Top nutrition tips for Acne and an easy DIY face mask!
Acne vulgaris is the most common skin disorder in Western developed nations. Although not life threatening, acne can persist throughout life and leave permanent scarring in the face, causing emotional pain and embarrassment. Many patients with acne who seek out naturopathic treatments have already tried “everything” or do not want to resort to conventional treatments such as isotretinoin (Accutane), antibiotics or oral contraceptives. In this article, we will explore some ways to address acne naturally.
What is acne?
Acne is a disease of the pilosebaceous glands (aka the glands which produce sebum) and there are 4 major processes that play a critical role in the development of acne (1,2,3,4,5):
- Excessive sebum production
- Hyperkeratinization of the follicular keratinocytes – in other words, the skin is growing layers faster than it sloughs off the old layers
- Overgrowth of a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes
- Increased sebaceous gland sensitivity to androgens which leads to inflammation
The best way to address acne is to find the root cause of what is causing it. Due to there being so many causes of acne, it is quite difficult to treat, as typically what works for one person may not work for another. It is best to look at the effects of hormone imbalance, insulin resistance, nutrient deficiencies (ex. Zinc), poor circulation, elimination pathways and liver toxicity. Work with your naturopathic doctor to determine the root cause of your acne.
The following are some tips you can do for getting acne under control naturally:
- Drink matcha tea and apply matcha to the face
ECGC is the active compound in both green and matcha tea. Remember that matcha tea is a 3X more concentrated form of green tea. When applied topically, EGCG has been shown to combat acne by reducing oil production in the skin, inhibiting the bacteria P. acnes that causes acne in the first place and decreasing inflammation, which gives those red, painful bumps. When taken internally, green tea has been shown to increase blood levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which binds up excess testosterone and prevents the formation of hormonal acne (6).
So basically, ECGC in green or matcha tea treats every aspect of acne: hormone disbalance, bacterial overgrowth, excessive oil and inflammation. You can harness some of its power for yourself in a simple face mask recipe you can whip up in no time at all (see DIY face mask recipe below).
- Eat a low glycemic index diet and avoid dairy
A high glycemic index diet means a diet that is high in carbohydrates which raises blood sugar, which then raises insulin, which in turn releases a hormone called insulin-like-growth-factor-1 (IGF-1). This seems to be responsible for the excessive sebum production in acne and makes acne worse.(7)
Therefore, reducing sugar in the diet may lower sebum production and improve acne. There are also studies showing a connection between milk consumption and acne believed to be a result of hormones and bioactive molecules found in milk.(8,9)
Doing a trial period of removing all dairy from the diet may be worth doing to see if that may be the cause of acne.
Although dairy is suspected as the most common allergen connected to acne, you may want to have a blood test done with your naturopathic doctor to confirm this or to find out if you have a food sensitivity to other foods that may be contributing to your acne.
- Take zinc
Zinc is a mineral that is responsible for contributing to a considerable number of functions within the body including growth and development, brain function, reproduction and immune function.
Zinc also has many important functions for clearing acne: (1) zinc helps with the metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids, (2) zinc is an important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory for the skin, (3) zinc helps break down substance P, the nerve chemical that causes sebum production when the body is stressed. (4) zinc is responsible for transporting Vitamin A, an anti-acne nutrient, from the liver. Recent studies have shown that people with acne have low levels of zinc in their system. When taking zinc, the most bioavailable form seems to be zinc sulphate. Top foods containing zinc include oysters, pumpkin and hemp seeds, lentils, oatmeal, and shiitake mushrooms, Long term supplementation of zinc should always be accompanied with copper. Zinc should also not be taken with tetracycline. Please check with your naturopathic doctor for the optimal dose.
- Consider using niacinamide
Niacinamide has anti-inflammatory effects (10) and has been used both topically and orally to treat a variety of inflammatory skin disorders such as acne (11). Niacinamide has an extensive safety record of 50 years of use, making it an excellent treatment for skin conditions without side effects. When combined with zinc, it works even better (12). In a double-blind trial, topical application of a gel containing 4% niacinamide twice a day for 8 weeks was at least as effective as topical 1% clindamycin in patients with inflammatory acne. Similar results were seen in other double-blind trials comparing topical 4% niacinamide gel with 1% clindamycin gel and comparing 5% niacinamide gel with 2% clindamycin gel (13).
Pass on the expensive store bought masks and step into the kitchen to mix some yummy ingredients for an easy face mask!
DIY Matcha Face mask
Here is what you will need:
1/2 cup of oatmeal (blended into a powder)
1 tsp matcha tea powder
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
Combine all the ingredients. Apply onto face with clean fingers or wooden spatula. Wait 10-20 minutes. Rinse off. You may follow up with an apple cider vinegar face toner to balance off the pH of the skin and reduce bacteria. It’s easy, just mix up equal parts of filtered water to apple cider vinegar and apply to the face.
- Dr. Diana Semjonov, ND
- Pizzorno JE, Murray MT, Joiner-Bey H. The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2002:1-2.
- Yarnell E, Abascal K, Hooper C. Clinical Botanical Medicine. New York, NY: Mary Ann Liebert Inc; 2003:196, 223.
- Leyden J.J.. Therapy for acne vulgaris. N Engl J Med, 336; 1997:1156-1162
- Haider and Shaw, 2004. A. Haider, J.C. Shaw. Treatment of acne vulgaris. JAMA, 292;2004:726-735
- Zouboulis et al., 2005. C.C. Zouboulis, A. Eady, M.L.
A. Philpott, et al. What is the pathogenesis of acne? Exp Dermatol, 14;2005:143-152
- Ji Young Yoon, Hyuck Hoon Kwon, Seong Uk Min, Diane M. Thiboutot, Dae Hun Suh. Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate Improves Acne in Humans by Modulating Intracellular Molecular Targets and Inhibiting P. acnes. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2013; 133(2):429-440.
- Melnik BC, Schmitz G. Role of insulin, insulin-like growth factor- 1, hyperglycaemic food and milk consumption in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Exp Dermatol. 2009;18(10):833-841.
- Adebamowo CA1 et al; Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J. 2006 May 30;12(4):1.
- Adebamowo CA et al; High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005. Feb;52(2):207-14.
- Bernstein JE, Lorincz AL. The effects of topical nicotinamide, tetracycline, and dapsone on potassium iodide-induced inflammation. J Invest Dermatol. 1980;74:257-258.
- Niren NM, Torok HM. The Nicomide Improvement in Clinical Outcomes Study (NICOS): results of an 8-week trial. Cutis. 2006 Jan;77(1 Suppl):17-28.
- Fivenson DP. The mechanisms of action of nicotinamide and zinc in inflammatory skin disease. Cutis. 2006 Jan;77(1 Suppl):5-10.
- Shalita AR, et al. Topical nicotinamide compared with clindamycin gel in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Int J Dermatol. 1995;34:434-437.
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