Acne Is Not a Topical Problem. Here’s What You Really Need to Do.
When I was struggling with chronic cystic breakouts I thought I just had acne-prone and sensitive skin. I figured I hadn’t found the right cleanser or cream yet.
I thought that acne was a topical problem. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
I was so focused on just the pimples themselves that it never occurred to me that acne is a symptom of an internal problem.
It wasn’t until I became a Registered Holistic Nutritionist that I discovered the link between the food I was putting in my body, the causes of acne, and what to do about it.
Lotions & Potions
Slathering on cleansers and creams is like finding mould growing on your bathroom walls and instead of cutting away the drywall to address the leaking pipe, you just paint over the mould and hope it goes away.
But it doesn’t.
The pipe is still leaking and causes mould to continue growing (even with that fresh coat of paint). Which is what relying on topical treatments to heal your skin is like. The root causes are still going on inside your body and triggering flare-ups to occur.
There is no magic cream, treatment or facial that heals acne. No matter what the beauty industry, celebrities and Instagram influencers that endorse these products would have you believe.
All of my clients come into my world and say they’ve tried every acne system like Proactiv, Rodan & Fields or Dermalogica with little results. They’ve also used the medicated ointments from their dermatologist whether it be the benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or topical antibiotics.
Every single one of these things is simply a band-aid approach that just helps to manage the symptoms. Products should be used with this intention only and not be relied on as a “cure”. They do nothing to address the root causes of acne which include numerous factors:
- Poor gut health
- Liver toxicity
- Hormonal imbalance
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Chronic stress
In my program, The Clear Skin Solution, I work with my clients to correct these six acne-causing areas through proper diet, supplementation and lifestyle choices. This is where your focus should be when it comes to looking for a solution to stop your breakouts from occurring in the first place.
What Does The Science Say
Dr. Loren Cordain’s 2002 study in The Archives of Dermatology examined two non-westernized societies: the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and the Aché hunter-gatherers of Paraguay. Of the subjects examined over 843 days, no case of active acne (grades 1-4) was observed.
However, when they examined members of those same communities that had relocated out of their society and adopted the Western diet, acne was prevalent. He followed up his findings with this paper on the paleo diet and acne in 2014.
A 2013 study found that acne is primarily an inflammatory disease and that an anti-inflammatory drug could be expected to exert effects against acne. Maybe instead of a drug, you could just focus on an anti-inflammatory diet that naturally reduces inflammation in the body.
A 2015 study states that acne is an inflammatory skin disease that is closely related to the Western diet with the three main food classes promoting acne being:
- Hyperglycaemic carbs (ie. foods that raise your blood sugar levels like processed and refined foods, white flour/sugar/rice)
- Milk and dairy products
- And unhealthy saturated fats like trans-fats found in processed, refined and unhealthy junk food.
Eating the inflammatory Western diet of refined carbohydrates, dairy and trans fat promotes acne overgrowth. Focusing on a diet rich in a variety of plant foods, healthy fats and quality proteins (either omnivore or vegan) should be the foundation of your skin clearing journey. This is precisely what we did with my client below.
Client Case Study: What We Did to Heal Jessie’s Skin
When my client, Jessie, first came to see me she said she had tried literally every product on the market. She had also been spending hundreds of dollars a month on medical-grade skincare and treatments like peels, microdermabrasion and microneedling.
Her dermatologist had given all the various topical medicated ointments and she’d been on several courses of antibiotics. It would help lessen the number of breakouts temporarily but the acne always came back and never went away.
At our initial consultation together, we looked at her diet. We tweaked her diet and removed all the acne-triggering and inflammatory foods. I asked her to keep a food journal over the course of the next few weeks so we could pinpoint any possible food intolerances as well.
We fuelled her body with an anti-inflammatory diet. We focused heavily on vegetables, a few servings of fruit, healthy fats and quality protein. Doing so, provided her body with the nutrients it needed to heal itself from the inside out. We made sure her menu included a rainbow of colours in the produce department as each colour offers specific nutrients to the body.
One of the key nutrients we made her focus on was antioxidants. They’re most abundant in foods like raw cacao, artichokes, berries like wild blueberries and goji berries, spices like turmeric, herbs like cilantro and nuts like pecans and walnuts. Antioxidants protect the body (and skin) from free radical damage that creates acne-triggering oxidative stress.
Fast forward eight months, Jessie no longer had to spend hundreds of dollars every month on her products and treatments. We set her up on a simple skincare routine and now she only gets facials for fun instead of necessity. After years of battling acne, Jessie’s skin is finally clear. Her body is thriving on her clear skin lifestyle and has increased energy, no more brain fog, and her bloating is gone.
Remember, this is not an overnight process. Healing your body to get rid of your acne takes time. We are after permanent results. Not a quick fix. It can take several months for the skin to clear up so do not think two weeks of removing dairy will solve all your acne problems. It takes commitment and consistency.
But if you’ve changed your diet and have been eating healthy for a while, read my article When Eating Healthy Doesn’t Get Rid of Acne.