If you have stuck around my blog for the past few years, then you know I’ve struggled with acne. I’ve had everything from deep cystic acne that takes months to heal to incessant blackheads and hyperpigmentation, to hormonal triggered breakouts. To say that I have experience in all things acne is an understatement, but it’s worth it because it means that my trials and tribulations will help you on your journey to clear skin!
I had never intended for this blog’s focus to lean so heavily on skincare, but considering how popular my acne skincare posts have been, it made sense to keep them coming. Acne has plagued us all to some degree (heck, I’m almost 30 and I STILL get the occasional breakout) and I am very happy that I can lend a helping hand to those seeking effective chemical free acne treatments.
Today’s blog post will touch bases on the most effective ways to treat acne both internally and externally which will give you the tools to get clear!
How to Treat Acne Inside and Out
From The Inside
Although the cause of acne can vary greatly from person to person, the root of the problem often shares similarities. The two most common internal causes of acne include hormonal imbalance and inflammation. Luckily, these two chronic conditions can be controlled with a few lifestyle and dietary adjustments.
1. Balance Your Omega-3s
I’m sure you’re familiar with the importance of getting healthy omegas in your diet. Experts tell you to eat salmon weekly, use coconut oil for cooking instead of vegetable oil, and enjoy high quality grass-fed dairy on a daily basis. While these suggestions are all good ones, are you aware of the reasons why omega-3s play such an integral role in the health of our skin? The answer may be surprising!
Omega-3 and omega-6 are the fatty acids that help regulate inflammation in the body at a cellular level. Omega-3s in particular are the ones that tell the body to reduce inflammation while omega-6s tell the body to increase inflammation. When the body has high levels of inflammation our detox and elimination pathways become compromised because they become sluggish and congested. This is where hormonal imbalance begins to take place. On top of that our skin loses its ability to regenerate effectively- hence the fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, dullness, and slow cell turnover that comes along with poor internal skin health.
Our bodies need both inflammation and anti-inflammation in order to function properly. However, the overabundance and convenience of modern processed foods create a chronic state of inflammation because they contain overt amounts of omega-6 and not enough omega-3s to balance them out. The ratios are so off balance that it’s hard to fix this issue without changing your diet completely.
Increasing your levels of omega-3 rich foods on a daily basis is one of the best ways to bring down inflammation in the body.
Here are a few examples:
• Flaxseed oil (only when mixed well with high quality dairy like yogurt or cottage cheese to help convert the ALA to EPA and DHA)
• Grass fed dairy, especially butter and ghee
• High quality cod liver oil
• Nuts and seeds (though they only contain ALA and must be converted to useable EPA and DHA)
• Oil rich fish like salmon, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel (not king mackerel)
• Pastured eggs
• Vegan algae oil
Remember to greatly reduce your intake of processed foods in order to increase your omega-3s! And no, eating omega-3s will not balance out your use of omega-6 rich products. It best to just avoid those altogether! You get plenty of Omega-6s just by eating meat, dairy, nuts and seeds, and using olive or avocado oil.
Read more here: Get Clear Skin With These 10 Foods
2. Balance Your Blood Sugar
As someone who suffers from hypoglycemia I know how it feels to crash and burn after indulging on sweets. Riding the blood sugar rollercoaster wreaks havoc on our skin and when it comes to acne, the insulin spikes triggered by these intense sugar fluctuations lead to breakouts. Excessive insulin also leads to chronic inflammation as well as insulin resistance; a key factor that increases estrogen dominance.
Some of the best ways to balance blood sugar include:
• Eat more high quality fats like avocado, coconut, and ghee
• Eat healthy snacks throughout the day with some fat (carrots and hummus!)
• Reduce refined carbs like candy, bread, white rice, and baked goods (you really shouldn’t be eating any of these if you want clear skin anyways)
Read my guide on How to Transition into Eating Less Sugar for more information.
3. Detox Your Lymph
Congested elimination pathways disrupt balance in the body leading to inflamed breakouts. Like our circulatory system, the lymphatic system traverses the entire body. However, unlike our circulatory system which is pumped throughout the body via the heart, the lymph doesn’t have a means to flow without bodily movement. Sitting or standing around all day and not exercising with clog the lymphatic system making it hard for your body to eliminate toxins.
The lymphatic system resides beneath the skin and in nodes found in the throat, underarms, and groin. It is responsible for flushing toxins and waste products from the entire body making it a key detox pathway for eliminating cellular waste.
Some of the best ways to get your lymph moving are:
Read my Healing Acne The Herbalist’s Way- The Lymph for more tips.
4. Eat One Raw Carrot Daily!
I know that this might sound too easy to be true but let me assure you that it’s one of the BEST ways to get clear skin.
Many women are victims of estrogen dominance due to household chemicals, xeno and phytoestrogens in the environment, and poor blood sugar balance. Raw carrots (not cooked) have a unique fiber that binds and helps eliminate excess estrogen in the body. Just by eating one raw carrot a day you can greatly decrease PMS symptoms that result from estrogen dominance.
5. Reduce Estrogen Sources in Your Environment
On the topic of estrogen dominance, it’s hard to ignore the multitude of factors that contribute to this particular hormonal imbalance.
Today we face a hormonal imbalance epidemic because we are surrounded by processed food, chemical laden household cleaners and body care products, and plastics. Using products that contain these estrogen-like chemicals inundate our bodies with excess estrogen making it more difficult to detox the excess. This overabundance of estrogen then gets recirculated throughout the body and often becomes the primary root cause of acne in women.
There are two types of external “estrogens” that cause estrogen dominance: xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens.
Xenoetrogens are chemicals that look and act like the natural estrogen in our bodies. They attach themselves to estrogen receptors effectively blocking our own natural estrogen. This “extra” estrogen has nowhere to go and continues to float around in the body overburdening the liver and causing an increase in estrogen effects.
Xenoestrogens are found in:
• Plastics that leach chemicals into food, water, or on the skin like Tupperware, water bottles that contain BPA, some children’s toys, conventional body care products and cosmetics, etc.
Phytoestrogens are also chemicals that look and act similar to natural estrogen except they come from plant sources. Like xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens also attach to estrogen receptors causing an overabundance of estrogen in the body. I recommend avoiding foods high in phytoestrogens for acne sufferers for this reason.
The most common sources for phytoestrogens are:
From The Outside
Now that we’ve touched bases on the best ways to treat acne internally, the external causes need to be considered. Even if we have pristine hormone balance, the perfect diet, or a clean toxic free environment, having a poor skincare care regimen (or lack thereof) won’t do you any favors. Slapping on some acne creams before balancing blood sugar issues won’t get rid of your acne for good. However, taking care of yourself internally will make your external applications work more effectively, allowing for better results.
Our skin needs moisture, gentle exfoliation, and balance on a daily basis. Unclogging pores, reducing inflammation, balancing sebum production, and stimulating cell renewal are all key factors when it comes to an effective acne skincare regimen.
6. Balance Sebum Production
Balancing sebum can be tricky. It can also take a while depending on your body and how well you’ve internally cleansed it for clear skin. I think a lot of the time though, balancing sebum comes down to how harshly we wash, scrub, and strip our skin. I know that if I scrub too vigorously my skin reacts by producing more sebum. I also experience an increase of sebum when I’m stressed.
Two things that have helped externally have been washing with honey and using pearl powder as a dusting powder to reduce shine while nourishing the skin. The honey, especially Manuka honey, breaks up and dissolves sebum while moisturizing. It also has the added benefit of being incredibly antibacterial which is a plus against acne. The pearl powder is a natural calcium supplement I take that also doubles as an efficient mattifying face powder that sucks up excess oil.
Together these simple ingredients have helped to gently balance sebum production.
Cleansing the skin removes impurities and excess sebum, makeup, and pollutants from the pores and the surface of the skin. Doing this at night is especially beneficial in preparing the skin for its nightly regeneration. Cleansing in the morning is great for removing dead skin cells that have been replaced with fresh new cells overnight and dissolves excess sebum and oil.
Many of us crave that squeaky clean feeling after washing our face but did you know that these cleansers are actually stripping your skin of its protective oils? Not only that, the acid mantle of the skin becomes imbalanced making it a pleasant environment for acne causing bacteria to grow and multiply.
Using gentle cleansers that contain natural oils, clays, and plant extracts is a great way to cleanse without stripping the skin. I recommend this Rose Cleansing Milk for those who want to dissolve blackheads and want skin that is soft, supple, and resilient.
Toning the skin gives us the chance to return it to its natural PH. An acid mantle that is compromised by stripping it of its protective oils makes for the perfect acne bacteria breeding ground. Using rose water to tone and refresh the skin after cleansing is a great way to rebalance its PH. Not only that, rose water is amazing for reducing inflammation and redness, and is an amazing ally to have against premature aging.
For an extra punch against acne, you can even use a Tea Tree and Lemon Toner and Kit to help kill acne causing bacteria while brightening the completion.
Learn why rose is so amazing for your skin below:
9. Gentle Exfoliation
Gently scrubbing away stuck dead skin cells and decongesting pores is a great way to help prevent acne breakouts. However, using harsh scrubs isn’t the answer to clear beautiful skin. Not only do these scrubs harm the acid mantle, they also scratch and irritate the skin causing our body to react by protecting itself- by producing more oil and sebum!
The key to gentle exfoliation is to use exfoliants that have a smaller grain. You can use scrubbier exfoliants but you MUST use them slowly and gently and no more than once or twice a week depending on your skin’s sensitivity.
I personally love using homemade face scrub like these:
Using clay to pull impurities and pollutants from the pores is a relaxing and rewarding experience. You can easily spread on a good mud mask and relax with a book or while in the tub while the clay and minerals go to work on excess oil and sebum.
Some of my favorite clay masks are those that contain Rhassoul clay because it’s the best clay for reducing blackheads. It literally sucks out the moisture from the blackheads making them easier to extract during gentle exfoliation. I really enjoy using this French Rose Clay to draw pimples and blackheads to the surface without disturbing the protective epidermal layer.
I recommend using a good mask twice a week for best results.
Be sure to read my post: Moroccan Red Clay- Blackheads Be Gone!
11. Moisturize with Oils
This sounds crazy, I know. But trust me when I say that your skin NEEDS oil. That’s the whole reason it produces oil in the first place! However, when we use cleansers that strip our skin of its natural oils we disrupt the balance. So what happens? Our skin produces MORE oil.
The key factor in preventing this from happening, especially for acne-prone skin, is to use non-comedogenic oils to moisturize and balance the skin.
Don’t believe me? Read up here: The Oil Cleansing Method. Also be sure to check out The Complete List of Comedogenic Oils, What are the Best Oils for Your Skin Type? and The Best Essential Oils for Your Skin Type.
12. Spot Treat
Using a natural and effective spot treatment to control existing breakouts is the last step in keeping skin clear. The best spot treatments reduce redness, kill acne causing bacteria, and bring down inflammation. If you’re tired of drying out your skin using conventional treatments that don’t work, then you need to give some tried and true natural solutions a try.
Some of my favorite anti-acne ingredients include:
***Before slathering these on please note that all of the above ingredients MUST be heavily diluted before use!!
Be sure to check out my anti-acne serum recipes and spot treatments below:
What have been your tried and true methods to treat acne inside and out?