Do you suffer from frequent breakouts that have gone way beyond teenage years?
Well, you are not alone.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology as many as 50 million Americans are treated for acne annually and sadly, adult acne is on the rise reaching what looks like epidemic rates.
The problem is that while statistically we are not alone, emotionally having acne can make us feel very alone.
I suffered from chronic cystic acne for over 15 years and experienced first hand how devastating it is to battle with distinctively difficult skin.
During this battle with acne I tried every lotion, potion and medication on the market. My wallet also endured countless trips to different dermatologists for rounds of antibiotics, contraceptive pills, harsh prescription topicals and prescription medications which dried up my skin so much that the problem would temporarily disappear. Somehow though, but my acne always fought it’s way back highlighting how all of these solutions were really masking the underlying issues.
In my mid-thirties when I changed my approach to skincare from ‘battle mode’ to focusing on educating myself and nurturing my skin was when I had the breakthrough—achieving long-lasting extraordinary results and dramatic changes in my skin’s condition.
What do I mean by “battle mode”?
All too often when we breakout we focus all of our efforts on eradicating said nasty pimples instead of thanking the breakout…
Wait, what? Thanking the breakout?!
Our skin is a reflection of what is going on inside so a breakout can be our skin’s way of alerting us to some sort of internal imbalance.
And how do most of us thank our skin when it tries to warn us?
More often than not through over-cleansing, zealous scrubbing, picking or using harsh chemicals to dry out blemishes all of which can cause injury and damage to the skin’s delicate balance.
Using this “bandaid” mentality, we are effectively dealing with a symptom but not delving into what is most important—the root cause.
What is your skin trying to tell you?
The”aha” moment for me was when I finally learnt to look at a breakout as a symptom of something more important that my skin was trying to alert me to. Here are some of the possible conditions your skin is trying to warn you about if you experience frequent breakouts:
1. Hormonal Imbalances.
If you suffer from persistent acne getting your hormone levels checked is a great start—especially if you notice that your breakouts are predominantly along your jaw line and chin and tend to be deep under the surface, red and sore with no visible pus.
Our diet has a profound affect on our hormone levels. Milk & other dairy products (even organic ones) contain hormones including androgens. The androgens in dairy products increase oil flow & skin cell production which increase the likelihood of clogged pores. A proactive step we can take today: eat lots of healthy fats rich in Omega 3 (avocado, walnuts, fatty fish) to reduce inflammation, balance hormones and reduce androgens.
2. Digestive Distress.
One of the major functions of the skin is to help the body eliminate toxins. If our digestive system is sluggish and we are not having regular bowel movements (at least twice a day) our skin has to pick up the slack and try to help eliminate the toxic buildup. People who have problems eliminating waste often have acne since having to eliminate an excessive amount of toxins through the skin will irritate your pores.
One proactive step we can take today: drink hot water with the juice of half a lemon every morning on an empty stomach. This will kickstart our metabolism, help flush out toxins and assist in alkalising our system.
3. Food Sensitivities.
The most well-known culprits in the Western diet that can potentially pose problems for our skin are dairy, refined sugar and gluten. Lesser known possible triggers of acne are allergies to iodine and nightshade vegetables.
One proactive step we can take today: if you are suffering from pesky breakouts or unexplained redness and flushing of the skin, start a food journal and see if you can identify triggers in your everyday diet that you may be overlooking
4. Candida Overgrowth.
Persistent acne may be the result of Candida overgrowth in the body. Candida is a form of yeast that occurs naturally in the body and it is usually kept in check by friendly bacteria. The key to optimum skin health is maintaining a healthy balance of the good bacteria in our gut which can be done by eating fermented foods on a regular basis and/or taking a good quality probiotic.
The reason that Candida contributes to acne is that it produces toxins that overwhelm the digestive system and come out of the pores of our skin causing irritation and breakouts.
One proactive step we can take today: candida thrives on sugars so starve it by cutting out refined sugar. If the problem is chronic consider a Candida cleanse.
Stress in and of itself is not a bad thing and the human body is designed to cope with small amounts of it. However if you are under prolonged periods of stress, or the levels are too intense, it will undoubtedly affect your health. When the body is under stress it releases a stress hormone called cortisol that in excessive amounts can depress the immune system, bring on hormonal imbalances causing increased sebum production and inflammation.
One proactive step we can take today: get some Zzz’s. Sleep is the only time the body is not producing cortisol and is necessary for the body to repair itself so in a nutshell—you snooze, you win!
Holistic skincare and helping others with their own skin issues is now my passion. The first thing I urge people to do is take some time to think about what their skin is trying to tell them rather than fixating on just eradicating the symptoms—whether that be a breakout, dryness, flakiness, brown spots, an eczema flare up or another hypersensitive condition like rosacea. Our skin is our body’s largest organ of elimination and shows us when something within needs addressing. Working with a naturopath or holistic health practitioner can be a great way to discover what the underlying causes of your skin issues might be.
Our skin has an amazing built-in protection mechanism that signals us when something is array. So thank your breakouts!
It is crucial for our overall health and wellness to learn to decipher those messages and dig deeper to solve the root cause of the issue that is being brought to our attention by our skin.
For those of you suffering with painful breakout problems, try this natural mask instead of that chemical-filled harsh cleanser:
Author: Nichola Weir
Editor: Sarah Kolkka
Photos: Author’s Own & NicoleSimon/Flickr