Skin, along with oil glands and sweat, hair and nails are all part of the Integumentary system. Their main function is the protection of deeper tissue, as well as protecting the body from dehydration (water loss), foreign pathogens and aid it in retaining heat (maintaining proper body temperature). Skin is the largest organ in the body and the most exposed, therefore it is important to keep it health and aid its its optimal function.
Skin in composed of two distinct types of tissue the outer layer being the epidermis and the underlying layer the dermis.
Epidermis: composed of several distinct layers of epithelial tissue. Most cells are keratinocytes, meaning they produce keratin, which makes the cells (thus the skin) hard, tough, and protective. This exposed outer layer of skin, constantly produces new skin cells – shedding old ones and melanin – which provides the skin with its tint of colour.
Dermis: A strong and elastic layer of skin that aids in binding the body together. It consists of nerve ending (pain receptors), blood vessels, sweat and oil glands, elastic fibers and collagen.
How to get the healthiest looking skin
Skin needs to be nourished and protected to keep it looking supple, health and youthful. There are numerous things that one can do to aid in having healthy looking skin.
- Drink lots of water, stay hydrated
- Protect your skin from the sun with supplementing or eating foods high in Vitamin E and C.
- Get enough sleep – don’t let yourself be sleep deprived
- Reduce stress – practise yoga, deep breathing
- Exercise – get your endorphins moving, work your sweat glands and aid your body in detoxing
- Dry skin brush – everyday!
- Use lukewarm to warm water when washing your face and stay away from harsh chemical facial cleansers.
What is Acne ?
Acne is a pleomorphic or pro-inflammatory disease with is one of the most prevalent disease in dermatology today. Acne commences in the sebaceous hair follicle. The sebaceous gland produces oil or sebum which moves upwards along the hair follicle and displace itself on the surface of the skin. When skin is not it its best, and there are either clumps or uneven areas with old dry skin the glands get plugged, the sebum/oil gets trapped with bacteria within the gland with the hair follicle.
Acne manifests mainly in adolescence, starting at puberty and ending around early adulthood. However, there are many adults who continue to have persistent acne even past the age of 40 or 50.
There are six common and distinct way acne can occur/appear on the face, arms, legs and back (they may appear on other areas of the body as well).
Whiteheads: Forms under the surface of the skin when oil, bacteria and dead skin cells become enclosed in skin pores. This is not a form of inflammatory acne.
Blackheads: Are a result of clogged hair follicles where the pimple has pushed up to the surface of the skin. The appearance of this acne is black in colour, which is an outcome of oxidation to melanin (not dirt). This is not a form of inflammatory acne.
Papules: Appears as a small, solid pimple that is risen and inflamed on the skin’s surface. Tender when touched, does not produce pus but may come with a rash.
Pustules: Appear as small inflamed pimples on the skin’s surface. They are filled with yellow or white pus.
Nodules: Appear as large, solid and painful pimple. Filled with blood and pus, they grow under the surface of the skin. Over time they can harden.
Cysts: A deep skin infection. Causes a red, painful pus filled pimple to form. They can cause scarring.
How do we get acne?
The most frequent types of acne that are produced on the face are those associated with gender and one’s stage of life. The first is associated with puberty and adolescence. The change in hormones levels during and after puberty affects approximately 80-85% of teenagers. In terms of gender there are more common reasons why males and females get acne. Females tend to be affected by acne around their menstrual cycle and later on do to menopause. Males are more likely to be affected by cystic acne.
Below are a few common reasons acne’s appearance on the skin. Very rarely is it just a single reason, as most of these causative factors work together to bring stress and imbalance to the body which overtime will lead to inflammation and possibly acne manifesting on the skin.
Having a properly balanced digestive system is key to having overall good health. Any small unbalance will manifest itself elsewhere on the body – the skin being a very prominent place.
SIBO, intestinal permeability and constipation are very prevalent issues with individuals with acne. SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can eventually become so invasive in the small intestine that the bacteria, which is competing for nutrients with the body, will eventually result in nutritional imbalances. If the body does not take up enough zinc the presence of acne on the skin becomes more prevalent as does its persistence. Moreover, if the skin is not being properly supported with nutrients that it requires to build collagen and keratin it will grow less healthy and as a result be more prone to outbursts of acne and other forms of skin inflammation.
Intestinal Permeability or Leaky gut syndrome is linked to skin irritation – acne being among this issues. There are many ways that leaky gut syndrome can bring irritation to the skin. This condition can be a great burden on the liver. If the liver cannot properly cleanse toxins from the body, overtime the toxic load the body can handle is breached and issues such as acne being to manifest. A build up of toxins in the body results in an ever continues supply of fuel for inflammation. As can be seen in the image of “Inflammatory Skin Zones” there are specific places where acne will appear depending on the disfunction of a specific organ. When the liver is out of balance, acne has a tendency to appear between the brows, between the ears and the eyes and predominantly if the liver is burdened by heavy toxins on the back of the individual. Doing a gentle liver cleanse or simply consuming dandelion root coffee or tea can make a significant difference on the presence of acne, aiding in its diminishment from the skin after a week or two of continuous treatment with the herbal concoction.
Constipation is another way that toxins build up in the body. Constipation can be defined differently by different people, however to have a more concrete understanding let us go with the Rome III Diagnostic criteria of constipation which entails; 25% or more bowel movements are either (or a combination) stained, lumpy or hard stools, leaving the feeling of an incomplete removal of feces, manual removal or less than 3 bowel movements a week. Your bowel movement should be painless and should reflect the amount of times you consume food in a day. As with leaky gut, constipation can lead to a build up of toxins in the body which can over time lead to increases of inflammation. Constipation can be a result of poor diet (particularly one that lacks in fibre and water), SIBO and even candida and parasites.
Candida and Parasites are another culprit of acne. Even with a good clean diet, if there was a previous incident such as antibiotic use, or a bad pervious bad diet that lead to an overgrowth of either that was not treated, or a vacation these issues – candida and parasites – will persist in the gut and if they grow out of hand can develop elsewhere in the body. Dr. Alejandro Junger of the Clean Program stated that even after a patient of his was placed on his clean program, they continued to experience severe acne on their skin. After discovering the presence of both candida and parasites and with three months of treatment, both issues as well as the acne had cleared up completely.
During puberty and into adolescence as well as with menstruation hormones in the body will fluctuate. With puberty it will take time for the hormones to balance out until growth and development are completed. With menstruation if a clean healthy diet and lifestyle are kept hormones should fluctuate and rebalance naturally. If this is not the case, PMS symptoms can be very prevalent, acne can become very inflamed and if hormones are not able to naturally rebalance themselves it may lead to a stop in ovulation.
Androgens are sex hormones (androstenedione – an androgenic steroid that is slightly weaker than testosterone) that are produced by both males and females in varying amounts. Though women do require androgen they become very sensitive to its fluctuation within the body. Higher levels of androgen circulation in the body resulting from the ovaries producing too much testosterone (which can also lead to polycystic ovarian syndrome POS) will eventually lead to the appearance of acne on the skin. When levels are normal the sebaceous glands of the skin remain small, when levels increase so do the glands and thus allowing for a greater chance of dead skin and bacteria to fall in with the follicle.
Skin is influenced by one’s emotional status – whether one is depressed, worried or anxious over time negative emotional can be seen upon the skin. Stress, for example plays a role in the severity of acne. It has been shown that acne can worsen in its severity when an individual is under great stress. It is important to experience these emotions, however it is also important to bring the mind back into balance and focus whether through meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
Stress can also play a role in altering the microflora of the digestive tract. This overtime can lead to intestinal wall permeability which can induce systemic and localized inflammation of the skin.
The medical system has swaid its opinion on the effect diet has on acne over the past few hundred years. Often in later decades its opinion has been greatly influenced by the Agribusiness and Corporations alike to sway into their favour. However, more evidence is being shown that (though this is also depended on the individual, their heredity and the quality of food they are eating – heavily processed foods are of the lowest quality) glycemic load/index, milk and milk products, the Standard American Diet, refined fats and sugars all to a degree affect the body negatively and increase the prevalence and severity of acne on the skin.
When chocolate and nuts are put up as a culprit for acne surfacing it needs to be questions what the quality was of these food products. Did they contain additives, preservatives, colouring agents, and refined fat and sugar? If one was to eat chocolate made from pure cacao beans, sweetened naturally with vanilla bean and a bit of organic raw cane sugar would the effect be the same. If the individual ate nuts that were not rancid – opened nuts in exposed air and hot environments will result in their oils going rancid, would they have the same results with acne. Furthermore, is the individual allergic. Going back to digestive wellness, it is important to be aware of which foods are allergens for an individual or are intolerances. Either case can contribute to the appearance of inflammation on the skin.
Diets high in refined sugar, fat and processed carbohydrates will result in a body that is in a perpetual state of inflammation, with high levels of free radical damage and oxidation. Although acne may not appear on the face it can become present else where on the body, away from sight and deeply embedded into the skin.
If you are experiencing sever acne, start keeping track of what you are eating, when you consume it and how you feel before during and after each meal (mentally and physically). Over time you will begin to see a connection.
REMEMBER there is no one reason for acne and every individual is different and should be treated as such. It’s important to look at all aspects of an individual’s life – diet, emotional and mental history, lifestyle, heredity etc.
Natural & Homemade Cures for Acne
To combat acne a combination of different treatments is needed to provide long-term results for the individual. Conventional therapies can be used, such as antibiotic use, oral isotretinoin (Accutane), benzoyl peroxide, however most of these treatments come with side effects, some of them quite sever. It is a good idea to try to start with a natural approach, give it a few months and as a last resort look towards conventional therapies.
Beneficial Nutrients to Consume
Low levels of both Vitamin A and Zinc in the body can aid in the prevalence of acne on the skin. Both these nutrients are beneficial in fighting off infections in the body, such as the infections of inflammatory acne. There are many other supplements that can be taken orally however it is good to know the systemic reason/root cause of the acne prior to their consumption. The supplements listed below are overall beneficial for any root cause of acne.
Vitamin A – Retinol form (unless pregnant – in which case no more than 5000 IU) a maintenance level of 5000-10000 IU until a difference is seen, do not take for a prolonged time.
Beta Carotene, the plant source of vitamin A can be found in yellow, orange and dark green vegetables. Retinol, the animal source of vitamin A can be found in fish liver oil, egg yolks and milk products.
Before supplementing with Vitamin A (outside of a multi-vitamin) it is good to gently cleanse the liver and supplement with probiotics. Beta-carotene the plant food source of vitamin A is converted to retinol within the liver and small intestine, if they are not working optimally this will not occur, so it is important to have them working effectively to ensure that all food source of vitamin A are being properly utilized – thus properly aiding the body.
Zinc Citrate – between 50-60 mg daily. Start off with zinc before trying Vitamin A. Often this is the main nutrient that is depleted in the body as it is the number one deficiency in food. It is also depleted from the body as a result of taking the birth control pill and through excessive alcohol consumption.
Zinc can be found naturally in most animal good, oysters and fish, red meat and liver as well as poultry. Although best absorbed through animal source it is also found within whole grains, legumes, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, ginger root and mustard seed.
Probiotics – Inflamed acne such as large deep pustules are often the result of an infection. They swell, seem ginormous and are very uncomfortable. Antibiotics can be prescribed to aid in their elimination but they may not help (for myself this was the case and along with not removing the acne I got a yeast infection). A high dose of probiotics, between 150-100 billion will aid in reducing the acne. Having a healthy gut environment aid in having a healthy body. probiotics will aid in feeding healthy bacteria, aid in the uptake of nutrients and with time combat both candida and parasites. If the acne is not to sever even a daily dose of 10-50 billion will work wonders. Make sure to take with food, preferably a high fiber meal or snack.
Vitamin E – This nutrient is essential for the uptake, utilization and regulation of Vitamin A retinol. Aids in the inhibition of lipid peroxide formation as well as boosting the body’s immune system.
Vitamin E can be found within animal sources – though they are poor – including butter, egg yolk and liver. Elsewhere it is found in vegetables, seeds and nuts and their oils as well as wheat germ.
Tea Tree Oil – This oil is great for spot treatment as it has wondrous antiseptic properties – making it a great skin disinfectant. Bacteria can be a great acne causer so it is a good idea to make sure that the face gets a good…yet gentle cleaning every once and a while. Having tea tree oil included in your cleanser or lotion is a great way to get that done.
Holy Basil – The oil from this herb has been shown to be quite beneficial as an antibacterial treatment for acne. It also aids in reducing inflammation and soothing the skin.
Red sandalwood and sandalwood – Both these herbs have been shown to reduce topical inflammation on the skin. They are also both antimicrobial, antiseptic and beneficial as skin softeners. They aid in reducing itchiness and removing skin blemishes (acne scaring).
Dry Skin Brush – Brushing away dry dead skin is a great way to ensure that your pores do not get clogged and that your skin can breath!
Sunshine – although some may say that the sun may not be the best for your skin if you cover up your acne and make sure to supplement with both Vitamin A and E and use a clean, plant based and organic sunscreen (one that will allow your body to still make vitamin D) letting your skin get exposure to sun and producing the very potent antioxidant Vitamin D will aid in reducing your acne and inflammatory symptoms. Make sure to exfoliate afterwards and moisturize (with natural aloe vera or Nature’s Aid).
Acupuncture – This oriental rejuvenating facial treatment has been shown to reduce and/or eliminate the appearance of acne on the skin. Acne is said to be the result of too much heat and fluid retained in the Greater Yin Channel of the Hand/Lung. Acupuncture aids in reversing this issue.
Having clean eating habits is essential. Limiting or (best) eliminating refined sugars, refined fats and refined carbohydrates as well as all allergens and inflammatory foods (night shades, dairy products, wheat products) will help in alleviating stress from the body and allowing it to heal.
Enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Type to use local and organic as much as possible. However, don’t feel bad to treat yourself and enjoy something you really like once in a while (stressing over food will only make you feel worse and stress is not good for the skin) just make sure to pay attention to any changes you may experience during such times. You make figure out what foods are possibly triggering your acne.
Plant Based Products that work Great
Corpa Flora Camellia Facial Cleanser; with vitamins A, B, C, E and Omega 3, 6, 9. Cruelty free, suitable for all skin types and mainly Organic, plant based.
Skin Essence Fresh Facial Cleanser; Cruelty free, plant based, 100% Organic
Maiga Bye Bye Acne; Aids in neutralizing the bacteria and reduces inflammation (it is amazing and works miracles!!)Fairtrade and 100% Organic! Only contains five ingredients – Shea butter, Neem oil, Tea Tree oil, Rosemary extract and Jasmine essential oil.
Skin Essence Facial in a Jar; An exfoliant and softening mask that aid in gently removing dead skin from the face as well as cleaning pores and nourishing the skin. Cruelty free, all plant based and 100% Organic.
Nature’s Aid All Natural Skin Gel; Cruelty free and all plant based. It is made up of five wonderful ingredients – aloe vera, tea tree, witch hazel, vitamin e and rosemary. It makes a great moisturizer and is very beneficial for sun burnt skin.
Acne and Makeup – A Complex Relationship
At least 80% of cosmetic products on the market today contain ingredients that are both harmful to the skin and environment. These chemicals have been noted to be potentially carcinogenic, responsible for issues with reproductive health as well as resulting in asthma and inflammatory reaction on the skin and within the body.
Some aestheticians believe that there is no use in applying an acne treatment on the face is during the day harmful and chemical filled cosmetics are in use. Cosmetic induced acne is most prevalent on the cheeks and chin – this can be associated with the toxicity effect on the skin directly or an affect internally in the body that is being displayed topically on the skin.
Rules to follow
- You must set any liquid products that you use with powder – especially if one has acne
- What is important with acne is to not use oil based foundations, water is best as you do not want to clog your pores – however technically speaking if you put makeup on your face you are clogging up your pore – oil based would make this much worse.
- Don’t do anything that will make you sweat with makeup on, this means going to the gym or any physical activity that will cause your body to sweat. This will clog the pores even more and make one break out more profusely with acne.
- If one has acne prone skin and chooses to wear makeup it is important to remember to always remove the makeup as soon as you get home and follow it up with your regular cleansing procedures. This could include; cleanse, tone, moisturize, serum, spot treatment.
- Clay masks are also good to do, however not more than twice a week.
Oil or Water Based Moisturizers on the Skin?
The views on this are very divided. I for one use oil based moisturizers and cleansers – however they are 100% plant based and organic, no fillers. Water based moisturizers and products for that matter do not absorb into the skin naturally, they need to contain a synthetic chemical compound that will move the essential nutrient added to the product into the skin. Skin is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. If Vitamin E or C is added to a moisturizer to benefit the skin it will provide very little benefit if any at all as the nutrients will stay on top of the skin instead of being absorbed in (Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin some of it may be absorbed with aid from the sebum on the skin if it has not been washed away).
The decision is up to you. There are many great oil based alternative which I have listed above that can be tried along side healthy and positive lifestyle and dietary changes to aid in reducing the presence and prevalence of acne on the skin.
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