7 Naturopathic tips to address teenage acne
Teenage acne can be incredibly stressful and debilitating. With over one third of teenagers experiencing cystic acne requiring assistance from a medical professional, it is it is an issue that is equally as frustrating for parents.
The oral contraceptive pill, antibiotics and Roaccutane are the conventional “go-to” treatments for managing acne however these medications come with some unwanted side-effects. There are ways to naturally support your teenager and calm their angry and unhappy skin.
I would love to share with you a few of my tried and proven tips to managing cystic teenage acne. The good thing about making these changes is that it won’t take long to see results and this will provide an incentive for your teenager to keep on going with a healthy diet and skincare routine!
Seven easy steps to getting your teenage acne under control
Step 1. Provide herbal gut and liver support
When it comes to acne, be it teenage or adult acne, my first point of call is addressing liver and gut health. The liver is one of the most important players in dictating the health of our skin. A liver under excess load will result in excess hormone build up and an overload of toxins being released through the skin which manifests as acne. I find the easiest way to support the liver is with herbs and via specific foods. The Edible Beauty Inner Essentials - Skin+Liver Tablets contain an abundance of liver-loving and anti-microbial herbs including Berberine, Turmeric and Dandelion Root which work to detoxify and repair your liver, getting to the root cause of acne woes. They are safe for teenagers to take daily and I recommend a course of 3 months to get the most effective treatment.
How to: Get your teenager into the habit of having bitter foods – the easiest way to do this is serving a rocket salad every evening, add lemon juice or apple cider and a dash of olive oil along with your cruciferous veggies (hide in bakes if you have a fussy eater!). Having our liver tablets with breakfast and dinner is an easy habit to incorporate, the tablets have no flavour so should not be hard to get down!
An imbalanced gut can be at the core of disrupted hormones which in turn can lead to cystic acne. The gut microbiome is being studied more for the “estrobolome”, a term which refers to how our gut environment influences the amount of oestrogen being reabsorbed by the body. Gut balancing herbs such as Grape Seed, Calendula and nutrients such as Glutamine and Bromelains are found in our Inner Essentials-Skin+Gut Renew and can be really helpful in bringing the gut back to balance.
In addition to gut balancing herbs, I find hormone balancing herbs such as Vitex and Saw Palmetto can be useful in brining progesterone and androgen hormones into check. When using these herbs it is best to speak to a naturopath or herbalist to ensure they are being used correctly.
How to: Add one scoop of Inner Essentials – Skin+Gut renew to water, or smoothies and chat to a naturopath about how to safely take hormone and gut balancing herbal medicine including Vitex (Chaste Tree) and Saw Palmetto.
Step 2. Ditch the dairy and go low-GI
You would be familiar with the phenomenon of a week of Cadbury chocolate bar consumption showing up on your skin. It is not a misconception that dairy and sugar can exacerbate acne. Both dairy and high Glycaemic Index (GI) foods can lead to a chain of events which ultimately lead to oily skin and breakouts. How does this happen? Both dairy and high GI foods create a surge in blood sugar levels, which triggers an insulin response. This can in turn disrupt testosterone balance, leading to an increase in sebum (oil) production and acne! In a recent review of 50 years of clinical studies, eating high GI Foods and drinking milk were shown to not only aggravate acne but also trigger it. So, the first thing I always ask my patients to do is to cut out dairy and remove all processed foods from their diets. Their skin responds favourably very quickly which provides a very strong incentive to keep up the clean eating!
How to: Replace dairy with plant-based milk alternatives such as almond and oat milk. Explore plant-based cheese options such as coconut milk or nut cheeses and use savoury yeast flakes to create “cheesy” bakes. Replace white pasta and flour with wholegrain alternatives made with quinoa and millet or brown rice.
Step 3. Fibre fix
Fibre is critical when it comes to clearing hormone imbalanced skin. Fibre ensures that excess hormones and toxins are being cleared from the body and digestive system. I find I get quick and easy results when I recommend 2-3 tablespoons of flaxseed meal daily along with 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, kale, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts) which in turn provide the liver with a boost. Other wonderful fibre-rich foods include apples, beets, carrots, asparagus and sweet potatoes along with oats, buckwheat and quinoa.
How to: Get your teenager into the habit of a porridge or smoothie for breakfast. If you are time poor in the morning, get your teenager to make overnight oats, by simply soaking oats, fruit (grated apple and pear), nuts/seeds (sunflower or pumpkin) and flaxseed meal overnight with almond milk or water in a glass jar. Top with a dollop of coconut yoghurt and it will be ready to grab and go in the morning.
Step 4. Up your zinc intake
Not only is zinc responsible for balancing the skin’s sebum production, it is also effective in regulating insulin production, reducing the body’s inflammatory response to bacteria and blocking the production of unwanted hormones. It does this by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, which prevents the formation of DHT (a form of testosterone) and thus decreases the production of sebum or oil which causes cystic acne. Zinc-rich foods include spirulina, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and nuts. If you are zinc depleted, supplementing with zinc may be helpful. Zinc picolinate (30-50 mg/day) is my preferred zinc form, however do not supplement for longer than 3 months without checking your zinc levels.
How to: Ground pumpkin seeds and add a teaspoon or two to your teenager’s smoothie. If this is too hard, consider a zinc supplement or zinc drops.
Step 5. Switch to a gentle purifying cleanser, avoid anything medicated and foaming
Sometimes the products we are using to combat our skin concerns can be the very cause of them. Over cleansing or using products which are rich in sulfates and overly foamy can strip the skin of its natural oils, promoting the over production of oil which can be a trigger for acne. Using makeup or skincare products which have irritants such as alcohol or fragrances can irritate the skin which is also a trigger for excess oil production. Switching to a natural milk-based cleanser is the key to purifying the skin without stripping it of its natural oil balance. Our No.1 Belle Frais Cleansing Milk contains salicylic acid to unclog pores along with nourishing oils to cleanse skin without putting oil producing skin cells into overdrive. Make cleansing the skin a non-negotiable ritual, cleanse morning and night and ensure you are massaging our cleanser onto dry skin, then adding water to emulsify and removing well with a warm washcloth or eco-puff.
How to: Start using a natural milk-based cleanser and switch to natural beauty products! See the guide here for more information on how to get started on a natural beauty regime.
Step 6. Reduce bacterial build up and hydrate
Unclogging pores and reducing skin bacterial build up ensures that breakouts are kept at bay. Cleansing twice daily and using a spot treatment on areas that are prone to breakouts can prevent breakouts. Our Turmeric Brightening Serum contains Turmeric extract known for its anti-microbial actions along with Australian Lemon Myrtle, clinically proven for its ability to balance an oily T-zone. This formula works effectively at stopping acne in its tracks whilst zapping any pus-filled spots. It can also work overnight to reduce the severity of cystic spots. It can be tempting to avoid a moisturiser when experiencing acne however this is what your skin may need the most. Our Botanical Water Gel is an oil-free gel formula designed to not only calm and nourish the skin but also assists in hydrating, without clogging pores.
How to: Get your teenager into a solid skincare regime – start with an evening routine and then build in the morning routine. Seeing clear and radiant skin will give your teenager an incentive to keep going. I have created an Acne Away Set for both teenagers and adults struggling with acne. The set includes our 3 step routine for Acne-Prone Skin along with our Liver Tablets, designed to address acne prone skin from the inside out.
Step 7. Swap your pillow case
As difficult as it is, try to avoid squeezing and touching your skin as this only contributes to the spread of acne and can also cause scarring. Change your pillow case every two to three days as this helps keep bacteria build up to a minimum. I recommend using a pillow case made with organic fibres such as our organic “vegan silk” pillow case, which is naturally anti-bacterial helping to prevent bacterial build up which can cause acne and breakouts.
Teenage acne can be embarrassing and frustrating but it can be healed with some simple changes to diet and your child’s skincare regime. It won’t take long to see the results of the healthy lifestyle changes you and your child incorporate.