Breaking out? It can happen to anyone at any age–acne does not discriminate.
Defined in terms of grades, acne can show up in the form of:
- Grade 1: clogged pores, whiteheads or blackheads
- Grade 2: the small pimple, technically named the papule, which is slightly pink and tender
- Grade 3: more inflammation visible (technically this is now a pustule – I know, it doesn’t sound or look pretty)
- Grade 4: this is the big guy with much more sensitivity and larger amount of swelling
- Grade 5: the cystic breakouts (this is what most of us think of when we hear the word “acne”)
Acne can occur at different ages and show different symptoms, but recent research shows the root of the problem is inflammation (even at the very first stages.)
Traditional acne treatments have all had the same goals: get rid of excess oil, kill bacteria, and help the skin exfoliate. These treatments are usually inflammatory, meaning they cause inflammation. They also dry out the skin (which can lead to major problems if treating adult acne.) While there is some benefit in controlling oil and bacteria, these treatments merely address the symptoms of acne, not the actual problem. In addition, some of the treatments come with various side effects like dryness, sun sensitivity, and in some cases – stress on internal organs.
In order to get real results without sacrificing the health of your skin, you need to address the root of the problem: inflammation.
New studies define acne as a systemic inflammatory disease, let’s break this down:
Systemic - affecting the whole body system, internally and externally
Inflammatory - describes a local response to cellular injury that is marked by swelling, redness, heat, or pain and that serves as a mechanism initiating the elimination of harmful agents and of damaged tissue
Disease - (“dis-ease”) an abnormal condition of an organism that impairs bodily functions
Any time the body is under stress and duress, inflammation occurs. This inflammation causes free radical damage, uses our natural supply of antioxidants and white blood cells, and ages us prematurely. It also can lead to improper exfoliation inside our skin’s follicles – which leads to clogged pores!! (*by the way, the solution is NOT excessive exfoliation – which does not affect the inside of the follicle and only creates inflammation.)
Examples of inflammatory situations:
- Hormonal imbalance – birth control, pregnancy, puberty, HRT, menopause
- Stress – physical (too many reps at the gym), emotional (just got dumped), or mental (big meeting, loss of job, worrying)
- Diet – too much sugar, not enough good fat, too many processed foods or fake substitutes
- PH balance – not enough fruits, veggies and greens, too much meat or dairy
- Topically induced – too many peels, excessive cleansing and exfoliation, use of harsh synthetic ingredients
The point: acne can flare up from many different situations, but these situations all have one thing in common – INFLAMATION. So, whether you’re 16 or 56, limiting inflammatory situations will help clear your skin and prevent future acne breakouts.
Sounds simple enough, right?
The catch: you actually have to make a commitment to change your diet, lifestyle and skin care regime to get the results.
What’s good for the body is great for the skin, so both internal and external supplementation is recommended. Here are some tips for clearing your skin:
- Use a gentle antibacterial cleanser that wont strip your skin (avoid SLS as the active cleansing agent)
- Try natural antibacterial, anti-inflammatory ingredients for topical use
- Try Natural Vitamin A instead of synthetic Retin-A or Accutane
- Get regular facials – but skip on the hydrogen peroxide and microdermabrasion – instead try gentle AHAs and BHAs, enzymes, and infusions of antioxidants along with lymphatic massage or light therapy
- Change your diet: read Dr. Perricone’s Clear Skin Prescription for some great suggestions; visit your local holistic nutritionist
- Drink more water and green or herbal tea. Eliminate coffee and soda
- Just say no to sugar, including FAKE sugars like splenda and sucralose
- Forget low fat diets and just eat the good fats – like olive oil, avocados, and nuts
- Leave the stage makeup for actors – it doesn’t really cover the breakouts and it makes the acne worse (instead try crushed minerals – like: www.everydayminerals.com)
- talk with your doctor and naturopath / nutritionist about birth control (no matter what kind or oral or patch contraceptive it is, it’s still synthetic hormones going into your body – see if there are other methods that are better for you.)
- Try a juice fast: www.juicefasting.org
- Take a wheatgrass shot: www.wheatgrass.com
- Make water the ONLY beverage you drink
- Sweat it out at the gym or in the steam room (this is not recommended for acne grades 4 and 5)
The bonus: By taking these steps to clearer skin, you will also feel healthier, more energetic and lighter on your feet (literally!)