Acne is “the most common skin disease,” affecting about 80 percent of the population between the ages of 11 and 30. But even babies get pimples, and people in their 40s and 50s experience breakouts as well. The market is saturated with products promising clear skin, but the first step in defeating ugly breakouts, is understanding just what causes them.
There are plenty of theories and old wives’ tales about what causes acne, like eating too much chocolate, or not having clean skin. But I wanted real, expert advice. So, I talked to doctors and skincare specialists around the country, and they told me about some surprising things that cause acne, and how to rid your face of those unsightly blemishes.
Ditching the myths
The best place to start, is by dispelling the myths of what actually causes acne. Dr. Fayne Frey, a board certified dermatologist, said there are only four main causes of acne — clogged pores, hormones, oil production, and bacteria. She said things like hormones, steroids, facials, and a diet full of pasta, chips, dairy, and junk food can make acne worse, but those four causes are the real reason for breakouts.
Frey said there is no scientific evidence that makeup, greasy foods, or dirt on the face are actual causes for acne. However, washing your face twice a day with a mild cleanser has been shown to reduce adolescent acne. Dr. Gabrielle Francis adds that skin infections, blood sugar imbalances, stress, and toxins can also cause acne. “Acne can be one of the side effects of living life like a rock star,” she said.
Health and wellness expert, Dr. Will Cole, said when the trillions of bacteria in your gut — called your microbiome — are imbalanced, it can lead to a weakened intestinal lining. That weakened lining is also known as “leaky gut syndrome,” and it’s linked to almost every inflammatory health problem, including acne.
Cole said your doctor can order bloodwork to determine how leaky your gut is, which will help them decide what the next course of action should be. A healthy gut will lead to a healthy face.
You are what you eat, and if you’re eating something that your body is rejecting it will show in your skin, Dr. Cole said. Every person’s body is different, so it’s important to nail down exactly what is upsetting your digestive system and what foods are helping you thrive. An elimination diet is an easy way to figure out which foods are triggering a negative reaction, Dr. Cole said.
Toxin traffic jam
Dr. Cole said methylation is the body’s biochemical superhighway that helps you flush out all the toxins that are dragging your health down. When that highway gets jammed, your body holds on to toxins and it can show up as skin flare-ups, he said. Foods that are rich in folates and B-vitamins like Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, cauliflower, grass-fed beef, and green leafy vegetables are the key to a healthy detox.