We grow up thinking that pimples are a curse of adolescence and that when we grow-up we will be blessed with clear skin. Unfortunately, acne is not restricted to teenage years and these spots can continue to appear on our faces well into adulthood. In fact, up to 55% of adults will experience acne between the ages of 25 and 40.
There are many different causes of acne, as Naturopaths we look at the body holistically and we understand that the location of acne is a great clue to solving the root problem and underlying cause.
So, what is the difference between pimples and acne?
Acne is a long-term skin disease that is associated with excess sebum production. It occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil which can result in blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, papules, pustules, pimple and even scars. The highest number of oil glands in the body are the face, upper chest and upper back – which is exactly where acne will accumulate.
Acne is a physical condition; however, it is important to remember it can have serious psychological effects, including anxiety, diminished self-esteem and even depression.
Pimples are a symptom and can often be hormone related depending on where they are located. For example: pimples on the jawline, lower cheek or chin are related to hormones and lymphatic system while pimples on the forehead are often associated with stress and excess oil production.
Why medication is not the answer.
If you go to the doctor suffering with acne, the most prescribed treatment is antibiotic cream or tablets, the contraceptive pill (if you’re female) or for more severe cases, Roaccutane.
The problem with these treatments is that they merely treat the symptoms not the cause and with most cases once treatment is stopped, the acne flares up often worse than before. Medications for acne can also cause drastic side effects – everything from mood changes and depression, to liver damage and inflammatory bowel syndrome, gut dysbiosis and nutrient depletion.
Natural therapies for treating acne
The good news is there is actually quite a lot you can do to combat acne, but the best method will depend on the type of acne you have. It is always best to see your Naturopath so they can guide you and formulate an individualised treatment plan specific to you. But you don’t have to wait until your next appointment, you can start right now at home, by making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.
- Diet is key to treating acne – start by eliminating foods that cause systemic inflammation such as dairy products, refined carbohydrates like sugar and processed foods, this includes processed grain food products such as white bread and pasta, these foods are hidden sources of sugar. Chocolate is also out as it contains both dairy and sugar. Remember these changes aren’t a forever thing, the goal is to maintain a balanced diet chock full of wholefoods, however we do want to reduce the inflammatory load and give the skin a chance to heal and careful dietary elimination is important.
- Hydration – aim for 2-3Litres per day to flush out toxins in the skin. Remember we are made up of 70% water and we require water for so many biological processes in the body, including skin cell turnover.
- Switch to natural skincare and makeup – when acne is involved we can often feel desperate and are willing to do or use just about anything to gain some relief. But our skin is our largest organ and absorbs everything we put onto it. Products that contain harmful ingredients add to our toxic load, place additional stress on the liver and increases overall inflammation, which can perpetuate symptoms and often make acne worse. Instead opt for products with natural ingredients, organic is always best as again it reduces the chemical load placed on your liver. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient it probably isn’t good for you!
- Don’t stress – acne is stressful, but so is life in general. We now know that stress is a leading contributor to so many health conditions and acne is one of them. Emotional stress in the body increases physiological inflammation and this can exacerbate acne. You’ve heard it before, reducing stress in your life should be a top priority. Doing activities that bring you joy is the first step, spending time with people who make you laugh is also imperative and incorporating stress reducing practices like exercise, yoga, meditation and stepping into nature is key.
- Soak up some rays – Vitamin D has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. We recommend safe sun exposure to make the most of absorption but avoid getting sunburnt.
- Get out in nature – cases of acne can often make us feel self-conscious and want to retreat indoors but this is the best time to get outside and let your skin breathe. Stepping into nature works in so many ways; firstly it will downregulate your nervous system and will positively affect your mood, it will also aid both your skin and gut microbiota by allowing you to breathe and absorb beneficial bacteria from the natural environment.
- Stop picking – we know its tempting, but for that very tiny moment of satisfaction you are spreading bacteria risking repeated infections and promoting scarring.
- Wash your makeup brushes – makeup experts recommend that everyone should wash their makeup brushes every 7-10 days, if you are suffering with acne we would recommend washing your brushes at least twice a week with a natural cleanser, allowing to air dry to reduce re-infection of bacteria onto the skin.
- Change your linen – washing your sheets and towels at least once a week is imperative!
- Natural supplements – there are many wonderful nutrients that support skin integrity and healing. We love Vitamin C powder with Zinc, with the right dose this formulation can work wonders for cystic acne.
- Herbal medicine – Golden Seal is a favourite when it comes to acne and pimples, it is the herbal equivalent to antibiotics without the nasty side effects. Seabuckthorn is also wonderful for skin health.
Our experienced Herb Bar Naturopaths can advise you on dosages and the best individualized treatment for your needs, whether it be herbal medicine, supplements or diet and lifestyle advice. Simply phone the clinic on 02 4961 4075 to speak with someone today.
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