Acne Quick Guide
Renata Trister DO
One of the biggest concerns in skin care seems to be problems related to acne/bad spots and ‘raised red bumps’.
Adult onset acne – along with food allergies is becoming a more common occurrence than ever before.
There is no magical ‘cure’ for acne. There are different types, yes, but no one-dose-fits-all cure. So do read the below – but bear in mind that acne is different for everyone. You may have one type – or 3 types.
You need to know your skin, your body, your state of mind, and your ‘system’ inside out to truly see results.
Types/causes of acne:
Hormones – just starting periods, just finishing periods, peri-menopause, menopause (all of them), for boys – raging androgen Can cause over production of oil, slow shedding of dead skin cells, increases in the mount of androgen in your system – all creating the perfect breeding ground for acne.
Bacteria – Propionibacterium Acnes is the bacteria that gives/gets acne its name.
Inflammation – illness, foods, stress – a system fighting illness is inflamed on its own, add medication and you are doubling your potential problems, foods can cause inflammation (especially food allergies) and stress always causes inflammation – again, all breeding grounds for acne.
Sensitivities – allergies, reactions to products, reactions to foods/environment.
Looking at the above you may see where your skin fits in – and why antibiotics just don’t always work for some people when fighting acne.
Myths and Old Wives Tales:
It seems that once something has been said in a glossy mag, heard on TV – or both – it becomes the Law. Sad but true. And not helpful to those of us with real problems that we want to fix!
• Acne is caused by dirty skin. Not true. There is a massive difference between bacteria and dirt. Over-washing your face destroys the acid mantle that protects your skin, makes an alkaline environment, makes your acne worse and your skin a dry, dull, sore breeding ground.
• You can ‘dry up’ spots. Not true. A spot is a mixture of oil, inflammation, bacteria and dead skin cells. No water in that list. All you are doing is drying the surrounding area in the hope that it will make the spot look smaller. What it actually does it put the spot on its own ‘look at ME’ platform.
• You can use toothpaste on acne. A one-off spot may have its redness taken down – temporarily – by applying one of the above. If acne could be fixed by Oral-B and Crest all of our problems would be solved.
Things that may help:
Below are some of the things that have helped myself, friends, clients and readers of this blog. It is not a definitive list and is only suggestions.
They may not work for you, they may work brilliantly – unfortunately there is no perfect recipe. If you are on serious medication speak to your consultant before supplementing.
• Avoid mineral oils when cleansing. Natural oils are better for the skin. They just are. (See one exception later on in the list)
• Avoid too much alcohol in products. A ‘tingle’ is ok. A ‘burning’ is not. Products where the main ingredient listed is alcohol will dry out the surface of your skin, destroy the acid mantle and make the perfect breeding ground. However: alcohol is sometimes a necessary evil for suspending things like glycolic acid in a solution – where they would normally not work as well. It can be confusing but it’s a case-by-case basis.
• Avoid soaps and foaming washes. These break down the acid mantle of your skin (think: armor) and make your skin a 10 on the 1-10 acid/alkaline scale. Remember litmus paper from science classes? Again – the perfect breeding ground.
• Don’t pick red cysts. A whitehead can be popped in the correct manner (see previous cheat sheets); a cyst is going nowhere and will always, always prevail if you battle it. And then it will scar. Just to teach you who is boss.
• Don’t completely strip your skin of oil and moisture. An acne skin that sticks solely to foaming cleansers and oil-free products is nearly always – always – reddened with inflammation and sensitivity. Thus making more work for you.
• Treat your skin gently and with respect. You know what I mean. Abusing it with harsh products and getting angry with it – like it’s a different person – will make it worse. Your skin belongs to you. Don’t try and disown it when it needs you.
• Cleanse with good quality oils and balm cleansers. There is absolutely no reason to avoid oil when you have acne. Again: There is absolutely no reason to avoid oil in cleansing when you have acne. Mineral oil, avoid? YES. Good, light, plant-derived oils? – no. They don’t clog pores, they nourish the skin you are now pledging to take care of and they do not break you out. Cheap, nasty, mineral oil used in heavy formulations may break you out when you are cleansing, not good oils. Check labels. Avoid paraffin, paraffin liquidum, mineral oil in ingredient listings. Avoid anything ending with –cone.
• Use topical exfoliants. Acids used topically help alleviate blocked pores, dead skin cells, trapped hair follicles and reduce your acid mantle to the lower end of the scale – usually around a 3/4 – which is in layman’s terms, strengthening your first line of defense to the acne. Think glycolic acid and salicylic acid.
• You can use products like benzoyl peroxide, found in spot treatments, to topically treat bad acne spots. It can penetrate the pore and kill off the bacteria specific to acne, but I prefer the acids in the step above. Sulfur is more commonly used, but a word of warning – in my experience, both can be drying to the skin in high %’s. Go easy.
• Hydrate your skin and consider that it might need oil in places. You can have acne in areas and be really dry/dehydrated in others.
• Consider supplementation. Omega 3 fatty acids – supplement and dietary are great for many skin conditions. It works for acne, psoriasis and eczema – so if you have any of those – or all – I would definitely recommend.
• Probiotics are a must. Especially if you are on antibiotics. Your skin is the first place to show anything going on in the gut. Keep your stomach/intestines as strong as possible.
• Avoid moisturizers with shea butter. Yes it’s natural but it’s harder than most oils for the skin to break down and thus tends to clogs pores and gives you nice whiteheads. Buy moisturizers with water as the main ingredient for day. You can use appropriate oils and balms at night.
Unfortunately there really is no definitive list of foods that cause acne.
There is however, awareness of foods that cause inflammation in the system (and therefore the skin) and would thus best be avoided:
• Sugar The worst. And it’s in everything. Avoid fizzy drinks, fruit juice (OJ breaks me out almost instantaneously), pastries, condiments such as ketchup, salad cream, brown sauce and steak sauce (cries). Get into the habit of reading labels. Fructose, sucrose, maltose, golden syrup, dextrose – all sugar.
• White foods Everyone laughs when I say it – but Mother Nature made very little white. Avoid white foods. They have, for the most part, been completely bastardized buy the food industry. Bread, pasta, cereals, sugar and cakes – if they are white – they are not real food. Think how fast your car would break down if you used ‘petrol substitute’.
• Red Meat Red meat is medically proven to cause inflammation. Not just of the skin – it has been linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity and most inflammatory diseases. This includes beef, lamb, venison, veal, pork and all of the subdivisions such as bacon, sausage, sandwich meat, salami etc.. If you eat red meat, try and cut back and eat the best organic quality available. It is less likely to be loaded with hormones that aggravate your acne. Eat white meat or fish – especially oily fish like salmon. If you eat meat it should swim or fly.
• Dairy We are the only species that drinks the milk of another species. It’s not natural and you don’t need it. But again, it’s in everything. Dairy contains hormones that can alter our endocrine system and contribute to acne. That includes cheese. If you eat/drink dairy go for organic.
• Fried foods/bad fats Avoid all margarines, corn oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, grape seed oil, trans fats and hydrogenated oils. This obviously means by association you avoid crisps, French fries and deep-fried anything. Use olive or macadamia oil.
If your acne is severe – please contact us