5 Tips for Banishing Acne – From the Inside Out
Grumbling in your stomach signals hunger. Tightness in your legs signals a need for a stretch. Pain in your low back signals potential injury. These are all common mechanisms through which your body alerts you of a need. Did you know that acne is a reading (like Braille) of what’s not quite right with your body?
Acne occurs when a hair follicle becomes clogged with sebum (oil) or dead skin cells. Generally, there are four categories of acne you might see on your face or other parts of your body:
- Hormonal Acne: Acne caused by hormonal flare ups, generally found on the chin and jawline area. This can worsen during menstruation.
- Inflammatory Acne: Pustules (a red ring surrounding a whitehead) and red bumps that occur because of bacteria and other inflammatory agents in the pore.
- Cystic Acne: Large, deep rooted pimples. The ones that feel deep under the skin that are often sensitive to touch and painful. The individual pimples are called nodules.
- Comedonal Acne: Simple clogged pores that can appear as whiteheads or blackheads.
These different types of acne signal different changes and issues in the body. For instance, hormonal acne signals hormonal imbalances and inflammatory acne signals a buildup of bacteria on the skin biome. Cystic and comedonal acne can come from a variety of sources.
All of this is to say: Acne is more than just bumps in your face, back, or chest. It’s a marker of your skin’s health. Here are five actions you can take to get healthier skin—from the inside out!
Remove inflammatory foods from your diet
Certain foods can exacerbate inflammation in the body—the skin is one area that will alert you of excess inflammation. When we have too much sugar, saturated fats, seed oils (Omega-6), dairy, or processed foods in our diet, we see acne begin to increase (among other health issues) as these foods contribute to clogged pores. Sugar molecules, specifically, grab onto the proteins in your skin’s collagen, causing premature aging through a process called glycation.
In particular, aim to reduce your intake of:
- Desserts—cookies, cupcakes, and other foods with more than 6-8g of added sugars
- Greasy fast food meals
- Packaged foods like chips, crackers, salad dressings (yes even salad dressings are loaded with sugar, flavor enhancers and bad oils)
To help you change these dietary patterns, consider substitutions like:
- Eating a square of 70% or higher dark chocolate for your sweet fix (more isn’t more so moderate your intake)
- Meal prepping at the beginning of the week, so you don’t end up opting for a quick fast food dinner
- Opt for close to 100% Whole Grain label on packaged foods to make sure you’re getting good fiber content with the carbs that you eat
You can still eat a slice of cake at a birthday party and enjoy chips and salsa from time to time, but if they start sneaking up to become a more regular part of your diet, it may be contributing to any lapses in your skin health. I find that if I have chips and salsa 1X/month, I tell myself that it’ll be okay to have it 2X/month – and then it’s all downhill from there!
2. Identify your food sensitivities
If you have food sensitivities, your skin and acne may also be alerting you to them. For some, dairy is a trigger for acne, while others may have a specific allergy expressed through acne. If you suspect that perhaps dairy, gluten, eggs, nuts or another food may be contributing to your acne, try an elimination diet. Here’s how:
- Identify the food you believe may be causing acne. Be sure to choose just one type of food at a time (ONLY gluten, dairy, etc.)
- For 2-3 weeks, remove that one food from your diet entirely
- At the end of the 2-3 weeks, notice what’s changed
If you see substantial changes in your skin’s health, chances are that food is contributing to your acne. If nothing changes, then that food likely is not a large factor in your acne. You may want to try a different type of food if you believe it’s something specific like dairy or gluten, but you can’t figure out which!
3. Sweat… more!
Oddly enough, sweating is good for your skin. You may have heard myths about sweat clogging pores and causing acne, and to an extent it does, but only if you don’t clean it off.
Sweat is the mechanism by which we remove toxins from our body. It’s one of many excretion processes and is particularly powerful for improving our skin health. Our skin is a massive organ that interacts with a variety of substances every day. When we sweat, we give our skin the opportunity to release the chemicals and toxins it’s taken in throughout the week.
To sweat more, consider:
- Including aerobic exercise 2-3 times per week
- Spending time in the sauna or steam room at your gym
- Taking a hot bath at home
With any of these options, be sure to take a shower and exfoliate afterwards! Once you release through the sweat, you want to remove it from your skin with some warm water, a loofah sponge and soap. When we don’t remove the sweat, acne can start to build up, but with a regular practice of releasing toxins through sweat and properly cleaning after, you’ll see your skin become more radiant! I am a poor “sweat-er” so try to use a dry sauna as often as possible to get a good sweat. It’s amazing how clean my skin feels afterwards.
4. Use genuinely “clean” products
In an earlier blog, we covered the ingredients in various lotions, sprays, and makeup products that can have negative effects on your skin. Among the list are sulfates, aluminum, and even formaldehyde. Check out the blog post here for a guide to skincare ingredients to avoid for optimal skin health!
5. Incorporate skin-specific nutrients
A few supplements are particularly good for your skin health: omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin D.
Omega-3s bring moisture to your skin, especially skin that is chronically dry or flakey. To naturally increase them in your diet, eat more wild-caught salmon, trout, or sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed. For supplements, here’s a high-dose omega 3 supplement that’s been third-party tested:
A lack of zinc and vitamin D has been shown to lead to skin issues like psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Increasing your zinc and vitamin D intake can improve overall skin health (while also boosting mood, eye health, and more!)
For zinc, here’s a third-party tested product:
For vitamin D, here’s an option from Nature Made:
Finally, if you’re experiencing severe acne that isn’t responding to dietary and lifestyle changes, it may be time to work with a dermatologist to dig deeper.
When you meet with your dermatologist to assess your acne issue, remember to ask about lifestyle recommendations. In other words, ask about specific foods they recommend avoiding, supplements they believe will help your unique skin, and more. Want clear, blemish-free skin? Remember that beauty is from the inside out!