Acne is the most common of all skin problems. This is a longer than usual article, but please bear with me, this is one hell of a topic – solutions to treating acne.
When we see spots we want them gone, I get it.. Especially when they arrive THAT special day when we most wanted to have clear, radiant skin! I must begin this piece with a reminder, that when it comes to problematic skin, instead of seeing it as a curse, try seeing it instead as a gift, for our body is almost always trying to tell us something.
Our skin is a direct reflection of our internal health
Our skin does not operate in isolation to the rest of our being. While there are wonderful topical treatments for acne, if you want long term solutions, we must not only address our skin, but also the entire health of our whole body, in order to resolve the root cause.
When I was young and suffering from severe acne, aggressive external treatments, that were labelled “oil-free” were all the rage. My skin was stripped with oil free cleansers, scrubbed with aggressive exfoliants and dried out with topical acne treatments. More than this, I was also prescribed antibiotics that only compromised my complex digestive system, making my skin worse in the long term. Luckily for you, we’ve come a long long way!
One of the reasons acne can seem so complex, is because the root cause can be different in every individual case. For some it’s digestion, for others diet, hormones, skincare, stress or a toxic liver. In this article I would love to offer some solutions and treatments both internally and externally, to support you in unravelling the mystery.
For me personally, if you were going to seek professional support, I would highly recommend teaming up with a good nutritionist, because I believe that when our bodies (and our skin) are given the proper nutrition and support they need, our bodies can truly thrive. Nutritionists also have the ability to test for possible food allergies that may be causing inflammation in the body. They can also conduct hormonal profile testing, to assist you with pinpointing a possible root cause, and provide supplemental support to help heal your condition.
It may appear counter-intuitive to use oil on your skin, but think again. In fact we need to rethink clean entirely. I could go on and on (which I actually did do in a separate article aptly named “Why you should be cleansing your face with oil!”.
Long story short, most cleansers strip the outer layers of skin, disrupting the delicate ecosystem that exists on our faces. Not only does this make our skin even more vulnerable to acne causing bacteria, but it also triggers a vicious cycle of excess sebum production in an effort to regulate moisture.
Essential oils by nature are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. Many people recommend Tea Tree, which is good, but I have also had great success with niaouli (top pick), immortelle, rosemary, carrot seed, lavender and palmarosa.
Choosing the best oils:
When it comes to providing our skin with moisture, choosing the right face oil is paramount. First up, we must begin with an oil that is non-comegonetic, meaning an oil that will not block pores. Studies have shown that oils higher in linoleic acid are excellent choices for those with acne, this is because when our skin is deficient in linoleic acid, our skin’s natural sebum can become thick and sticky, clogging pores and creating acne. However, like all things skin, there is never one size fits all. After many years of experimentation, some of our favourites include Argan oil, Prickly pear seed oil, Tamanu oil, Seabuckthorn berry, Black seed oil and Maracuja oil.
Also ensure you are choosing fresh, cold-pressed, good quality and preferably organic oils. Store them in a cool dark place to enhance shelf life and reduce the chance of rancidity.
Salicylic acid is a recommended acne fighter, but is synthetic. The salicin in Willow bark converts to salicylic acid, serving as its natural, botanical source. It sloughs off dead, pore-clogging skin cells, and assists with clearer skin.
Discussed in further detail below, not only do they prevent wrinkles, but also pimples as well! Begin to see your skincare as topical nutrition. Vitamin A, C & E are all wonderful in treating acne. Our Awakening Serum provides a topical infusion of these beautifying nutrients, and with an added shot of turmeric to assist with soothing inflammation and palmarosa for balancing sebum production, it was formulated to be multi-correctional.
Gentle exfoliation helps to reset the skin and can be beneficial for preventing pores from clogging. Some suggestions include oatmeal, ground rice (used by geisha’s for thousands of years) with a mixture of honey for added moisture and for its antimicrobial properties.
Face masks are great for detoxification and drawing out unwanted impurities from deep within the skin. Play with a mix of bentonite clay (choose french rose clay if your face is dry or sensitive) to remove toxins from pores, apple cider vinegar (with the “mother”) to balance skin’s PH, raw and cold-pressed honey for its anti-bacterial properties, turmeric for its anti-inflammatory action, activated bamboo charcoal powder which also attracts toxins, spirulina for detoxification and matcha green tea to soothe redness.
Let your skin breathe as much as possible. I know all too well the desire to cover it up! So at least aim to be make-up free at home and as much as possible to allow your skin to breathe! Also try switching to natural make-up to avoid any extra nasties and toxins from adding to your inflammation. (Remember ingredients matter)
As your skin is an organ of elimination, if your digestion system is backed up or isn’t functioning efficiently, your body may begin to use the skin instead as a way to eliminate toxins. A healthy gut is lined with billions of bacteria that boosts our immune system, and assists with balancing our hormones.
Poor digestion creates a heavier load on the liver and kidneys, which then cannot deal with the higher levels of hormones in the blood. (See how its all connected?!) Diet, food preservatives, stress and the use of antibiotics, does not support healthy gut flora, so introducing a good quality probiotic can help your digestive system get back on track.
Acne itself can actually be a symptom of a zinc deficiency, it helps to clear skin by taming oil production. A supplement can be beneficial or food sources include red meat, oysters, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
If I could recommend just one thing, it would be to address your stress. Stress effects our nervous system, which then destroys healthy gut flora, increases inflammation, raises blood sugar and lowers progesterone, throwing our delicate hormones out of balance. Carve out time for your favourite rituals, and find those things you love (anything!) that brings you back and provides pleasure. Breathwork, meditation, yoga, baths, laughter, gratitude, journaling and nature are great places to start.
Female hormones are a delicate dance. The slightest upset can knock our whole system out of balance. Luckily for us we are finally emerging from the dark ages surrounding this complex, but incredible network. Stress, blood sugar imbalances, diet, mineral deficiencies and inflammation could all cause disruption. Fill up on cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli and cauliflower, as these are known to help the body excrete estrogen. I would highly recommend consulting an expert who can provide support. A good nutritionist can undertake hormonal profile testing using our saliva, and provide supplements that can assist with getting our hormones humming again.
Tip: If you have acne around the lower jawline or chin, this should definitely be a consideration.
Acne is a sign of inflammation. This could be caused by food sensitivities, stress or a possible blood sugar imbalance. Insulin resistance is MAJOR, uncontrolled blood sugar triggers sebum production, making it harder for the liver to detoxify estrogen, triggering inflammation. When insulin levels are balanced, the underlying inflammatory condition can often disappear.
All refined carbohydrates break down in our body to sugar, causing our blood sugar levels to spike. Eliminating sugar, dairy, refined carbohydrates and gluten for a time, to see if it makes a difference, may be highly beneficial, as these food groups are often inflammatory. Also forgo all fried, as trans fats found in fried and packaged food spells disaster for skin. Try switching to an anti-inflammatory diet focusing primarily on real foods from the earth, and see the difference it makes to your skin.
Our modern diet is often top heavy when it comes to our consumption of Omega fats. Omega 3s decrease inflammation, where as omega 6s can increase inflammation. Try switching out your sources of Omega 6 and replacing them with Omega 3s, which can be found in oily fish, salmon, flaxseed, hemp and chia. If you find these sources difficult, try introducing a good quality fish oil supplement instead.
Turmeric – For those with inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis or rosacea, turmeric can assist with soothing flare-ups. For those with acne, curcumin has you covered, because it fights bacteria. Consumed internally, it may also help address the root cause of acne by promoting healthy gut bacteria and good digestion, necessary for clear skin.
When incorporating turmeric into your diet, there are a few simple tricks to bear in mind, that will mean the difference between consumption and optimal absorption. Firstly turmeric is fat soluble, meaning that it needs to be consumed with a form of fat such as coconut oil or coconut milk. Secondly, adding freshly ground black pepper enhances curcumin’s bioavailability by 1,000 times, due to black pepper’s hot property called piperine.
Up your Antioxidants:
Considered key to fighting the signs of aging, antioxidants work to protect the skin by limiting the production of free radicals and cell damage. Not only does this mean less wrinkles, but also less pimples as well! By reducing inflammation that can lead to break outs.
Vitamin A – This is a big one, and we could dedicate an entire article to this topic! In short, synthetic forms can be toxic, but are often prescribed to treat severe acne. Instead we recommend sources found in foods such as liver, as it is stored in the body, a weekly serving would be enough, or fermented cod liver oil, kale (we like to refer to this as our “Holy Kale”) and eggs. Also introduce sources of beta-carotene (which converts to Vitamin A but in smaller amounts) through yellow-orange fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C – Assists with reducing redness and boosts immunity. Find them in citrus fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, berries, camu camu powder and kakadu plum (our home grown aussie superfood, is known to have the highest levels of Vitamin C on the planet!).
Vitamin E – Vitamin E is known to oxygenate tissues, and there are many studies that support its effectiveness. Food sources include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, avocados, broccoli and olive oil (it has a low smoke point so best to drizzle over salads).
Vitamin D – Short bursts of sunshine are beneficial for acne, and it aids our absorption of Vitamin A. Aim for 15 mins early morning and late afternoon.
Vitamin Sea! – Sea salt is loaded with skin-friendly minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium, assisting with a variety of skin conditions such as acne and eczema. The high salt levels also assist with detoxification, including acne-causing bacteria, and works to treat infections and encourage healing.
Are you supporting your body’s ability to detoxify yourself? Or are you adding to the load through sugar, stress, toxic skincare, toxic personal care products, cleaning products, packaged and processed foods, or excessive alcohol?
Clean up your bathroom vanity, overhaul your household products and begin reading ingredient labels. Education is power. You could even take this one step further and spring clean your house! Give away anything that does not bring you joy. Its incredible how much lighter you will feel!
An internal detox could be just the thing to reset your system. Because of my sensitive composition, I undertake a liver detox each year to hit the reset button, the benefits not only include clear skin but I now have no signs of hayfever which once drove me completely crazy in Spring, and my eczema is completely gone.
In addition to this, we must also ensure our elimination pathways are in good working order. Boosting circulation and taking care of our lymphatic system, which is responsible for the removal of toxins from our bloodstream is really important. Our lymph has no pump, so it relies on us to keep it moving. Here are some of my favourite ways to support detoxification:
Movement – Any form that brings you pleasure!
Sweating – Exercise, sauna or facial steam bath
Dry Brushing – Softly, avoid scratching your precious skin
Massage – Stimulates circulation & lymphatic drainage
Breathwork – Deep diaphragmatic breathing delivers more oxygen and circulation to skin. It also assists with pumping our lymphatic system and detoxifying blood, and switches us out of flight or fight, restoring our critical state of clam and helps our humming hormones.
Go green! -Incorporate as MANY greens as you can into your diet. Greens are our very own internal cleaning products, to assist with detoxification, provide energy and give you back your glow. Think broccoli, spinach, wheat grass and kale. Foods high in chlorophyll assist with oxygenation and detoxification. Sources include spirulina, chlorella, marine phytoplankton and sea vegetables such as wakame.
Water – not to be under-estimated! Aim for at least 1.5 litres
Add some citrus – Begin your day with a warm glass of lemon water to kickstart your digestive system and assist with detoxification.
To your blossoming xxx