In this post, I will share all my tips and tricks on how to treat acne naturally.
When it comes to acne, some people are lucky enough that they will outgrow it after puberty but others are not so lucky and it continues into their adult years.
I have dealt with really bad cystic acne my entire life. I have managed to clear up my acne almost completely through diet changes and I will talk more about that later in this post but I wanted to start with a bit of background on how acne is treated conventionally as well as the reasons that you may experience acne as an adult, and some natural ways to treat it.
Conventional treatments for acne
A lot of times when you go to your doctor to find solutions for your acne, they will often prescribe either a medication called Accutane or for women they will prescribe birth control pills or spironolactone.
If you go to a dermatologist, they will often prescribe topical creams, some of which are actually topical antibiotics.
Quite often these approaches do give you good results, but the problem with these approaches is that it doesn’t actually address the root cause of why you have acne in the first place, and if you discontinue use of the medication or topical creams, your acne may come rushing back.
That was the case for me anyways because acne is really a sign of something going on inside your body.
Common causes of acne
Food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities
The most common food sensitivities related to acne seem to be dairy, gluten and sugar, dairy being the most common. So, if you’d rather not read the rest of this post and you want to just know what to do, then I would say just cut out dairy.
I’ve been eating super clean for the last eight years, mostly following the paleo diet. Paleo doesn’t always advocate for eating dairy, but sometimes it does. I thought that I was doing a pretty good job of cutting out dairy as much as possible and was only eating it probably 2 to 3 times per week, but that was enough that I was still getting really cystic acne. I decided to give cutting it out a good go though, and it wasn’t until probably 2 to 3 months after cutting out dairy completely that my skin cleared up significantly.
The dairy connection with acne doesn’t just apply to women either, I’ve heard many stories of men clearing up their acne after cutting dairy as well. The milk from cows contains hormones from the cow itself, and can sometimes have added growth hormones and antibiotics from the animal being exposed to them.
PCOS, hormone or blood sugar imbalances
Women in particular have a really complex hormone balance. When women experience acne, sometimes it can also be related to a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome [PCOS]. When you have PCOS, it can lead to high androgens, namely testosterone which can cause acne.
Regardless of whether women have PCOS or not, another problem that can be associated with acne is estrogen dominance which is when you have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. In this situation, you can have either high estrogen and normal progesterone or you could have normal estrogen but low progesterone and both these scenarios may cause estrogen dominance symptoms, including acne.
Your blood sugar levels are also very intimately related to your hormone balance and acne. When you have chronically high levels of insulin over time, it can lead to your ovaries making extra testosterone, and therefore acne.
How to treat acne naturally
Cut out dairy or try an elimination diet
If you suspect food sensitivities, consider trying an elimination diet. This approach cuts out some of the most problematic or potentially allergenic or reactive foods from your diet all at once so that you can get back to your baseline. Then slowly after at least three weeks or more you can start adding back one food group at a time and watching for symptoms or any potential side effects. This can help you really pin down what might be causing acne for you specifically, because it could be different for everyone.
If you don’t want to go down the route of a full elimination diet, I would recommend just cutting out dairy completely. That means all dairy products including milk, cheese, and butter. Give it at least six weeks and up to three months to see full results. If dairy ends up being the trigger for you, expect to cut dairy out for good to maintain those results. I cut out dairy almost 2 years ago now, and if I cheat and eat it on vacations or special occasions my acne will start coming back.
It took me close to three months to really see a huge difference in my skin. This may have also have had to do with the time it took for my skin to heal and my scars to clear up and not be so red.
Try a lower carb diet
When you eat a high carbohydrate diet, your blood sugar is constantly spiking and crashing throughout the day.
When you have chronically elevated blood sugar, your pancreas has to send out insulin to sweep up glucose in your blood to deliver it to your cells to create energy. But when you have too much sugar in your bloodstream and your pancreas is constantly having to push out more insulin, you can end up developing insulin resistance which is basically when your cells become resistant to the insulin. Then your pancreas has to pump out even more insulin to get the glucose into your cells, but this can eventually over time lead to type II diabetes and associated complications.
And like I mentioned before, when you have chronically high levels of insulin over time, it can also lead to your ovaries making extra testosterone.
I personally find that if I eat too many carbs over a period of time, it will also bring my acne back.
Cut out plastics and switch to natural cleaning and body products
Consider switching all of your plastic food containers over to glass. Plastic is considered an endocrine disruptor, which means it can disrupt your natural balance of hormones.
Unless you are using all natural products for your home and body, you’re likely exposing yourself to even more hormone disruptors. There are tons of chemicals in these products, and everything you put on your skin or breath in can make it into your bloodstream.
Get your hormones tested
Consider getting your hormones tested through a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor. Looking at your hormone balance with a qualified practitioner can help you determine where your hormones might be imbalanced as well as some natural approaches to rebalancing them. Without knowing what your hormones are doing, it can be hard to pinpoint what is actually causing acne for you and how to treat acne naturally.
If you are dealing with adult acne, I can help you!
I offer one-on-one coaching and meal plans designed specifically to heal acne.
If you want to chat more, book a free 15 minute consultation with me.
You can also check out all my other pre-made meal plans in my online store.
Tara Klippert is a Registered Health and Nutrition Counselor and holds a diploma in Holistic Nutrition and Health Coaching. Tara helps people clear up cystic acne, balance hormones and blood sugar + improve anxiety and gut health NATURALLY with food.