My first insight into acne came during high school (it’s a pretty common occurrence during that time, what with all our hormones going crazy), when I would see my fellow peers covered in the sore, red pimples and acne scars. I was soooo thankful acne wasn’t a problem I was faced with. All I had were pimples in the usual spots like my forehead, chin, nose, etc.
Then came after high school…
My twin sister had sailed through high school like me without the grips of acne, but suddenly however, she began to develop the painful pimples all over her face. She would often exclaim how painful it was, how her face stung all the time, and how it would hurt to even wear makeup (as it would usually flare it up). We managed to nail it down to the health of her gut, and understood that it wasn’t hormonal (as she would have suffered with it during her teenage years if it had been).
A lot of my friends who had acne turned to conventional methods, but she was determined to help heal her skin (and gut) using natural remedies to help target the actual cause of the problem, not just mask the symptoms.
She tried tea tree oil, natural cleansers, and even tried slathering various types of food on her face (banana and avocado anyone?), but nothing seemed to be working. There had to be a deeper problem going on…
Skin Health Starts With Our Gut
One of the things I learned in the process of helping my sister heal her skin was there’s no overnight solution (although we all wish there were), and the issue was as much to do with what was happening inside her body as it was outside.
The skin is like a window to our gut, and is often the first place to show signs that something isn’t right inside.
A study found that those with bacterial overgrowth in the gut were more likely to suffer from severe skin conditions like acne. It was found that those with digestive problems such as ulcerative colitis, IBS, and Crohn’s disease were also more likely to have skin problems.
Those with leaky gut were also more likely to suffer from skin issues, like cystic acne.
The specifics of it all are very individual, however, addressing gut problems and improving your overall gut health are important steps to helping acne. This method will take a lot more time, but can be just as rewarding and be more of a long-term solution.
What my sister found most helpful in clearing up her acne was:
- Cleaning up her diet. This involved eating a diet that was low in fructose, dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and rich in an array of fresh veggies (she’s vegan so she didn’t eat meat).
- Apple cider vinegar. Her gut was very aggravated during this time, so she would have apple cider vinegar constantly throughout the day just to help soothe it, and encourage the production of stomach acid to aid digestion (this helped her body digest food a lot better).
- Skinshot. This helped her the most in clearing up her skin up. It’s an all natural formula made from Scandinavian wild herbs, where they extracted all the nutrients (and other good stuff 😉), using a process known as tincture, to create this herbal formula which you would take similar to that of a shot (hence the name “skinshot”). It’s vegan-friendly, cruelty-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and preservative-free. The idea was the high concentration of nutrients in the solution would aid the body in clearing away toxins and free radicals to help the body better heal itself without worrying about all the other toxins and things. (Here’s my sister’s full review of the product). Unfortunately the creator of this product has stopped producing it now.
Some other natural remedies that have proved to work on others include:
- Aloe Vera. Applying pure aloe vera (either straight from the plant, which I highly recommend, or from a gel – though it must be 100% natural with no preservatives) can help heal acne scars when applied daily, but you must be consistent with this.
- Taking a high quality probiotic. Helping to heal the gut can be a major step forward in helping to relieve symptoms of acne, and many other skin conditions. I’ve tried many over the years, but the one I’m most happy with at the moment is one I get from my naturopath. However, when choosing your own good quality probiotic there are a few things to keep in mind; 1. Multiple strains. Probiotics with different strains of bacteria have proven to be more effective than single strain probiotics. Some good strains of bacteria that help with acne include L. Acidophilus (this may help with vaginal health, diarrhoea, and acne), L. Rhamnosus (which can help with GI support and eczema), L. Plantarum (which can help inflammation). 2. Balanced formula. There are many formulas that are made up of mainly two strains of bacteria (like L. acidophilus and L. rhamnosus) with a sprinkle of other strains added in for label appeal. Ensure you’re choosing a probiotic that contains a balanced formula of the different strains. 3. CFU. This measures how potent a probiotic is, and may range from 2 billion to 100 billion. Look for a probiotic that guarantees CFU at the time of expiry. This means that it will contain at least the amount of bacteria promised on the label. 4. Allergen-free. Steer clear of probiotics that contain GMOs and allergens like wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, eggs, corn, sulphites, shellfish and mustard. 5. Capsules. This depends on which part of the gut you want to target. If you’re looking to target the lower section, capsules are great for getting the bacteria there and bypassing the other digestive processes to ensure they arrive safe and sound. Be careful though as some probiotics available are housed in enteric-coated capsules. The thing with these is enteric-coated capsules can contain plasticisers and phthalates. Look for ones that contain none of these chemicals. 6. Packaging and shelf-stability. Many probiotics (even the shelf-stable ones) are packaged in bottles. The thing with this is every time the bottle is opened, the probiotics get exposed to humidity and ambient air, which can degrade them over time. Look for one packed in blister packs (without the use of heat during the packing process) as it helps protect each capsule from damaging humidity. And a final note, I also always look for a probiotic that contains a minimum of 50 billion live cultures in it.
- HCL and L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine may help with leaky gut and gut health, and has shown to have a big impact on improving skin health too. You can take L-Glutamine daily on an empty stomach to help with gut and skin health. Taking Betaine HCL can also help improve digestion and skin health.
- Fat soluble vitamins. Fermented cod liver oil may help to heal and improve skin health when taken daily.
- Collagen and gelatin. These two supplements may help to speed up the healing of skin that may have been damaged from years of acne. Some good natural brands to use are Primal Kitchen and Vital Proteins.
- Apple cider vinegar toner. Using apple cider vinegar as a toner may help to remove any residue after cleansing and can also help restore the skin’s natural pH levels. Just ensure the apple cider vinegar you’re using contains the “mother” (beneficial bacteria).
- Healing Masks. Applying homemade natural masks to your skin a couple of times a week may help to hydrate and heal skin. Here are a couple of mask recipes (recommended by Dr. Axe) that are super easy to make, and may help clear acne:
– Cinnamon and Honey Mask: Mix 2 tbsp raw honey, 1 tsp coconut oil, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in a bowl and stir together until combined. Smooth over face then let sit for 5-10 minutes. Ensure you keep the mixture away from your eyes as cinnamon can be an irritant. When ready, remove the mask with a damp cloth. Honey and cinnamon help fight acne because of their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
– Yoghurt and Honey Mask: Mix 1 tbsp raw honey with 1 tbsp of all-natural yoghurt (you can add in a few capsules of a good quality probiotic as well if you like to boost the bacteria-fighting properties). Smooth onto face, paying particular attention to acne prone areas, and leave on for around 10 minutes or so, then wipe off with a damp cloth.
- Exfoliate and cleanse your face regularly (but do it gently). It’s important to exfoliate properly to remove build-up, clogged pores, and dead skin. However, there are many commercially available scrubs that are full of chemicals that can actually further irritate skin. A great DIY exfoliate you can do is to mix 2 tbsp of a gritty, dry ingredient (sea salt, oatmeal, or brown sugar work well) with 1-2 tbsp of a base of choice (kefir, coconut oil, or honey are good choices). The gritty ingredients help unclog pores and remove dead skin, while the base helps to fight bacteria, fungi, and candida overgrowth on the skin.
- Use tea tree oil for spot treatment. Tea tree oil is great at fighting bacteria and fungi. To make a simple home remedy for acne, mix 4-8 drops of tea tree oil with 1 tsp of coconut oil or jojoba oil. Dab lightly onto spots, pimples, acne, and other problem areas on skin. Slight tingling is normal, but if the solution causes a lot of burning, discontinue using it. Use a carrier oil with tea tree oil, as it can be too harsh to use on its own when applied directly to the skin.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
* * *
Have you struggled with acne before? What remedies or treatments helped you? Share with me below!
Wells, Katie. (January 23, 2019). Natural Remedies for Acne. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/26504/acne-remedies/
Laliberte, Marissa. 13 Surprising Home Remedies for Acne. Reader’s Digest. Retrieved from https://www.rd.com/health/beauty/home-remedies-for-acne/
Kresser, Chris. (March 16, 2019). The Gut-Skin Connection: How Altered Gut Function Affects the Skin. Chris Kresser. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/the-gut-skin-connection-how-altered-gut-function-affects-the-skin/
6 Things to Look For When Buying a Probiotic. (October 25, 2017). Genuine Health. Retrieved from https://www.genuinehealth.com/en-us/genuine-hub/6-things-to-look-for-when-buying-a-probiotic/
Biegner, Julie. The Guide To Choosing The Best Probiotic For You. The Wellnest. Retrieved from https://www.humnutrition.com/blog/the-guide-to-choosing-the-best-probiotic-for-you/