As a therapist, you know that despite common misconception, acne is not just reserved for teens. It’s a cause for concern among many adults, resulting in both physical and psychological consequences.
More and more evidence is surfacing to support the correlation between diet and acne, calling for therapists and practitioners to begin recommending not only skincare solutions but lifestyle changes to support their clients’ routines.
Making headlines recently, Californian twins Nina and Randa Nelson sailed through their teens with flawless skin before encountering severe acne in their early 20s, finding the solution to their troubles to be a total diet overhaul.
“For us, the food we were eating was showing up on their face,” Nina said. “The things we don’t eat include all animal products, dairy, fish or chicken, and we don’t have any oils, nuts, peanut butter or avocado.
Dr Douglas Grose, President of the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia (CPCA) is particularly passionate about treating acne, complementing medical treatment with additional diet and lifestyle adjustments.
“For just about as long as I have been a medical practitioner, which is about 48 years, the medical profession has denied the importance of diet when it comes to treating acne. In recent years, however, the evidence is mounting showing an association between the two. Research is demonstrating that acne is a disease among Western society and is noticeably absent in those that consume Palaeolithic diets that don’t consist of refined sugars, grains, milk and dairy products,” says Dr Grose.
As Dr Grose explains it, acne is a disease of hair follicles, in which the hair follicle openings are blocked, and when the attached sebaceous oil glands are unable to secrete onto the skin, the hair follicles swell, making an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
While the cause of acne is more likely linked to genetics, factors such as diet, clothing, skincare, personal habits, stress and smoking can aggravate the condition further.
When it comes to the influence diet has on acne, research indicates there are significate affects around carbohydrates in particular, with suggestions that grain-based foods such as bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits and cake, as well as animal-based milk products, should be avoided for acne-prone skin.
“High carbohydrates stimulate production of a hormone called insulin growth factor 1, and also cause problems with testosterone levels in the bloodstream. The combination of the two stimulates the oil glands, and tends to make the skin thicken up causing blockage and hence, acne,” says Dr Grose.
While Dr Grose says that the first stage in reducing acne is minimising carbohydrates and animal-based milk products (or having none at all), a good skincare regime and treatments like LED light therapy, IPL, Laser, microdermabrasion, AHA/BHA masks and chemical peels can go a long way.
Grose’s topical skincare recommendations include a gentle cleanser, a mild exfoliant at night, non-comedogenic sunscreen to avoid aggravation, mineral foundation, and nightcreams containing Benzoyl Peroxide, Retinoids, or a mix of salicylic acid and glycolic acid.
“As long as the oils are being eliminated from the skin, you will be acne free.”
It is important to note that there is not one singular treatment of acne, and treatment combinations should be based on severity of the condition. In more severe cases, other prescription-based medical treatments may be necessary. However, according to Dr Grose, without doubt a dietary shift is key to helping reduce, if not eliminate this condition.