A Natural Approach to Adult Acne
Watching teenagers grow into their lanky bodies, we consider acne and braces almost part of their natural evolution. But many adults can suffer from ongoing acne well into their adult years. It is estimated that 40-54% of men and women over age 25 are still plagued by acne.
Not surprisingly, women have often tried many, many products, treatments, as well as prescription medications before finally searching help from a professional natural health care professional. They have spent literally thousands of dollars on these ineffective treatments and they are anxious to see results quickly.
I always have to explain that acne has several contributing factors that all need to be addressed for optimal results and it often takes weeks to months to see very obvious results with natural therapies. This is especially true if they’ve been on antibiotics or Roaccutane for their acne. I don’t make the rules, I’m just the messenger. But the good news is—once the fundamental cause of the acne is addressed, breakouts become are rare or complete resolved.
I believe knowledge is power, and when people are educated about the cause of their illness and are provided the proper information, they gain a sense of empowerment that they are part of their own health care and they then feel more inclined to make the right choices.
So with that in mind let’s take a look at some of the cause of adult acne.
It is a well established fact that hormonal fluctuations can cause acne— the reason for this could be twofold. Firstly, we know that the skin of acne sufferers contains higher concentrations of the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, a potent androgen (male hormone) that can increase oil production in the skin. This oil production can trap normal skin bacteria, which feed on this oil, and cause typical acne lesions. Yes, even women make testosterone. Many oral contraceptives control acne by indirectly controlling this conversion.
Androgenic control is a very important part of any good treatment plan for adult acne.
Another reason why acne often worsens around the period is inefficient liver clearance of hormones. Improving liver function is a good strategy for this type of acne. Liver “congestion” can be caused by an overload to the detoxification systems of the liver. Chronic chemical exposures (like for hairdressers, nail technicians, carpet layers, etc), bacterial and fungal endotoxins absorbed from the digestive tract, and dietary and cosmetic hormone disruptors all are examples of “liver congesters”
Your skin has a natural flora, just like your digestive tract. Even in very severe cystic acne, this normal flora is commonly all you can find on lab tests. Normal skin species include Propionibacterium acnes (Corynebacterium acnes) and Staphylococcus albus. P. acnes is believed to release chemicals that break down fats in skin oil that convert into potent free radicals, thus promoting an inflammatory cascade. Topical tea tree oil on acne lesions can help with this bacterial overgrowth.
Our diet is often a plethora of potential acne causing villains! The no-brainers are trans-fatty acids, most processed foods, and very fatty foods. Dairy is also associated with acne.
A good start is to eliminate these foods form your diet and stick to a 45% Protein, 35% carbohydrate, and 20% fat diet.
This diet will stabilize blood sugars that have been shown to be a factor in chronic acne. Researchers found skin glucose tolerance quite out of range in patients with acne. When given insulin their skin improved. This echoes what naturopaths have been saying for decades: consumption of sugar worsens acne! Supplemental chromium may be helpful if you have problems with balancing your blood sugar.
Believe it or not, I often find that food allergies can greatly contribute to chronic acne. This is especially true for the type of acne that does not seem to be affected by the monthly period – ie remain constant throughout he month. Big culprits here are dairy products and wheat.
Rarely have I seen a patient that suffers from long standing acne that has adequate zinc levels. Zinc is involved in local hormone activation, wound healing, immune system activity, and tissue regeneration.
Vitamin A is also a no-brainer for acne treatment. Synthetic vitamin A is the
prototype for Roaccutane—the conventional “big gun” of acne treatment. It is basically such high vitamin A doses that liver function has to be routinely observed. But vitamin A in smaller doses over longer periods of time can be also very effective. Unfortunately in Australia a severe phobia about vitamin A exists in the conventional medical community.
B5 (pantothenic acid) is another fairly important nutrient as this vital vitamin helps you to metabolize fats and oils as well as contribute to energy production. Some studies have shown very definite benefit with high dose B5 supplementation.
Topical Skin Products
One of the worst things you can do for your skin is to dry it out in hopes that this will stop the oil production that causes acne. So people use scrubs and antiseptics and wash their face multiple times a day. This is the worst thing you can do as this seriously dries out your skin and causes irritation and inflammation. Your skin will take that as a signal to produce more oil and therefore more acne lesions.
For daily skin care, you are in very good hands with Ananda and her organic skin care.
Topical B5 and B3 creams have also shown benefits in clinical studies and are sometimes prescribed through compounding pharmacies.
This article was meant as a basic overview and did in no way cover all possible natural treatments for acne. This skin condition is very amenable to natural treatments but patience is required. A must rule out, in my opinion, is liver congestion and digestive contributors. I also recommend professional guidance to make sure the treatment plan is individualized for you!