Getting to the root of adult acne
Getting spots in adulthood can feel cruel and unjust. Acne is something often associated with teenagers so why would we be afflicted in our 20s, 30s and 40s?. But adult acne affects many women to varying degrees at different times of their lives. And even if you had clear skin in your teens, you may still confusingly experience zits later on.
Common triggers for adult acne are stress, poor diet and hormonal shifts caused by menstruation, hormonal contraceptives, pregnancy, the post-natal period and menopause.
Keeping hormones balanced
Hormonal imbalances where male sex hormone levels increase can be an underlying cause of acne breakouts. When these androgen hormone levels are high, our skin produces more sebum (oil), which then blocks pores. Bacteria proliferates and spots are formed.
Stress impacts on hormonal balance - as we release cortisol, the stress hormone, our adrenal glands also release some testosterone. This can have a knock on effect on our sex hormone balance.
Stress also increases inflammation in the body, which can trigger and further contribute to acne symptoms. If stress becomes chronic, and cortisol levels don't drop after a temporary increase (our normal stress response), then inflammation becomes dys-regulated.
Prioritising good quality sleep, taking regular exercise and building relaxation techniques into your daily routine can all help to manage stress.
Sugar and dairy are common culprits for skin issues. Both can increase the body's insulin response and compromise the health of the gut, which also increase inflammation.
Remember that as well as foods high in refined sugars (like sweets, chocolate, biscuits and cakes), products containing white flour and grains stripped of their husks are also high in sugar, so opt for wholegrains like brown rice, quinoa and wholemeal breads.
Alongside reducing sugar and dairy, boost those that have anti-inflammatory properties. These include plenty of fresh brightly coloured fruit and veg - especially berries, pomegranate, avocado and dark green leafy veg. A range of nuts and seeds, wild oily fish (if you eat it) and cold pressed oils like extra virgin olive oil. Also include ginger, turmeric and green tea.
Increasing your good bacteria
Your gut health is largely influenced by the balance of bacteria residing within it - also known as your microflora or microbiome. A healthy microbiome plays a role in hormonal balance and inflammation. So reducing sugar, alcohol and processed foods and increasing probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and keffir will help your good bacteria to grow and thrive.
Supporting your liver
Supporting your liver to process old or excess hormones is another important step in any acne prevention/resolution diet. Glucosinolates contained in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, rocket and watercress help the liver to metabolise hormones, so include 1-2 portions in your daily diet.
Other nutrients that benefit skin health should also feature in your diet. In particular zinc (in pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, beef, lamb and seafood), Vitamin C (rich in green leafy veggies, berries, kiwi, bell peppers and squash) and certain fats - see my post on which fats feed your skin for a run down.
Hydration, hydration, hydration
Keeping well hydrated supports your body to detoxify and eliminate waste - including through the skin, which is your largest organ.
Dehydrated skin can result in the double whammy of prematurely ageing (wrinkled skin) AND acne - not a combination you want. So drink 1.5-2 litres of water per day to keep your fluid levels up.
What you put on your skin
Keep your skincare routine simple and avoid over-cleansing/exfoliating which will strip the skin of its natural oils and stimulate it to produce more. Look for skincare products that are non-comodogenic (non-pore blocking).
Also avoid skincare ingredients that disrupt hormones (known as endocrine disrupting chemicals) found in many synthetic skincare products - look out for parabens, fragrance and phthalates.
If you would like to discuss how I can support your skin health, get in touch