By Kayla McDonell, RD
What Causes Acne?
Acne starts when the pores in your skin get clogged with oil and dead skin cells.
Each pore is connected to a sebaceous gland, which produces an oily substance called sebum. Extra sebum can plug up pores, causing the growth of a bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes.
Your white blood cells attack P. acnes, leading to skin inflammation and acne. Some cases of acne are more severe than others, but common symptoms include whiteheads, blackheads and pimples.
Many factors contribute to the development of acne, including genetics, diet, stress, hormone changes and infections.
Below home remedies for acne that you might want to try.
Take a Fish Oil Supplement
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly healthy fats that offer a multitude of health benefits.
You must get these fats from your diet, but research shows that most people who eat a standard Western diet don’t get enough of them.
Fish oils contain two main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
EPA benefits the skin in several ways, including managing oil production, maintaining adequate hydration and preventing acne.
High levels of EPA and DHA have been shown to decrease inflammatory factors, which may reduce the risk of acne.
In one study, 45 individuals with acne were given omega-3 fatty acid supplements containing both EPA and DHA daily. After 10 weeks, acne decreased significantly.
There is no specific recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids, but most health organizations recommend healthy adults consume a minimum of 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily.
You can also get omega-3 fatty acids by eating salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, chia seeds and ground flaxseeds.
Exfoliation is the process of removing the top layer of dead skin cells. It can be achieved mechanically by using a brush or scrub to physically remove the cells. Alternatively, it can be removed chemically by applying an acid that dissolves them.
Exfoliation is believed to improve acne by removing the skin cells that clog up pores.
It is also believed to make acne treatments for the skin more effective by allowing them to penetrate deeper, once the topmost layer of skin is removed.
Unfortunately, the research on exfoliation and its ability to treat acne is limited.
Some studies show that microdermabrasion, which is a method of exfoliation, can improve the skin’s appearance, including some cases of acne scarring.
In one small study, 25 patients with acne received eight microdermabrasion treatments at weekly intervals. Based on before and after photos, this helped improve acne.
96% of the participants were pleased with the results and would recommend the procedure to others. Yet while these results indicate that exfoliation may improve acne, more research is needed.
There are a wide variety of exfoliation products available in stores and online, but it’s just as easy to make a scrub at home using sugar or salt.
How to Make a Scrub at Home
- Mix equal parts sugar (or salt) and coconut oil.
- Scrub skin with mixture and rinse well.
- Exfoliate as often as desired up to once daily.
Follow a Low Glycemic Load Diet
The relationship between diet and acne has been debated for years.
Recent evidence suggests that dietary factors, such as insulin and glycemic index, may be associated with acne.
A food’s glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly it raises blood sugar.
Eating high-GI foods causes a spike in insulin, which is thought to increase sebum production. Because of this, high-GI foods are believed to have a direct effect on the development and severity of acne.
Foods with a high glycemic index include white bread, sugary soft drinks, cakes, doughnuts, pastries, candies, sugary breakfast cereals and other processed foods.
Foods with a low glycemic index include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole or minimally processed grains.
In one study, 43 people followed either a high- or low-glycemic diet. After 12 weeks, the individuals consuming a low-glycemic diet had a significant improvement in both acne and insulin sensitivity, compared to those eating carb-dense foods.
Another study with 31 participants yielded similar results.
These small studies suggest that a low-glycemic diet may be helpful for individuals with acne-prone skin, but further research is needed.
Cut Back on Dairy
The relationship between dairy and acne is highly controversial.
Drinking milk and consuming dairy products exposes you to hormones, which may cause hormonal changes and lead to acne.
Two large studies reported that higher levels of milk consumption were associated with acne.
However, participants self-reported the data in both of these studies, so more research needs to be done in order to establish a true causal relationship.
The hormones released during periods of stress may increase sebum production and skin inflammation, making acne worse.
In fact, multiple studies have linked stress to an increase in acne severity.
What’s more, stress can slow wound healing by up to 40%, which may slow the repair of acne lesions.
Certain relaxation and stress-reduction treatments have been shown to improve acne, but more research needs to be done.
Ways to Reduce Stress
- Get more sleep
- Engage in physical activity
- Practice yoga
- Take deep breaths
Exercise promotes healthy blood circulation. The increase in blood flow helps nourish the skin cells, which may help prevent and heal acne.
Exercise also plays a role in hormone regulation.
Several studies have shown that exercise can decrease stress and anxiety, both of which are factors that can contribute to the development of acne.
It’s recommended that healthy adults exercise for 30 minutes 3–5 times per week. This can include walking, hiking, running and lifting weights.
The Bottom Line
Acne is a common problem with a number of underlying causes. However, conventional treatments can cause dryness, redness and irritation.
Fortunately, many natural remedies can also be effective. The home remedies listed in this article may not work for everyone, but they just might be worth a try.
Nevertheless, you may want to consult a dermatologist if you have severe acne.