Skin health is a never-ending journey that doesn’t just go away after adolescence. Even as adults, we all strive for perfect skin. Yet, why is it so difficult to avoid acne and rosacea blemishes? The simple answer is that there are so many contributing factors and that we rarely look past the exterior. In order to have truly great skin, it is crucial to examine and improve the health of our digestive tract, immune system and hormonal system while minding the external environment that our skin comes into contact with.
Here are a few basic, yet powerful, tips for maintaining healthy skin and reducing the severity and frequency of acne:
Eliminate Food Sensitivities: Certain foods may aggravate our skin health. Refined sugars are well known to aggravate acne and so it is generally advised to avoid sugary foods (not to mention all of the other health detriments associated with these foods). In addition, certain foods are poorly tolerated by each person on an individual basis. In other words, our digestive tract may not be able to properly break down specific proteins and this may lead to poor skin health, among other symptoms. Most commonly, dairy products and gluten-containing foods are responsible. However, seeing as we are all unique, there may be other foods that aggravate your acne and so it is important to track what you eat and keep an eye out for any correlations between increased acne frequency/severity and consumption of certain foods.
Keep your Hormones balanced: It’s no secret that hormones affect our skin health. Many women experience acne breakouts at specific and recurring times during their menstrual cycles. In fact, this is the reason why oral contraceptives (a.k.a. the birth control pill) are often prescribed for skin health, even when contraception is not a concern. In addition, it is well known that levels of high stress (leading to increased cortisol) often aggravate acne and other skin conditions.
With this in mind, it only seems intuitive that hormonal balance is essential for proper skin maintenance. Start with the basics such as avoiding microwaving plastic containers, reduce non-organic animal foods, avoid alcohol, avoid oral contraceptives (when possible) and lose excess fat tissue. Lastly, do your best to keep stress levels at a minimum.
Hygiene: Aside from washing our face before bedtime, there are many other simple changes that can be made to reduce skin irritation. For example, it’s important to try and minimize makeup usage (which can be difficult as makeup understandably is utilized to cover-up the acne lesions – however, reducing the amount and experimenting with other brands may help). Additionally, be sure to change your pillowcase frequently – oils can build up and irritate your skin. Finally, take note of anything coming into contact with your face (such as your hands, or a cellphone) as oils and bacteria can be transmitted in this fashion, too.
Medications and Supplementation
In addition to the dietary and lifestyle suggestions made above, there are many supplemental options available to reduce acne. Common over the counter treatments utilize benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, antibacterial agents that also help to dry out the skin. For many individuals, this approach doesn’t get to the root of the problem. In these circumstances, more intense prescription drugs are available such as Isotretinoin (a.k.a. Accutane, chemically similar to vitamin A). Yet, again, the problem faced with this approach is the well-known side effect profile: skin dryness, headaches, muscle and joint pains, teratogenicity (meaning that it causes birth defects in the offspring of pregnant woman) and links to depression and suicide. Considering these risks, other options are warranted.
Lactoferrin is a protein found in human biological fluids and various cells. It is most often used as an immune-boosting nutrient. It has been shown to exhibit anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects, thereby decreasing not only the total acne lesion count but also the lesion severity after only 8-12 weeks. Lactoferrin may also directly decrease the production of sebum (oil produced on the skin).
For cases of severe acne that show resistance to many of these suggestions, consider seeking out a qualified healthcare practitioner (such as a Naturopathic Doctor, Holistic Nutritionist or Medical Doctor) for more options and more detailed treatment guidelines.
Do you have any tips for keeping your skin healthy and happy? Let us know in the comment section below!
Image by © 2014 via DollarPhotoClub
Brandt S. The clinical effects of zinc as a topical or oral agent on the clinical response and pathophysiologic mechanisms of acne: a systematic review of the literature. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013 May;12(5):542-5.
Kim J, Ko Y, Park YK, Kim NI, Ha WK, Cho Y. Dietary effect of lactoferrin-enriched fermented milk on skin surface lipid and clinical improvement of acne vulgaris. Nutrition. 2010 Sep;26(9):902-9.
Mueller EA, Trapp S, Frentzel A, Kirch W, Brantl V. Efficacy and tolerability of oral lactoferrin supplementation in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: an exploratory study. Curr Med Res Opin. 2011 Apr;27(4):793-7.
Ozuguz P, Dogruk Kacar S, Ekiz O, Takci Z, Balta I, Kalkan G. Evaluation of serum vitamins A and E and zinc levels according to the severity of acne vulgaris. Cutan Ocul Toxicol. 2013 Jul 5.