One of the silver linings of leaving our youthful and carefree teenage years behind us is bidding adieu to the acne that can so often accompany them. Having to deal with breakouts is frustrating. Having to deal with breakouts at 32 is total BS. Pimples = not fun, a hassle, don’t go with any outfit, painful, and frankly, they can get expensive. Some people never seem to outgrow breakouts, others start seeing big red spots when they never even had to deal with them in their teens – what’s up with that? Well, in our experience, at the root there are two culprits: food and hormones.
FOOD: THE DOWN AND DIRTY
You can be sensitive to any type of food, but hands down, without a doubt, the two biggest dietary provokers of acne are dairy and sugar.
- Dairy: Can cause low-level inflammation, is one of the most common food sensitivities and allergens, and can even create an imbalance in our own hormones. Testosterone can rise beyond normal levels with high dairy intake, and as you’ll learn below, testosterone, an androgen hormone, can cause flare ups.
- Sugar: The little beast. The mother of all inflammatory foods – sugar can wreak havoc on skin. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about sugar is that it (along with refined flours from cookies, pasta, pastries, crusts, bread, donuts…etc.) absolutely has an effect on your hormones. It will create high circulating insulin levels – and insulin is a hormone. Sugar sends your hot bod on a little roller coaster and your skin is screaming because it’s scared. Stop scaring it.
- But…you can be sensitive to other foods, so we always recommend, cut the first two and see how your skin reacts. Other foods that can cause common flare ups are foods high in phytoestrogens like soy, flax (yep even healthy foods!), nuts or legumes. They all hit on estrogen receptors differently, so tinker around and see if any of these in excess volumes are causing problems.
The final, yet crucial thing to know about food and acne is that if you continue to eat foods that are triggers and foods you’re reacting to (or ‘sensitivities’), over time those can contribute to poor gut health, or leaky gut. Consider your digestive tract your ‘inside’ skin, and when it’s running smoothly it will reflect on your outside skin. Eat clean, loads of veggies, fiber, drink plenty of water, consume foods naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids like cold water fish and leafy greens, ditch the trigger foods, eat foods high in zinc (promotes skin healing!) and consider eating naturally fermented foods (sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, etc.) and taking a quality probiotic for good skin health, inside and out.
HORMONES…YOU TRICKY THINGS YOU
- Stress: What’s stress have to do with hormones? Well, stress is what spikes our ‘stress hormones’ cortisol and DHEA. If cortisol levels remain high for a long time you enter a chronically inflamed state. Stress may also dysregulate DHEA-S production which is an androgenic hormone (like testosterone) and is directly linked to acne. Stress isn’t necessarily the root cause of hormonal acne but it is a key player in exacerbating it.
- Cycle: If acne is more prevalent around your menstrual cycle, especially the week before and of your period, and predominantly occurring around your mouth and chin (this part does pertain to men as well), then it’s suggestive of a hormonal imbalance. The first thing to do is clean up the diet, this will directly affect your hormones (especially the sugar and starchy/flour-based foods in this case!). If acne persists work with a professional to help find hormone balance. Acne can be triggered by high testosterone, estrogen dominance (estrogen/progesterone imbalance), low estrogen (confusing, huh), menopause or hypothyroidism. Having lab work done is extremely useful here, but know that nearly all of the time managing your blood sugar and insulin levels by eating a diet high in fiber, lean proteins and healthy fats and minimal in processed sugar or flour is paramount.
So…what to do? Find some ways to unwind, hit up a yoga class, start going on hikes or do something that makes you smile, I don’t care if it’s a salsa class or Louis C.K. Add some balance to that stressful life. Consider working with a professional that can help you utilize adaptogenic herbs, like Vitex or Maca or more therapeutic routes that can naturally balance hormones. Finally you can always consider some useful drugs like Spironolactone, but keep in mind it’s only a bandaid that will usually not get to the root of the problem like diet and lifestyle will.
Other moves to make your skin glow?
- Apple cider vinegar: Cleanse from the inside out by having 1-2 tablespoons every morning, mixed in a bit of warm water, or swipe directly on the skin and it will tighten and dry oily skin ever so slightly,
- Coconut oil: Reduces redness, moisturizes, fights fine lines and wrinkles and makes you smell like vacation.
- Zinc: Consider supplementing with zinc. Dr. Michael Murray says zinc deficiency can actually lead to breakouts. Take 50 mg a day, it will also help skin heal from past breakouts, and support your immune system.
- Gentle cleansers: Castile soap or simple oil based cleansers (yep, oil!) can be great for hydrated yet clear skin.
- Witch hazel: Natural astringent that makes skin soft and doesn’t dry it out.
- Tea tree oil: Got a zit? Don’t pop it – instead pop on some TTO and it should help it go away quicker
- Jojoba oil: Use to remove makeup, it works brilliantly and it’s natural!
It’s great knowing they are all natural and most of them are very easy on the wallet. Ready to dive in but don’t know where to start. Food is king in our world. Start by eliminating some foods to make sure they aren’t contributing to skin problems – namely dairy and sugar as a starting place. We do just that in our Prescribe 20 program – join us for 20% off using code 20FORYOU. Ready to get some compliments?