Acne ... The Dreaded Four-Letter Word

by Diane Mack // July - August - September 2017

Acne … teenagers shudder at the thought of another break-out. Young 20-somethings wonder why all of a sudden unsightly pimples are appearing that didn’t show up during their teenage years. Adults who thought this pesky problem was a thing of the past are discovering that it’s once again rearing its ugly head. Whatever your age, acne has been a struggle for many for centuries.

But over the years, we have fortunately learned a great deal about this common skin condition, and how to treat it effectively. The best part? We can now treat acne holistically, without the use of harsh chemicals.

It is important to remember that, in addition to being the first line of defense against disease, skin is a detoxification organ. As such, it attempts to remove toxins that the body can not use or does not need. We can look at the skin as an ecosystem with good and bad bacteria and their byproducts balancing each other to remain healthy.

Candida is one of the bad bacteria that grows in our gut. Recent studies have shown that a bloom in candida will trigger the skin’s detoxification responses. Often, we associate acne with an excess of oil – but in this case, the candida bloom in the gut will make acne worse, especially in the cheek areas, which is not necessarily where we think of oily skin. Since candida bacteria resides in the gut, what we eat will either feed or starve it. A healthy diet consisting of plenty of water and unprocessed foods will starve the candida bacteria, and others, resulting in clearing your skin, and keeping it that way. One thing I want to make clear is acne does not start on the outside. Many outside influences can exacerbate the condition – including blockages in the skin’s pores – but we find that micro-comedones can be present 90 days before a breakout appears deep within the skin. Micro-comedones are what result in a pimple. The extra oils and inflammation caused by the natural detox response of the body will result in acne breakouts. 

So what does this mean? There are some common and practical things to know that will help you in your quest to get clear skin. Start with the external influences. For instance, use a fragrance-free detergent on laundry and stay away from dryer sheets or fabric softeners. Their chemicals leave a residue on clothes, sheets, and pillowcases which can be transferred to your skin and clog your pores, exacerbating breakouts. Cosmetics and hair products containing pore-clogging ingredients can also cause problems. Certain foods – such as dairy and sugar which feed the candida bacteria – should be avoided as well. Staying away from foods that contain androgen hormones – such as peanuts, wheat germ, and shellfish, to name just a few – should also be steered cleared of. Some medications and recreational drugs can also make acne worse (prescribed medications should be taken as discussed with your physician). 

It is also extremely important to receive a thorough skin analysis from a licensed professional who will take your health history, diet, and lifestyle into consideration when looking for answers to questions about why you may be breaking out. He or she will give you much more information and create an individualized plan to help clear your skin. Bear in mind that it can take up to a year with professional products and a treatment protocol to improve your acneic condition, so you will need to practice some patience. Remember how I said earlier that pimples can be growing for 90 days? Those will not disappear overnight, so it’s important to give your skin time to adjust to new treatment protocols. Finally, severe acne should be treated by a medical doctor.

As far as skin care goes, here are some suggestions you can do right now. Start with a good cleanser – one that does not contain harsh chemicals or SLS (Sodium lauryl sulfate). Scrubbing or exfoliating too much will cause skin to overreact, producing more oil and an inflammatory response. Inflammation, whether caused by scrubbing or by the skin’s detox response, isn’t good for acneic skin … you may be making your breakouts worse. When you first feel a breakout coming on, take a small piece of ice and rub it on the lesion for about five minutes, twice a day. And most importantly, do not pick at the pimple. A corrective serum, or what I call the “work horse” of skin care, and a moisturizer are important to include in your daily regimen as well – remember that skin needs water from the outside, as well as from the inside, to be healthy. Non-chemical sunscreen during the day is also a good idea to achieve and maintain healthy skin.

Whether you’re a young teen experiencing skin care challenges for the first time, or someone in your 40s who has been struggling with acne problems for decades, don’t give up on the dream of clear skin and a beautiful, healthy glow … a few simple, slight changes can help you manage acne and get you the skin you’ve always wanted.

Diane Mack

Licensed esthetician and oncology certified esthetician, and the owner of Esthetics By Caris, located inside Atlas Health & Wellness Associates (152 Capcom Ave., Suite 104, Wake Forest).