Acne can be one of the most distressing skin conditions, yet it’s notoriously tricky to treat. According to the NHS, it affects 80% of people aged between 11 and 30. AND adult acne is on the rise. A study of 92 private dermatology clinics recently reported in The Telegraph that the number of adults seeking specialist medical expertise for this condition rose by a staggering 200% in the last year.
Over 80% of adult acne occurs in women. This is largely down to fluctuating hormones, which are often the single biggest culprit. Menstrual cycles, contraception, such as the pill or the coil, are often to blame. The drastic changes experienced by the body during the menopause can also trigger unwelcome breakouts. Hormonal imbalances cause sebum to become thicker, which in turn makes it more likely to block hair follicles and cause pimples.
Solution: Skin Accumax™ from our Advanced Nutrition Programme™ range contains DIM, a naturally derived compound which helps to balance hormones and assists in the production of the more beneficial ones.
The pressures of modern life are sending the nation’s stress levels soaring, which is bad news for skin. Clients who suffer from acne are likely to tell you that it gets worse during particularly stressful periods and this is true of other conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The exact reason is still up for debate, but a hormone called cortisol is thought to play a key role. Like adrenaline, the body produces cortisol in times of stress or danger, to help us deal with a perceived threat, but it does so at a price. A side effect of excessive cortisol is that it stimulates the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive and produce more sebum. This then mixes with dead skin cells and clogs pores, leading to a flare up.
When we’re extremely stressed, our bodies produce adrenaline, which is useful if you’re running away from a bear in the woods, but not so great if you’re trying to avoid a breakout. Adrenaline decreases blood flow to the skin and directs it to key internal organs, robbing the complexion of oxygen and nutrients to exacerbate any pre-existing conditions.
Stress is part of everyday life, but it’s how you handle it that counts. Taking regular exercise, aiming to get 8 hours of sleep each night and practicing relaxation techniques can all be beneficial.
When first attempting to tackle a client’s problem skin, it’s important to ask them about their diet. Our skin is a mirror of what’s happening on the inside, so it’s no surprise that what we eat directly affects our complexion.
People with problem skin are often told not to eat chocolate, but it’s sugary foods in general that are to blame. One study found that people who frequently consumed added sugars had a 30% greater risk of developing acne1. This increased risk may be explained by the fact that high glycaemic foods such as cakes, biscuits, white bread and pasta send glucose levels skyrocketing. The body releases insulin to quickly move the excess sugar around the bloodstream and into cells where it can be used for energy. This surge is bad news for acne sufferers. Insulin makes androgen hormones more active and increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This contributes to acne development by making skin cells grow more quickly and by boosting sebum production.
Research also points the finger at dairy products. Many studies have suggested a link between milk and acne severity, and two in particular found that young adults who regularly consumed milk or ice cream were four times more likely to suffer from acne2.
Like high glycaemic foods, milk is known to increase insulin levels, (despite the fact that it doesn’t significantly affect blood sugar) which may worsen acne severity. Cow’s milk also contains amino acids that increase IGF-1, which are linked to the development of acne.
Sleeping is the body’s way of recharging and repairing itself, so lack of it has the opposite effect. Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, making skin more susceptible to the build-up of bacteria that can trigger breakouts. Lack of sleep has also been shown to increase inflammation and can also lead to insulin resistance. As if this wasn’t enough, the body tries to compensate for tiredness by releasing more cortisol, which as we’ve seen, exacerbates acne.
Getting a full eight hours sleep every night isn’t always realistic, but there are things that help to improve sleep quality. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day will help clients to regulate your body clock. It’s also important to turn off all electronic devices such as tablets and phones at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light they emit has been proven to disturb sleeping patterns.
The link between a healthy gut and healthy skin only became apparent relatively recently, so it may not have crossed your mind that your levels of ‘good bacteria’ may be affecting their complexion.