Hey my people!
Are you frustrated when you open your sleepy eyes in the morning to spot yet another pimple erupting on your rosy cheeks? On your chin? On your forehead?
I think we’ve all been there.
Some of us, more mornings than not.
I’ve had my own fair share of acne from my disordered eating as my hormones were all over the map and my doshas being out of whack.
But do you ever stop to wonder why you are breaking out? What the root cause of your inflammation really is? Especially when puberty was so 15 years ago.
Well, I’m here to tell you how acne happens and give you some natural ways to cure acne. It may be a longer process than using harsh medications and conventional treatments, but it can be a long-term and permanent solution to clear skin and worry-free mornings.
So what can cause acne?
There can be multiple and complicated reasons that we get acne, however, some people are more susceptible simply because of their genetic makeup. The trick to managing your acne is controlling how you internally respond to your external environment.
Our Hormones Might Be to Blame
How is acne caused by our hormones you ask? Medication, diet, lifestyle, smoking, stress or lack of sleep can trigger hormone imbalances. In adult women with hormonal acne, there can be menstrual irregularities that makes the skin more sensitive and causes it to break out in a dreaded predictable cycle associated with the menstrual cycle. These breakouts can be due to higher estrogen levels relative to progesterone levels, particularly in the second half of the cycle, before a woman’s expected period. Women could also have higher levels of testosterone and that can trigger acne, especially in women with PCOS (story of my life).
It All Begins in the Gut
The diet and acne connection is an important one. Our skin is like a wall between our body and our external environment, similar to our intestinal tract. Our digestive tract is the decision maker that allows substances to enter our bloodstream. When nutrients are not digested and absorbed properly (also known as leaky gut), particles like food molecules, fungi, bacteria and viruses get through the spaces in between the cells of the digestive tract and enter into our bloodstream, triggering an immune response and causing inflammation.
The body desperately tries to eliminate these particles by circulating them to the liver to be filtered and excreted through our waste. However, when there are too many toxins inside the body, the skin becomes the primary organ for elimination, and waste products can get stored in our skin tissue as acne.
From a Ayurvedic perspective, your acne could be an imbalance of your dosha – your energy. Acne could be an imbalance of all three doshas, although it is predominantly pitta dosha that could be to blame for your breakouts. You may be full of too much fire energy, and this could result in an imbalance in your emotions, your body and ultimately, your skin.
Sugar Could Be Your Secret Enemy
It’s sad to say that sugar is hidden in everything you eat and could be the culprit of your breakouts! Sugar spikes the release of insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which can create inflammation in the body and increase the production of oil in skin glands and the amounts of testosterone and estrogen in the body. Eating foods that have a high glycemic index like sugar can increase IGF and testosterone in those with acne, causing further breakouts.
How We React to Stress and Breakouts
When our work demands, relationship problems, and life events cause us emotional and psychological stress, our bodies react in a negative and destructive way. When we are stressed, we can experience digestive distress due to the abnormal functioning of the gut’s filtering system.
High stress levels can increase the hormone cortisol in our bloodstream and can open the floodgates to acne. Stress can also increase sebum production in the sebaceous glands, causing them to get clogged and turn into unwanted pimples.
And how we react to our skin might be an important contributor to our mental health. A recent study suggested that people who suffer from acne are more likely to develop depression. So your breakouts might even lead to serious and detrimental consequences if you react to your skin in a self-harming and negative way. Your beliefs can BECOME your reality, even on your face.
So now that you know what causes acne, here’s my top ten lifestyle acne tips for how to clear your skin and get rid of acne for good:
Eat an Anti-Acne Diet.
Sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet is the best way to stabilize your blood sugar, decrease your glycemic load and promote healthy and radiate skin. This includes incorporating healthy fatty foods into your diet that are high in omega 3-fatty acids like avocado, fish, seeds and nuts, along with liver cleansing foods such as leafy greens, beets, berries, milk thistle and turmeric.
Support your digestion and heal your leaky gut by including probiotics and collagen into your diet through eating fermented veggies, apple cider vinegar, coconut yogurt and bone broth. Intermittent fasting may also be a great alternative for you to help stabilize your blood sugar and speed up the recovery of your inflamed gut.
Eating foods high in zinc including beans, mushrooms, nuts, spinach and sustainably raised pork and veggies that are high in vitamin A including carrots, sweet potato and broccoli can supplement nutrient deficiencies that contribute to acne, giving you clearer and glowing skin!
Decreasing your intake of any sugar, dairy products, mass-produced meat and recognizing foods that you are sensitive to through an elimination diet (common culprits include eggs, soy, corn and gluten) can decrease inflammation in your body and promote acne free skin. Try to always eat locally and organically, following the seasons and your dosha needs.
How you Eat is Just as Important as What you Eat.
Your eating habits can contribute to a healthy or leaky gut. When you eat, you want to engage your parasympathetic system, or your ‘rest and digest’ system. This can be done through creating a calm and relaxed dining environment. Don’t eat when you are stressed, in a rush or anxious, and always try to eat with others around. Don’t eat while on your phone or at your desk, and be aware of each bite you take.
Engage in mindful eating and give gratitude for your beautiful meal then chew, chew, chew! Listen to your hunger signals and stop when you are 80% full. Your gut and your skin will thank you for it.
Drink water … and lots of it.
Drinking water helps to keep toxins moving, your bowels moving, and helps to rehydrate and replenish your body after a workout. If you aren’t a fan of plain water, add some fruit or herbs to infuse some flavor and make your fluids more exciting. I love to sip on herbal teas that have turmeric and ginger throughout the day, especially in the winter, to support my digestion and skin.
Sweat it Out.
Exercise improves our use of blood sugar so that there are fewer blood sugar spikes and thus, fewer pimples! Find a type of exercise that works for you, whether that is lifting weights at the gym, hiking, flowing through a vinyasa class, or doing some HITT interval training – have fun while you sweat!
Moving your body in a fun and free way can reduce our stress, and control our cortisol levels that can spike blood sugar and cause unwanted breakouts – it’s a win win! Just remember to properly cleanse your face after your workout to prevent future breakouts.
Balance out your hormones.
Getting your hormones in check can be a long process … but be patient. If you think you have PCOS, are experiencing missed periods or have terrible PMS symptoms, get your blood work done and see a naturopath for alternative treatments.
I would suggest staying away from birth control as a means to treat acne. Hormonal imbalances can be a consequence when coming off the pill, and can increase breakouts as hormones overcompensate after being suppressed by artificial ones. Fixing the root cause through diet, exercise, and stress management as well as finding support through natural treatments like chaste tree, DIM and acupuncture can be some great options to heal your hormonal issues for good.
Catch up on your Zzz’s.
Sleep is crucial in supporting your hormones, your stress, and your skin. Engage in healthy sleep practices like having no screen time at least 45 minutes before bedtime, having a warm bath or shower, spraying or using some magnesium gel on your body before bed, reading a book or sipping on some herbal tea like lavender or chamomile can promote healthy and deep sleeping patterns. Remember to go to bed at a consistent time (10 pm is prime time) and aim for at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep to promote supple and smooth skin.
Deal with your Negative Vibes.
Negativity towards yourself and others can be detrimental to your skin, as there is a strong connection between your mind and body. Engage in repeating healthy mantras to yourself and journal at morning or night to let out any negative thoughts or feelings you experience throughout the day. Acne can be frustrating and long journey, and sometimes we need to release our pain and negativity in order to move forward in a healthy and optimistic way.
Don’t be ashamed of your feelings, and be vulnerable with those who are close to you. Let out those tears to someone you love. Engage in community and surround yourself with positive and fun people who can take your mind off your skin and make you feel beautiful inside and out.
Use Skincare Products that Help the Anti-Acne Cause.
Using a combination of natural and medicated products could be a great option to deal with your acne, depending on the severity. Finding a cleanser that works for you that is free of parabens, parfums and have active ingredients like salicylic acid, activated charcoal, and probiotics are great options to treat acne-prone skin (Currently obsessed with Fitglow and Living Libations). Following your wash with a toner that has sea salt, aloe, rose or neroli hydrosol or witch hazel are great for managing acne and healing scars.
Serums are amazing for healing hyperpigmentation and managing oil production and can include ingredients like gotu kola, turmeric, jojoba oil, and essential oils such as frankincense and tea tree (Eminence Organics and Province Apothecary have great acne-prone and sensitive skin options). Finish your skincare regimen with some light moisturizer and if you are going to bed, spot treatments are great for active acne. Benzoyl peroxide can be a medical spot treatment option for those with severe and deep cystic breakouts.
Manage Your Stress in Creative & Fun Ways.
Get your body out of ‘fight or flight’ mode and balance out cortisol levels to achieve acne free skin. This can include getting your zen on with some meditation practices, clearing your mind with some deep breathing techniques, going for a walk with your dogs, dancing around the house to your favourite song, or cooking a delicious dinner with your friends – whatever takes your mind off your worries and into the present moment.
Soak up some rays and swim in the sea.
Getting some sunshine in your day can help with your vitamin D levels, which are crucial to clear skin. Get connected with nature to ease stress and reflect on your thoughts. Catching some salty kisses from the ocean can be just what your skin needs to heal. Letting your feet sink in sand is also a great way to decrease inflammation as you practice grounding.
So remember to be kind to yourself and patient in the healing process, as you try new foods, new exercises, new sleeping routines and new meditation techniques for a holistic, hormonally balanced and long lasting approach to clear and beautiful skin.
Peace & Love,
Jill – your veggie villager xx
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Which lifestyle changes worked for you in your process from acne to clear skin?
How did you stay positive during the acne-healing journey?
Share your story in the comments below!