I have been getting many, many emails like this recently from teens stressed out and frustrated by their acne. It really tugs at my heartstrings. I know how hard it is to go through such an important time with skin problems. There's a lot that you can do, and many of your options are herbal and natural, which you won't hear about in ads or from your dermatologist. They are also some of the most effective ways to deal with acne.
Part of the frustration so many teens experience comes from lack of information about remedies that might be available other than mass market drugstore products. Despite the fact that these brands are the most heavily marketed for acne problems, affordable, and the most widely available products they are absolutely NOT what I would recommend that you turn to. In fact if that is what you have been using, please stop. Using something like this is irritating and disrupting your skin's ability to balance itself. Balance is what you are ultimately seeking.
Benzoyl Peroxide is ultimately one of the worst things to use on a pimple. Just do a quick search for Benzoyl Peroxide side effects and you get: "Dryness; feeling of warmth; irritation; itching; mild peeling, redness, or swelling of the skin." These side effects are very, very common. Ever notice how a pimple gets really dry and the skin peels at the end? This is part of the process when using a Benzoyl Peroxide treatment. By applying it you've further irritated a section of skin that was already in dire straits to begin with. This is just plain wrong.
Acne is a bacterial problem but it is also an inflammation problem. Your skin's natural defenses had to be disrupted and compromised in order for a breakout to ever happen in the first place. What I recommend is a regimen that will restore your skin's ability to protect and heal itself.
- What are the Exterior Triggers for Acne?
1. Blocked pores (from dead skin cells, sebum, makeup)
2. Improper/Basic skin PH (allows acne bacteria to flourish)
3. Too much sebum (feeds acne bacteria)
- What are the Interior Triggers for Acne?
1. Increased androgens (sexual hormones that go way up at puberty)
2. Stress (causes less circulation to the skin and hormone imbalance)
3. Poor diet
Without attention to BOTH of these components your likelihood of success is much lower.
- How to deal with your Acne problem naturally!
1. Eat amazingly healthy, fresh, organic foods.
2. Get adequate sleep and relaxation.
3. Use a gentle, natural cleansing routine daily to exfoliate, balance sebum, kill bacteria, and maintain proper PH.
4. Moisturize and spot treat with something soothing and anti-inflammatory - not drying!!
Surprised to see eating healthy at the top of my list? Eating healthy foods is the best way to get your body to overall health, and that includes skin imbalances. Eating healthy is one of the most mysterious and elusive things in the SAD - or Standard American Diet as it is widely now known.
Being a teen and trying to make the choice to eat organic can be a challenging task. If your experience is like mine was then you are expected to eat with the family generally, which can mean a lack of choice in some situations. School food is generally no picnic either. Most cafeteria attempts at healthy food are a dismal failure for taste, freshness, vitamin content and freedom from additives. You CAN take control of your food, though! I went vegetarian at the age of 15, and have continued to improve my food habits over my life.
Your effort and desire to be healthy is worth a conversation with your parents. I know talking to parents can be difficult, embarrassing, and it seems like they don't understand. (Been there!) If you ask for a moment of their time to very frankly discuss your concerns about your health and how your skin is really stressing you out I think they'll respond. Ask for their help. Parents actually LOVE it when their kids want their help.
If your parents are not into eating really clean, fresh, organic foods then I'd suggest buying a recipe book or diet book that has information on vegan, raw, or vegetarian eating styles and suggesting trying some of the recipes as a family project.
My mom and I purchased the Horn of the Moon Cookbook when I went vegetarian. My mom was feeling like she couldn't cook for me anymore, which was a problem as she really liked to nurture through food. Getting a veggie alternative cookbook was a good way to help re-establish the family bonds that happen over food. We could experiment and learn together! 18 years later it is still one of my favorite veggie cookbooks and has a place of honor on my recipe shelf. It offers good replacements for many traditional American dishes. It is not a cookbook for gluten-free, raw, or vegan foods, however, so if you are seeking those options you'll need a different book. Thankfully these days there are lots more options out there.
Someplace you can turn online for help and advice with going Vegetarian, Vegan, and organic is The Vegetarian Resource Group. Check out their site for lots of nutrition information, recipes, and even a full page devoted to teen vegetarian nutrition.
Try to eat as many vegetables as possible and cut out most, if not all meat from your diet. Conventional meats are laden with growth hormones, which aren't going to do your androgen levels any favors. Some sources will also recommend that you cut out milk and milk products completely because dairy is essentially a hormonal food, designed to grow babies quickly. I simply recommend you do what you can. Trying to do something too extreme too quickly isn't sustainable, so make small steps that you know you can keep up with. Cutting out or reducing meat is a huge first step for most people. Just do what you can.
The more veggies and fruits you eat. the better. The more raw, unprocessed foods you eat, the better. Stay away from prepackaged foods as much as possible. Food additives can be responsible for a whole host of inflammatory responses including acne, ADD, even rashes. The more fresh, organic, unprocessed plants you can eat the more your skin is going to glow. By eating fresh fruits and vegetables you are not only eliminating harmful additives but dramatically boosting your vitamin and nutrient intake.
Challenge yourself! See if you can do better than 5 fruits and veggies a day by making fresh produce the center of every meal and snack. Achieving that goal can be as simple as eating an apple instead of a pudding cup, or some carrots instead of crackers.
And, repeat after me: Organic, organic, organic.
Organic produce has been now scientifically PROVEN to be higher in nutrient content than their conventionally grown counterparts. You can see that study, published in 9/2010 for the proof.
There are even MORE studies posted on the Organic Trade Association page.
The more produce you eat, the more pesticides you stand to ingest if you are not eating organic. I know the cost can seem high, but when you consider the amount of money that it costs to fix all the problems that poor diet can cause eating well starts to look like a great value overall.
For information from my blog on dealing with acne and how stress causes it check out my previous post, In-depth about stress and skin problems. There's lots of relaxation tips that should help you with your school routine, social stress, and yes, even brothers.
For some great further reading on how food can affect your acne check out these posts on other sites:
Crazy Sexy Wellness: Do Milk and Sugar Cause Acne?
Epic Beauty Guide: 3 "Secrets" to Clear Skin (No More Acne!)
I have also found a lot of helpful info on discussion threads in the Acne.org forums. You can view threads for information even if you don't join.
I'll cover topical treatments in my next post. For now, get out and get yourself some healthy foods. If you want, comment and tell me a fresh food you are going to add to your diet, your new healthy, portable school snack, or a recipe you are trying. I love to hear from you!