What’s up with Adult Acne?


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What is up with adult acne?  I bet you sometimes feel like you’re 30 going on 13! Well, honey you’re not alone.

According to this recent NY Times article, “More adult women are getting pimples than ever before, according to a study presented in March at the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting. Today, clinical acne afflicts the complexions of 45 percent of women ages 21 to 30, 26 percent of women ages 31 to 40, and 12 percent of women ages 41 to 50, according to the study.”

Many women spend tons of money on sometimes dangerous acne treatments (can we say Accutane, which has been linked to birth defects and depression!!), lasers and all kinds of potions and lotions to deal with this dilemma. The thing is, acne usually can’t be successfully treated from the outside, because it’s cause is entirely related to what’s happening on the inside. Given that the cause of acne goes deeper than your dermis, I’d say that keeping your hormones in check is actually more important than having the right skin-care regimen – although that is important too.

Disclaimer: I am no expert on skin care regimens but I’ll share mine below :)

So what is all this acne about anyway?

To get to the root of the cause we’ve got to talk about the liver. Newsflash: You’ve got to love your liver!

Your liver is this awesome organ that is an amazing detoxing machine.  It keeps you healthy, but to do it’s job, it needs to be healthy too! It serves as your body’s engine, pantry, food processor and garbage disposal. It also maintains hormonal balance and regulates fat, digestion, and circulation.

Generally, the liver takes harmful substances and purifies them, then eliminates them from the body naturally via bile, urine and stool. But trouble starts when toxins enter the bloodstream faster than the liver can break them down; the liver becomes overwhelmed, sluggish and even toxic. These harmful substances include: pesticides, medications, Bisphenol-A and other chemicals found in our environment, hormones from food, the birth control pill and air pollution.

If you’ve got allergies, chemical sensitivities, constipation, skin issues, acne and weight gain, your liver may be hollering for help!

One of the biggest signs of a toxic liver is a condition called Estrogen Dominance, which occurs when the liver can no longer break down excess estrogen and send it to the colon for removal. This causes  a back-log of sorts, and harmful “bad” estrogens begin to re-circulate throughout the body.

How does estrogen dominance contribute to acne?

We get acne when androgens (male sex hormones) such as testosterone get turned into its more potent form called Dihydrotestosterone or DHT, via the action of an enzyme called 5 Alpha Retuctase. DHT then causes sebum production to increase, leading to more oily skin, clogged pores and acne.

Balanced progesterone helps to prevent this by regulating the production of DHT in the body. It inhibits the activity of 5 Alpha Reductase and prevents it from turning Testosterone into DHT. When your Progesterone levels are normal, this will help to keep your DHT levels down. But when estrogen gets high and progesterone is low, all hell breaks lose! :-)

This is how estrogen dominance and low progesterone can cause acne. Of course acne doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is usually coupled with some other menstrual or reproductive issue that results from high levels of “bad” estrogen , low progesterone and/or high androgens. These conditions include PCOS, increased PMS, endometriosis, fibroids, adenomyosis, heavy periods, irregular periods, amenorrhea (missing periods), anovulatory cycles, and fertility problems. Check out my post on estrogen dominance and what you can do about it.

As you can see, there are 3 things we have to deal with in this situation:

  1. Reducing ‘bad’ estrogens in your body
  2. Reducing testosterone levels in your bod
  3. Getting your progesterone level back up to normal

This requires diligence. Even if you get your progesterone levels back up to normal, you may still be producing way to many androgens (I’ll get to that in a minute). One of the first things you can do is to help your liver out. This is why cleansing your liver 2-3 times a year is so vitally important to your hormonal and overall health! I talk all about excess insulin, androgens and PCOS here if you want to know more.

What should you do? 

  • Get my Lovely Liver 5-Day Cleanse to help rid your body of excess harmful hormones. You’ll learn what your liver really does and why it is SO important to the health of your hormones and your skin. We cover estrogen dominance and a whole lot of other juicy stuff!!
  • Cut out as many toxic skincare products as possible. Seriously, take a good look at the products you’re using for your acne now. How many of those ingredients can you even pronounce. Guess where they end up once they are absorbed by your skin into your bloodstream? Yup, they go straight to your already over-burdened liver for processing.
  • Try using natural products on your skin instead. Aloe vera, coconut oil, raw honey, natural clay, steams with chamomile, apple cider vinegar. You can find a ton of ideas online,
  • Cut out inflammation-causing foods. Think about it this – acne is an inflammatory response to something happening within your body. It could be a toxic liver but it could also be related to food intolerances or allergies. Gluten, refined sugar, soy, corn and GMO foods are all culprits.
  • Take back control of your blood sugar. High-glycemic-index carbohydrates like white bread and sugar-laden foods aren’t just waistline saboteurs, they raise blood sugar and insulin levels, which increase androgens and breakouts. This is because  high levels of insulin cause your ovaries to produce more testosterone. Make sure to include protein in each meal and snack and please please stay away from anything that will spike your blood sugar.
  • Slow down darling! Stress raises cortisol –> cortisol raises blood sugar –> blood sugar raises insulin. You now know what high insulin does to you. So, take a hard look at what is causing you to feel anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, unhappy and depressed. Remember, you have complete control over your life and what you choose to include in it. Read all about cortisol and it’s effects on your beautiful body here.

Lastly, I promised I’d share my beauty regimen with you! I’ll be honest and tell you I’ve never dealt with acne or oily skin (I know, sorry!), but I’ve got my own issues with seriously dry skin that has sun damage from being on the pill for five years and spending way too much time in the sun as a kid. I was and still am a beach baby!! Except now I wear sunscreen and not olive oil. Yes, I used to do that!

I’ve got a mix of things going on in my routine – I only wash my face at night, in the morning I just use water and a wash cloth. At night I use a cream-based cleanser (sorry I literally can’t remember the name of it and I’m not at home right now) and I use coconut oil as a moisturizer. Sometimes I use a combination of raw honey and warm water to wash my face too. It’s awesome by the way! I also use a toner I created using 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1/2 cup of water. Once or twice a week I use a natural clay mask and once a month I’ll do a herbal steam. Check this site for ideas on how to do this.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve been dealing with acne and what you have been doing about it. 

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