Zits and acne used to be a malady of the teenage years. Unfortunately, more and more adults – male and female – now find themselves dealing with pimples on a daily basis. The truth is that the average age of patients who see dermatologists for acne ranges from 20-26 years, and the anti-zit business brings in more than one billion dollars per year. Acne rates are much higher now than they were 20 years ago. A few reasons for the increase include the hormones and xenoestrogens that are rampant in our food system, increases in food allergies, and an increase in toxic ingredients in foods. There are some very simple solutions for preventing and eliminating zits. As always, please note that this information is shared for informational purposes only, has not been evaluated by the FDA, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health issue. Please check with your practitioner before using any new supplement or changing lifestyle habits. Never stop using a prescription medication without consulting your physician.
The first step in addressing zits is to figure out the cause. Zits don’t “just happen.” There is always a reason. The most common causes of acne include:
- Hormonal imbalances: Most zits in the teenage years are caused by an excess of either testosterone or estrogen. The belief used to be that acne was only caused by excess testosterone, but more recent studies proved an excess of either hormone can cause acne. The fact our food system is now overloaded with foods containing growth hormones and other synthetic hormones has a lot to do with this, as does the excessive use of highly-estrogenic soy that is included in almost all processed foods. I’m often amazed that people who eliminate soy from their diet often report that their skin becomes clear as a result. Women often get zits on their chin as a normal part of PMS. These zits are definitely caused by hormonal changes. Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome often experience acne as a result of the hormone imbalances it creates. If you have consistent acne, it is wise to get a saliva hormone test to check the levels of your reproductive hormones and identify any imbalances. Frequent zits often disappear once hormonal imbalances are corrected. For the record, there are natural alternatives that can be used to balance hormone levels, but please don’t mess with your hormones without first checking to see what imbalances exist.
- Food allergies and sensitivities: I know personally that eating a food that I’m allergic to will cause a fairly large zit (or zits) to form within three days. The skin is a huge detoxification organ, so when we expose ourselves to foods our body considers toxic, the body may use the skin to eliminate some of those toxins. I know many people with food allergies who report their only symptom is that they get zits. They have little or no digestive disturbance, but know they’ve been exposed to an allergen when they develop a zit. Even a mild sensitivity to a food will increase inflammation in the body and decrease immunity, making it more difficult for the body to naturally resist the factors that cause a pimple to form.On a related side note, there is a lot of conflicting evidence both pro and con about dairy products causing acne. However, the American Academy of Dermatologists conducted three large-scale studies that found a definite link between acne and dairy. My clinical experience is that 9 out of 10 people’s acne greatly diminishes or disappears when they eliminate dairy. My own daughter had horrible acne and refused to believe dairy was the cause until one of her friends told her it was true. (God forbid she listen to mom. LOL.) When she finally tried eliminating dairy, her skin completely, totally cleared within a week and a half. She doesn’t have a dairy allergy that we’re aware of, but her skin made it very clear that dairy is not a good option for her. Why does dairy contribute to acne? Partly because it is difficult to digest. Let’s face it, we’re not cows, so our bodies have a very difficult time digesting and absorbing milk intended to be drunk by baby cows. The result is that the body tries to eliminate the toxins in the milk through the skin. Dairy is also known to be one of the most inflammatory foods in our diet. Any food that increases inflammation will only worsen acne symptoms. Unfortunately, non-organic milk sold in our country is loaded with growth hormones that negatively impact our own hormones and cause the skin to produce acne-causing sebum in excess amounts. If you’re concerned about calcium levels, milk is NOT the best source of calcium. Incorporating lots of dark leafy greens, nuts and shellfish into your diet will provide plenty of calcium.
- Comedogenic facial products (even some used to combat acne): Comedogenic is used to refer to products that are irritating and which block the skin’s pores, thereby causing acne. Mineral oil is one of the worst oils for the skin, yet it is used frequently because it’s cheap. (Mineral oil is a petroleum byproduct that is discarded during the production of fuel oils. Not a good choice to put on your skin, anyway.) Many of the most commonly used skincare ingredients are comedogenic, and many anti-acne products contain quite a few of these ingredients. Your best option is to use products from companies such as Aubrey Organics, Pangea Organics, Burt’s Bees and other chemical-free companies. Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solution kit works well for some people.
- Prescription medications: A well-known side effect of steroids (both prescription and black market) is acne. Other prescription medications that may cause acne include anti-convulsant medications (such as lithium), prescription iodides and bromides. (Supplemental iodine is not related to prescription iodides and is not known to cause acne.) If you suspect your acne is caused by a prescription medication, discuss alternatives with your physician.
- Reduced liver function: It is a well-known fact that many skin problems originate in the liver. The primary function of the liver is to eliminate toxins. If its function is reduced, the body resorts to eliminating toxins through the skin. My favorite herb for improving liver function and reducing skin issues is burdock root. Burdock root is known to cleanse the liver and to target the skin to assist with healing. Although burdock root works well, other supplements known to improve liver function often result in clearer skin. Milk thistle is one of the most effective herbs used to improve liver function.
- Over-washing of the skin: Excess use of soaps and drying anti-acne cleansers can actually make acne worse by overdrying the skin and causing it to produce more and more sebum. (Most pimples are caused when the skin produces excess sebum. Sebum is intended to protect the skin, but it can harbor bacteria and can cause pimples when the skin produces more than is needed.)
In addition to the tips shared above, here are my top ways to eliminate and prevent zits:
- Eat a healthy diet: (You knew that was coming.) Good skin happens from the inside out. Clear, healthy skin requires a healthy diet. Period. Eating a healthy diet loaded with vegetables and fruits, whole foods, and void of excess sugars, processed foods and refined grains boosts the immunity and has a very anti-inflammatory effect on tissues. If your immune system is working at 100%, your body will often be able to very naturally eliminate the bacteria that cause pimples and acne. Obviously, a healthy diet does not include hydrogenated oils, processed foods, or excessive carbohydrates and fats. As I stated above, many people find their acne disappears once they eliminate dairy from their diet.
- Don’t squeeze: We’ve all done it… squeezed a zit because we believe it will go away faster if we do. That, sadly, is a myth. The problem with squeezing a zit is that it has the potential to push the bacteria deeper into the skin. The other problem squeezing creates is that it creates an open sore that is wide open to bacteria in the air and environment. Squeezing may also cause scarring, and nobody wants that. Your best bet is to wash the pimple 3-5 times daily with good ol’ soap, use the topical remedies I mention below, and be very, very patient.
- Use topical antibacterials: One of my favorite remedies to speed the healing of a pimple is tea tree essential oil. Tea tree oil is one of the most antibacterial products known, but it has the added benefit of being known to stimulate the skin to heal itself. It works well. I also find that a drop of CellFood morning and evening has an amazing effect. CellFood is a powerful oxygenator and antibacterial that can be used internally and externally. I use it straight when I have a zit, but I recommend blending one drop of CellFood with one drop of purified water. It is a powerful antibacterial that also stimulates the skin to heal itself.
- Use goldenseal and probiotics internally: Goldenseal is a natural herb with powerful antibacterial properties. I use it to help pimples go away faster. (Do not use more than 10 days in a row.) For more information on how amazing goldenseal is, please read my blog post, The Wonders of Goldenseal. Using oral probiotics will also boost the body’s own immunity and help the body heal pimples faster.
How do you deal with zits? Please share your favorite remedies!
12 replies on “The Smart Way to Deal with Zits”
About a year ago, I ran out of spot treatment, right when I was having a PMS breakout. At the time, I was flat broke, so buying another tube wasn’t in the cards for me. I thought great, what the hell am I gonna do now?
Then I saw the bottle of peroxide. I reasoned that, if I put it on cuts to kill bacteria, maybe putting it on zits will do the same.
I am never buying a tube of spot treatment again. If I feel like I’m gonna get a zit (or I already have one), I just put some peroxide on a cotton ball, and swipe it over that spot. The zit either never gets a chance to surface, or it’s completely gone within a day or two.
Thanks for these tips – I’ve never heard of CellFood; and I’ve heard of Goldenseal but not for being used to treat acne.
I have moderate to severe acne and the only thing I’ve found to consistently work is prescription medications.Â Right now I don’t have health insurance so those are off the table, but I would like to avoid using antibiotics for acne in the future, as well as the topical stuff.
I take probiotics daily, I have started taking 50mg of Zinc and I think that makes a difference, especially on the large cystic pimples.Â I have been using jojoba oil as a moisturizer and Cetaphil as a cleanser, but I am thinking I am going to go back to the Aveeno products my dermatologist recommended a few years ago, because I’m not seeing an improvement with the cetaphil/jojoba.
I also use tea tree oil and aloe, just straight from the leaf.Â I think the aloe makes a difference in clearing up the red marks faster, so I like that.
I have tried cutting out dairy, but I’m not sure I was able to do it long enough to see a difference.Â The thing is, I didn’t have acne at all when I was a teenager. I started to get some acne when I turned 18, and it didn’t get as severe as it is until I moved to New York.Â It often clears up when I go out of town for awhile.Â I’m pretty sure it’s pollution. :(
Hi, Lucy! So sorry to hear about your acne woes. A quick note is that Jojoba oil is not a good choice for acne because it has the same chemical structure as the skin’s own sebum. If you need a moisturizer, grapeseed oil would be a much better option because it is known to be mildly anti-inflammatory and is high in antioxidants. Pollution can definitely contribute to acne. Washing your face frequently can help with that, although I know that’s not very convenient. I wish you well with your journey to eliminate it!
Sigh. I feel you. I was clear as a teenager and began getting acne at 22.
I’ve seen a direction connection between stress and breakouts for me; once I got to be 22 or 23, I noticed that I only got big pimples or a real breakout when I was really stressed out, and during stretches of time when I was relaxed and under little or no stress, my skin was pretty much clear. Is this A Thing that can be explained by, like, science? Because it’s been happening too consistently and for too long to be a coincidence!
Also, I know everyone always says no squeezing, but I know that I’ll never stop doing it. I wash my hands first and I never touch anywhere else on my face after I’ve squeezed a pimple, and I immediately put on some of the prescription ointment I have once I’ve gotten the gross stuff out. They’re usually totally deflated and almost gone the next day, though maybe that would have happened whether or not I messed with them.
Stress has a strong hormonal effect and can definitely make acne worse. Good for you for recognizing the connection! Using stress reduction techniques can help. As for squeezing, I confess I used to squeeze every zit I had. I’ve learned that being patient and using topical remedies is a better option for me, but to each her own. :)
I’ve noticed that my skin gets more acne-prone depending on what kind of makeup I wear, also. What’s your opinion of the mineral-based cosmetics available, including the Bare Minerals line?
Butting in —
My skin is acne-prone. I use Bare Minerals and I love it. I’m not saying it’s a panacea, but it certainly gives good coverage without the feeling of your skin being smothered by goo.
Butting in, but if you’re interested in mineral foundation check out Alima Pure (not affiliated in any way). They have a HUGE range of shades and are very strict about what goes into their products and their foundation has a safe rating on Skin Deep.
Personally, from experience… I don’t have acne, but I do have rosacia. I used to use a thick liquid foundation to cover it up. At the urging of my sister, I did switch to Bare Minerals. For a little while, it wasn’t great, but my skin cleared up a ton after a week or so, since it could actually breathe.
Individual results may vary, and I’m not saying that I never get a breakout now (I have one as I type this – thanks, face!), but it has worked well for me.
Mineral makeup is the only type of makeup I use. I love it! It is known for being great for acne-prone skin because it does not clog pores and can help absorb excess oil on the skin surface. Be very careful when purchasing mineral makeup, as some have many fillers and some are loaded with
chemicals. The Skin Deep Cosmetic Database that Kiisu referenced is an awesome resource. You can view it at: Skin Deep. It is run by the Environmental Working Group and is very reliable
That’s awesome – thanks, everybody!