Healing Teen Acne
The teenage years are a time of growth, independence, and exploration. This is usually a time when life can become busier and fast-paced. Between keeping up with school, extracurricular activities, and social circles, hormones, eating habits, and stress-levels can often become unbalanced.
The skin is our largest organ, and any troubles that show up there are usually a clear sign that there are further imbalances within our physical or mental body. Although acne is something many people face during their adolescence, it is not something that should be considered the norm. With the opportunity to get to the root of the problem, we can work to heal any imbalances and get on the road to healthy, glowing, youthful skin!
The diet is the first thing that should be looked at when dealing with acne. Any issue with the skin has a high likelihood of being connected to the digestive tract, so addressing any sort of imbalance may be the key to healing the skin.
What to add in :
Eating a clean, whole food diet as often as possible is essential here. This includes whole grains, sustainably farmed/caught meats and fish, fresh and raw fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, legumes, and healthy fats. In addition to a well-balanced diet, the following foods are great additions to the daily diet, to help heal acne. As much as possible, avoid boxed foods and fast foods.
Consume balanced meals with plenty of protein, healthy fats & carbohydrates.
Lots of Water! Shoot for 8, 8oz glasses per day! Water is essential for every function of the body, and that’s including skin health! We hear it all the time but it’s so easy for teenagers to forget when they are on the go. Keeping a water bottle in the backpack will result in teens reaching for the water instead of pops and sugary “fruit juice” when they are out of the house. Adding some lemon & honey or maple syrup, or adding a natural, sugar-free fruit juice to water will give some flavor and an inclination to keep hydrated naturally.
Foods high in Fiber- Fiber helps to keep the digestive system healthy and clear by adding bulk to the stool, removing toxic waste buildup that can accumulate in the GI tract. Fiber also helps to gather and remove excess hormones that are accumulated in the body - hormones that may cause acne. It's best to eat fiber with every meal to avoid any sort of harmful buildup in the body. Fiber is found in plant-based foods and is especially high in raw fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, arugula, berries, broccoli, radish, and beets. Whole grains, beans, legumes, and nuts are great sources as well. Finishing a meal off with a raw salad or having a side of grains and legumes with meals will add a healthy dose of fiber to meals.
Probiotic-rich foods- Probiotics are needed to cultivate and feed gut microflora, which is essentially healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. Overgrowth of bad bacteria is one of the culprits of acne, so promoting healthy gut flora will reach throughout the body to keep harmful bacteria at bay. Probiotic-rich foods include naturally fermented sauerkraut, water kefir, kimchi, and tempeh. Daily incorporation of some sort of probiotic will help to keep gut flora healthy
Foods rich in Zinc- There is a direct link between low zinc levels and skin health, and zinc deficiencies are quite common in teenagers. Zinc reduces inflammation on the skin and has been shown to destroy acne-causing bacteria. Zinc-rich foods include organic beef liver, oysters, pumpkin seeds, raw cacao, and beans. * You can also break up a zinc tablet, mix it with a small amount of water & apply it directly to acne.
Foods high in Essential Fatty Acids- EFA rich foods are healthy fats that have healing and anti-inflammatory properties and help to create, transport and regulate healthy hormones production. They also help balance excess sebum (skin oil), which is a main culprit of acne. EFA rich foods include olive oil, fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), avocado, walnut and flaxseed oil.
It may be difficult to avoid since eating out on a budget is often a part of teens social lifestyle. Possible solutions are suggesting that teens eat at home before meeting friends, or finding a place to eat that has healthier options is a good idea. Many places are catching on to the healthy eating movements and are offering healthier choices that are made with fresh, natural ingredients. Choosing a salad or grain bowl, or opting for a burger joint that uses sustainably sourced ingredients is helpful. Home-prepped healthy lunches and on-the-go snacks at home are great to throw in the backpack for school or sport practice.
Foods to avoid- Inflammatory or bacteria feeding foods should be the first to go, as they contribute to acne outbreaks.
These include the following:
Processed Foods (fast-food, fried food, boxed cereals, frozen meals, preservatives, food dyes)
Sugars & Artificial Sweeteners
Conventionally Farmed Meats
Wheat (due to its high gluten contents)
Unnecessary Prescription Medication
The next step is to look at foods that are harmful specific to the individual. Any known food-sensitivities or allergens should be eliminated immediately, as they cause digestive imbalances that can contribute to acne. If a test has not been done, getting a standard allergy test with your medical doctor, as well as a sensitivity test with an alternative practitioner, is a perfect start.
Trying out an elimination diet is a great option as well. Do this by avoiding all the the common allergens for 1 month and then slowly adding them back in, 1 by 1 & see if anything causes an acne flare. Although it is more time consuming, it is a cheaper and effective way to get some answers. Keep in mind that sensitivities or allergies can develop and change over time for various reasons, so it’s good to get these tests done every few years if any health issues are present.
The following are common food sensitivities and allergies:
All gluten grains
Nightshade Vegetables (tomatoes, all peppers, eggplant)
Herbs & Supplement
Herbs are a wonderful, gentle and easy way to help support the body and balance hormones. They can be taken as a tincture with water, or as a tea at the beginning or end of the day.
Saw Palmetto- Reduces levels of the hormone DHT, which contributes to acne.
Neem- Neem is an Ayurvedic herb which has antibacterial properties and will help fight acne-causing bacteria
Dandelion Root- Helps to detoxify and tone the liver, supporting the elimination of toxicity in the body. Lovely as a daily tea!
Multivitamin- Because of teenager’s active lifestyle, supplementation with a multivitamin may be an easy way to ensure they are getting a balanced amount of daily nutrients. Finding a gender-specific multivitamin specific for teenagers will help. If you eat a fairly balanced diet- then you may be getting what you need from foods, if not, add in a multi to help balance your body.
Zinc- Although mentioned above under foods to eat, adding an extra dose of zinc to the daily routine through supplementation can have a huge impact on skin health and minimize acne. As a quick remedy: crush up a zinc tablet in a small amount of water until it creates a paste & apply directly to a breakout.
Sleep- Sleep is essential for our bodies health and it is believed that teens need more hours snoozing than adults do to ensure proper rest and function of the body. When we sleep, our body gets a chance to decompress, recharge and heal. Unfortunately, school work, social life, and late-night TV/ computer use can cut into sleep hours and wreak havoc on the body. Making a habit of early bedtimes (around 10pm-11pm) and sleeping for 8-10 hours, or until fully rested, will decrease stress, and support proper body function to reduce acne.
Exercise- Keeping active helps to balance hormone levels and stay healthy. It promotes healthy digestion and the elimination of toxins, as well as reduces stress levels and balances sleep. Sweating helps to clear the lymphatic system and will push acne out of the system and reveal a more vibrant glow. Be sure to shower within an hour of intensive exercise.
Stress- The teenage years can be a time of excess stress, often before we have developed the tools or knowledge of how to deal with it. Being mindful of stress and having techniques to reduce it is vital in avoiding the internalization of emotions that can hinder a healthy body and mind. Stress also causes a huge strain on the adrenals, which are responsible for hormones production. Exercise, healthy social circles, family relations, and general positive supportive environments are very important in reducing stress.