Acne is characterized by inflammation of the hair follicles and sebaceous glands, often on the face. The production of acne is due to an excess production of keratin (skin cells) and a hormonal related excess production of sebum by sebaceous glands. This results in a blockage of the hair follicle, leading to an environment that supports the growth of Propionibacterium acnes, acne-causing bacteria.
Hormonal acne is often due to an overproduction of androgens (testosterone and DHT) which result in an excess production of sebum. Additionally, some people notice acne flare-ups are worse when they eat certain foods, such as dairy which can contribute to more insulin production or inflammation.
There are many contributing factors to acne. It is important to get to the bottom of the underlying cause of your acne – whether it be related to hormones, food, your environment, skincare etc. This process can take time, and topical skincare products or prescriptions can be helpful in the meantime. Other helpful lifestyle factors may uinclude:
Limiting dairy, refined carbohydrates and refined sugars – Dairy is a very common trigger for acne as it can be inflammatory. Additionally, sugars from refined carbohydrates or sweeteners can promote inflammation and increase sebum production by spiking insulin. Pay attention to how your skin reacts to what you consume, and try to eliminate any foods you may feel are contributing to breakouts.
Stay Hydrated – our skin is our body’s first defense against our environment. When we are dehydrated, the natural moisture barrier of our skin is compromised and allows microbes to invade. This can result in inflammation, which may aggravate acne. Additionally, water helps to flush toxins from our body and supports the functioning of every organ.
Change Your Pillow Case Frequently – dead skin cells build up on our linens when we sleep, so by keeping your pillow case clean you can prevent bacteria from transferring to your skin and contributing to breakouts. Change your pillow case every 2 days, and flip it in between.
Wash Your Face Twice Daily – Washing your face morning and night is good practice. Make sure to use a face wash that is suited to your skin type, and aim for one that is free of chemicals such as parabens and phthalates that can cause endocrine disruption. Before washing your face at night it is important to remove your makeup for a deeper clean – also NEVER go to bed with makeup on, as this is the time when your skin cells turnover and regenerate.
Wash Make-up Brushes Regularly – this is just as important as washing your face, because bacteria builds up on our makeup brushes too. Use your face cleanser to wash brushes every few weeks.
Manage stress – stress can contribute to acne by increasing sebum production and creating hormonal imbalances due to the upregulation of stress hormones. Try to find time to relax and do what you love a few times per week.
Supplements – there are many supplements that can help with acne. It is important to talk to your naturopathic doctor to figure out which supplements may be supportive for you as an individual.
Acne is a condition that we manage. You may never completely cure your acne, but knowing your triggers can be helpful on your journey to more clear skin. Blood testing and a thorough intake with a naturopathic doctor or dermatologist is the best way to achieve this.