When my Allure magazine for April 2017 arrived, I was intrigued by the article, “The Acne Epidemic” by Elizabeth Siegel, deputy beauty director. The subtitle states “more women than ever before are dealing with chronic stubborn breakouts, and no one really knows why, but now more researchers than ever are working on finding a cure (even a vaccine).”
Some statistics the article sites are:
- 50 million or 15 percent have clinically meaningful acne
- More than 125 acne products launched in the US last year
- 35% of women in their 30’s have acne
While the article is filled with misinformation, there are some slivers of truth to be found. You will have to read between the lines, but inflammation in the body is mentioned several times. The article suggests you deal with inflammation with antibiotics or other prescription drugs.
It also mentions that acne around the jaw area is probably due to hormones, which is true. But, if you do not want to take birth control or other prescription drugs with hormones – what can you do?
One other “truth” mentioned is stress. Yes, stress does play a major role in acne. The article gives no remedy for stress. There is no prescription pill to cure stress.
This is where the “truth” about acne stops in this article. I am reminded of my youth when I would read fashion magazines to get all my beauty and fashion information. This was way before the internet or Google. The only information a young adult had was a print publication. I did not connect the dots back then about the link between advertising in the magazine and the articles the editors write. The Devil Wears Prada is one of my favorite movies. While I am sure it does not tell the whole story behind a fashion magazine, you do see that a magazine is a business – not a news source.
Acne is the most diagnosed skin condition by dermatologist. But – dermatologist cannot agree on the definition of acne. How can you treat a condition that you cannot define? We use “acne” to describe everything from a teenager with excess oil production and blackheads and pimples to the 30 year old with monthly breakouts. There are two very different skin conditions.
What I see in my practice is that woman with monthly breakouts use products designed for acne. These products typically contain benzoyl peroxide which dries out the skin, sometimes to the point of flaking. For women in their 30’s using these types of products actually will age their skin quicker. Women in their 30’s typically do not have excess oil production, so using these products dry out and age the skin.
Salicylic acid is another typical ingredient in acne products. This is because salicylic acid is the only natural acid that breaks through excess oil. Salicylic acid naturally occurs in sweet birth, willow bar, and wintergreen. Using salicylic acid without having excess facial oil will dry out the skin and lead to premature aging.
Healthcare expenses related to acne exceed $1 billion annually in the United States. In addition, Americans spend another $400 million on over-the-counter acne medications. It is obvious we are looking for a magic pill to take care of every breakout we might have – no matter what the cause. It is also obvious we will spend whatever it takes to try to find a pill or cream that will help.
The reason acne is an epidemic is the same reason obesity is an epidemic – our lifestyles and specifically our diets. Instead of spending tons of money on prescriptions and products that do not address the underlying causes of acne, let’s look at two fixes that costs nothing and might actually save you money.
#1 Cut out fast food and processed food from your diet
Fast food and processed food is known to cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation leads to not only acne and other skin conditions, but hypertension and being overweight. I understand we live in a fast paces society. Removing fast food and processed food from your diet take preparation. Planning weekly meals and making sure your kitchen is filled with whole, nutritious food does not happen overnight. If lunch time is when you find you are most likely to head for the drive-thru, plan on packing your lunch. A simple, easy lunch is an almond butter sandwich made with ground almonds (no sugar) and sprouted bread (no wheat). Then, add a fruit – banana or apple- and you have a nutritious lunch that contains no sugar, trans fats, or harmful additives. If you want to head to the vending machine in the afternoon – pack nuts, dried fruit, or a trail mix without the candy or other added sugars.
#2 Cut out the sugary drinks and replace with water
Sugar wreaks havoc with the skin. Read the label of every bottled drink you consume. Even flavored waters can contain added sugar. Definitely no soda, even “zero calories” sodas and no Gatorade or other sugared water. Just like fast food, sugar is shown to increase inflammation and leads to other more chronic diseases. Replace these drinks with filtered water. You do not need to go and buy expensive bottled water. Just filter your tap water. I know, you are going to say you get bored with drinking plain water. I do too. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime, or a slice of orange or cucumber, to your water to make it“living” water. Your body will like the addition as well.
We can stop this epidemic of acne by working on keeping our bodies healthy and happy. Eating whole foods with 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, exercising, getting 7 hours of sleep each night, and reducing stress will go further to gain healthy beautiful skin than an expensive prescription. Your skin is a reflection of what is going on in your body. Keep your body healthy and your skin will shine that health to the world. Healthy is beautiful.