Adult acne can be frustrating. You’ve put puberty way behind you, so why is your skin showing otherwise?
Adult acne is a chronic and increasingly common disease that can either persist since adolescence, or develop later on (usually after 25 years of age). Some of the most common causes of adult acne include hormonal imbalances and certain types of foods.
This blog post goes through the impact that hormones and diet can have on female adult acne, as well as some tips on how to achieve beautiful skin!
Do hormones have an effect on my skin?
You’ve probably noticed that your skin changes during certain times of the month, according to your menstrual cycle. This is due to the relationship between certain hormones, in particular oestrogen and androgens.
Testosterone and DHEA are known as androgens, and they are contributors of adult acne due to their effects on the sebaceous glands (glands that secrete sebum, or oil). Androgens can stimulate sebaceous gland growth and sebum production, whereas oestrogen has the opposite effect on the sebaceous glands.
Levels of androgens and oestrogen will vary throughout the month – so it makes sense why you might notice your acne flare up at certain points of the month!
A typical time period of acne flare-up is 1-2 weeks before a menstrual bleed. At this point of the cycle, oestrogen generally decreases to its lowest point – this means androgens are more likely to impact the sebaceous glands and affect how oily our skin gets.
Does what I eat affect my skin?
Various studies show a link between certain foods and adult acne. The most studied foods in regards to acne are high glycaemic index (GI) foods.
High GI foods include white bread, rice crackers and sweets, and cause an increase in our blood sugar levels. Long term, excessive consumption of these foods can result in elevated insulin levels. This elevation in insulin levels stimulates androgen production, and as mentioned earlier, androgens affect our sebaceous glands, and how oily our skin gets!
This was demonstrated in a case-control study on 88 female patients with mild to moderate acne – the results of the study showed an increase in acne and skin inflammation in those following a high GI diet, compared to those following a low GI diet.
There’s also been lots of research on foods that have a positive effect on acne! Essential fatty acids (think salmon, chia seeds, flaxseeds, avocado) and vitamin A rich foods (like pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, red capsicum) are some examples.
So, what can I do to promote beautiful skin?
We are all beautifully unique individuals; the causes of acne and how we respond to various treatments will differ from person to person. Below are a few general tips to promote beautiful skin:
- Create a regular skin-care routine to suit you
A skin-care routine doesn’t have to be a complex, 20-step process. A good place to start is to find a gentle cleanser, toner and moisturiser to use twice daily. Keeping your skin clean can help to wash away excess oil and any acne-causing bacteria sitting on top of the skin.
Tea tree based skin care products may be something to consider specifically – tea tree has been used for centuries due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits.
Witch Hazel can be a great toner, particularly for very oily skin! Splash some onto cotton wool and sweep over your face after cleansing and before moisturising!
- Include skin loving foods into your diet
As mentioned earlier, fatty acids and vitamin A can promote healthy skin and even reduce the severity of acne. Foods like salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil and avocado are packed with lots of essential fatty acids to support our skin. Think about all the yummy yellow/orange/red foods you can buy in your next grocery shop, as they are packed with vitamin A (pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, red and yellow capsicum).
Zinc rich foods can also promote healthy skin. Studies show that zinc has an anti-inflammatory action on the skin, as well as antimicrobial activity on acne-causing bacteria! Some examples of foods high in zinc include oysters, beef, tofu and hemp seeds.
- Regularly change your pillow case
Frequently changing your pillowcase can promote healthy skin. Pillowcases often have a build-up of bacteria, dirt and residual make-up over the course of just one week! Changing your pillowcase every few days, or even daily, will reduce your skin’s exposure to these little microbes, dirt and make-up.
Handy tip: if you’re concerned about not having enough pillowcases, or if you’d like to cut back on as much washing, flip your pillow over each night – that way, you can use the same pillowcase for 2 nights in a row.
You might also like to try some specific supplements to support healthy skin. We suggest the following products:
- ZINC PLUS® - assists skin healing, promotes healthy skin and oil gland function
- FLAXSEED OIL 1000mg® - high in omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, promotes healthy skin
Please seek advice from your doctor if you are concerned about your skin, and/or if you are on any medication prior to taking any supplements.
- Hechtman, L. (2012), Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier Australia.
- Ismail, N.H., Manaf, Z.A., Azizan, N.Z. (2012), High glycemic load diet, milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris in Malaysian young adults: a case control study, BMC Dermatology, DOI: 10.1186/1471-5945-12-13
- Kucharska, A., Szmurlo, A., Sinska, B. (2016), Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris, Advances in Dermatology and Allergology, DOI: 10.5114/ada.2016.59146
- Romanska-Gocka, K., Wozniak, M., Kaczmarek-Skamira, E., Zegarska, B. (2016), The possible role of diet in the pathogenesis of adult female acne, Advances in Dermatology and Allergology (6): 416-420, DOI: 10.5114/ada.2016.63880