The one advantage of getting farther away from your younger years is not having to shop in the acne section of the local drugmart. However, for many of us, dotting our skin with cream-coloured promises of better skin and less breakouts is still a common habit. Acne is a disorder resulting from the action of hormones on the skin's sebaceous glands (oil glands), which leads to plugged pores and outbreaks of lesions commonly called pimples or zits. In order to finally break free from blemishes it's important to know what causes it and what you can do about it.
Keep your hormones in check: Women often experience a flare-up of acne symptoms from a few days to as much as a week before the onset of their menstrual period. This occurs as progesterone, which tends to worsen acne, is naturally highest during this time of the cycle. Estrogen, highest in the first half of the menstrual cycle is typically beneficial for preventing acne. If any of these patterns apply to your acne prone skin you may want to consider the following options methods to balance estrogen and progesterone:
•Consider a formula that provides the nutrients involved in the breakdown and elimination of estrogen such as magnesium, B complex, calcium d-glucarate, turmeric and green tea.
•If you are coming off the birth control pill, indole 3 carbinol is a must for you. This compound, an extract from broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, helps to correct estrogen balance against certain forms of cancer such as cervical, breast and in men, prostate cancer. Typical dose is 200mg twice per day and it is best to take this product for three consecutive months.
• The herb vitex may be useful for the treatment of hormonally related acne, especially blemishes associated with PCOS.
• Vitamin B6 may also be of benefit. Taking 250 - 500mg per day is useful for both men and women.
Lower Excess Androgens: Acne is also often considered to be an androgen-dependent condition. Androgens are male sex hormones that include free testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S). Low sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels (SHBG binds to testosterone rendering it less bio-available, reducing its effect in the body), as well as high androgens, have all been implicated in acne. This is because androgens control sebaceous gland secretion, thus exacerbating blemishes when elevated.
Higher levels of androgens may be treated with the herb saw palmetto in both men and women. If higher levels of androgens are a result of too much being produced by the adrenal glands, then herbs or products to reduce further stimulation of the adrenals may be of assistance. These include ashwaganda or hydrolyzed milk protein (look for a product called Destress from Biotics or Nusera from Metagenics). Note that I would not recommend Relora, a herb commonly used for stress support in this situation, since it may actually increase levels of DHEAs, which can worsen the problem.
Put the lid on cortisol:Cortisol has been implicated in female adult acne and it is suggested that it is also responsible for most age-related damage to the skin. To reduce cortisol, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin C and the herb holy basil can be useful. In this instance, Relora may be beneficial as it has been found to reduce cortisol levels. Lifestyle is essential here and you should be sure to adopt healthy stress management techniques. Be sure to get adequate rest, exercise, downtime and sunshine.
Topical versus toxic: Products containing retinoic acid may be useful topically, but you should see your dermatologist. Tea tree oil is a natural astringent and antibacterial, so you may want to consider products containing this. Some cosmetics, night creams and heavy moisturizers may actually block oil glands, worsening existing lesions and causing new ones. Try to find products that are oil-free, water-based, non-comedogenic, or speak to your doctor for specific recommendations. And of course, the products you use on your body or face should be free of methylparabens, propyl parabens, formaldehyde, imidazolidinyl urea, methylisothiazolinone, propylene glycol, paraffin, phthalates, isopropyl alcohol and sodium lauryl sulphate.
Supplements for healthy skin: Regardless of the cause of your acne one should include zinc 15mg - 25mg per day, vitamin A 10,000-50,000IU per day (not to be taken by women who may be pregnant or attempting to conceive), vitamin C 1000-3000mg per day, and MSM 2000-4000mg per day for healing, collagen formation and tissue repair.
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