What causes acne AND how to get rid of it
I’m just going to come right out and say it: acne sucks. hard.
It messes with your confidence and makes you feel ugly. You think everyone’s staring at your big, fat pimples regardless of whether they’re tiny whiteheads or big, red pus-filled monsters.
What if I told you the answer to your clear skin prayers may be been in your control all along? (Is that a welcome revelation or a “Ugh! Kate, do you mean I didn’t have to put with this for half my life?!”)
The thing about acne that no-one tells you is that at the end of the day, it’s about inflammation. I know you’re nodding, duh that’s why they’re red! Yes, but there’s more so stay with me here. Your skin is actually the last stop on your body’s inflammation highway.
It’s the last possible place for inflammation to find it’s way from inside your body to the surface and scream at you: “please stop doing this to me! Why can’t you see I’m on fire!”
Okay, so I’m a little dramatic today but you get the picture. Acne is a symptom of deeper imbalances in your gut. It’s a fact. If your gut is inflamed and your gut bacteria is out of balance, that creates inflammation and irritation in your gut. Symptoms of this gut inflammation are bloating, constipation, offensive smelling wind and bad breath. Sound familiar? They may not happen all the time, but chances are you’ve got some of these problems as well as acne!
So am I suggesting the way to get rid of acne is to fix your gut? Yup, I totally am. The science backs me up too – check out this study where they found oral probiotics reduced systemic inflammation.
What causes acne?
So we know that inflammation causes acne. Where does this inflammation come from?
Decreased stomach acid is more common than you think. If can’t break down and digest your food properly, then it will lead to gut problems like bloating, heartburn, constipation and reflux.
Leaky gut syndrome is where the gut lining is inflamed and irritated, leading to IBS symptoms like bloating, constipation or diarrhoea and multiple food sensitivities.
Yeast infections are usually a clear sign of an immune system under strain, but if you get them repeatedly they’re a sign of gut flora imbalances. Gut flora (commonly known as probiotic bacteria in your digestive system) actually control many processes in your body including your immunity and inflammation pathways. So if you’ve got yeast, you’ve got a gut problem!
Products that are scented or too harsh may be contributing to your skin problems. Some people are sensitive to the chemicals in these so-called specialist acne products, making their skin dry and irritated, leaving it more susceptible to bacteria and breakouts!
Smoking. Need I say more? Smoking dehydrates your skin and deprives your body of much needed nutrients that naturally reduce inflammation. Smoking also depletes your body of vitamin C which is an essential antioxidant for anti-aging and smooth skin. It even makes you more likely to suffer from bowel and gut conditions like Crohn’s disease, polyps, GERD and digestive cancers.
Excessive sugar (I’m looking at you sugary pre-mix alcoholic drinks) when you enjoy too much sugar, not only is it going to make you pile on extra unwanted kilos but it wreaks havoc on your insides, driving inflammation and lowering your immune system.
Excessive amounts of dairy. This only applies if you’re lactose sensitive or intolerant… but I do find that skin issues and sensitivity or (down-right intolerance!) to dairy generally go hand in hand. If you eliminate dairy for a short period of time – like a month or two – you should get results like clearer, smoother complexion, less frequent breakouts, smaller breakouts and more energy.
Let’s break it down a bit further. You’re probably mentally ticking off some of the things on the ‘what causes acne’ list and thinking “Dang! I’ve been causing this myself the whole freaking time.” So before you start kicking yourself, there’s a solution! I’ve got some acne treatments that really work for you, some home remedies you can start using at home now and some more advanced treatments for those really looking to get beautiful, clear skin.
But first, how do these factors actually cause acne? Well they create inflammation, then that inflammation expresses itself as acne… as well as other symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, headaches, getting sick all the time and digestive symptoms like IBS and bloating.
Acne treatments that actually work
Your aim when treating your acne is to reduce the inflammation in your body and when you get that under control (using the steps below) you can sit back and forget your ever had acne!
- Avoid foods that damage your skin.
Simples right? Sometimes it’s not so easy to avoid yummy things like sugary treats, chocolate, fish and chips (if you’re in need of oily comfort food) or loading up on empty carbs. But please remember these foods are major contributors to inflammation! You might want to do this gradually or go cold-turkey. Either way, getting a meal plan together with plenty of snacks ready on hand is key to sticking to your new “beautiful skin diet”!
- Eat foods that get rid of your acne.
What foods get rid of acne you ask? Any and all foods that reduce inflammation of course! Simple foods to start with include bone broth, bitter lettuces, clean proteins, fermented foods like sauerkraut, cultured foods like yoghurt, coconut oil, colourful vegetables and deep sea fish. Other dietary measures like eating a low dairy diet can also be very helpful in relieving inflammation. Don’t like fish? Try adding some fish oil to your morning smoothie.
- Use flower power to your advantage.
There are herbal medicines that reduce inflammation in your body and help clear what’s left over in your body. Milk thistle is one I use regularly with patients because it cleanses your liver, intestines and skin. Herbal tea blends are anti-inflammatory and specifically help cleanse your liver and bowels to ease acne. I often use a cleanse pack with patients that contains specific herbal remedies and teas to hit the ‘restart button’ and cleanse their bodies.
- Use different products.
Most people who come to me about their skin are usually using too many products and the wrong type. According to Diana Milnes from Restore Face Body Soul, a simple daily skin care routine will help to minimise acne flare ups. Look for natural skin care that’s formulated for oily, troubled skin and avoid harsh chemicals that can irritate your skin more.
Cleansing and moisturising each morning along with cleansing, lightly exfoliating and using an oil in the evening will help to balance and heal your skin. Toning is optional, so if you feel that it’s for you look for an alcohol free toner. Use a gentle exfoliant don’t scrub (exfoliating gently removes any dead skin build-up to stop clogging). Removing your cleanser with a clean face cloth is also a simple way to exfoliate.
Diana says “A common misconception is that oil is the enemy when it comes to acne, but the opposite is true! When your skin is lacking oil and moisture, it will produce more oil and this can cause clogging, leading to more breakouts. By using a light oil or combination of oils you’ll be naturally balancing your skin’s moisture. My favourite oils for troubled skin are Jojoba and Rosehip – use them alone or blend them and add a few drops of frankincense or tea tree oil.”
Diana’s been kind enough to share a DIY toner for acne prone skin too! Try this at home: Mix Apple Cider Vinegar 1:4 with filtered water and apply to your face with a damp cotton pad after cleansing. This will balance the pH of your skin, kill bacteria, remove excess dirt, oil and makeup and dissolve dead skin cells that can clog your pores.
- Heal the source of the inflammation.
All these home remedies are great for beginners but what if you’re looking for something more advanced to get rid of stubborn acne? My 28 day Leaky Gut Bootcamp addresses the inflammation in your body, heals your gut lining, gives you renewed energy, better sleep and best of all, improves your skin! Interested? Find out more here.
Get rid of acne with these home remedies
Acne sucks, I get that. But by eating foods that help keep your skin clear, avoiding ones your know are inflammatory and healing your gut you CAN keep the acne flare ups to a minimum and finally have the beautiful, clear skin you’ve been hoping for!
Clear skin is directly related to your gut health so look after your gut, keep inflammation to a minimum, sit back with a mirror and enjoy the view.
Remember, don’t wait another day to start feeling better. You deserve a healthy gut.
image credit: iStock photos