Adult acne. If you have it, you hate it. If you don’t have it, you probably don’t know how lucky you are. Because it sucks. I can’t stress that enough.
I’m lucky that I only have a mild case – the acne typically only appears around my chin. According to this face map, that means I get acne due to hormones and my menstrual cycle. Just an FYI, I always have acne regardless of my time-of-the-month. But the worst part about this acne is it’s typically cystic. I can feel it before it comes to surface.
So what do I do? At the beginning of my acne journey, I was able to largely manage breakouts through my diet. Although I haven’t been able to completely eliminate them, I have a much better understanding of what triggers it.
What causes adult acne and how to fix it
Because dairy is chalk full of hormones, even if the cow’s milk is labelled “hormone-free”. Milk still has the hormones from the cows producing the milk. Aaaand my face map shows my acne is related to hormones? Time to say bye-bye to milk.
Years ago I stopped consuming dairy completely. I stopped drinking milk (I used to have a glass every day), eating cheese, and eating anything with dairy products. This was super tough and I only made it a few months before giving into cheese, but today I won’t consume milk or cream. I have almond milk and coconut milk instead. Also I try to avoid prepared foods that have a lot of dairy in them. I find alternatives with other whole food ingredients and don’t usually have milk unless I’m consuming a bit of cheese on pizza or something similar.
For a complete sweet-tooth who grew up with junk food in all corners of the house, this is the most challenging change. Consuming too much sugar boosts your insulin, and too much insulin can trigger growth of pore-clogging cells and boost activity of your oil glands. Welcome home, acne.
I’ve gone through a couple refined-sugar-free periods and my skin is always clear afterwards. Refined sugar can be found hidden in so many things, from fruit juices to even peanut butter.
These are the ways I have reduced my refined sugar intake:
- Eliminated white breads and pastas, opting for whole grains instead;
- Use honey or maple syrup as sweeteners sparingly;
- Avoid store-bought baked goods. I make my own, which allows me flexibility on the ingredients;
- Drink water instead of juice. I choose to get my fruit intake in smoothies (with no sweetener) or I enjoy them on their own;
- Dark chocolate. I know this isn’t perfect, but chocolate is my vice. So instead of feeling bad about it, I make sure to consume a dark chocolate, that’s at lease 70% cacao (that has other benefits, too!)
Soy is considered estrogenic, which means it can act like a mild estrogen in the body. There is debate out there about whether or not these hormones have enough of an effect on humans to cause acne (some say it helps acne), but in my personal experience, soy is not my face’s friend.
I used to eat edamame beans often, but stopped after I noticed breakouts. I reduce my intake of soy-based vegetarian foods (I rarely prepare tofu or tempeh myself). As mentioned, I try and avoid prepared foods, being sure that hidden soy doesn’t make it’s way into my diet too often.
However, if I am going to have soy, I try to consume a fermented and organic version. While this doesn’t make a big difference for acne, it means that I’m exposing my body to the most natural and easily digestible form of the food.
Our bodies have such a complex endocrine system that governs all of our hormones. These hormones act together in a symphony, but when one is slightly out of line, the entire symphony sounds terrible. Certain hormones are linked to acne, especially if we produce too much or not enough of them. The common ones are insulin (blood sugar management), cortisol (stress hormone), estrogen (female sex hormone) and testosterone (male sex hormone).
We’ve briefly touched on insulin already, but it generally causes inflammation and can trigger acne. Estrogen and testosterone can trigger acne through similar pathways. If you are unsure about whether or not you have imbalanced hormones, get in touch with me and we can check your levels for you.
How can you fix your hormones? There are a lot of dietary changes one can make that will likely have some impact, and these are largely: increase intake of healthy fats and get rid of unhealthy fats (vegetable oils, trans fats and hydrogenated oils), eat whole grains and eliminate refined sugars and carbohydrates, drink lots of water, eat protein with every meal and snack, and enjoy your colourful vegetables filled with phytonutrients.
Overburdened liver and poor elimination
Another major cause of acne that is less food-related is an overburdened liver and poor elimination. Our livers are responsible for filtering toxins and waste out of our system. The liver transforms these toxins into compounds that are less harmful, which get eliminated in our stool. Because we live in such a toxic world and are exposed to countless chemicals on a daily basis, our livers are working harder than ever. Combine that with poor nutrition and lifestyle choices, and your liver can easily become overburdened. Toxins back up in our system and our body tries to find another way to eliminate them. Sometimes, that’s through the skin, which can cause conditions like acne.
Interestingly, the liver is responsible for detoxifying and deactivating some of our hormones so that we can excrete them when we don’t need them anymore. When our liver is overworked, these hormones don’t properly get detoxified and deactivated. If the liver is working, but we aren’t having frequent enough bowel movements, the deactivated hormones can become reabsorbed in our bodies causing high levels of hormones. High levels of hormones can trigger acne.
How do we fix this? Detoxify your life. Reduce exposure to toxins like chemicals in health and beauty products, household items, and even the food you eat. Improve your elimination by drinking lots of water, eating lots of fibre, and taking care of your microbiome with fermented foods and probiotics.
As you can see, there are a number of different reasons one can experience acne. I haven’t even mentioned how it can be related to food intolerances, or even candida overgrowth. But I will talk about those topics in another post sometime soon. In the meantime, diet is the best place to start, and if you see no change, keep moving down the list.Follow