Why are we getting adult onset acne in our late 20s and into our 30s? We shouldn’t feel like we’re back in high school thinking to ourselves – shouldn’t I be past this phase of my life.
It can be very frustrating to be getting adult onset acne well into your late 20s and 30s. Sure, it can be because you’re not consistently washing your makeup off at night, but that alone is not causing acne.
Hippocrates said it best when he said: “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”. The foods that we eat can be healing and powerful – I believe this to the core. I’ve seen food do incredible things for not only my own health but the health of my clients as well. And it’s remarkable once we shift focus to the food and use it as a healing tool, all the physiological changes that begin to occur.
Let’s look at how food can heal our acne.
Let’s first start off by defining acne. Acne is inflammation of the skin. Plan and Simple. Our skin is also our largest organ and skin reactions that occur are typically an indication of something else going on inside the body – not with the skin itself. Acne is the inflammatory response to a deeper root cause. That’s how I approach adult acne.
Sometimes the root cause can be due to nutritional deficiencies, but there is also a relationship between our gut health and acne. Heal the gut, heal the acne.
Heal the gut, heal the acne.
Let’s break down the nutrients that we need and then how we can promote a healthy gut to help heal acne.
There are certain nutrients that promote healthy skin Vitamin A (retinol) is the most well known. Most of our skin care products are made from synthetic retinol because of its powerful effect on our skin health. There are two forms of Vitamin A – preformed and proformed. Pre-formed Vitamin A is typically found in animal products and is the most easily absorbed into the body and is active as retinol upon eating. Proformed is a little more complicated. Proformed (carotenoids and beta-carotene) are found in vegetables. Unfortunately, they are not as easily absorbed and need to be converted into retinol after it’s been absorbed by the small intestines. So, unless your small intestines are working properly – you might have a difficult time converting vegetable based Vitamin A in order to reap all of those skin healing benefits.
So, unless your small intestines are working properly – you might have a difficult time converting vegetable based Vitamin A in order to reap all of those skin healing benefits. What makes this more complicated and the importance of healing the gut in helping clear our skin, is you can be eating all of the vegetable vitamin A to help clear your skin, but unless your small intestines are absorbing the nutrients properly, you might not see the benefits of your efforts.
I’m going to break down how to support proper gut health in a minute, but in the meantime, let’s share some great forms of Vitamin A in both the pre and proform.
- Beef Liver (preformed)
- Cod Liver (preformed)
- Egg (preformed)
- Butter (preformed)
- Sweet Potatoes (proformed)
- Pumpkin (sorry – this does not include your pumpkin spiced latte! haha) (proformed)
- Carrots (proformed)
Other proformed sources include cantaloupe, mango, spinach (cooked), broccoli (cooked), kale (cooked), collards (cooked), and butternut squash (cooked).
Zinc is an essential mineral that we often hear a lot about when it comes to our immune health. My mom swears by zinc lozenges! But, that’s not all this amazing mineral is good for. It also has a unique role with vitamin A which might be why it’s considered an essential for healthy skin. Zinc is actually a component for the retinol -binding protein that helps transport vitamin A into the blood so you can reap all of its benefits. What I think is really interesting is that there was actually a study conducted that showed that zinc supplementation was just as effective for acne treatment as tetracyclines, an antibiotic used for acne treatment.
Sources of Zinc: oysters, beef, crab, pork, turkey (dark meat), beans, chicken (dark meat), yogurt, cashews, almonds, milk, peanuts, and cheddar cheese.
Vitamin C is crucial in the role of formation of collagen. Collagen is a protein that is essentially the basis for the structure of our skin. So, it’s safe to say Vitamin C plays a pretty big role in the health of our skin. It’s not very common for there to be a deficiency in Vitamin C in the US, based on our diets, but… that doesn’t mean that you might not be eating quite enough of it to reap all the skin benefits (and eating a little extra won’t hurt!).
Sources of Vitamin C: oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet red peppers, broccoli, potatoes, and spinach.
Omega- 3’s help reduces inflammation in the body which is why it is often used in naturally healing acne. Typically, most Americans are low in omega-3 and high in omega-6 fatty acids and this is due to our highly processed diets that are low in healthy fats such as fish and oils.
Healing the Gut & Reducing Inflammation
Having a healthy GI tract will do wonders not just for your acne, but for your overall health. The major ways to heal our gut is through decreasing inflammatory foods and eating more whole, clean foods. We weren’t designed to consume as much sugar, trans fats, and highly processed foods that we have become accustomed to. We’re designed to eat foods that nourish us – vegetables, carbohydrates, fruit, fats, and proteins. How we heal the gut is by removing inflammatory foods from our diet and replacing them with the whole foods our bodies crave. I would like to bet that if you move away from highly processed foods and start eating a more whole foods diet- not only your skin will start to feel better – you’ll overall be more vibrant and energized.
How do dairy and sugar play a role?
We often hear about how cutting out sugar and dairy can help with our skin health. But how can we say in one sentence that whole milk is a great source of vitamin A which is great for skin health, but then also say that cutting dairy out of your diet can help clear up your skin? It’s interesting. I know from my own personal experience that my skin is 10000% better when I don’t consume dairy. I break out almost everytime after I eat dairy. But I believe that’s because dairy is one of my personal inflammatory trigger foods. I just don’t digest it well. I never have. I love it. But it doesn’t always love me back. Dairy can be a wonderful health food if your body can handle it well. For others, it’s a little more tricky. My suggestion when it comes to dairy is to remove it from your diet if you consume a lot of it and see how things go – see if your skin starts to clear up. And… then on the flip side, see what happens when you eat dairy after not having it for a little while. Do you break out? If the answer is yes, dairy might be an inflammatory food for you.
As for sugar, there is no dietary need for sugar. There’s no recommended daily intake out there from the FDA and that’s because we don’t need it. Now, let’s be clear here – I’m talking about refined sugar – not naturally occurring sugars from fruit and carbohydrates. Sugar is inflammatory. It’s not something we were naturally and organically created to consume. That doesn’t mean that we don’t. That doesn’t mean that we can’t either. That does mean that it’s an inflammatory food that shouldn’t be thought of as a staple, but rather an indulgence and treat. My vote would be to limit your sugar intake for a lot of reasons beyond just your skin health – but my thought is sugar might be an inflammatory trigger for your acne and you should try cutting it out the same way that you’ll try with dairy to see how it goes. Does that sound impossible? It doesn’t have to be. I’m actually running a group coaching program starting on Monday, March 27th called Break the Sugar Cycle where we’re breaking up with sugar over a 28 day period. Feel like you need the support and want to give it a try? Sign up! We’d love to have you.
Want to learn a little bit more?