Suffering with acne can make you feel like you are at constant war with your own skin. Acne can be devastating to both men and women but it can affect both genders a little differently. Men are more likely to develop acne during puberty and during their younger years. They are also more likely to develop severe and inflammatory forms of the disease. The more inflammatory and severe the disease the higher the tendency to develop long term scarring of the skin therefore treatment and prevention are key.
Women on the other hand tend to experience less acne and less severe acne than men, but the timing for acne development can be different. Women tend to develop acne a little later in life usually in the 20-40 age range. Many women who have never had acne problems previously can develop acne symptoms with pregnancy, and acne can then continue to persist even after pregnancy.
1. Reduce Foods That Promote Acne Flare-ups
There are three major food classes that are known to promote acne out breaks: 1) high glycemic index carbohydrates (sugary drinks, white bread or bagels, certain cereals, short grain white rice, pasta, macaroni and cheese from mixes, french fries and potatoes), 2) milk and dairy products, 3) saturated fats including trans-fats.
Consuming acneigenic foods and having a diet that includes foods with a high glycemic index, such as sugar, white bread, and white rice, can lead to higher serum glucose levels and corresponding elevated levels of insulin. Insulin and certain growth factors have been shown to affect sebum production, stimulate adrenal androgen synthesis, and increase androgen bioavailability, all of these play a role in developing acne. Research studies have shown that a low glycemic load diet can result in the improvement of acne, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce testosterone bioavailability, and decrease in adrenal androgens.
To get one step closer to clearer skin, cut back on foods with a high glycemic index and avoid food classes known to promote acne flare-ups. Don’t forget even small steps count! Just remember that good overall health is a strong contributor to keeping your skin beautiful and clear.
2. Try to Implement an Anti-Acne Diet
The ideal anti-acne diet would include a strong focus on eating vegetables and fruits with a low glycemic index and high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants have been proven to be healthful overall but they can be particularly nourishing for the skin. Some scientific journals suggest a Paleolithic-like enriched diet rich in vegetables and fish can be helpful in addressing inflammatory aspects of acne. Overall, people suffering from acne symptoms should balance total calorie uptake and restrict refined carbohydrates, milk, dairy protein supplements, saturated fats, and trans-fats.
Examples of foods that could be part of an anti-acne diet are provided below:
- Purple, Red, and Blue Grapes
- Red Berries
- Dark Green Veggies
- Sweet Potatoes and Orange Vegetables
- Tea (green) (can be taken as a supplement if not part of your diet)
- Whole Grains
- Fish (or a omega supplement can be helpful)
4. Select Cosmetic and Skin Care Products Carefully
Purchase cosmetic or beauty products that are formulated for oily or acne prone skin. All of your cosmetics, from your foundation to your blush and eye shadow, should be non-greasy, non-comedogenic (or non-acnegenic), hypoallergenic, non-irritating, and oil-free. Read the ingredients carefully. Mineral-based cosmetics contain added ingredients like silica, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, both absorb oil and hide redness without irritating skin and causing pimples.
Cleaning or replacing cosmetic applicators on an ongoing basis can also be critical to reduce the chances of introducing bacteria to the skin.
4. Be Careful About Touching Your Face and Picking Acne Blemishes
If you are like me I am constantly touching my face. Unfortunately, throughout the day we are constantly picking up bacteria on our hands. Washing your hands routinely can help but if you can remember to reduce the amount you touch your face that is optimal. Refraining from picking at your blemishes is also important since it can increase inflammation and potentially increase the possibility of acne scarring.
5. Establish a Routine Skin Care Program and Schedule.
There are a number of skin care products that should be part of an overall skin care program for acne prone skin. These products include: a gentle cleanser, toner, moisturizer, exfoliant and/or mask and cotton pads.
Natural gentle cleansers that are great for acne prone skin include ingredients such as salicylic acid from willow bark, aloe, calendula, burdock root, rosemary, tea tree oil, citrus essential oils and light moisturizing oils such as grape seed extract or evening primrose oil. One cleanser that is especially light and simple is the Farmaesthetics Fine Herbal Cleanser. Some people also see improved skin benefit from cleansers/soaps with a detoxifying ingredients such as activated charcoal or green clays. Bar soaps with these ingredients can be especially good for individuals with acne on the chest, back and other areas of the body.
These combinations of ingredients tackle both the inflammatory and anti-bacterial aspects of acne to support clearing acne-prone skin. Wash your face at bedtime and ensure all dirt or make-up is removed and apply a moisturizer or oil that focuses on balancing your skin. Practicing this can be an important foundation to your skin care program. Products that dry out the skin can trigger the skin to increase sebum production which can cause continued breakouts. In the morning either wash your face gently or apply a toner. Toners work beautifully to remove any residues and refresh the skin. Key ingredients to look for in a toner are vitamin C, antioxidants such as green tea, aloe and salicylic acid from willow bark. Toners reduce blemishes by minimizing the occurrence of clogged pores and inflammation. Toner ingredients can enhance the skin’s elasticity to improve your skin’s tone and routine use can result in a clarified and healthy complexion.
Apply a mask with skin friendly herbs with or without an exfoliant at least weekly (can be more frequent if tolerated). Applying a mask can open up pores and get rid of excess dead skin cells. Generally a dry mask can be prepared by mixing 1 TBSP of the mask with about ½ tsp of water, milk, hydrosol or herbal tea until you create a thick paste. Then apply the paste mixture to your clean face and let it dry (10-15 minutes). Remove with warm water. Follow the mask treatment with either a toner and serum/oil.
Overall acne can be a very individual disease. Each person may have different triggers for their acne flares depending on their physical make-up and many other factors. Finding the approach to treatment that works for you can take some experimentation but there are many natural approaches to try that can improve your overall general health and clear your skin. Remember that sometimes changing to a new regimen can initially worsen your acne symptoms slightly. This is often due to a transformation your body is undergoing so please give any new regimen at least a couple of weeks to gauge improvement.
There are many great skincare approaches and regimens to try that are not laden with harmful chemicals, the key is not giving up the fight for beautiful clear skin.