Acne for many, including myself, can be such a significant issue in the adolescent years that it may leave some individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I remember having mental anguish and fear of breaking out before important events in high school. I tried every facial cleanser, soap, cream, ointment, and home remedy I could find with little to no help. Some products made it worse or left my skin feeling burnt. Numerous parents take it a step further and out of desperation seek out their medical doctor to get prescriptions that come with a host of adverse effects. The sad part of my story is that I never even considered a dietary change to see if food played any part. Of course hormones were also involved, but I just wanted a quick fix. Acne may follow people into their adult life as well and continue to torment them.
DANGERS IN MEDICATIONS
There are 2 main options for addressing acne from a medication perspective. One is antibiotics. The other is Accutane, AKA Isotretinoin. Antibiotics will ALWAYS leave the body compromised, even at a low dose. The digestive tract experiences a loss of diversity every time. It thereby loses its most important protective mechanism and its ability to properly digest and assimilate your nutrients. This is often not consciously detectable, and it is therefore a silent hit to your body’s immune system that can have ripple effects for years and even decades! I can’t understate this point. Antibiotics can save your life if you are septic or seriously compromised due to a bacterial infection, but when overused or used for things that are not life-threatening, they can do significant damage. As far as Accutane, what do you need to know about how dangerous it is? It has a black box warning about causing serious birth defects even at low levels for short periods of time. Women also must have thorough counseling, sign informed consent, take 2 separate pregnancy tests, and sign an oath to use 2 forms of birth control if physiologically able to get pregnant while taking this medication! WHAT!? Does that not send off alerts in your brain? It certainly should but we fully understand how distressing acne can be. I would have probably risked a lot if I was confident something would help clear my skin.
STEP WISE ALTERNATIVE APPROACH
While medications are one option, there are so many other intial steps before medications are even considered.
Step 1 - Food Cleanse- Step 1 should always be a dietary shift. Take out the most common foods promoting inflammation and hormonal imbalance for 30 days and see how your skin responds. These include grains, dairy, soy, and sugar. This may sound extreme but it’s sometimes a life-changer and it can happen in 1 month. See what type of headway you make. Consider a “whole30” diet if you are up for a challenge. Take pictures on Day 1 and Day 30 and watch what happens.
Step 2 - Stop the Product Madness- Stop the onslaught of facial products and scrubbing. Find a simple soap and gently wash your face 2-4x/week instead of 2-3x/day. We like the goat milk soap you can get in this bundle or by itself. There are only a few things we recommend putting on the face after this. One is a homeopathic blend from OHM Pharmacy called Acne Gel. It works well to calm inflammation and prevent further breakouts. Call the office if you would like us to order you some. The other option is a good colloidal silver like Argentyn 23’s First Aid Gel. Sovereign Silver is a good option as well, and you can find that at most health food stores. But remember this, acne is not from being dirty or not scrubbing your skin enough. It is coming from something deeper like hormonal imbalances, detox issues, or underlying inflammation that is just showing itself on the skin of those who are predisposed to it. Aloe vera gel and coconut oil are also helpful for some people if moisturizing is needed.
Step 3 - Sunshine. Make sure you are getting sun on your skin at least 15-20 minutes per day. This should not be too difficult, but depending on where you live and differing climates and work schedules, it may be more challenging for some than others.
Step 4 - Sweat. This may be a tough one for some people who don’t sweat easily or don’t live somewhere like Texas where breaking a sweat is common. Dry saunas are always a good option as well. This will help you get toxins out and open up the pores. Many times this has great benefits to the skin and your overall health.
Step 5 - Supplements. If you aren’t seeing massive shifts in skin health by this point with steps 1-4, consider an E-Consult with us to get some guided help. We have some homeopathic protocols combined with particular fish oils and detox support that are very effective in most cases when used alongside the lifestyle changes above.
Let us finish with encouraging you. Skin issues and particularly acne can be emotionally distressing. It can feel like a curse. But in reality, our skin can be our biggest ally. It may seem strange for you to see it that way, but our skin can be a red flag when something is not right internally. If the above Steps don’t make a massive difference, consider doing a full Functional Medicine Consult with us and let’s do some lab testing to look deeper. This life is a journey and it’s easy to get bogged down by things like acne. But let’s embrace the journey and continue growing daily. Each challenge that presents itself is an opportunity for growth.
Jake Duncan PA-C (Functional medicine)
Derek Lang D.O. (Family medicine)