Skin Health and Acne

Anti-aging medicine will never go out of style. When I was younger I used to wonder why it was always such a topic of conversation among the beautiful yet older women in my life. I understand now that it’s not JUST about looking younger but FEELING youthful is as important.

Skin, it’s the largest organ we have and it can tell us so much about what’s going on with the rest of our body.

Fun fact, did you know that your digestive system is actually not considered part of your internal body? The long tube structure of the digestive organs serves as a barrier from the outside world to protect us from harmful substances ingested, it allows only the smallest broken down particles to be absorbed.

Depending on what we put into our body will determine what our skin will try to eliminate. The more substances and chemicals we ingest the harder our liver has to work at metabolizing and detoxifying these substances to maintain our optimal homeostasis. Once our “toxic” threshold is reached by the liver and we can no longer successfully keep up the rate of elimination, other organs become effected by the overload and symptoms start to appear.

Our skin is one of these elimination organs that try to give us clues when the internal environment is “off” whether due to nutrition/ digestion issues or hormone imbalances.

What causes Acne:

  • Lesions can be trigged by various chemicals, drugs, hormones, cosmetics, over washing of the skin, diet, stress and repeated trauma and rubbing (bras, helmets/ sports gear)
  • Androgen dependent conditions (puberty, PCOS) can exacerbate the development of acne due to their control over sebaceous gland secretions of sebum. When sebum is produced in excess it can cause the hair follicles on the skin to grow in crooked and clump together. This then blocks and plugs the hair follicle pore resulting in the formation of a comedone. Once this plug forms it’s the perfect environment for bacterial growth which can then lead to one of three results: 1) Whiteheads in which the bacteria in the pore is sealed by the skin, 2) Blackheads that result when the bacterial plug is no longer covered by skin and is exposed for oxidation, and 3) The formation of inflammatory lesions.
  • As previously touched on, we can’t look at any skin condition and not mention the role of diet as both a cause and cure. Food sensitivities are a major culprit to causing skin issues. Also, high glycemic index foods, (those that raise blood glucose levels soon after eating, things like processed and refined carbohydrates, and many foods that come packaged altered from their original form) and dairy, primarily skim milk, has been associated with increased acne. Further, insulin stimulates sebaceous gland secretions and androgen production, so this is particularly important both for the hormone issue as well as the point on diet and high glycemic and carbohydrate rich foods. Low glycemic index foods on the other hand have been shown to reduce sebaceous gland size and the severity of breakouts.
  • The distribution of the lesions also gives us clues into the cause. For women, lesions predominantly on the lower half of the face and jawline most commonly stem from hormonal issues versus allergies which can usually be seen under and around the eyes.

So, what can we do about it? There are many treatment options available depending on the root cause. As always, it’s important to consult your qualified healthcare practitioner to determine the right fit for your individual needs.

Conventional Medical Treatments for Acne:

Treatments can include topical agents like Benzoyl Peroxide which are antimicrobial and work relatively quickly. Results can be noticed within 1 week, the downfall is these have the potential to bleach clothing/ materials.

Topical Retinoids work by breaking down existing acne lesions and preventing the formation of new ones. Effects can be noticed in about 3 months time. The caveat to this option is that these retinoids (i.e. Acutane) are extremely teratogenic and every precaution must be taken to avoid pregnancy while on these medications.

The most common treatment for young women that I have encountered, is the use of oral contraceptive pills (OCP) which work by artificially regulating the bodies hormones. Aside from the main issues already presented with these medications, there is also a myriad of drug-induced nutrient depletion from chronic use of these medications. The OCP depletes magnesium, manganese, zinc, folate B1, B2, B3, B6, B2 and Vitamin C.

Oral Antibiotics disrupt the natural flora and deplete the body of potassium, magnesium, folate, B2, B6, B12, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. Isoretinoin (Acutane) depletes the body of folate, carnitine and biotin. In the end, these medications may work for you, but you have to ask yourself if the risks outweigh the benefits.

Naturopathic Treatments for Acne:

For those looking for alternative solutions, the good news is, there are plenty available. Both food sensitivity and hormone testing are good starting points since these can give us quick and reliable results as to the underlying root cause of the acne. These results can then direct the course of appropriate treatment.

Certain vitamins and minerals that are very important to the skin include the following:

  • Zinc involved in local hormone activation, wound healing and tissue regeneration.
  • B vitamins, particularly B5 and B6, in high doses inhibit sebum production and women with PMS aggravated acne tend to respond well to B6.
  • Topical tea tree oil at 5% is antiseptic and has been shown to be as effective as 5% Benzoyl Peroxides.
  • Probiotics help maintain and establish healthy gut flora, keeping the gut and the skin happy.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids and fish oils are very lubricating substances. These fats help form cholesterol, the chemical “backbone” for all of our sex hormones which aid in regulating imbalances as well as lubricating dry skin.
  • Water! If sufficiently hydrated, the body is able to eliminate and detoxify adequately. This means less toxic overload and symptom presentation on the skin.

Fun fact, did you know that botox treatment has actually been shown to decrease sebum production too? So, not only are you getting anti-aging medicine with these injections you’re also treating one of the underlying causes for acne at the same time. It almost counts as a two for one treatment!

This was just a small taste of one common skin condition, potential causes and the many options available. For more information on this or other troubling skin issues and age defying treatments please feel free to book in for a complimentary skin consult.

Learn more about Dr. Kaylee Driedger, ND by clicking here.

Written by Dr. Kaylee Driedger, ND
Euphoria Natural Health

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