Spots, zits, pimples: we all get them, regardless of age and gender, but if your teenage years are long gone and you still suffer from more than the odd breakout, there may be an underlying cause. In recent years, adult acne has been on the rise, and we’re not talking about a few pimples here and there – acne is a lingering condition that leaves skin sore, bumpy and congested with inflamed cysts, and it doesn’t clear up with soap and water and a dab of spot cream.
So what is the difference between acne, a pimple and a blackhead?
Whiteheads, inflamed spots, a rash-like eruption of pimples with or without heads and cystic boil-like lumps are indicators that you might have adult acne. Pimples are an infection that accumulates pus and often develops a head because of a closed follicle, while blackheads occur when a pore is clogged with sebum and the follicle stays open, which oxidizes sebum, thus turning it black. While hormones, stress and a poor diet may to be blame for problem skin, it’s worth remembering that spotty skin is a visual barometer of your internal health. Although genetics can contribute to the health and look of your skin, environment and lifestyle also play a key part.
So what are the triggers to adult acne and how can it be treated?
1. Make the most of what you’re born with
As much as you might like to, you can’t fight your genes. If your parents suffered acne, you may too. The good news is that despite a genetic predisposition, you can avoid triggers by maintaining a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
2. Understand your hormonal make-up
If you suffer from adult acne, ask your doctor to conduct a battery of hormonal tests. One of the most common hormonal imbalances that can lead to acne is an increased sensitivity or raised level of testosterone and/or androgens. The condition polycystic ovarian syndrome/ovaries may also be involved with androgen imbalances as well as insulin and blood sugar imbalances. In fact, acne has often been described as diabetes of the skin. Adopting a low-glycemic diet (GI) and balancing your blood-sugar levels with supplements and foods containing chromium, calcium, magensium, zinc and alpha lipoic acid can help lower the insulin in your body. While herbal medicine and balancing blood sugar levels can help to balance testosterone and androgens. If your acne worsens mid-cycle or around your period, an oestrogen/progesterone imbalance may be to blame. Nearly half of all women experience acne at these times, with women over 30 experiencing it more frequently than women under 20, so be sure to ask your health care practitioner to test these levels to determine their ratio. The typical picture will be one of oestrogen dominance. Herbal medicine such as chaste tree and peonia and nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and B6 can help to raise progesterone levels to be more balanced with the estrogen, while you can reduce oestrogen levels by improving liver detoxification with foods and nutrients as well as limiting your exposure to non-organic dairy and meats. Manage stress. We have all experienced the dreaded breakout before an important event, presentation or that big first date. Managing stress and taking herbal medicine and nutrients that help to lower and control cortisol can help to keep acne under control. Vitamin B5 has also been shown to reduce acne and oily skin by regulating cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, while omega-3s, found in oily fish, flaxseeds and organic eggs, can help regulate stress hormones.
3. Change-up your diet
As we get older, poor diet choices and food sensitivities are more likely to be the cause of adult acne than hormonal imbalances. The clue is in the type of spot you have: fine red pimples or white heads on the face, neck and chest are usually caused by food reactions, while large pimples and cysts are generally hormonal. The first step to treating adult acne is to identify any food sensitivities you may have through an elimination diet. Wheat, dairy, sugar and fatty deep-fried or creamy foods are the usual suspects, although if your first acne flare-up appeared in your late 20s, salicylates and amines could also be possible causes.
4. Consider a detox
Your skin is often the first place to show the effects of an under-functioning liver because when the liver is clogged, wastes and toxins are pushed out through the skin, resulting in pimples and acne. A detox can help give your liver and elimination organs a spring-clean and boost your skin. While you may get break outs during a cleanse, once the toxins have been flushed from your system, you should notice an improvement. You can also support liver detoxification with supplements – The Beauty Chef Detox Inner Beauty Powder is packed with amino acids and minerals to help the cleansing process. To help get your skin and body back on the path the wellness, avoid alcohol, coffee and fried foods during a detox.
5. Get emphatic about lymphatics
Your skin is the body’s largest elimination organ, so when you’re overloaded with toxins on the inside, it shows on the outside. Lymphatic fluid rests just below the skin so when the lymphatic system is sluggish or unable to rid itself of toxins, the skin suffers. There are lots of ways to improve lymphatic flow: start by drinking at least two litres of filtered room-temperature water daily – The Beauty Chef Innerbeauty Water Filter is great for removing heavy metals, pollutants and other nasties found in tap water. Dry-brushing the skin daily for 1-2 minutes before a shower will also help, as will walking, jogging, swimming and cycling.
And now for the fun part… Did you know the look and location of your spots are clues to its cause? The Beauty Chef’s in-house naturopath Alison Cassar shares her clinical experience. Read below for a general guideline:
Chin and jaw line: Hormonal, especially when the spots go down the neck.
Forehead: Bowel congestion and constipation.
Between the eyes: Liver.
Cheeks: Various causes, including genetic.
Back: General toxicity and candida.
Whiteheads on the face: Can be digestive
Large cysts on the face (without heads): Indicates a hormonal imbalance.
Before taking any supplements, I highly suggest that you please contact your natural health practitioner.
Stay tuned for my next post “Your Quick Fix Guide To Zapping Zits”.
Based in Sydney’s Bondi Beach, Carla has been researching, writing and teaching about organic beauty and health for the last fifteen years. Carla is an expert on all things beauty, and is the author of the best selling book Feeding Your Skin, editor of Wellbeing Beauty Book and is the natural beauty columnist for Wellbeing Magazine.
She believes that organic skincare and food is the most sustainable choice for the health of both the individual and the environment.