Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dealing with Acne Naturally

So, I have to start out saying that I am not a doctor and this should not be viewed as medical advice.  I can't claim to heal or treat any medical conditions and this is for educational purposes only. These are my personal experiences and may or may not work for your situation.

We've all heard it..."our skin is our body's largest organ."  Not only does this mean that what we put on our skin affect what's in our body, but what's in our body affects how our skin looks on the outside. Our skin, many times, is a reflection of what's going on in our body, and acne is no exception. It usually signals imbalance and/or inflammation.

The first question to ask when dealing with acne is: what is it INSIDE the body that's causing the external manifestation? Is it an omega-3 imbalance? Is it caused by a food intolerance or allergy? (Gluten intolerance can be a big one that causes acne.) Is it a hormonal imbalance? Rather than covering up the symptoms with harsh treatments topically, I always recommend visiting a qualified naturopath, dietician, or other holistic medical practitioner to look in to to find the exact cause of the condition and find a natural treatment. Without treating the internal cause, you're only covering up symptoms. 

As recently as 2007 I was struggling with hormonal acne pretty bad--all over my cheeks and jawline. T-zone, too. It was something that I had always lived with, along with hormonal imbalances.

The first step towards my healing was getting rid of estrogen mimickers in my diet and beauty routine. This means eating an organic diet as much as you can. Pesticide residues many times will act like estrogen in the body, throwing off hormonal balance and making you estrogen dominant. (Which can be the cause of acne, among other problems.) GMOs have also been shown in animals studies to affect hormones and increase inflammation; eating organic products ensures that you're GMO-free. Avoid plastic wrap, especially when heating food, as it can leach endocrine-disrupting phthalates in to your food, especially fatty foods, as it is a fat-soluble chemical. It also means avoiding xenoestrogenic chemicals like "fragrance," parabens, phenoxyethanol, phthalates, and aluminum.  Dietary Considerations
  • Processed flours and sugars also create inflammation in the body so limiting/avoiding them can work wonders in clearing your skin. 
  • Consider looking at food allergies and intolerances. If you have unexplained inflammation in your body and other skin issues, simple food allergies may be to blame. Common allergens include corn, eggs, dairy and nuts. Visit an allergist for proper testing.
  • Also look at the fats that you're eating.  Fat isn't bad, but it is when it's damaged. If you're eating unsaturated fats that have been heated to high temperatures they've likely oxidized; when you ingest them you're introducing oxidation to your body, which can lead to inflammation. If you're cooking foods in oil, keep your temps on the lower side (of course you need to heat any meats properly) and use stable fats like coconut oil for that purpose. Also make sure to have plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, found in salmon, fish oil, krill oil, walnuts and walnut oil, hemp seed oil, evening primrose oil, and flax seed oil.  

Flax Seeds The way that flax seeds help acne is three-fold. First, flax seeds are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, thus curbing the inflammation in the body, and thus in the skin. Second, flax is high in lignans. Lignans have been shown to inhibit 5 alpha-reductase, an enzyme involved in the conversion of testosterone to DHT (its more active form). In other words, it helps to balance the production of androgens, which, in excess can cause acne. Third, essential fatty acids strengthen the skin's cell membranes, thus hydrating the innermost layer of skin. This makes skin less susceptible to hormonal fluctuations. If your acne is hormone-related, you may consider adding flax seeds to your diet.  They can be added to practically anything--smoothies, salads, soups, even sandwiches and baked goods.  Or just eat them straight from the bottle!  I usually say 2 tbsp a day is what you need. Most flax seeds need to be ground in order to be digested and absorbed properly.  If you'd like to skip this step, check out the FlaxPro flax seeds on our website:

Baking Soda If you've worked with a doctor and can't figure out the internal causes to acne and want to try something simple topically, baking soda is a great idea. You use it like this--Make a paste with baking soda and water, and then use it to scrub your face gently to remove dead skin cells that can block pores, as well as removing/killing the bacteria that's causing the acne. You can do this every 3 to 10 days, depending on your skin. I do this maybe once every 10 days and really love how soft my skin feels afterwards. The less dead skin there is on your face, the fewer dead skin cells there are to block your pores. (Do note that some people with extremely sensitive skin may not be able to handle the alkalinity of the baking soda, so perhaps do a test patch first to make sure it doesn't irritate your skin.) To balance the pH of your skin afterwards and add hydration, I recommend our Splash of Lime Toning Mist.

For a gentle daily cleansing option with beneficial essential oils and extracts, check out our best-selling Cool Cucumber Cleanser.

Of course, this is a general and simple synopsis of a few considerations when looking at acne. Consult a dietician or other professional before altering your diet and lifestyle. 


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Lots of good advice here. Do you think there is anything unique about body acne (shoulders/back/chest) versus facial? I ask because I've never had a problem with my face but my body will break out and I can't figure if it's a sweat issue (as clothes cover that area) or if it's a body issue. Thanks Stephanie!

Melissa said...

I have struggled with acne on my face since I was a kid. Last year, I began to eat more organic food and stopped using hygiene products that are made of chemicals. I have been using the cool cucumber face wash and the face cream from Bubble and Bee Organic and do not have a problem with acne anymore. Thanks Stephanie!

Anonymous said...

Here's a very natural approach to healing acne. It agrees with everything that Stephanie said here. Scroll down to watch the video:

Maggie said...

Thank you for this post! I agree completely with everything here. For me, eating less processed foods and going gluten free has helped immensely with my persistent acne--people overlook what's going on internally far too often!

I wash my face using the oil cleansing method and moisturize with a bit of jojoba oil and it works FAR better than any of the drugstore or infomercial face washes/topical acne creams I've tried. I also recommended the Bubble & Bee facial washes, and use a warm washcloth to steam/rinse! I do a baking soda mask every couple of weeks, but sometimes I mix it with fresh squeezed orange juice instead of water and it is AMAZING. Highly recommended, just not more than once a week. Great post!

Unknown said...

Perfect timing with this post! I have not fully transitioned to a natural topical routine. My face wash and toner is natural, but my anti-aging treatments are still traditional. My two main concerns when transitioning completely to natural is: "Which product do I choose for superior anti-aging benefits?" and "How do I control my cystic acne?"

I did just receive my order of your Bubble & Bee face attempting to take care of concern #1. As for #2, glycolic acid is what has worked as my "cure" for cystic acne for many years. I have been trying to find info about how to get it in its natural state...any suggestions? Does rubbing papaya or tomato on my face work (some sites have suggested this)?! :)

Btw, new reader/customer...I recently found you through a comment you made on the "No More Dirty Looks" site. I love your background story and how much thought is clearly put into your products. Looking forward to placing another order soon. :)

Anonymous said...

I have used the baking soda exfoliation method for years. You can add a little baking soda to any of Bubble and Bee's cleansers or the suds of bar soap and rub the mixture into your skin.

For the person with the body acne, you can also use the baking soda method. That large area gets dead skin cells built up as well, especially if you are working up a sweat.

Any of the diet tips Stephanie gave will not only help your skin heal, but the rest of your body as well. Skin problems are an obvious and very visual manifestation of internal problems. Eating any kind of overly processed food can trigger outbreaks, both internal and external. This includes processed convenience foods that are labeled organic, vegan, paleo, all-natural, or whatever term you want to use!

Anonymous said...

I have found that taking extract of milk thistle can work wonders for acne, because it seems that strengthening the liver plays a role.