No matter what else you do, the best results for acne are achieved if your skin and underlying tissue is fully supported nutritionally. This is to fight and prevent the infections in the pores (pus), to decrease the inflammation (sore, red, swollen areas) and have better healing and repair (reducing scars).
GENERAL DIETARY GUIDELINES
Firstly, remove foods that have poor nutrition and those that increase the oiliness of skin. This means cut out all refined sugars, saturated fats and processed foods. Yes, that means fast foods, packet foods and softdrinks. Even bakery food has trans fatty acids that work against you.
This may seem difficult at first, but remember these 3 things -
1. It has very high rewards
2. It gets easy pretty quickly and
3. It costs much less than anything else you try.
Healthy food choices are still very convenient, think about ready-made sandwiches, sushi rolls, salads, fruit and water.
Almost all acne is hormonally related, this is why it is worst during teenage years, but for some women with hormonal imbalances, acne can continue through much of their child-bearing years.
If acne appears in your late twenties however, it is probably due to a food sensitivity so check that out with a naturopath or physician. Usually it is salicylates that are a problem. These are a naturally-occurring group of chemicals which are very similar to aspirin, so the simple test is – if aspirin makes your symptoms worse, then you would probably do well on a low-salicylate diet. This involves way too many foods to include here but the information is easy to find.
You might be eating the right things (fresh, whole foods) but not actually extracting all the nutrients from them. Digestive enzymes are important and some people need to take them as a supplement. This needs to be diagnosed and prescribed by a naturopath or physician. A simple thing that everyone can do is to take 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with meals. Either take it straight, or in a small amount of water, or even as a mixture of vinegar/honey/water. It really makes a difference to digestion, metabolism and detoxification.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Across the board, one of the most fundamental nutrients for health; Zinc is involved in over 80 different enzyme systems! Among its many functions, Zinc is important for skin health by facilitating immune function and wound healing. It has been reported as being severely out of balance in at least 50% of acne patients.
Zinc can be found in beef, ginger, liver, oysters, sunflower and pumpkin seeds as well as whole grains. But supplementation may also be required so it is a good idea to be tested. Zinc supplementation to adequate levels has been shown to be as effective as antibiotic therapy (tetracycline).
Acne patients are often advised to increase Vitamin A rich foods such as cod liver oil, carrots, apricots and green leafy vegetables (especially spinach) but it also appears that there may be a defect in Vitamin A metabolism that contributes to the acne problem. In some people, even though they have adequate intake, the metabolites of Vitamin A are not reaching the skin tissue. This is why supplementation with specific oral Vitamin A (nutritional or medical) and Vitamin A creams has an effect on severe acne. You must be under the care of a specialist dermatologist and/or naturopath as Vitamin A has toxicity precautions. Prescriptions need to take into account the dosage required and contra-indications. With creams, the age and type of skin (oily or dry) will determine whether a cream or gel is best suited.
Vitamin A increases resistance to infection, is involved in steroid hormone synthesis and mucopolysaccharide (MPS) synthesis. MPS can be applied topically using fresh aloe vera gel to normalise the skin surface by helping to "unplug" the pores and also enhance healing to reduce scars.
A multi-vitamin containing all the B group is highly recommended for two reasons. Firstly to counter the effects of stress on the nervous system. Secondly, B vitamins all work together, so providing a basic platform is very important before adding extra doses of any of the single B vitamins. The most significant of the B group for acne are:
B12 – general metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates
maintenance of skin cells
B5 - with co-enzyme A is involved in many reactions important to the skin
deficiency of B5 results in buildup of fat droplets in the sebaceous glands
B6 - for women – with Folic Acid is important for pre-menstrual acne
for men – affects the uptake and sensitivity to testosterone
B2 - specific for acne rosacea which is often seen in middle aged women
Vitamin E, Selenium and Vitamin C work as antioxidants to reduce free radical damage, detoxify and increase immune function. This seems to be more significant for males than females due to differing sex hormone profiles.
Essential Fatty Acids
Our bodies need fat but we need the good kind! Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are important for reducing inflammation. There are many types in many foods, but supplements are often used – Omega 3 fish oils, evening primrose oil (EPO) gamma linolenic acid (GLA) etc.