The Secret to Clear Skin
The most common skin condition in the United States and around the world, acne is not only a cosmetic issue but also reflects our overall health. Poor dietary choices, hormonal imbalance, genetics, and lifestyle each can play a role in the development of breakouts. When left untreated, acne can cause scarring, low self-esteem, and long-standing hyperpigmentation. While largely affecting teenagers and young adults, acne can also impact those in their 30s and 40s due to hormonal fluctuations. Conventional treatments usually involve oral antibiotics and/or topical medications and creams that can cause undesirable side-effects. Many have turned to natural solutions for their acne problem that offer safe and gentle options that work with the body, instead of against it. Here are my top recommendations for supporting healthy, clear skin.
The Importance of Diet
I can’t stress enough the importance of diet for clearing acne breakouts. A nutrient dense diet that minimizes acne aggravating foods is the first step to clear skin. The health of the skin is tied to the health of the gut, liver, and elimination process. Focus on an anti-inflammatory diet with plenty of fiber that supports the microbiome and balances blood sugar. Use a probiotic or, better yet, eat probiotic-rich foods like kombucha, non-dairy yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso. My convenient Balanced Gut Blend Tincture is also helpful for healing the gut and the microbiome, which in turn promotes healthy skin. Whole grains and beans are low-glycemic and also have essential vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for skin health. Several nutrients are crucial for clearing the skin and reducing acne flares, including:
Zinc is crucial for maintaining healthy skin, increasing immunity, and soothing inflammation. Poultry, oysters, eggs, beans, cashews, and almonds are good sources.
Helping to fight infection and speed healing, vitamin A is an important nutrient for encouraging clear skin. This nutrient is found in poultry, oysters, eggs, beans, cashews, almonds, kale, sweet potatoes, spinach, and carrots.
Supporting a healthy nervous system and essential for calming the stress response, a B-vitamin complex will help to assist with hormonal balance. Beef liver, tuna, salmon, chicken turkey, potatoes, and bananas are excellent sources.
Low levels of vitamin E have been associated with severe acne flares. To boost your intake of this nutrient, focus on wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, avocados, spinach, kiwi, and mango.
Helpful in boosting the immune system and combating acne, vitamin C is also anti-inflammatory and assists with healing the skin. Sources that are rich in vitamin C include strawberries, oranges, kiwi, papaya, tomatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers.
The following foods will help to maintain an optimal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids to reduce inflammation in the body and balance the glands in the skin that secrete oil. The optimal ratio of these fatty acids should be 4:1. Good sources include:
- Flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds (omega 3)
- Sardines, salmon, mackerel, beef (omega 3)
- Brussel sprouts, cauliflower (omega 3)
- Walnuts, sunflower seeds (omega 6)
- Olive oil, avocado oil, peanut oil (omega 9)
- Cashews, almonds (omega 9)
Additional Dietary Tips
Make sure to drink 1/2 your weight in ounces of water each day to flush toxins, stabilize blood sugar levels, and support healthy digestion. Eliminate caffeine completely and avoid dairy as it is mucus-producing, inflammatory, and high in sugar. Other foods to steer clear of include refined sugar, processed foods and meat, alcohol, fried foods, soy, and wheat (except wheat-germ oil).
For dessert alternatives that won’t aggravate acne, cooked fruit dishes with a dash of cinnamon help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, supply a range of important nutrients, and help to boost fiber intake. Apples, pears, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries are all excellent choices.
The Link Between Hormonal Balance and Clear Skin
Hormonal regulation is key since an imbalance can cause acne flares. See if your medical provider can test your hormones and evaluate the results. If there is an imbalance, discuss methods that will help to address the problem. Chronic stress is a significant driver of hormonal disruption. Explore lifestyle practices that can help to reduce stress such as exercise, calming breathing techniques, massage, stretching, positive visualization, and a solid sleep routine. Spending time in nature, gratitude, and laughter are also effective methods for managing stress.
Adaptogenic herbs are an excellent addition to your skincare routine as they help to reduce inflammation, kill the acne-causing bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, soothe stress, and promote hormonal balance. Additionally, several of the medicinal herbs listed below also help to heal acne spots, detoxify the body, and boost immune function. Potent reishi and yarrow tinctures are available in the Apothecary, along with my healing All-Purpose (First Aid) Salve.
- Reishi — adaptogenic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, supports liver health, and detoxification.
- Rhodiola — adaptogenic, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, calms stress, balances hormones, can be used topically to disrupt acne biofilm.
- Holy Basil (Tulsi) — adaptogenic, anti-microbial, encourages a healthy microbiome.
- Echinacea — antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, boosts immune function.
- Dandelion — purifies the blood and cleanses the liver.
- Yarrow — can be used topically to reduce bacteria, heal wounds, and to calm inflammation.
Outstanding topical remedies for active breakouts include holy basil (tulsi), tea tree, and lavender essential oils. Dilute a few drops in a carrier oil such as jojoba or olive before application. My All-Purpose (First Aid) Salve contains yarrow, essential oil of lavender, vitamin E, and other skin-healing herbs and oils. To tone the skin, balance pH levels, and reduce bacteria, apply unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to the skin with a cotton ball in the morning and evening. Lastly, a non-comedogenic moisturizer is a must as combination or dry skin contributes to acne flares just as often as oily complexions. Look for natural products with vitamin E and C that are free from parabens, polyethylene glycol, phthalates, siloxanes, artificial colors and fragrances.