I thought I'd share my top three tips on how to have blemish-free skin because unfortunately I have become an expert on the subject. In my early 20s, my skin started to break out with horribly painful cystic acne and I tried everything...and I mean EVERYTHING to try to clear it up. I tried antibiotics, thousands of dollars of facial products, facials, microdermabrasion, laser treatments, every diet out there, topical treatments, and even the "stop and do nothing" method. It has taken me a long time and a lot of self investigation to figure out how to clear my skin. And even now my skin isn't perfect. I still get the occasional spot or two. But I am happy to say it is no longer on my list of top concerns...which is huge as some of you suffering from breakouts may understand. So I would like to share with you my results of about 10 years of research :-)!
Reduce stress levels
Modern society has created chronic stress levels for much of the population. Our bodies where designed to handle short term stresses like running from a wild animal or protecting your family. When we are chronically bombarded with stress (think traffic, juggling multiple jobs, relationships, media stimuli, 40+ hour work weeks etc)...our bodies are on overload.
Stress affects our hormones and our hormones affect our skin. Normally our body would perceive a threat, trigger the hypothalamus and set an alarm system off in our bodies. Then nerves and hormones would prompt your adrenals to release a surge of adrenaline and cortisol (this is so you could run really fast from that lion that was about to eat you). Then our body would return to normal once we perceived the threat to be gone. However, with chronic stress we constantly have elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels.
Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream. When our blood sugar and insulin levels rise, we experience a serious increase in inflammatory chemicals at a cellular level. This causes inflammatory diseases such as acne to worsen dramatically. Cortisol and other adrenal steroids can act as androgens and stimulate the sebaceous (oil) glands resulting in a flare-up of acne. Cortisol also alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. Digestive health is crucial for clear skin as well.
Ways to decrease stress: meditation, yoga, deep belly breathing, spending more time with people less time on gadgets & computers, simplifying your life so you work less, learning to say no, praying, having a spiritual practice, eating healthy, exercising, feeding your passions.
Improve your gut health
The gut (intestinal tract) is something that most of the population rarely thinks about. You put food in your body, the gut does its job and the waste comes out. But in all honesty, gut health is probably the most important aspect to a persons well being.
According to Green Med Info "The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid content and even mood itself, may have important implications in acne. The intestinal microflora may also provide a twist to the developing diet and acne research.”
In Chinese medicine there is a symbiotic relationship between the lungs, large intestine, and skin. Often symptoms manifest in two or more of the related problem area. In Western terms and in relation to acne, I believe this to be leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut occurs when normally preventable molecules, germs, and bacteria pass the mucosal barrier of the bowels (the barrier between the inside of the gut and the rest of the body). These molecules and toxins than enter the blood stream and irritate the bowel lining. The body then tries to rid itself of these foreign substances by pushing out of your skin...resulting in acne and other inflammatory skin diseases.
The most common causes of leaky gut are: NSAIDs, aspirin, alcohol, pesticides, GMO foods, conventional cows milk, sugar, antibiotics, and birth control pill.
Ways to to increase your gut health: avoid listed triggers above, drinking bone broth daily, adding raw cultured dairy to your diet, eating fermented foods, taking a probiotic, using coconut products in cooking, and soaking grains.
Rethink your facial products
You might forget it at times but your skin is a living breathing organ. It needs to be treated with tender loving care. Often when a person gets blemishes there's a tendency to get aggressive; through scrubbing, harsh topical treatments, or stripping natural oils.
Your skin has flora. It's usually non-pathogenic, and either isn't harmful or offers benefit. The benefits bacteria can offer include preventing transient pathogenic organisms from colonizing the skin surface (think staph), either by competing for nutrients, secreting chemicals against them, or stimulating the skin's immune system. When you put harsh chemicals on the skins surface or over wash, you take away the good guys. So if you think you over wash or have been using harsh anti-acne washes, it's time to call an end to the battle and declare peace. Try decreasing washes and just washing your face in the evening with a natural cleanser. I love Suki exfoliating cleanser.
Also, it's a complete myth that people with acne need oil-free products. Yes you don't want things that clog your pores but that's more in the world of cosmetics. If you wash your face and strip it of its natural oils and then put an oil free moisturizer on, you're more than likely going to get oily skin. If your skin senses it needs oil, it will create more of it. That's why facial oils like rose hip seed oil are amazing for acne sufferers.
One final tip for your skincare regiment...DON'T pick, pop, squeeze, or touch those spots! I know it's hard. But they heal 99% faster when you leave them alone.
Remember you are beautiful with our without your blemishes. Beauty comes from within and the blemishes are temporary. Love your body from the inside out and don't worry too much.