ROOT CAUSE | Why do I have acne?
We are going to take a deep dive into each of the internal mechanisms potentially causing your breakouts, but first I want to do a brief overview so that you can get a better idea of where we are going. Additionally, this sneak peek will offer you a chance to see if any of these internal triggers resonate with you so you can get a jumpstart on cleaning up your act. Sound good?
Before we start, I want you to remember that everyone’s acne is unique. I know you’ve heard this before and it does nothing but increase frustration, but it’s important to remember. It’s also important to check in with your expectations as well. Clear skin won’t happen overnight. I struggled for years with unruly skin and STILL struggle to this day. But I uncovered my biggest contributor to breakouts and I’m working on keeping it under control every damn day. (Spoiler alert – it’s stress.) Once you unlock the secrets to your own skin, you will have a greater understanding and appreciation for what breakouts are trying to tell you about the state of your health.
You’ll notice that each of the below mechanisms do not exist in a vacuum. They all play into one another. Typically by addressing one, you’ll tackle a few others. I know, finally some good news!
Okay, let’s take a look:
(1) Insulin Resistance – This is major. I talked all about this in my three-part blood sugar series so look to those posts if you need a refresh. There is a reason I kicked off the journal by discussing this topic. Uncontrolled blood sugar triggers sebum production, makes it harder for the liver to detoxify estrogen, causes inflammation, etc. Dietary and lifestyle changes are key to addressing insulin resistance. Why lifestyle? Because stress also raises your blood sugar. We’ll talk more about that in a sec.
(2) Inflammation – This is another biggie. Inflammation is at the root of most modern disease. Jump on the anti-inflammatory bandwagon if you haven’t already. What steps can you take to reduce inflammation? In short, balance your blood sugar, eliminate inflammatory foods, get your stress under control, address food sensitivities, and eliminate external toxins to the extent possible. (Remember that inflammatory foods like refined grains and sugar are inflammatory for everyone, not just those with a sensitivity. Food sensitivities are unique to the individual and could be anything from corn to eggs to nothing at all.)
(3) Hormonal Imbalance – Female hormones are delicate. The slightest upset can knock the whole system off kilter and show up on your skin. Anything from high androgens to low progesterone can cause breakouts. High androgens can be related to PCOS or hyperthyroidism and low progesterone could be related to coming off of the pill or stress. And remember that insulin resistance and inflammation can also cause hormonal imbalances so my best advice is to address those first.
(4) Microbiome Disturbance - I’m talking about both your skin and your gut here. Diet, stress, history of antibiotic and/or NSAID use all affect your gut health. Addressing your gut through dietary and lifestyle changes will nip insulin resistance in the bud and tamp down inflammation. This will help with hormonal imbalances as well. See how they all work together? Externally, look for products with probiotics and avoid harsh antimicrobial preservatives like parabens. That’s right, even the preservatives in your lotions and creams can be upsetting to your skin flora. So do your research to ensure that your skin care is crafted/manufactured/whatever by someone who cares about maintaining the integrity of the skin's barrier function.
(5) Stress – If I could help you with any one thing, it would be to address your stress. Stress lowers progesterone, raises blood sugar, and increases inflammation. It’s bad. Find something (anything!) that helps you to better cope with the stress in your life. Meditation, breathwork, yoga, and journaling are great places to start.
(Remember that genuine food and topical ingredient allergies can cause breakouts too. Try to look for any connection between the time your acne started and any changes you made to your diet, skincare, cleaning supplies, etc. Sometimes it’s as easy as that!)
Stay tuned as we take a more in depth look at each topic.