A Holistic Understanding of The Causes of Acne
The root cause of Acne is prolonged inflammation. Inflammation is our body's immune response in trying to get rid of pathogens, and in the case of Acne the pathogen is the P.acnes bacteria. Normally, in a healthy immune response, our body is able to deal with pathogens quickly and effectively, thus a pimple should remain small in size and subside in a few days.
However, with an imbalanced immune system, our body takes longer than it should to bring about or restore microbial balance. This could be because of our unhealthy lifestyles (high stress, lack of sleep, lack of excercise and even a lack of contact with nature) and/or that we are lacking the right nutrients and probiotics which keep our immune systems functioning efficiently. Severe and prolonged Acne could also be a sign of a more serious auto-immune disorder!
The key to a healthy balanced immune system is a HEALTHY GUT! In fact, a healthy gut is important for all of our bodily systems to function at it's best!
To make it worse, our skincare products and skincare routines impair our skin microbiome (which makes up an important component of our immune system) in helping to maintain a healthy balance of good vs bad bacteria (and other pathogens) on our skin surface. Our skin microbiome is made up of millions of micro-organisms which include bacteria, viruses, fungi and even microscopic bugs like mites. It sounds yucky but did you know that the overwhelming majority of micro-organisms that exist cannot harm us, and some are even crucial to our survival? A healthy skin microbiome is made up a majority of good bacteria, which ideally keeps the bad bacteria (and other bad micro-organisms) to a minimum. They do not totally eliminate the 'bad guys' because they too have a function in keeping our skin healthy as well!
The problem comes about when the skincare products we use and the skincare routines we religiously practice daily wipes out or harms our good bacteria, and harms our skin's important protective mechanisms like our Acid Mantle and our Skin Barrier Function. This triple attack renders our skin's natural defenses useless and unable to reduce the high numbers of P.acnes. The unbalanced state of our skin (dry, oily, sensitive, combination,etc) creates the perfect environment for the P.acnes bacteria to multiply rapidly and flourish. So much so that our immune system's response (i.e. inflammation) is unable to deal with it! Thus, inflammation persists and pimples swell up more and remain longer on the skin, a.k.a ACNE!
So don't blame your genes! Blame your food intake (and overall unhealthy lifestyle) and your skincare products and routines!!! Good news is you CAN heal your Acne with these simple proactive steps below:
Step 1: Focus on a healthy gut!
- Eat more of raw fruits and vegetables. Aim for this to make up at least 55% of every meal.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Aim to eat a rainbow of different colors regularly to ensure you're getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
- Start eating probiotic-rich foods daily. Research on how to make your own fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, etc as these are rich in probiotics, enzymes and vitamins. If you really don't have the time to make them (it's really simple actually!), you could consume probiotic capsules or powders, but they can be pricy! The important thing is DAILY consumption as having more probiotics in your gut effectively reduces cravings for sugar and fatty foods and increases your appetite for the healthy raw foods you should be eating. This makes maintaining a healthy balanced diet much easier for the long term as you won't have to fight off the unhealthy food cravings anymore!
- Curcumin is the main ingredient in turmeric and has very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin offers fantastic support to the immune system and studies have shown that it helps to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells. Eating tumeric with black pepper helps your body absorb curcumin better!
- Eat foods high in essential fatty acids like oily fish, nuts, etc.
- Adequate night sleep ( very important for skin repair & renewal), reduced stress levels, regular exercising and just being out there in nature are also important for gut health!
Step 2: Simplify your skincare products and routines to nurture a healthy balanced skin microbiome.
- Stop using anti-bacterial soaps, wipes and hand sanitisers. Old fashioned soap and water will do! If you have a healthy immune system, your body should not succumb so easily to pathogens that are all around us. If your immune system is unhealthy, then your chances of succumbing to disease or infection is high... no matter how 'clean' you try to be!
- Cleansing is an important skincare routine, but only gentle cleansing, once a day in the evenings, is sufficient. Avoid using soaps (especially for the face) as they can disrupt the pH balance of your skin, which is a crucial factor in maintaining the good bacteria on your skin. Avoid surfactants as well as they can cause disruption to your skin barrier function, also an important protective mechanism. Using gentle clays, food-grade flours (like oats, almond, rice,etc), raw honey and natural plant oils are a fantastic way to cleanse your skin and maintain a healthy skin microbiome as well!
- Restore balance to your skin's sebum production. If your skin is oily, it means that your cleansers are too harsh and strips away too much of your skin's natural oils. You may also be using products that strip even more sebum, like oil-free moisturisers, astringents, powders and blotting tissue. If your skin is dry, your cleanser may be too harsh and you may be over-moisturising with heavy creams or oils. Both oily and dry (even combination) skin will benefit from using only 1 - 2 drops of pure plant oils (choose those that are non-comedogenic) after gentle cleansing and applying a water-based humectant like hydrosols or aloe-vera. Also, refrain from applying any heavy creams or oils for your nightime skincare routine! At night, your skin's sebum production naturally drops to its lowest because it is undergoing it's nightly repair and renewal process. Too much sebum or oils disrupts this important process, which is one reason why skin can appear dull and lifeless because the cell renewal process is disrupted. Thus your skin is unable to effectively renew its top-most layer of your skin (i.e. Epidermis) quick enough.
- Stop over-exfoliating your skin! The dead skin cells on your skin surface (i.e Epidermis) have a very important function of protecting the new skin cells underneath it from dehydration and attack by external pathogens! The reason your skin appears dull and rough in the first place is explained in the point above, and so to remedy this, one should follow the steps outlined above! Limit exfoliation to 1 - 2 times a week and choose gentle, mechanical and natural exfoliators like clays and/or food-grade flours (e.g. rice flour or oats), etc. A cotton or bamboo wash cloth will do as well!
- Simplify your skincare products and routine. Choose natural products with simple formulations and keep to a minimal CLEANSE, HYDRATE & MOISTURIZE (daytime only!) routine. Use less make-up as well, as the less stuff we put on our face, the easier it is for our skin to do its thing!
- Get some sunlight and practice sensible sun protection. We need sunlight on our skin to produce Vitamin D and also to help to control the numbers of the bad pathogens on our skin surface. Morning sun (before 11am) is best and all you need is about 15 - 20 minutes daily for your body to produce sufficient Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are another way to ensure sufficient amounts in your body. Practicing sensible sun protection is important! Avoid mid-day sun (11am - 3pm) if possible or limit exposing your skin to not more than 20 - 30 minutes at a time. If you need to be in the sun for longer periods of time, apply sunblock. However, the best sun protection is your skin's natural defense against harmful UV rays, which is made more efficient by eating a diet high in vegetables and fruits (especially the red colored ones), and non-processed healthy fats & oils.
Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org should you need advice on how to start a healthy skincare routine!
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