Everyone deals with pimples at some point in their life – you might have had one or two as a teenager or might be struggling with chronic acne now. It’s an extremely common skin condition, affecting almost 20% of the Canadian population, mostly between the ages of 12 and 24 (1). Some people will go to great lengths to treat acne, like taking strong medications, expensive skin procedures, trying numerous “promising” products, and more. Medications and products might work for some, but acne is merely a symptom of a greater root cause.
Basically, there are 4 factors necessary for acne to form: follicular hyperkeratinization (the skin producing too much keratin, leading to clogs in the pores), excess oil production, bacterial colonization in the skin (P. acnes), and inflammation (2). The reason that these factors build is different for everyone. Things like hormonal imbalances, liver congestion, stress, genes, and poor hygiene are a few examples.
Aside from a skin loving diet, there are certain nutrients that can be very helpful in managing acne and supporting healthy skin overall. Below is a non-exhaustive list.
Zinc is a highly studied nutrient for treating acne. It helps to fight viruses and bacteria and is immune-supportive, so it can be helpful for killing the bacteria associated with acne. It has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps the skin to heal from breakouts. Finally, it’s thought that zinc helps to control sebum (oil) production in the skin. (3)
In the diet, consume the following foods for optimal zinc levels:
- Shellfish, especially oysters
- Organic, raw, unseasoned nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sesame, cashews, etc)
- Pressure-cooked organic legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils, etc)
More and more studies are coming out showing the positive results of probiotics helping to improve acne, both as a supplement and topically. Probiotics improve digestion, enhance our absorption of nutrients, reduce bad bacterial populations, reduce inflammation, and can even directly target bacteria on the surface of the skin when applied topically (2). An internal probiotic has so many health benefits, so including a good quality probiotic with a diversity of strains could be very helpful. Along with a supplement, foods containing probiotics include:
- Sauerkraut, kombucha and other fermented foods (tempeh, miso, etc)
- Yogurt (dairy-free or grass-fed cow’s yogurt)
Collagen & Vitamin C
As mentioned in Skin Series 1: Aging Skin, the skin requires vitamin C to produce collagen. Collagen is very helpful for improving overall skin health, and keeping your skin firm and plump. This can be helpful for acne as it increases cell turnover, allowing for quicker healing of blemishes. Vitamin C is anti-inflammatory, therefore relieving redness and inflammation associated with acne (4).
If acne is stress- induced, vitamin C can be a helpful supplement to add to your regime to support the adrenal glands, which are responsible for cortisol production and secretion. Vitamin C can be used topically in skincare, and many people have success with this (a number of products exist with topical vitamin C, but do your research to ensure it is a high quality product). Consume vitamin C rich foods such as:
- Citrus fruits
- Green vegetables (brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, etc)
- Herbs like parsley, rose hips
- Tomatoes and peppers (bell peppers, sweet peppers, etc)
Biotin may be helpful in specific cases of acne, such as blackheads and whiteheads, as well as helping with skin irritation and flaking (5). Biotin also stimulates keratin production, which is an important protein that makes up the outermost layer of our skin (the epidermis). Just a note that too much keratin can cause buildup in the skin, so exfoliating the skin can be helpful if this is the case for you. A small amount of biotin, in balance with other vitamins and minerals, will support the structure of the skin. Food sources of biotin include:
- Free-range eggs
- Grass-fed, organic organ meats, red meat, and wild fish
- Raw, organic and unseasoned nuts and seeds
Supplements for Acne Management
- Hair/Skin/Nails Ultra by Pure Encapsulations contains many of the nutrients mentioned here including biotin, zinc, vitamin C, collagen, and others. It’s an excellent “all-in-one” skin supplement to promote resilient, healthy skin.
- A probiotic is a staple of a good diet, and Genestra has a number to choose from. We recommend HMF Multi-Strain which has been shown to greatly improve gut flora, reaching both the small and large intestines.
- We would also recommend adding more greens to your diet to help with liver detoxification. An easy way to get your greens in is by consuming a greens powder in a fresh smoothie each day. Organic Greens and Red by Douglas Labs is a great protein containing a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other botanicals that provide antioxidants, extra vitamins and minerals, and liver support. Additionally, it contains spirulina and chlorella which help to detoxify the body of toxins that could be causing acne, and milk thistle, which helps support the liver for healthy digestion and hormone balance. Please note that there are many causes of acne. Hormonal imbalances, stress, bacterial infections, gut issues, chronic diseases, liver congestion…the list goes on. If you are struggling with acne, contact us for a more in-depth consultation.
Blog Written by: Jennifer Costello
Nov 2022 Nutrition Dispensary Inc.
Advice and/or information provided is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
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