Acne and other inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema are influenced by a number of factors including diet and other lifestyle choices. Dealing with acne can be painful, frustrating and even debilitating. However, don’t lose hope! By finding the right balance of diet, lifestyle, nutrition and treatment, you can manage this condition and have healthy, beautiful skin.
For best results, follow these 10 tips from VitaMedica’s Founder and Medical Director, Dr. David H. Rahm.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Just like using high-grade masonry results in a uniform, resilient wall, providing your body with the best quality building materials will ensure your skin cells are strong and healthy. That means getting enough or the right vitamins and minerals. Nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, selenium and chromium are all essential to reduce excess sebum, build collagen and repair skin cells for a clear complexion.
Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains ensures your body has everything it needs for healthy cell production and radiant skin. Omega-3s found in salmon, avocados, flaxseed and walnuts have natural anti-inflammatory properties and have been shown to control the production of molecules that can increase sebum production and promote inflammatory acne. Don’t forget to include foods that contain active probiotics, the live beneficial bacteria that support a healthy gut microbiome, which has been linked to acne.
And to help cover any nutrient gaps in the diet, use beauty vitamins and acne supplements such as VitaMedica’s Healthy Skin Formula, Clear Skin Formula, Super EPA/DHA Fish Oil, and Probiotic-8 to help nourish the skin.
2. Avoid Problematic Foods
While some foods promote skin health, dermatologists now agree that other foods can actually cause acne and worsen its symptoms. Studies have shown a causal relationship between dairy intake and acne, so try switching to almond, soy or rice milk instead. Minimize animal fat, processed and fried foods. Like dairy, these foods are high in saturated and partially-hydrogenated fat, which are associated with inflammation related to acne.
Too many high-glycemic index carbohydrates – as found in sweetened beverages and foods made with white flour – increase production of testosterone, a hormone that can stimulate oil production. On the other hand, a diet high in protein decreases testosterone. And by reducing your sugar and refined carbohydrate intake, you can reduce the insulin spikes responsible for the overproduction of breakout-causing excess cells and sebum.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
It is important for skin health (and your health overall) to drink liberal amounts of high quality water each day. As an organ of elimination, the skin requires ample water to maintain proper function and get rid of toxins. Dehydration is an all too common condition that dries out the skin, increasing the number of pore-clogging dead skin cells, and starving the skin of the H2O it needs to function properly. Some beverages like coffee and alcohol act as diuretics, further depleting the body of fluids. Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water each day to keep the skin supple and support optimum skin health.
Physical exercise helps to reduce stress and increase blood circulation – both good for the skin. Staying physically active also increases the bacterial diversity of your microbiome to further support healthy skin. Whether you join a gym, go jogging with a friend, or engage in activities like hiking and swimming, find more ways to get moving. But remember to wash up afterwards because sweat can irritate skin and trigger a breakout!
5. Keep Clean
Perhaps the most important tip of all: keep your hands off of your face. Touching your skin can transfer bacteria and irritate the skin, causing flare-ups. Picking at or popping pimples will damage your skin, spread bacteria, slow healing and increase the risk of scarring. In addition, hair styling products can transfer from your hair to your face, contributing to clogged pores. Your face has the most oil-producing glands, so all that oil, plus whatever your face is exposed to (cosmetics, smog, dust) can be a pore-clogging nightmare. Cleanse your face gently but thoroughly twice daily to wash away the dirt of the day.
Last but not least, remember to regularly clean your phone. Whether it’s your cell phone or your land line at work or home, your phone – and everything on it – touches your face throughout the day. Don’t let those germs and bacteria spread! Give your stuff a quick wipe down with sanitizer and use a headset when you can.
6. Exfoliate and Moisturize
One of the primary causes of acne is the buildup of dead skin cells that clog pores. This leads to a cascade affect: excess skin cells clog pores, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria P. acnes to thrive, which leads to inflammation, resulting in the lesion un-affectionately known as a zit or pimple. Gently exfoliate daily to remove those dead skin cells and keep your pores clear. Be sure to follow up exfoliation with a good quality moisturizer. Keeping your skin moisturized with a noncomedogenic moisturizer will help prevent dry skin cells, which can lead to clogged pores.
7. Discuss Medications With Your Doctor
Certain drugs, including cortisone, androgens, lithium or those containing iodine, are known to cause and exacerbate acne. Conversely, some oral contraceptives claim to prevent acne. Read prescription drug labels carefully to check for potential side effects, and talk with your doctor to see whether your medications may be contributing to any skin problems.
8. Consider An Internal Cleansing Program
The body utilizes several systems including the kidneys and liver to rid itself of toxins. However, if these systems become overburdened then the skin takes over. In fact, considering how often the body releases toxins through the skin, it is not an overstatement to think of the skin as the third kidney. You can augment the body’s natural detoxifying processes by getting enough fiber in your diet so that the organ systems, including the skin, do not have to work overtime. But since most of us fall short of the recommended 25g-38g per day, use a supplement like VitaMedica’s LeanMeal RS Meal Replacement Drink to boost your intake.
9. Stop Stressing and Get Some Sleep
Get your beauty sleep! Turns out this old adage has some truth to it. Not getting enough sleep increases stress on your body. More stress in turn increases inflammation, a buildup of toxins, greater insulin resistance and impaired immune function, all of which can promote acne. Getting more sleep can help reduce stress and give your skin time to heal. Get plenty of sleep each night and try to manage the stress in your life by practicing meditation, going to yoga classes or through simple relaxation techniques.
10. Acne is Multifactorial
The bottom line is that acne is not caused by any one factor, but is a highly individualistic condition brought about by a combination of genetics, diet and lifestyle. Therefore, it makes sense to use a holistic approach to treating acne. Combat this multifactorial malady with an equally wide variety of methods including improvements to your diet, key changes in your daily habits, and help from a skin care professional who can develop a unique regimen specifically for you. And finally, be patient! Acne does not occur overnight nor will it clear up overnight, and skin cells take at least 30 days to turn over. But stick to your new routine and within a few short months you will enjoy healthy, glowing and beautiful blemish free skin.
Updated June 7, 2017
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.