A simple Internet search can bombard acne sufferers with suggestions of ingredients they should use to heal their skin. But in my holistic dermatology practice, I find it's equally important to focus on behaviors and things to avoid.
Here’s my list of the top five things to stay away from if you have chronic acne.
1. Long-term antibiotics
When a doctor puts you on skin-focused antibiotics, the medicine will target the bacteria P. acnes. But that's just one component of chronic acne. Though you may see a change in your skin in the short term, trust me when I say the long-term effects of those antibiotics will do more harm than good.
The problems that antibiotics create can greatly outweigh the benefits. First, they kill the friendly bacteria in the gut, damaging the body’s natural microbiome. Second, the overuse of antibiotics leads to resistant bacteria. According to the CDC, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics every year. At Revitalize 2015, Dr. Robynne Chutkan even characterized prescribing antibiotics for teens with acne as malpractice.
Since P. acnes can be treated effectively with herbs and natural remedies, antibiotics aren’t actually necessary. Opt for a more natural approach.
2. Squeezing or popping
As hard as it is to resist squeezing a pimple, it truly can be damaging. Popping and squeezing can cause scarring, leave the skin vulnerable to infection, and can actually make acne worse by spreading bacteria. Step away from the mirror!
Although it may not be possible to completely avoid stress, it is possible to effectively manage stress levels. When your emotional state is off balance, it can throw your hormones off balance too. When your hormones are out of line, chances are your skin will be too. Create a new habit or routine to include meditation or breathing exercises in your day-to-day life.
4. Heavy moisturizers
Many people find healing to be quick and effective when they stop using moisturizers altogether. But for those with dry or combination skin, I recommend sticking to water-based moisturizers or products with noncomedogenic oils (oils that won't clog pores). Moisturizers with safflower, argan, or jojoba oil are generally well tolerated by people with acne.
The same guidelines hold true for makeup: look for natural products that won't muck up your skin, and make sure to always, always, always wash your face before going to bed.
5. The wrong foods
The more you get to know your body, the more you’ll be able to see what foods trigger your acne. An elimination diet can help tell you which foods may be triggering your acne. Generally speaking, the best place to start is with dairy. Rich and fried foods are also common culprits if you tend toward cystic acne or oily skin. If your skin gets red easily or feels hot from within, stay away from spicy foods. Sugar and white flour create inflammation as well, which can make any skin condition worse.
The holistic approach to treating acne is a journey and doesn’t happen overnight. Following this list of things to avoid is an important step in setting the stage for healing to begin.