Skin health often starts with our gut. You may know the saying, “the eyes are a window to the soul,” well, the skin is like a window to our gut, and it’s often the first place to show signs that something isn’t right inside.
My first insight into acne came during high school, when I saw friends of mine covered in the sore, red pimples and acne scars.
Later down the track, my twin sister began to develop acne. We later found out that the underlying cause was gut problems, as she’d developed acne around the same time of finding out she had a gluten and dairy intolerance.
A lot of my friends had turned to medications, such as Accutane, but with that came a lot of potential side effects, and it didn’t deal with the root cause of the problem, it would just mask the symptoms.
She tried natural remedies like tea tree oil, natural cleansers, and even tried slathering various types of food on her face, but nothing seemed to be working…
Skin Health Starts with the Gut
One of the things I learnt was there is no overnight solution, it takes time to heal the body and repair the damage that has been done.
Often, dermatologists will prescribe things like Accutane, antibiotics, birth control pills and strong facial cleansers. Some of the prescription strength cleaners contain Benzoyl peroxide and Salicylic acid, which dries out skin.
According to Dr. Axe;
Common medical treatment for cystic acne like Accutane might work, but it’s been linked to really serious side effects, including birth defects, Crohn’s disease and even suicide.
One study found that those with bacterial overgrowth in the gut were more likely to suffer from severe skin conditions like acne. Those with leaky gut were also more likely to suffer from skin issues, like cystic acne.
Cystic Acne Treatments
Some things to keep in mind with cystic acne are:
- Do NOT pop – Cystic acne, unlike common acne, typically doesn’t give you “poppable” pimples, as it’s too deep beneath the skin. Also, if you do manage to pop a pimple, it can produce scarring that can last a lifetime.
- Apply ice – Placing an ice cube directly to a breakout for a few seconds can help with pain. The ice can immediately decrease redness and even the size of the breakout.
- Change your towels and pillowcases frequently, and wash with natural and unscented laundry products rather than strong detergents and bleaches.
Some natural remedies and treatments for cystic acne include:
- The cystic acne diet
- Essential oils – Apply 2-3 drops topically to affected areas. Tea tree and lavender essential oils are safe to apply directly to skin, however, if you have sensitive skin you can combine them with a carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil. Avoid direct sunlight exposure when treating acne with essential oils, as the UV rays can make skin more sensitive.
- Getting enough sleep – About 7-9 hours per night.
What My Sister Found Most Helpful in Clearing Up Her Acne
In combination with addressing gut health, these helped:
- Cleaning up her diet. This involved eating a diet that was low in fructose (fruit sugar), dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and rich in an array of fresh vegetables (she’s vegan so she didn’t eat meat).
- Apple cider vinegar. Her gut was very inflamed during this time, so she’d take 1 tbsp ACV mixed with one cup of filtered water before each meal, and just throughout the day to help soothe her gut, and encourage stomach acid production to aid with digestion.
- Skinshot. This helped the most in clearing up her skin. It’s an all-natural formula made from Scandinavian wild herbs, where they extract the nutrients from these plants in the form of a tincture. She would take a “shot”-worth of this herbal tincture each day (hence the name skin “shot”), and the idea was the high concentration of nutrients in the solution would assist the body in cleansing out toxins and free radicals, giving the body a chance to heal itself without having to deal with the immense toxin-load (here’s my sister’s full review of the product).
- Aloe Vera. Applying pure aloe vera gel to her acne scars helped to heal them up completely. However, it did take 1 1/2-2 years for them to completely fade, and it needed to be applied consistently; everyday, twice a day.
Some other natural remedies that have proved to work on others include:
- Using the oil cleansing method each day.
- Taking a high quality probiotic. See here for what to look for when choosing a quality probiotic.
- HCL and L-Glutamine. L-Glutamine can help with healing the gut, and Betaine HCL can help improve digestion and skin health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. May help reduce inflammation and support hormone balance.
- Collagen. May help to speed up the healing of skin that has been damaged from years of acne.
- 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 that are super easy to make, and may help clear up acne.
- Face mapping. Involves observing the face to make connections between skin issues and the underlying root causes.
How to Tell if Acne is Hormonal or Gut-Related
According to Dr. Axe, some tell-tale signs for hormonal acne include:
– Developing painful cysts that feel like deep bumps under the skin’s surface, which cannot be “popped” easily or extracted.
– Zits and sometimes painful cysts that develop around the lower face, especially the chin and jawline and sometimes the neck, shoulders and back.
– Increased oiliness and shininess of the skin.
– Pimples that tend to show up at the same time each month, often coinciding with a woman’s menstrual cycle.
– Zits that develop in the same places over and over, which happens because certain pores become enlarged and prone to becoming infected and inflamed.
Some natural treatments for hormonal acne involve:
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet – Probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kefir and cultured vegetables; high-zinc foods (those with acne tend to be low in zinc) like grass-fed beef, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and cashews; vitamin A and C-rich foods like berries, greens like kale and spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, and citrus fruits; fibre-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes; high-quality protein foods such as grass-fed beef, organic chicken, wild-caught fish and free-range eggs; liver-supporting foods like cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli and cauliflower), leafy greens; and high-fibre fruits, such as berries, pears and apples.
- Avoiding certain foods – Dairy, gluten, refined grains, caffeine, processed foods, alcohol, processed meats, refined sugar, and foods with trans fats.
- Getting enough sleep – About 7-9 hours per night.
- Supplementing – According to a Dr. Axe article;
The supplements below can be helpful for balancing hormones and keeping proliferation of unhealthy bacteria at bay:
– Probiotics (10,000 international units (IU) to 50,000 IU daily, typically two to three capsules twice daily). Taking probiotics can boost immunity internally, while probiotic skin care products provide a protective external shield.
– Zinc (25–30 milligrams twice daily). Research suggests that people with acne have lower blood and skin levels of zinc. Taking zinc by mouth can often help treat and reduce adult acne.
– Omega-3 fatty acids (1,000 milligrams of fish oil/cod liver oil daily or 3,000 milligrams of flaxseed or chia seed oil). Omega-3 helps reduce inflammation and support hormone balance. You can also consider gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in evening primrose and borage oil for help with hormonal balance.
– Vitex (160 milligrams of vitex/chasteberry). This herbal remedy is specifically recommended for women with hormonally induced acne.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction.
Have you struggled with acne before? What remedies or treatments have helped you? Share in the comments below.
Lots of love,
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Perkins, Sara, MD. (Updated: November 4, 2020). 13 Powerful Home Remedies for Acne. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-acne-remedies