may leave scars. Cystic nodular acne is the most severe form of acne. Cysts are deep, painful, pus-filled bumps that can be quite large, measuring up to an inch or more.

Both Nodules and Cystic Acne are filled initially with blood, then with pus. They can linger under the surface for weeks or even months and can eventually harden. They may also leave deep scars.

Causes of Acne

Contrary to what some believe, acne is not caused by eating chocolate and French fries, or sleeping on a dirty pillowcase or not washing your face enough. Though these things are cofactors and promoters. Neither is it caused by bacteria alone, otherwise, we could infect each other with acne.

So what is the cause of acne?

Genetics and hormones are said to be the main culprits here. If you have a family history of moderate-to-severe acne, you have the greatest risk of developing it yourself, especially during your teenage years.

Beginning in puberty it is believed that the release of androgen hormones is the primary triggering event. And the hormonal influence continues through adulthood as hormone levels fluctuate, especially in women, often triggering acne in women who may have escaped it in their youth. Cystic acne is also more common among women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome.

But, it is also influenced by compromised liver, kidney, digestive function. And, further complicating the picture are cofactors or promoters – stress, medications, diet, cosmetics, environment, pollution, and rubbing your skin – which can make your acne worse.

Let’s take a look at these a little closer:

The Digestive Tract

The digestive tract is our first line of defense when it comes to deactivating toxins and pathogens. You can think of this as a sort of basic first filter for things we consume.

Diet is an obvious influence on how many toxins enter the digestive tract, and consequently, how many toxins our various internal filters are having to filter out. But, there are environmental culprits too. We’ll look at both of these later but first let’s look at the role of gut bacteria.

It’s estimated that the body is composed of 10 times more bacteria than human cells. And the intestines are home to more bacteria than any other part of the body, including the skin. The gut ‘microbiome’ (the massive collection of bacteria and microbes) exerts influence on the body in many ways, signals from these gut microorganisms are sent throughout your body and interact with organisms in your skin and gut mucosa.

There are already a handful of functional probiotic products for the skin on the market. Probiotic soaps, lotions, and other personal care products are also available at many health food stores. Research is still emerging as to the precise mechanism by which probiotics interact with your skin, as well as which strains are most beneficial and whether topical or oral applications work best, but the promise is definitely there.

One area that has been studied is how the gut has the ability to influence your brain, mood, and behavior. Your skin may seem like an entirely separate organ from your brain or your intestines, but if your gut bacteria are proven to impact your emotions, and emotional stress is proven to exacerbate acne, then they don’t seem so far removed after all.

Processed foods, simple sugars, and refined carbs, in general, destroy healthy microflora and feed bad bacteria and yeast. But your gut bacteria are also very sensitive to environmental factors such as antibiotics, chlorinated water, antibacterial soap, agricultural chemicals, and pollution. Because virtually all of us are exposed to these at least occasionally, ensuring your gut bacteria remain balanced should be considered an ongoing process.

The Liver and Kidneys

The functions of these organs are so vast that they alone, are testaments to the ingenuity of the body! A major one of those functions is to break down and remove toxic substances from our blood. The odd floating cup or plastic bag going down a stream that made it passed the initial gut filter is easily taken care of. But if that stream becomes a raging river of trash, it leaves them trying to scoop like mad as gunk rushes by. The stuff that’s missed is cycled back into our blood, including androgenic hormones that send signals to our sebaceous glands to make more oil. (Keep in mind that this is their second time around, so that’s MUCH more oil than intended.)

It’s not just the oil, though. As more and more toxins build up in our bloodstream the body gets stressed. In an effort to restore homeostasis other organs like our skin are recruited for detoxification purposes. As the toxins near the surface of our skin meet a surplus of oil thanks to the extra androgenic hormones, it creates a friendly petri dish for acne.

Puberty and menstrual cycles are factors because they increase the load of hormones that the liver needs to clean from the blood. However, as long as it isn’t overwhelmed by environmental toxins and bad diet, the extra hormones can often be managed.

Sometimes, though, it’s not just the river of toxins – it’s the liver and kidney’s themselves. The liver thrives on A, B, C, and D vitamins, and the kidneys like Vitamin C, B-6, Calcium, and Potassium. All organs need to be well fed to do their jobs.

Hormone producers

 Two other organs involved are the hormone-producing and regulating thyroid and adrenals.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck that is part of your endocrine system, a complex system of glands that produce and secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system to influence, regulate and control metabolism and many of the body’s processes. Think of the thyroid as the boss of the endocrine system. The hormones it produces reach every cell in the body.

Low thyroid function increases internal inflammation and is often seen in acne patients. Unless you treat this, acne can be difficult to eliminate. When thyroid hormone is deficient, the body cannot convert cholesterol to the steroids pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA. Of these, progesterone being the most important in the prevention of acne.

The adrenal glands are two small structures that sit on top of the kidneys. Although they are small, they are powerful factories that produce many hormones that are critically important to your overall health and well-being, including factors that influence skin health.

Acne placement

Paying attention to the where you break out can be a good starting point for considering what is a trigger for you. This is just a general guide to head you off in the right investigative direction – just because you break out between the brows doesn’t always mean you have a bad liver.

1 & 2: Digestive System —Eat less processed or junk food, reduce the amount of fat in your diet, and step up your water intake.

3: Liver —Cut down alcohol, greasy food and dairy. This is also the zone where food allergies also show up first.

4 & 5: Kidneys —Anything around the eyes (including dark circles) point to dehydration. Drink up! And cut down on aerated drinks, coffee and alcohol as these will cause further dehydration.

6: Heart —Check your blood pressure and Vitamin B levels. Decrease spicy or pungent foods, cut down on meat, get more fresh air, and look into ways to lower cholesterol. Also, since this area is chock-full of dilated pores, check that your makeup is not skin-clogging or full of chemicals.

7 & 8: Kidneys —Again, hydrate!

9 & 10: Respiratory system —Do you smoke or have allergies? This is your problem area for both. If those aren’t issues: don’t let your body overheat, eat more cooling foods, cut down on sugar and get more fresh air. Also keep the body more alkaline by avoiding foods that make the body acidic (meat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar) and adding more alkalizing foods like green veggies and wheatgrass juice.

11 & 12: Hormones —This is the signature zone for stress and hormonal changes. And while both are sometimes unavoidable, you can decrease their effect by getting adequate sleep, drinking enough water, and eating leafy veggies. Another interesting point: breakouts in this area indicate when you are ovulating (and on which side).

13: Stomach —Step up the fibre intake, reduce the toxin overload and drink herbal teas to help with digestion.

14: Illness —Spots here can be a sign that your body is fighting bacteria to avoid illness. Give it a break, take a yoga class, take a nap, take time to breathe deeply, and drink plenty of water.

Acne Cofactors, Promoters, and Cures

Acne is chronic; it can last a very long time, perhaps six or seven years in a teen and sometimes 20 years or more in an adult. You can’t “cure” acne, not by prescription pills, not by the best topical treatments. You may outgrow acne, and you may not. Controlling acne, however, is possible, and your skin can look clear, healthy and radiant.

How you care for your skin and doing your best to avoid cofactors and promoters, is your best defense and offense in keeping your acne as quiet as possible. Here are some suggestions that may help. Of course, each situation is unique so use your judgment and consult a dermatologist if needed.

Detox

Some people may wish to do a gentle full body cleanse and then if you feel it is needed, a cleanse that concentrates on the liver. It’s important to start with a complete cleanse and not just a liver cleanse. If you focus too harshly on the liver it can be dangerous. Also, make sure you are consuming lots of anti-oxidants, this will help the toxins leave your body.
Extra steps may be needed if you suffer leaky gut. Eliminating problem foods may not be enough to heal holes created in the gut lining, if steps are not taken to repair the holes, proteins and other food substances will pass into the bloodstream in their undigested state. The liver will continue to be overwhelmed and the body, who doesn’t recognize these proteins in their whole forms, and will launch an attack (create antibodies) against these proteins. This kicks off a domino effect which can lead to many other problems.

Diet

One of the longest running acne myths out there is that eating greasy food will trigger your acne. Actually, the grease itself has little to no effect on acne. Just because you eat oil doesn’t mean that oil can make its way from your intestines to your pores. However, many greasy foods are highly processed, and some are high in omega 6 fatty acids, both of which are known precursors to inflammation, which can cause major problems for acne sufferers. Dietary triggers aren’t always as obvious as they first look, so here are some main points to consider:

Foods to Avoid:

  • High-glycemic foods: A high glycemic diet – meaning processed foods, simple sugars and carbohydrates that increase blood sugar and create an insulin spike- will increase inflammation in your body. The more inflammation you have, the worse your acne.
    Additionally, these very same foods – refined carbs and simple sugars – cause a surge of an insulin-like growth factor called IGF-1 in your body. This can lead to an excess of hormones which cause your pores to secrete more sebum. IGF-1 also causes skin cells known as keratinocytes to multiply, a process that is also associated with acne.
    And at the same time, these foods will wreak havoc on the makeup of your intestinal bacteria. In fact, avoiding sugar (including fructose) and processed foods is a top recommendation to optimize your gut bacteria, as the sugars serve as fuel for the growth of pathogenic anaerobic bacteria, fungi and yeast, and competitively inhibit your good bacteria. When you eat a healthy diet which is low in sugars and processed foods, it automatically helps enable the beneficial bacteria in your gut to flourish, which in turn helps your acne.
  • Fried and fast foods: These foods are also highly processed and low in fiber. Additionally, they contain a number of ingredients that cause inflammation, including hydrogenated oils, sodium, chemicals, flavorings and sugar.
  • Conventional Dairy and Meat: Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, conventional dairy products can be hard on the digestive system. Many people see an improvement in their acne when they cut down or eliminate dairy products like milk, cheese and ice cream. If you want to check if dairy is a culprit, try eliminating it from your diet for two weeks and see if your cystic acne improves. Hormones and antibiotics in dairy and meat can also trigger acne in some people.
    Some argue that the reason milk is bad is because it increases metabolism so much, but by simultaneously increasing vitamin A intake it fulfills the resulting higher metabolic requirement, thereby annulling this particular problem.
  • Caffeine: Many experts think that there is no direct link between caffeine consumption and breakouts. However, there is no doubt that caffeine consumption has a direct impact on your hormonal balance. In particular, it can raise the stress hormone known as cortisol. By reducing or eliminating various sources of caffeine like coffee, tea and chocolate, you can help to keep your hormones in better balance which can help clear up your acne.
  • Iodine: High amounts of iodine found in seafood, seaweed or iodized salt can cause flare-ups in some people.
  • Genetically modified foods (GMO’s): Only one human feeding study has been conducted so far on their safety: which found that pesticide-producing genes in soy were NOT killed by stomach acid as makers claimed. They continued to live and produce toxins in the intestinal tract, which as we know is important to keep in optimal health.
  • Alcohol: As mentioned earlier, insulin is spiked by consuming carbohydrates; in alcohol terms, this tends to be drinking beers (which contain 5-10 grams of carbs per litre), alcopops and worst of all, mixers like cola or lemonade. Alcohol itself can also create an insulin spike, and there are a number of other ways which alcohol can affect acne.
    Alcohol can suppress the immune system, meaning you’re more susceptible to the P. acnes bacteria and less able to fight it off, which also means that acne takes longer to heal.
    If you drink to “take the edge off” stress, you’re on a very slippery slope. Stress can lead to acne, and acne can lead to stress. Try and break the cycle and find better ways to cope.
    Alcohol temporarily suppresses testosterone and increases estrogen. which is why your skin may look better for a couple of days after a big drinking session. But the temporary hormone imbalance is only creating more issues to deal with long term.
    Alcohol consumption will dehydrate you, and even a slight decrease in hydration levels can affect your body’s ability to eliminate toxic substances, increasing the inflammatory burden on your skin.

Foods to Eat:

  • Probiotic-rich foods: The healthier your gut is, the better your balance of good versus bad bacteria. The more good bacteria we have in our digestive tract the more easily we neutralize toxins and pathogens. By helping our body get rid of them quickly we avoid the need for detox efforts through the skin later.
    Cultured foods like raw milk yogurt and kefir, some cheeses, and sauerkraut are good sources of natural, healthy bacteria. Probiotics line your gut and create a healthy, sealed barrier that prevents inflammation that can trigger acne. If you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is definitely recommended to help optimize your body’s good bacteria.
    Way back in 1961, a case report found that out of 300 acne patients given a probiotic, 80 percent had clinical improvement. One Korean study of 56 acne patients found that drinking a Lactobacillus-fermented dairy beverage effectively reduced their total acne lesion count and decreased oil production over 12 weeks. The idea of probiotics for skin health isn’t new, but I’m happy to say it’s getting more attention in recent years.
  • High-zinc foods: People with acne tend to be low in zinc so you definitely want to increase your dietary intake by consuming things like chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and cashews. Zinc also supports a healthy digestive tract.
  • Vitamin A-rich foods: Foods high in vitamin A like kale, spinach, sweet potatoes and carrots fight infection and speed healing, two things you definitely need when you’re trying to get rid of cystic acne.
  • Fiber-rich foods: Consuming high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and oatmeal encourages colon cleansing as well as the growth of good bacteria in the gut, both of which can help eliminate acne.
  • Liver-supportive foods: Eat more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower as well as leafy greens and high-fiber fruits, such as pears and apple, for improved liver function.
  • Kidney-supportive foods: To nourish kidney’s well, consume generous amounts of cabbage (preferably fermented into sauerkraut), garlic, onions, berries, red bell peppers, cauliflower, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Thyroid and adrenal-supportive foods: To support the thyroid and adrenal glands make sure to consume green leafy vegetables, and if you’re so inclined liver from grass-fed animals and plenty of seafood.
  • Lemon: Fresh lemon juice added to water first thing in the morning is a great liver detoxifier and cleanses the kidneys and digestive system. Lemon contains citric acid, which can be effective in treating acne. The vitamin C it contains is vital for healthy skin, while it’s alkaline nature kills some of the bacteria known to cause acne.
  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil is extremely pro-thyroid. It contains butyric acid, which helps thyroid hormone move into the brain, and it opposes the anti-thyroid unsaturated oils. Coconut Oil is also the source of two of the most powerful antimicrobial agents found in food: Capric Acid and Lauric Acid. It’s also anti-inflammatory and full of vitamin E.

Environment

Besides dietary toxins, there are environmental culprits too: pesticides, herbicides, synthetic chemical fertilizers, household chemicals, and even doctor-prescribed medicines. Some of these can be difficult to limit your exposure to, but there are some environmental triggers that you can do something about:

  • Your Towels, PillowcasesTo reduce the chances of irritation and sensitivity, it’s a good idea to avoid washing these items with strong detergents and bleaches. Instead, opt for natural and unscented laundry products. You also want to change them frequently to avoid the presence and spread of bacteria, which only make your acne worse.
  • Mobile phones: This one object not only touches your face, it comes into contact with all knids of other environments. Most people don’t think about cleaning their phone, but you may want to consider it if you’re trying to avoid acne.
  • The sun: While adequate sun exposure for vitamin D is very important, when it comes to acne, overdoing the sun is not helpful. It may feel like it’s drying your skin, or look like it’s camouflaging breakouts or redness with a mild burn or tan, but don’t get fooled. The sun can inflame the skin, something you want to control in treating acne. The sun’s ultraviolet light and UVB rays in particular “cook” the surface of the skin, causing sunburn, releasing free radicals and destroying cellular DNA. Sunlight also increases cell turnover; an excess of dead skin cells can clog pores, setting skin up for acne. And some acne medications like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can make you even more susceptible to the sun’s rays. Sun exposure can also cause acne marks (postinflammatory hyperpigmentation) to become darker and persist longer.
    Please don’t mistake this as an instruction to avoid the sun. Just be sensible. check this post for more information. There are also some specific advantages to sensible sun exposure if you have acne. The blue light in the visible light spectrum may help tame the p. acnes bacteria, but only temporarily, so short regular exposure is best.

Cleansing Routine

You can’t control how much oil your body produces or that it responds to an infection with inflammation. But you can control the dead skin cells that clog pores, the amount of bacteria in your pores, and how red and swollen your outbreaks can appear.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to clarify something about pores. It is a common misconception that cold water “closes” pores and hot water or steam “opens” pores. Pores, the little holes all over your face that are passageways that allow sweat to cool you and sebum to condition your skin, do not have muscles and therefore cannot open and close.
There are however things that can make your pores appear larger or smaller. Oily pores appear larger, as do pores with a build up of dead skin or leftover makeup, so even washing your face can help makes pores look smaller.
Fair-skinned people tend to have less visible pores, and those with darker, oilier skin have more prominent pores. And as we age, with less collagen to support your skin, pores slacken and years of clogging sebum and dirt can actually stretch them out. But they never open and close. Case shut.

  • No Popping: Tempting as it may be, this is never a good idea. People mistakenly think that popping a pimple releases everything – including the bacteria – from the pore, allowing the pimple to go away. This is untrue on many levels.
    First of all, squeezing may drive the p. acnes bacteria deeper into the pore, and since it’s microscopic and plentiful, some of the bacteria will be left behind in the pore. The immune system detects trapped bacteria and secretes chemicals called cytokines to destroy it. But certain cytokines have been associated with a scarring type of healing response.
  • Ice It: You can apply an ice cube directly to a breakout for several seconds to constrict the small blood vessels feeding a painful spot. The ice can help immediately decrease the size, redness, and pain of the offending acne.
  • Exfoliate: To encourage healthy skin turnover and growth, make sure to use exfoliants that are effective but not harsh and abrasive. There are two main types of exfoliators:
    A physical exfoliator, or scrub, uses mechanics to remove dead skin cells from your skin’s surface. But often, facial scrubs use ground-up walnut or apricot pits to do the work, which can cause micro-tears in your skin, leaving it raw, irritated and open to infection.
    Chemical exfoliators include certain acids which cause dead skin cells to shed. For a natural gentle exfoliant try mixing 1 tsp of honey and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Rub into your skin, leave for 1/2 hour, then rinse with lukewarm water. Do once or twice a week.
  • Steam: Steam can help loosen the sebum that builds up in the pore, allowing it to exit more easily.
  • Don’t over cleanse! Washing your face twice a day is more than enough to reduce bacteria, remove surface oil and help exfoliate dead skin cells. Excessive washing can in fact worsen your acne in a variety of ways. If skin is harshly stripped of its oil, your skin may compensate and produce more oil. Overzealous scrubbing can cause irritation and even tiny scratches or tears in the skin, which open the gates to more infection and inflammation. And rubbing alcohol – don’t even try it – it damages your moisture barrier, causing dryness and irritation.
  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is brimming with medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid and caprylic acid which are metabolized into potent antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agents in the body. Why are these fats important? They work to fight some of the underlying causes of acne such as candida overgrowth, autoimmunity, and inflammation.
    I know what you’re thinking: Oil on your skin? Won’t it make you break out?!? I don’t blame you for having reservations about putting oil on your face, it’s a natural reaction to want to strip the oil away rather than add any to it. But, in many cases stripping all your natural oils actually causes it to overproduce more oil. For a lot of people, moisturizing the skin calms oil production down, because the skin doesn’t have to work so hard to restore all the moisture that was stripped away.
    If you want to try it out, start small – just a dab of coconut oil. Occasionally it can bring everything out of the skin at first, this is a good sign but keep an eye on it. Although coconut oil works amazingly for some, it’s not for everyone.
  • Honey: The sweetest skin treatment of the bunch, honey has been used medicinally for thousands of years, dating back to 2500 BC! Noted for its strong antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, the amber nectar is great at killing off infectious bacteria in and around zits. Spread a small amount of raw, unprocessed, and unheated honey over your problem area and leave it on for 15 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water. Repeat this for a few days.
  • Aspirin: While aspirin is primarily taken internally, it’s also a topical acne powerhouse. Known scientifically as acetylsalicylic acid, aspirin’s chemical makeup is incredibly similar to the world’s most popular pimple zapper: Salicylic acid. Topical aspirin works to reduce the swelling and redness that come with a large pimple or cyst. Mash up one uncoated aspirin with a couple of drops of water until you form a thin, viscous paste. Apply the mixture to problem areas for five to 10 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.
  • Essential Oils: Like honey, the oils extracted from tea tree and lavender are known for their incredible antibacterial properties. Simply apply two to three drops topically to the area of concern. Tea tree and lavender essential oils can be used neat, but they can also be combined with a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil if you have sensitive skin, or can be diluted with witch hazel for a mild astringent.
    A scientific review of the efficacy, tolerability and potential modes of action in regard to the treatment of acne with tea tree oil states that tea tree products reduce lesion numbers in patients with acne, have tolerability levels that are similar to other topical treatments, and have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities that are associated with the treatment of acne.
    Avoid exposure to direct sunlight when treating acne with essential oils. The UV rays can make your skin more sensitive and may lead to skin irritations or redness. If using any essential oil causes skin irritation, discontinue use of that oil.
  • Treat the whole area, not spot by spot: Spots are the end result of the acne process. What you see on the surface of your skin takes weeks to create, which means there are other pimples-in-formation at various stages beneath your skin, on their way to showing up. Treating one spot at a time will not help prevent new breakouts from forming. It’s OK to help dry up a newly visible pimple with a spot treatment, but just know that won’t prevent other breakouts.

Supplements

While it’s best to try and get as much as possible from your diet, if you don’t find it possible, here are some supplements that you may find useful in controlling your acne:

  • Probiotics: As discussed earlier, taking probiotics can boost your immunity and help your internal fight against cystic acne. You can also use probiotic skin care products.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 helps reduce inflammation and support hormone balance. You can also consider gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in evening primrose and borage oil for hormonal balance. One scientific study specifically found that after 10 weeks of omega-3 fatty acid or GLA supplementation, inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions decreased significantly.
  • Zinc: Research suggests that people with acne have lower blood and skin levels of zinc. So if you’re not getting enough in your diet then this is definitely one to consider supplementing.
  • Chasteberry: This herbal remedy is specifically recommended for hormonally induced acne.
  • Guggul or guggulsterone: Guggul is made from the sap of a tree native to India. For individuals suffering from cystic acne, a controlled clinical trial found that guggul supplements outperformed 500 milligrams of tetracycline.
  • Burdock: A good immune booster and blood cleanser.
  • Vitamin C: The adrenal glands desperately need vitamin C; if you don’t have enough, adrenal glands do not function properly, leading to a hormonal imbalance, which in turn can lead to creating too much oil.
  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A fights infection and speeds healing, two things you definitely need when you’re trying to get rid of acne.
  • Thyroid supporting supplements: Some people are so very hypothyroid that it would literally take years to make any significant changes with diet, and even then they may not fully heal. For them, using a thyroid hormone supplement is a much faster and more effective way to repair thyroid function which should be discussed with your medical practitioner.

Stress

As with everything health and beauty related, stress only makes things worse. Find ways to decrease stress in your life because stress can cause your body to release hormones that only make acne worse.

  • Mirror Mirror: It’s a good idea not to obsess over your acne. The more you stare at it in the mirror, the more likely you will want to pick at it and think negative thoughts, both of which will only make you look and feel worse. Stop yourself from visually and mentally obsessing over your acne.
  • Relax:  Whatever ways work for you, do them. You’re the expert on knowing what makes you feel relaxed!
  • Sleep: Getting proper sleep on a nightly basis can help improve your overall health, including balancing hormone levels and decreasing the inflammation associated with acne. You also give your acne uninterrupted time to heal.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity is excellent for the body’s lymphatic system and detoxifying your entire body. It’s also excellent for your mood and self-esteem, which tend to both take a dip when you’re fighting cystic acne.

Some Final Thoughts

Getting rid of acne and the scars commonly left behind can take time, but a natural and holistic approach is your best and healthiest bet. Acne can be really challenging to manage, especially when it starts to take a toll on your mood and self-esteem. Try your best not to let acne define you. Put your thoughts and efforts toward making positive changes in your life, knowing that controlling of acne is within your reach.

Once you’ve made your acne a problem of the past, it’s absolutely key to stick with a healthy diet and lifestyle, drink plenty of water, and keep up a simple, natural skin care routine. Clear, healthy skin is a reflection of good inner health so if you continue to make healthy choices on a daily basis, then you’ll have an easier time keeping acne away for good.

(source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source)

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