Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Acne

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Acne, zits, pimples, blackheads, whiteheads… It doesn’t matter what you call them, they’re all horrible, amirite? They always show up on your doorstep like an unannounced family member, making you look horrible to your friends and significant others, causing you pain and suffering, and generally making your life hell. And once you think they’re gone, another one pops up, with you having no understanding of how to keep them away!

familymember

Unfortunately, I do not have tips on how to keep annoying family members at bay (unless you want to stop showering and cleaning your house, that might work), but I do have some excellent tips on how to prevent those disgusting, red, painful, devil pimples from rearing their ugly heads. First, let’s learn some cool stuff about pimples! And if you have A.D.D. and want to skip the life lesson (yes I’ll judge you for choosing ignorance), scroll down to the “So What Can You Do” section for prevention techniques.

Acne Myths vs. Science

Acne is caused by fatty foods

MYTH! This is one of the most overused, over stated, old wives’ tales with hardly any truth to back it up. If fatty food caused zits, France would be overrun with a zit epidemic as opposed to us Americans (more on that below).

People think, “Production of oil causes pimples, therefore more oil/fat in your diet will cause more pimples”. Nope. Eating fat does not cause your body to produce more oil, just like how eating chicken eggs doesn’t cause my ovaries to produce more eggs (thank god). The only way fatty foods could cause you to have more zits is if you consume so much that your body becomes inflamed.

So if you’re eating healthy fats, e.g. avocado, nuts/seeds, olive oil, etc. and 80% of your diet isn’t made up of fast food, you should be fine.

Oil is the main cause of acne

MYTH! Blaming oil for acne is like blaming catching a cold on the fact that we produce mucous. Oil production is your skin’s natural method of staying soft and supple, just like normal mucous production is a natural way of keeping your nose moist. If we didn’t produce oil, we’d look like freaking turtles.

healthyshakeoutlet.co.uk
healthyshakeoutlet.co.uk

There is no “one cause” of acne because multiple factors play a role. What happens is that an oil gland gets blocked by dead skin cells, inhibiting your gland from releasing the oil, causing the pore to become inflamed. Bacteria that normally wouldn’t be able to take up residence in a properly functioning pore now has a safe place to live, feed, and party. The combination of the oil backing up in the clogged pore with the bacteria multiplying, leads to the beautifully painful and embarrassing volcanoes erupting on your face.

Hormones can play a role in overproduction of skin cells, which leads to this blockage.

Acne is considered a “Western Disease”
slate.com
slate.com

FACT! Numerous studies have unveiled a drastic difference between the occurrence of acne in western “modernized” civilizations and non-western civilizations. For instance, in the United States, acne affects approximately 40-50 million people per year (that’s a lot of Clearasil), with the breakdown being:

  • Adolescents: 79-80%
  • Adults older than 25 years: 40-50% have some degree of facial acne, being more prevalent in women (duh, we always get all the cool stuff)
  • Middle-aged adults: Women 12%, Men 3%

However when we look at non-western cultures, the occurrence drops to about 0%-25% across age groups. And while scientists can’t claim genetics as a cause due to how varied Americans are from a genetic standpoint, they can instead point to environmental factors, such as diet.

A Crappy Diet Can Cause Pimples

FACT! So while fats haven’t been proven to cause pimples, diets high in processed and/or high-glycemic foods have been. Makes a bit more sense that Americans would have acne problems over other nations considering our infamous diet, now doesn’t it? High-glycemic foods can result blood glucose levels rising rapidly, leading to insulin spikes. This can lead to inflammation and other hormones freaking-out, which can also cause zits. Recent studies have linked high insulin levels to acne.

Washing your face NONSTOP will prevent pimples

MYTH! As I stated earlier, oil is not the main problem. But because of that myth, we freak out when we get a zit and slap every type of detergent on our face to get rid of the demonized oil. The problem here is twofold:

  1. Washing your skin strips it of its natural oils, causing your skin to become dry. When skin is dry, it can develop micro-tears and fissures leading to cozy hiding places for bacteria live and thrive in.
  2. Most face washes contain potential allergens (i.e. fragrance), toxins, and irritating chemicals, which could inflame your skin. Leading to more zits and causing you to freak-out and wash even MORE frequently.

Avoid the Sunsunshine

MYTH! Good ol’ sunshine is one of the best things you can do to fight zits. When you’re exposed to sunshine, your body produces Vitamin D. Studies have shown that you can produce over 200 antimicrobial peptides when your Vitamin D levels are at an optimum state. What the what??? In layman’s terms…Vitamin D acts as nature’s antibiotic, killing bad bacteria! Take that zit-causing bacteria jerks.

And while constant sunbathing is of course a no-no when skin cancer is concerned, studies have shown that just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure per day (depending on your skin color) can cause you to produce optimum Vitamin D levels.

So What Can You Do to End You Acne Woes?

I’ve got a few options, but it depends on how many changes you’re willing to make and how lazy you are. So I will list them from least to most amount of changes, and you can choose your own zit-fighting adventure!

Lazy Person’s Guide

  • Exfoliate daily to keep your pores clear and unclogged. Do not use traditional scrubs, a.k.a. physical exfoliants (I’m looking at you St. Ives Apricot Scrub!). Scrubs do not exfoliate inside the pore and can cause micro-tears exposing your skin to more bacteria and inflammation. Instead use a BHA or AHA acid (a.k.a. Beta hydroxy acid or Alpha hydroxy acid), to exfoliates deep inside your pores, reduce inflammation, and slaughter bacteria.
  • Change your cleanser to a more gentle, water-based, fragrance-free version. Wash your face no more than twice per day. And if you haven’t worn a lot of makeup, sunscreen, etc. on your face that day, skip cleanser altogether and just wash with water at night.

The Somewhat Lazy Person’s Guide

  • Exfoliate daily using a BHA or AHA
  • Change your cleanser to a water-based version
  • Go outside without sunscreen on for 10-15 minutes per day.
  • Reduce your intake of refined carbs, sugar, and alcohol.
  • Use a face mask that is made to eliminate bacteria and toxins inside your pores. I would recommend this 2-3 times per week.

The A++ “Kick Dem Zits to the Curb” Person’s Guide

Product recommendations (your skin care arsenal)

Exfoliants

Cleansers

Summary

The main take-away in this article is to understand how your body works, and then get the heck out of its way and allow it to do its job. All the old acne reducing methods worsen the problem by interfering with your body’s natural process. It’s basically like picking off a scab every time your body tries to heal a wound; you will never heal.

So try out some of the new methods listed above and hopefully you’ll see a huge difference! Good luck all my little Acne suffers!

References

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19895218

http://archderm.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=479093

http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/lifestyle

http://www.paulaschoice.com/expert-advice/anti-aging/_/exfoliate-for-bright-smooth-and-radiant-skin

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/31/simple-secrets-to-eliminating-acne-for-good.aspx

http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/information/skin-types/oily-skin.htm