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As a naturopathic doctor, my patients often ask for my recommendations on helping them select a natural skincare regime. Our skin is what we show to the world and of course, we want to put our best face forward!
As someone who’s struggled with both acne and eczema, I know firsthand the frustrations that come along with skin concerns. Whether it’s breakouts, premature aging or irritated, flaky red skin – these outbreaks can all take a huge toll on your self-esteem. However, I want you to know that just because you’re currently experiencing skin concerns that it doesn’t always need to be that way!
Through treating my own skin with a natural skin care regime and now helping many of my patients to do the same, I’ve witnessed time and time again that it’s not our topical skincare routine but instead what we’re putting into our bodies that will make or break our skin health! I want you to feel confident in your own skin, and today I’m sharing 8 practices to help you put your most beautiful, radiant face forward to the world!
8 Natural Skin Care Practices for Acne and Eczema-Prone Skin
1. Identify your food sensitivities
You likely know that the quality of food you put into your body can greatly affect the appearance of your skin, but did you know that food sensitivities are an extremely common cause of acne and other skin conditions like eczema?
Food sensitivities occur when your body has an immune reaction to foods you’re consuming, oftentimes as part of your everyday diet. Different than a food allergy, a food sensitivity occurs due to a delayed immune response and this gradual reaction causes inflammation throughout your body. Our skin is one of our primary organs of detoxification (along with our liver and kidneys) and therefore inflammation due to food often presents as acne, eczema and blotchy, irritated skin.
Identifying and avoiding my food sensitivities has led to a transformation in my own cystic acne-prone skin and has also enabled my patients to get to the root of their chronic skin concerns. While there are certain foods like wheat, dairy, eggs and nuts that are more common to be immune triggers than others, reactions are very individualized and it’s important to properly assess for and identify your own triggers.
To learn more about how to transform your skin by identifying your food sensitivities, tune into episodes 4 and 5 of the Healthy Life Redesign podcast and sign up for my free eBook series – A Naturopathic Guide to Identifying your Food Sensitivities.
2. Taste the rainbow (and no, I don’t mean eat skittles)
Like all other organs in your body, your skin needs adequate vitamins and minerals to thrive! Examples of two important nutrients for skin health include Vitamin C (which strengthens collagen and prevents wrinkles) and Vitamin A (which helps to heal skin damage).
To ensure you’re getting a varied intake of these and other skin-supportive nutrients, aim to fill your plate with colourful fruits and veggies. When dishing out your plate, half of it should consist of colourful veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, kale, sweet potato, beets and carrots. These veggies can be in the form of a delicious salad, stir-fry or enjoyed in a soup!
If you look down at your plate and see that it’s regularly filled with beige foods like bread, pasta and rice, know that you are not getting the nutrients that your skin (and other organs) need. Filling your plate with a rainbow of colour forms the foundation of a natural skincare regime!
3. Kick excess sugar to the curb
Whether you’re experiencing acne, eczema or premature ageing, ALL of these skin conditions are aggravated by excess dietary sugar.
Acne occurs when pores become clogged with dead skin cells and sebum (oil), allowing bacteria to grow and thrive within our pores causing inflammation, pain and redness.
What does this have to do with sugar? Everything!
Excess sugar increases sebum production while also allowing the bacteria that causes acne (Propionum acnes) to thrive. It’s a double whammy that can wreak havoc on your skin and cause breakouts despite all of your care with topical skincare treatments.
Unfortunately, the effects of sugar on our skin doesn’t stop there! Elevated blood sugar levels can also fuel yeast, which can often be involved as one of the causes of eczema and other skin rashes.
Last but not least, too much sugar in your bloodstream causes a process to occur called glycation, which is the attachment of sugar molecules (glucose) to proteins like collagen. This causes premature aging of the cells and can lead to early wrinkles and fine lines. Not what the doctor ordered!
You don’t necessarily have to be 100% sugar-free to see improvements in your skin, and the majority of people are consuming WAY more sugar than they realize on a day-to-day basis! If you’re going to indulge in dessert, do so mindfully and choose from one of these delicious recipes instead of bringing home a tub of Ben and Jerry’s (which if you have a dairy-sensitivity can also be triggering your skin as described above).
4. Cool it on the Caffeine-Intake
Caffeine, especially in the form of coffee, can be a major trigger for acne (this was definitely the case for me!). This is because coffee increases the release of one of your stress hormones called cortisol, which in turn acts on the sebaceous glands in your skin and causes them to produce more oil. Another reason that coffee can be irritating to our skin is not because of the coffee itself, but because of the copious amounts of cream (a common food sensitivity) and sugar that are often added to it!
If you’re experiencing acne I suggest trying a caffeine-free trial of 2-3 weeks to see if you notice an improvement. If you’re not ready yet to fully eliminate caffeine, try easing back with the following suggestions:
- Keep your coffee intake to 1 cup per day
- Choose organic coffee to minimize pesticide exposure
- Drink your coffee black or add coconut milk instead of cream (a common food sensitivity)
- Swap your coffee for green tea – although it still contains caffeine it also has calming benefits due to it’s l-theanine content
Years ago when I was struggling with severe cystic acne, coffee was one of the things that were triggering my continual outbreaks. Now that I’ve improved my overall health and addressed other imbalances like food sensitivities and adrenal fatigue, I’m grateful that I can again enjoy a cup of coffee or an Americano without the same concerns. It’s important to remember that although you may need to invest more initial effort into identifying what’s triggering your skin concerns, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to embark on a lifetime of avoiding these potential triggers!
5. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!
The human body is 60% water, and getting enough of it each day is vitally important to help your body detoxify. While the actual amount of water you require varies depending on your size, you should be drinking enough water each day that your urine is relatively clear (except your first-morning urine). For most people, I find this is approximately 2-3 litres (8-12 cups) of water per day.
Keep in mind that coffee and caffeinated teas don’t count towards your fluid intake and that for every caffeinated beverage I suggest drinking an additional glass of water to compensate for the diuretic effects of the caffeine. However, herbal teas (hot or iced) most definitely count towards your fluid intake and often have many other health benefits of their own! So, brew up a pot of rooibos chai or your own favourite herbal blend and enjoy!
6. Support your microbiome with fermented foods
When I’m working with a patient with acne or eczema I always zone in on their digestive health as part of my assessment and treatment plan. This involves identifying whether they have food sensitivities (which is extremely common) as well as assessing whether there may be imbalances in their gut microbiome (which is a fancy name for the bacteria living within your digestive tract).
A simple way that you can support a healthy balance of gut bacteria is to consume fermented foods at least once per day. This includes foods like sauerkraut, Greek yogurt, miso or kimchi and fermented drinks like kombucha or kefir. It’s very important to note however that dairy is a common food sensitivity and often lies at the root of skin concerns like acne or eczema. Prior to adding in yogurt or kefir with the intention of supporting your skin, I suggest first ensuring that dairy is not an immune trigger for you by completing food sensitivity testing with a naturopathic doctor and/or by completing an Elimination Diet.
7. Sweat it Out
Exercise provides so many benefits in regards to improving how we look and feel, and it can dramatically improve your skin health! Your skin is one of your body’s primary routes for detoxification of hormones, chemicals and toxins and by sweating regularly you’re allowing all of these substances to be flushed out through your pores. Exercise also causes vasodilation and therefore increases circulation to your skin, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the cells and promotes a youthful glow.
My suggestion is to work out with enough intensity that you sweat for at least 30 minutes 3 to 5 times per week. Infrared saunas are another great way to promote sweating and to help cleanse your skin from the inside out! Just make sure to always rinse off as soon as possible after a workout or sauna to avoid any skin irritation, which is counterproductive to your clear-skin goals.
8. Use natural cleansers and moisturizers
Although it’s how we’re fueling our body on the inside that plays the biggest role in our skincare regime, the products we select to use topically are still important! Conventional recommendations when it comes to treating acne often include harsh chemicals intended to strip oil from our skin and kill bacteria. These products often further irritate already sensitive skin and ironically can actually lead to an to an increase in oil production and continued microbial imbalances. In cases of eczema, conventional skin care recommendations often involve the use of topical steroid creams that act by suppressing your immune system and can lead to side effects like thinning of your skin and stretch marks.
My approach to skincare, whether or not you experience acne or eczema, is always to choose natural, gentle and supportive products that work to relieve inflammation while healing the skin. I look for simple product formulations that contain natural healing ingredients like calendula and that don’t have the addition of unnecessary chemicals and preservatives.
A few of my favourite natural skin care lines and products include:
- Jurlique – When I had severe cystic acne I used the Balancing Foaming Cleanser and Calendula Redness Rescue Serum to help me calm and clear up my congested skin and irritated acne outbreaks.
- O.R.G Skincare – I suggest a gentle, enzyme based formula like O.R.G. Skincare Mineral Peel if you experience acne – this helps to keep your pores clear of dead skin cells and to prevent acne outbreaks.
- Andalou Naturals – I have a number of products by Andalou Naturals both for natural skin care and hair care. I love that they use natural ingredients while also keeping a great price point on their products!
- Communion Botanicals – Now that I’m no longer experiencing acne-outbreaks my focus has shifted towards gentle and non-pore-clogging anti-ageing support. One of my new favourite products in this regard is the Cellular Renewal Facial Serum by Communion Botanicals. It feels amazing on my skin, and I love that the company is local to Nelson, BC!
As a reminder, your skincare regime is important BUT it should not be the bulk of your focus. When in doubt – Keep it simple on the outside and focus on the inside for beautiful skin!
I know firsthand just how frustrating it can be to struggle with your skin, and it was through diving in and incorporating ALL of these principles and strategies into my own health that my skin cleared up. Now, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help others achieve the same!
If you’re ready to dive in and incorporate these strategies into your own health, I have an online program called the Elimination Diet Meal Plan, which guides you to identify your food sensitivities while enjoying a delicious meal plan that will refuel your body and help you to glow from the inside out. It will also guide you to cut out the caffeine, fill your plate with colour and to greatly minimize your sugar intake.
As always, I love hearing from you and encourage you to please reach out in the comments section below with any questions or comments!
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