5 Holistic Skincare Tips to Finally Get Rid of Acne Naturally
Hi friend! If we’ve never met before, I’m Emily, a certified holistic nutrition coach and long-time acne sufferer. Ten whole years to be exact. Well, up until recently. Because after a whole DECADE of trying everything to clear my skin of cystic, hormonal acne, I’ve finally found a holistic approach that works.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried every “miracle” spot treatment, skin-care routine, supplement, and DIY face mask recipe, without much luck. You’ve probably begged your family doctor multiple times for a magical cream or pill that will make it all go away. Hell, you’ve probably also gone the natural route, too; trying all the food sensitivity tests, super-strict elimination diets, detoxes, you name it.
And almost nothing is more frustrating than spending well-earned money and countless hours researching and yearning for something (anything!) to cure you of your painful, inflamed spots. It’s not fun, I know 🙁
Sadly, acne affects just over 50% of women aged in their 20s, and 35% of women in their 30s. Yikes. It’s exacerbated by the poor-quality foods in our diets, the environmental toxins we just can’t get away from, and of course, stress. What’s even more upsetting is that some of the most common prescription “treatments” for acne (like birth control pills and antibiotics like Accutane), wreak major havoc on the hormone system and gut health, putting a band-aid on the symptoms, only to reveal an even worse case of acne-ridden, dry, and totally dull skin once you finally finish up with the prescription. It’s just not fair.
Ever run out of excuses to tell your friends why you can’t make it to this party or that birthday dinner, just so you don’t have to show your face in public?
Been there, done that.
So, if what you read above is #relatable, and you’ve resigned yourself to the notion that you will probably have acne for the rest of your life, hold up a minute!
Let’s take a step back.
I felt that way for a long time. But I can confidently say, acne (just like everything) is figureoutable (as Marie Forleo would say.) And the solution is actually quite simple—note I say “simple” and not “easy”. You see, your body speaks a language only you can understand. And acne happens to be a cry for help. It’s your body’s way of sounding the red alarm, to let you know that something isn’t right.
And as frustrating as that might be, it’s actually a good thing.
So in today’s blog post, we’re going to go through the top five things you can do to answer that S.O.S. signal. No, this isn’t an exhaustive list (I’d need to write a whole book for that!), but this is an amazing starting place.
The 12 Factors That Affect Your Skin Health:
- Hormone imbalances
- Dysbiosis (gut microbiome imbalance)
- Weather, environment, (lack of) sun exposure
- Skincare routine
- Internal and external nutrients
Oof. The twelve factors of skin health. Overwhelming, am I right? Well, yes, but if you’ve ever heard of Pareto’s Principle, you know that the relationship between input and output is not balanced. In other words, you don’t need to be 100% perfect in all those categories before you see results. Actually, you just need to be *mostly* consistent with a few of the most important ones, and you’ll notice major improvements.
That’s what this blog is about.
A caveat before we dive in—acne is complicated. Skin health is complicated. If I could give you one piece of advice before you get started with your plan to eliminate it forever, it would be this: practise radical self-acceptance through your whole journey.
There will come days where you are seemingly doing everything right and yet you still break out. The truth is, we can’t see what’s going on inside us—sometimes hormonal health and gut health take a long time to bring into balance. Sometimes even “good stress” and excitement can trigger a breakout. Sometimes things come up in our lives and our priorities become shifted—that’s okay.
I still get zits occasionally for these reasons. But they are so much more manageable, and clear up so much faster, when I’m able to stay in a place of self-acceptance and self-love (and not become stressed and contribute to the negative feedback loop of acne -> stress -> more acne -> more stress.) You dig?
- Eliminate trigger foods
Okay, so you probably already know this one. But it’s worth repeating because it makes a huge difference. Eliminating trigger foods like gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, soy, and refined plant oils can make a huge difference in our overall skin health.
Why? The truth is that foods that contain refined sugars, oils, and grains, (as well as stress, more on that later), are like bad gang members moving through your gut’s beneficial bacteria community. With enough exposure, it drives the good gut bugs out of their community and replaces them with pathogenic bacteria, leading to systemic inflammation.
Typically, inflammation in the gut begins with subtle (or not-so-subtle) digestive symptoms, but as proper elimination of toxins continues to be impacted, the skin (another detoxification organ) has no choice but try to expel some toxins as well. Enter red, painful pustules, and other forms of inflammatory acne.
So the first step towards eliminating acne is stopping the reverse-gentrification that is happening in your gut. If you remove the foods the bad gut bugs love to eat, they have no choice but vacate the premises. Instead, focus on foods that nourish beneficial gut populations like whole, fibre-rich fruits and veggies, quality protein, and fat, and fermented foods.
Strive for 100% most of the time, but if you can eat foods that nourish the gut even just 80% of the time, I promise you’ll notice a huge difference. And not just with your skin, but your digestion will improve and your brain and mental health will benefit as well. It’s a win-win-win-win-win!
- Nourish Your Skin – Internally and Externally
We’ve talked about the gut microbiome, but did you know your skin has a microbiome of its own, too? That’s right. And just like how the gut microbiome can become overrun with pathogenic bacteria, the skin microbiome can experience the same.
So we need to make sure we’re nourishing it by taking the right nutrients, both internally (in the form of supplements) and externally (in the form of skincare).
Below you’ll find a handy dandy graphic that outlines the most important nutrients for your skin, why they are so important, and how you should be taking them—in supplement form or as part of your skincare, topically.
This will be your holy grail. Once you’ve set up a good foundation with your diet, by (mostly) eliminating trigger foods, and focusing on eating a diet rich in good-quality, natural, fresh whole foods, then you’ll be ready to begin supplementing.
(Note: the order is important here. If your digestive system and gut microbiome are imbalanced, your absorption of nutrients may be low to zero percent—so you want to focus on building that foundation first before going forward with this step)
Supplements can get pricey, so if you can’t afford to get all of the highly recommended ones, I suggest starting with a methylated B complex, probiotic, and cod liver oil. For external supplements, I suggest reading your skincare product labels to look for these nutrients specifically. Often, really good product lines will have many of the nutrients in one product, so you don’t need a billion different products.
- Balance Your Hormones by Eating For Your Cycle
Hormone imbalance is one of the top reasons teenage and adult women experience acne. Sadly, the birth control pill is often prescribed as a band-aid solution to the problem. Our doctors prescribe it without looking at the root cause of our skin problems or clearly explaining to us the present and future side effects (ahem, worsening acne).
The birth control leads to imbalances of many body systems—including brain/mental health, metabolic health, reproductive health and fertility, and the list goes on. And many women find that when they decide to stop taking the pill, their acne comes back with a vengeance. This is because the root issue was never resolved, and has only become worse with time.
Luckily, we can take a holistic approach to rebalance our hormones naturally with diet, supplements and lifestyle. The good news is that the supplements recommended above also help restore hormonal balance (everything is connected 😊). More good news: eliminating trigger foods also helps nourish the hormone system. But we can take that one step further!
In the graphic below, you can see important foods to eat during the different phases of your cycle. These foods contain beneficial nutrients to support and balance the specific hormones that ebb and flow as you move through your cycle. I recommend taking note of these, and planning your grocery shopping and meal prepping based on where you’re at in your cycle.
If you try out this one-day meal plan, I’d love to hear what you think! As always, if you have any suggestions on topics for future blog posts, post them in the comments below!
- Manage Your Stress
In his book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Vishen Lakhiani writes about how he cured his adult acne in one month— and his technique might surprise you.
For a whole month, Vishen would sit down for his daily meditation and imagine himself floating high above the clouds, with the pure blue sky touching his skin. He would imagine the feeling of the cool air on his face, and the sky healing and clearing up all his acne. He’d imagine himself acne-free and feel all the emotions of finally having cleared his acne, as if it was happening in real time, in the present moment. And guess what? It worked.
Visualization meditations can be extremely powerful. Maybe seemingly miraculous health feats have been accomplishment simply by visualizing and believing in the desired outcome—in the scientific community, this is called as the placebo effect. If this is something that connects with you, I highly recommend giving it a go.
If visualization isn’t your thing, I would encourage you to find another form of meditation that you connect with. There are dozens of different types of meditation, so I’m confident there’s one out there for you! Even if you don’t choose one that focuses specifically on clearing your acne (because, let’s be real, there’s so much more to life than always thinking about our skin!), your skin health will benefit immensely from a daily meditation practise.
Meditation is one of the best ways you can increase resilience to stress. Just a 5 minute meditation can help improve your outlook and mindset, and make that pile of papers on your desk look so much more tackle-able than you may have previously thought.
Lowering cortisol through effective stress coping mechanisms helps regulate imbalanced hormones, improve mental health, improve digestion and absorption of nutrients, and reduce systemic inflammation– all of which play a role in skin health.
Other stress coping mechanisms include daily journaling, yoga, using an infrared sauna (double-detoxification-whammy!), working out, dancing, walking in nature, taking baths, tapping, etc. Pick the one that resonates with you and do it everyday.
There you have it! I hope you’re feeling inspired to begin focusing on restoring balance to your skin health and clearing up your acne for good.
For more on similar topics, check out the blogs below. And if you’re interested in working one-on-one with me to create a personalized acne-busting protocol, click here!