Contrary to popular beliefs, acne isn't just an issue for teenagers. Many adults also suffer from the condition, which can leave both physical and emotional scars.
In my mid-20s, a doctor told me that what I ate had nothing to do with my acne. Ten years later, after a lot of research and a master's degree in nutritional medicine, I know this isn't the case. Diet and lifestyle do have an impact on acne in adulthood which is good news because it means there are steps you can take in order to reduce the severity of yours.
1. Learn to relax, manage stress and make self care a priority.
Acne can be triggered or worsened by stress via complex interactions with inflammation and hormones. Take time each day to breathe and unwind. Meditation, journaling, walking the dog or a relaxing bath might be helpful.
2. Live a low-carb life.
Evidence is mounting in the role of carbohydrates play — especially high glycemic index carbohydrates that release sugar quickly into the bloodstream — in acne. The insulin released in response to eating carbohydrates is responsible for a number of factors that can impact acne, such as inflammation and excess sebum production.
Sick to unprocessed, real food. Avoid sugar, processed foods and foods that release sugar quickly into the blood such as bread and other wheat and grain products. Green vegetables, leafy salads and berries represent carbohydrates that won't have a huge impact on insulin levels.
3. Don't be fearful of fat.
Especially the omega 3 fats found in oily fish like salmon, trout and sardines. These fats are highly anti-inflammatory and may help to reduce acne while also boosting mood, which is often negatively impacted in acne sufferers.
Include foods in your daily eating such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, hemp and flax seeds, olive and coconut oil, salmon and avocado. These foods can help stabilize blood sugar and keep skin looking healthy.
4. Get your antioxidants.
Free radicals are damaging oxidative agents that have been linked to cell damage, cancer, heart disease, depression, inflammation, sun damage and other conditions including acne. Antioxidants are substances that can quench, or remove, destructive free radical molecules in the body, and have many health benefits as a result. Certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc act as antioxidants in the body as well as carotenoids and flavonoids found in colorful vegetables and fruit.
Zinc is also a major player in combating adult acne. Various studies have shown that zinc levels are lower in acne sufferers, and that zinc supplements and topical creams may be of therapeutic value. Seafood, salmon, eggs, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, cashew nuts, cocoa, mushrooms and spinach represent good food sources of zinc.
5. Focus on natural skincare.
Creams and lotions based on natural plant ingredients and free from parabens and other chemicals are helpful to acne sufferers. Make sure anything you use on your skin is non-comedogenic, meaning it won't block pores.
Tea tree oil has been used for skin complaints for many years and is known to be useful in relieving acne. In fact, it's been shown to be as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide cream in the treatment of acne. Look for natural creams that contain between 5-10% tea tree oil.
6. Sleep, sleep and more sleep.
When you don't get enough sleep, your body has trouble regulating all the systems that make you function and keep you healthy. Constant fatigue can negatively impact the immune system, stress levels and hormone secretion, so make sure you get at least seven hours of sleep every night and make good sleep habits negotiable.
It's likely that changes may take 3-4 months before a noticeable impact is seen, so don't give up too soon! My own skin has been mostly clear for around the last 10 years, apart from the odd hormonal or stress related outbreak, so I know these tips work.