There are two main types of acne: Acne vulgaris and acne conglobata. Acne vulgaris affects the hair follicles and oil secreting glands of the skin. This is often associated with whiteheads, blackheads, redness and inflammation. Acne conglobata is a rare but more severe form of acne where painful cysts form with the potential of scaring.
Acne begins in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands which produce sebum. Sebum is a mixture of oils that are necessary to moisturise, protect and coat the skin. However, an excess of sebum can result in clogged pores and inflamed blemishes.
Acne is often associated with teenagers but it’s just as common in adults too. In fact, the number of cases in adult women is significantly increasing due to stress in both professional and private life, as well as increased anxiety and poor sleep quality. All of these lifestyle factors greatly affect our hormone balance, which in turn impacts the health of our skin.
The hormone testosterone stimulates cells within the follicle canal to produce keratin, a protein found on the surface of the skin, hair and nails. In acne, there is often an over-production of keratin which can lead to blocked pores and trapped sebum. However, it’s not necessarily testosterone causing this problem. Studies have shown that those with acne have a higher preference for an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme converts testosterone to its more potent form, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and this is what’s thought to control sebaceous gland secretion and abnormal hyperkeratinisation.
Even though women have less testerostone than men, the production remains fairly consistent throughout the month. The first half of the cycle is dominated by higher oestrogen levels. However, during the second half of the cycle, progesterone elevates as oestrogen reduces, with a surge of testosterone normally around ovulation. This hormonal shift allows the effects of testosterone to be more pronounced, resulting in potential acne.
A healthy microbiome is vital when dealing with acne. Not only does it have the ability to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress and tissue lipid content, but it also plays a huge role in the balance of the skin microbiome. The skin microbiome is something you may hear less of, however, it’s absolutely vital to keep diversity and balance to minimise the risk of triggering an immune response. In acne, the resident bacteria found to be in higher concentrations is propionibacterium acnes, and this is believed to release enzymes that break down sebum triglycerides into free fatty acid lipoperoxides, promoting an inflammatory cascade.
As well as hormones and the microbiome, other key factors in the progression of acne include genetics, diet, stress, dysregulation of insulin signalling and poor liver detoxification. Despite the complexity of the driving factors contributing to acne, there are many areas that we can target from both a dietary and lifestyle perspective to reduce symptoms.
Clear Skin Capsules are expertly blended with a good dose of targeted bacteria strains which have been heavily studied to support the microbiome, immune system and in turn the health and repair of the skin. Rich in antioxidants such as beta carotene, lutein, lycopene and astaxanthin which have shown to minimise acne breakouts, brighten up the skin and protect from any oxidative damage triggered by inflammation. Also contains burdock root which supports detoxification of wastes and toxins, whilst providing potent antiseptic and antibacterial benefits. The unique addition of Gotu kola adds extra support for healing and repair whilst reducing inflammation.
Organic Clear Skin Oil provides a reliable source of omega 3, 6 and 9. Over many years there has been a lot of research to support omega oils as a dependable source for lowering inflammation and supporting the uptake of antioxidants to prevent free radical damage. The Clear Skin Oil contains mostly omega 3 in the form of flaxseed oil, along with omega 6 and 9 found in pumpkin seed oil, sea buckthorn oil, rosehip oil, blackcurrant oil and many more. These oils are designed to work synergistically together to complement each unique benefit, whilst providing a range of fat-soluble antioxidants such as Vitamin E and carotenoids. This oil is best used in conjunction with the Clear Skin Capsules.
The importance of zinc for normal skin function is well recognised. Its involvement in localised hormone activation, healing and tissue regeneration has been well studied. Low levels of zinc is thought to increase the enzymes 5-alpha-reductase, meaning it has a direct impact on sebum production and sebaceous gland size. Zinc has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity and has been shown to reduce the amount of propionibacterium acnes on the skin. Food sources include shellfish and pumpkin seeds, however, the studies have mostly been on supplementation of 30mg+.
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus has been heavily studied for its benefits in reducing acne severity. It’s thought that lactobacillus can regulate insulin signalling and modulate the gut-skin axis to improve the appearance of acne. Other studies have shown the ability to stimulate the immune response, diversify the microbiome and minimise inflammation in acne lesions. To exert beneficial effects, the strength studied of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus is 10billion.
The role of antioxidants in acne progression has been studied for many years. More recent studies have shown that patients with acne show increased oxidative stress on both the skin and systemically. Zinc is included in the essential antioxidants, as is vitamin A due to its ability to reduce sebum production and hyper-keratinisation. Vitamin E is also important for the regulation of vitamin A levels, and selenium supports the production of glutathione our master antioxidant. Antioxidants work better together and ideally from food, making Antioxidant Boost from Wild Nutrition perfect as it contains a good selection and is also extracted from food.
Dr.Hauschka skincare is excellent for helping skin with conditions such as acne or eczema as it seeks to balance the skins own processes rather than irritate or scrub the skin.
Dr Hauschka Cleansing Cream contains selected herbal extracts in an almond base to strengthen the skin, refine the pores and promote the elimination of waste products. It’s gentle but effective, feeling like the skin has been deeply cleaned whilst the skin’s natural hydro-lipid barrier is fully retained. Rich in the highest quality medicinal plant extracts such as calendula, chamomile and anthyllis to protect the skin’s microbiome balance, minimise inflammation and calm irritated skin.
Melissa day cream is absolutely beautiful. Used for sensitive, combination skin to help balance and reduce the appearance of blemishes and even skin tone. Features extracts of Melissa for its antibacterial properties that are thought to prevent and calm acne, witch hazel to relieve inflammation and anthyllis to stimulate the skin's balance. This is a gorgeous base under make-up too and provides perfect hydration whilst managing shine.
The Organic Pharmacy Purifying Seaweed Clay Mask: The ultimate detoxifying and energising mask for congested skin. The clay helps to draw out impurities and to remineralise the skin, whilst the seaweed completely calms reddened skin. Expertly formulated to deeply cleanse and prevent blemishes. Containing gentle, natural ingredients including essential oils and potent antiseptic herbs that fight acne and promote healing. One single application showed to decrease sebaceous secretion after just 20 minutes of removing the product.
The Organic Pharmacy Blemish Gel: This non-irritating, antiseptic gel is used to reduce redness and promote healing. An ultra gentle gel that can reduce spots super quick without leaving the skin dry and tight. Contains nature's best antiseptics such as tea tree and Manuka, with the immune-boosting echinacea to protect the skin's microbiome.
Caudalie Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser: This gorgeously refreshing gel cleanser is the perfect first step in any beauty routine. Designed to cleanse, tighten pores and reduce excess sebum without drying skin out, leaving it clean, fresh and glowing. Enriched with natural salicylic acid which gently works to shed dead skin cells and reduce inflammation, grapeseed polyphenols acts as a potent antioxidant to aid in healing and repair, and essential oils to protect, soothe and calm irritated and blemished skin.
Sarah-Lou is a Nutritional Therapist at Therapy Organics, providing expert qualified advice in one-to-one consultations, and offering advice in the shop.See more Articles by Sarah-Lou
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