1. Dairy – Everybody balks when I cut dairy out of their diets. They simply cannot imagine life without milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. But there is a direct, scientific reason why dairy causes acne. Cows contain a hormone that is very similar in molecular structure to our own IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor) hormone. Sadly, this IGF-1 has receptors on our sebum glands in the skin, and the bovine hormone fits right in the receptor. So this means as soon as you eat dairy, the body is being sent a direct message to increase oil production in the skin.
2. Balance your blood sugar – In the early part of the twentieth century, acne was aptly called ‘Diabetes of the Skin’. Subsequent scientific studies have found that acne sufferers are more sensitive to blood sugar imbalances than non-acne sufferers. This means the following: eat three meals a day (and a few snacks if needed), avoid simple carbohydrates and include a small amount of protein in each snack and meal. Lots of fresh vegetables and cut way down on any type of sugar.
3. Support your liver – A properly functioning liver is necessary to detoxify the body and manage hormone levels (which we will discuss in a moment). Most people that suffer from acne have a sluggish liver, but luckily there are some beautiful herbs that help the liver perform optimally. Milk thistle and dandelion are two of the herbs that are most commonly used, but there are many other herbs and herbal combinations that work beautifully.
4. Have regular bowel movements – When the bowels are not moving daily, excess hormones and toxins continue to circulate in the body, often affecting the skin. Regular bowel movements are essential to hormone balance.
5. Improve your Digestion – There is a huge connection between the skin and the gut. In fact, I always start skin treatments (for acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, etc.) by taking a look at digestion. If you experience bloating, gas, IBS, or any type of gastric dysfunction – get a thorough evaluation from a naturopathic doctor. Remedies often include eliminating food sensitivities, probiotics, and gut healing herbs.
6. Relax – The bad news first: studies have shown that acne sufferers are more sensitive to stress. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol contribute to insulin dysregulation and imbalanced blood sugar, which leads directly to acne (remember that acne has been called ‘Diabetes of the Skin’). In addition, when exposed to stress acne sufferers produce high levels of a neuropeptide called Substance P, which acts directly on the oil glands of the skin to produce more oil, and thus more acne. The good news: all you have to do is relax. Easier said than done, but you can make it fun! Do something you love to do…
7. Check your hormones –Simply following the tips above will help normalize your hormones somewhat, but a little extra help is often needed. I perform either salivary or blood tests on my patients, and prescribe herbs based on the results. Everybody is a little different, and I definitely do not want to mess with the hormones without hormone testing. After a few months of hormone treatment, the acne should improve. And you will feel better in general. Win-win.
8. Use a Manuka Honey Mask – This is my personal favorite treatment. I smear a little raw manuka honey on my face for 5 minutes after I cleanse both morning and night. Raw honey has anti-bacterial properties against over 60 different types of bacteria – and manuka honey has almost double the anti-bacterial action of regular raw honey due to its high levels of methylglyoxal. In addition, honey is a humectant, which means it absorbs moisture from the air – leaving your skin clear and moist.
This is the time to either slough away the summer skin or work on building up your skin barrier in time for the colder months.
No one piece of skincare advice fits everyone as everyone has different concerns and different goals. Changing routines doesn't mean it is time to throw out all your summer products and buy a whole new skincare regime.