What is Acne, What Types Are there + 14 Tips to Fight it
Acne is a nasty skin condition that can ruin your life properly. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do yourself against acne. Such as adjusting your diet and taking care of the skin.
There is a lot of nonsense about acne in the world involved. This article will give you clarity about what is scientifically proven and really works!
What you will learn in this article:
- What causes acne
- Which diet helps against acne
- What else you can do against acne
- What you should not do
What is Acne?
Acne is a collective name for skin diseases that can be recognized by the pimples.
There are several types of acne. In this article, I will focus on acne vulgaris (normal acne). The most common form of acne.
Acne vulgaris is also called pimples. Although acne vulgaris usually occurs in adolescents, you can still suffer from this form of acne in adulthood.
Hormones play a role in acne. Acne will be the worst between the 16th and 19th year of life. Girls can develop acne from the age of 8, while in boys this usually only occurs from the age of 14 years.
85% of adolescents experience acne at one point. This can be very mild but also very intense.
In men, acne is usually more intense than in women. This is because male hormones stimulate sebum production more.
In most people, the acne disappears automatically after puberty. However, this is not the case for everyone. After the 24th year of life, about 1% of men suffer from acne while in women 5%.
In addition to hormones, heredity and nutrition also play a role in getting acne.
Acne is most common in the face, neck, shoulders, upper back, chest and upper arms and is harmless.
Although it is harmless, you can have scars and pigmentation, the more violent forms of acne that remain visible for the rest of your life.
And acne is of course very annoying because it marred your appearance. It can evoke feelings of shame and fear. It can cause emotional or psychosocial problems, cause an inferiority complex or depression.
Types of Acne
In addition to acne vulgaris, there are the following types of acne:
- Acne tarda
- Acne cosmetics
- Acne conglobata
- Acne mechanics
- Acne ectopica
- Acne venerium
- Acne comedonica
- Acne papulopustulosa
- Acne excoriée
- Acne neonatorum – infantum
These forms of acne are explained briefly below.
This form of acne looks like acne vulgaris and is talked about tarda when adult women get (or keep) acne after puberty.
The cause is a disturbed hormone balance which can be recognized by, for example, an irregular menstrual cycle.
The treatment is the same as for acne vulgaris.
This form of acne is caused by the use of cosmetics that clog the pores.
It is a mild form of acne that is, however, persistent.
This is a form of acne with severe inflammations. The pustules can be painful and are very red and large. There is a lot of pus in these pustules and they can leave scars.
This form of acne occurs mainly in white men and only becomes less after the 30th to 50th year of life.
In this form of acne, a treatment by a dermatologist is required.
Keloidalis is a form of acne that occurs in people with dark skin.
This is just like conglobata a form of acne that is accompanied by severe inflammations.
This is a very severe form of acne that can start suddenly. You can feel sick with this form of acne.
Acne fulminans is a rare form of acne.
This form of acne is caused by friction and pressure on the skin.
This can happen in certain professions or in athletes who wear protective clothing such as a bicycle helmet.
Due to friction and the heat that can not get rid of, the skin gets irritated and acne can develop.
This form of acne is triggered by exposure to halogen-containing hydrocarbons. Known causes are dioxins.
On the photo, you see the face of Viktor Andrijovych Yushchenko, a former president of Ukraine.
During the 2004 elections, Yushchenko accused his opponents of wanting to poison him. The chlorine acne in his face was caused by dioxin poisoning.
This is a chronic inflammation of the hair follicles, usually under the armpits and on the groin.
This form of acne can be recognized by the blackheads (comedones) without the presence of pimples.
The skin shows no or virtually no inflammations but does have a relief by the blackheads.
This is a form of contact acne where there has been in contact with a toxic substance.
This is a mild form of acne that shows signs of inflammation and red pimples filled with pus.
This form of acne is common and difficult to treat.
This form of acne is caused by scratching on the body or the face. This can be compulsive but you can also scribble unconsciously.
It mainly occurs in girls.
The French name for this form is “acne excoriée des jeunes filles”, or “open scratching acne in young girls”.
This is acne in babies or toddlers and usually goes over again after a few months.
Never fool your baby or toddler with any remedies and ask a doctor to make a diagnosis and advice.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is the result of excessive sebum production by the sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands are at the bottom of the hair follicles. A square centimeter of skin counts about 15 of these sebaceous glands.
Tallow has a protective function for the skin, it ensures that the skin does not dry out and protects against bacteria and fungi.
If there is excessive sebum production, this will ensure that dead skin cells and horn cells will remain in the hair follicle.
Excessive sebum production occurs in puberty under the influence of hormonal changes. This ensures that the sebaceous glands become larger. These will produce more and thicker sebum.
The dead skin and horn cells that linger in hair follicles serve as a breeding ground for certain types of bacteria.
These are bacteria that naturally occur in the hair follicles.
By the closure of the hair follicle through sebum these bacteria can start to proliferate. This causes inflammatory symptoms that are visible as red nodules.
You can sometimes see white dots on these red nodules. By squeezing out these pimples the dirty pus (pus) is released and the peeling tension is removed from a pustule.
This pus, however, is full of bacteria that are very contagious and can easily cause new pimples.
The sebaceous deposits are called blackheads (comedones). These can be black or white.
Blackheads are black when they lie on the surface of the skin. The blacktip you see is the horn plug in the hair follicle. The horn plug is colored black by oxidation under the influence of oxygen.
If the blackhead is (still) closed then no oxygen is added. The blackhead then has a white tip.
In addition to blackheads, there are other forms of acne such as pustules, papules, abscesses and cysts.
In addition to hormonal changes, more factors affect acne. These can provoke or worsen acne.
These factors are:
- Genetic predisposition
- The squeezing of pimples
- To smoke
- Stress (makes acne worse but does not cause it, (source)
- Food such as dairy and refined carbohydrates, more about that
- Skincare (too often washing with regular soap)
- The menstrual cycle
- The birth control pill
- A lack of certain vitamins
- The use of anabolic steroids
- Oil-based cosmetics (pores may become clogged)
- Fatty hair care products
- Climate (bacteria feel comfortable in a hot and humid climate)
- Physical pressure by, for example, a helmet or forehead
- Certain drugs such as prednisone or anti-epileptic drugs
- Greasy food
If you have noticed several times that your acne gets worse after eating chocolate, chips or pork for example, then you do well in the future not to eat.
That fries or chocolate pimples can have to do with the carbohydrates and sugars they contain and not so much with the fat content. More about that later.
If you are going to exclude certain foods from your diet, you will always have to see if you will not miss certain nutrients so that you can supplement them with other foods or supplements.
That acne is caused by poor hygiene is also not true. Too often washing with soap and chemical remedies can make sure that the skin gets too irritated and that the acne will only get worse.
That acne caused by cosmetics is also not true.
If you use good, oil-free, cosmetics that do not clog the pores, it will have no effect.
Cosmetics also has no effect on the effects of anti-acne agents.
It is important that you remove the makeup before sleeping.
The Birth Control Pill
With the contraceptive pill, the number of androgens (hormones with male properties) in the female body can be reduced.
Androgens stimulate the (over) production of sebum and thereby cause acne.
The contraceptive pill can be a very effective method to control acne (source). After you start taking the pill, it takes several months before you start to see the effects.
The pill also has other, sometimes annoying, side effects. Remember that the pill is not the only method to reduce acne if you are considering the pill because of acne.
What can and can you not eat against Acne?
The typical Western diet is seen as a diet that causes acne (source).
That acne does not occur in non-Western civilizations such as in Papua New Guinea and Paraguay substantiate these assumptions (source).
The hormone insulin affects your sebum production. At high insulin levels, the sebaceous glands will produce more sebum. This makes it more likely that the hair follicle gets clogged and acne can develop.
The body makes insulin after we have eaten. After the meal, the blood glucose rises. Insulin is needed to transport the glucose through the blood and to take the glucose into the cells. After the cells have absorbed the glucose, the blood glucose drops again and with it the insulin values.
What we eat has an influence on blood glucose (and thus on insulin levels). Eating carbohydrates increases blood glucose. The more the blood glucose rises, the more insulin will be produced.
The amount and type of carbohydrates you eat will determine how much blood glucose will rise.
After 10 weeks the acne had become less in the participants, the inflammation had decreased and the size of the sebaceous glands had become smaller (source).
In another study participants received a diet with a low glycemic load for 12 weeks. Acne decreased and insulin sensitivity improved. There was also a reduction in the bioavailability of testosterone and a decrease in androgens in the adrenal gland (source).
Simple carbohydrates will quickly be broken down to glucose and the blood sugar will rise quickly. You will have to avoid these if you have acne.
This involves added sugars and refined carbohydrates.
These are in foods such as:
- Soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices and drinking yogurt
- Bars, cakes, pastries
- Chips, pretzels, cocktail nuts, snacks
- White and brown bread
- Breakfast cereals such as corn flakes
- White rice
- Baked or fried potatoes
Certainly, the foods that are usually also eaten in larger quantities, such as bread, baked potato and pasta, have a high total glycemic load. These will ensure a high peak in blood glucose and thus insulin levels.
Foods with added sugars and refined carbohydrates can be substituted for foods that consist of unprocessed carbohydrates.
Unprocessed carbohydrates are more complex and the body needs more time to break down into glucose. As a result, the glucose is gradually released into the blood so that there is no peak in the blood sugars. The result is that less insulin is needed.
Carbohydrate sources that you can eat if you have acne:
- Vegetables, legumes and beans
- Oatmeal or other whole grains
- Unpolished rice
- Sweet potato
Your health and body will thank you for removing the foods with added sugars and refined carbohydrates from your eating schedule.
You will notice after a few weeks that you get more energy and feel better in your own skin.
Especially when you are in puberty you will still have a great need for carbohydrates. Removing carbohydrates from your diet completely is therefore not an option (it is never actually). Although it can not hurt to be more reluctant with carbohydrates.
You do not have to eat less, especially if you are still growing. You can replace carbohydrates for fats and proteins.
Do you want to know how you can eat fewer carbohydrates and still be healthy? You can read all about it in my article about the low-carbohydrate diet.
Proteins are the building blocks of your body cells and you need to be able to grow. Fats are an important fuel for your body, provide the building blocks for the cell membranes and transport the fat-soluble vitamins.
Sources of protein and fat that you can eat with acne:
- Fatty fish
- Unprocessed meat, preferably organic
- Coconut oil or olive oil
- Nuts, seeds and seeds
For example, among 47,355 women, researchers asked about their eating habits at school and to what extent they suffered from acne. The women who drank 2 or more glasses of skimmed milk a day were found to have had 44% more problems with acne (source).
This study did have the limitation that it is based on what the women remembered about their eating habits and they had to estimate for themselves how bad their acne was. Due to the large size of this research, however, incorrect estimates are reasonably averaged out.
In another study, 4,273 men looked at the use of dairy products and acne. Here too, a connection between drinking low-fat milk and acne was found (source).
Researchers pointed out that most of the milk in U.S. drunk is from pregnant cows. This milk contains more hormones and since hormones play a big role in acne, the question is whether this has to do with each other. And we are talking about hormones such as SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin), progesterone and IGF-I (Insulin Growth Factor-I).
IGF-I, in particular, is suspect because it looks like insulin. Progesterone is converted into androgens, these hormones with male properties stimulate acne.
However, science is not entirely clear whether the hormones in milk aggravate acne. Because most of the hormones are in the fat, you would expect that whole milk will make acne more aggravated. While studies show that correct skimmed milk makes the acne worse.
Just as added sugars and refined carbohydrates cause the insulin levels to rise quickly, milk does that too. After all, milk contains a lot of lactose (milk sugar). Lactose is a monosaccharide, a carbohydrate that consists of one sugar molecule and is rapidly absorbed by the blood.
Anyway You better not drink Milk if you have Acne. And if you do drink it, opt for organic whole milk.
Milk is not as healthy as they want you to believe. You can read how that is in my critical dairy review.
If you delete milk from your diet then you will have to replace it for something else, especially if you are in the growth you need the proteins. You can, for example, use vegetable milk replacers.
Choose the unsweetened variants otherwise you still get a lot of added sugars.
Artificial Hormones in Eggs and Meat?
You also sometimes read that you better not eat eggs and meat if you have acne. This is said on the basis of studies conducted in the U.S.
In many parts of the world (including the US) hormones are used for a larger meat yield. Here the eggs and meat contain artificial hormones that further disrupt the hormonal balance of our body and further elicit acne.
In the EU, however, the use of these artificial hormones in animals is prohibited and you do not have to worry about these hormones in your eggs or meat.
Vitamins and Minerals
People with acne often have a vitamin A, B5, E and biotin deficiency (B8). As far as minerals are concerned, there is often a shortage of zinc and selenium.
These are all vitamins and minerals that are useful for the skin because they reduce inflammation (inflammation). In addition, antioxidants are important against inflammation. Antioxidants are naturally found in mainly fruit and vegetables.
Based on these vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the following foods benefit from acne:
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale
- Orange and yellow vegetables and fruits such as carrots, sweet potato, oranges, mandarins and apricots (rich in beta-carotene which is converted by the body into vitamin A)
- Cauliflower and cauliflower
- Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries (many antioxidants)
- Brown rice
- Lentils (is also rich in proteins)
- Whole grain cereals such as oatmeal
- Beans and legumes
- Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines
- Nuts (preferably unroasted), seeds and seeds. Rich in zinc are especially in pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts.
- Turkey and beef (rich in zinc)
- Seafood such as crab, lobster and oysters (rich in zinc)
According to the University of Michigan, vitamin A supplements for acne are of no use and they can do more harm than good(source).
With vitamin A supplements you also need to be careful because too much vitamin A can cause permanent damage to your liver. Vitamin A is fat-soluble and stored in the body so a high dose can be toxic.
Vitamin A acid has been proven to help with acne because it improves the skin structure (source). Vitamin A acid should not be taken orally but should be applied to the skin.
In some countries, vitamin A acid is not available in free sales because it is seen as a medicine. A dermatologist can treat your skin with vitamin A acid or prescription.
Supplements for Acne
A few nutritional supplements are useful to take in acne.
- Omega 3 supplements
- Zinc methionine supplements
Omega 3 supplements
Omega 3 fatty acids occur naturally in o.a. fatty fish, eggs and nuts. In combination with antioxidants, omega 3 reduces inflammation and helps against acne.
In oily fish, the type of omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that your body needs most and can absorb well.
Because you will not eat oily fish every day, you can use an omega 3 supplement. You can swallow omega 3 capsules containing fish oil, krill oil or algae oil. The more EPA and DHA there is in a capsule, the better.
Zinc is an important mineral for the health of the skin and the regulation of hormone regulation. Researchers discovered a link between low zinc levels in the blood and most severe forms of acne (source).
Zinc reduces the sebum production of the skin and protects it against bacterial infections and inflammation (source).
It is recommended that 30 mg of zinc be taken daily if you have acne (source). Because you will get a part of the diet, you do not need supplements that contain 30 mg of zinc. The zinc supplements serve purely as an addition.
It is recommended to use zinc methionine supplements. Zinc is linked to the sulfur-containing amino acid methionine, which makes it better absorbed by the body.
If your zinc values become high, your buyer’s values will become low and you may become ill (source). You can prevent this by using zinc methionine supplements.
Apart from zinc oral administration, you can also treat acne with ointments containing zinc. Research showed that ointments with 1.2% zinc reduced the acne (source).
What else you can do with Acne (Tips)
In addition to adjusting your diet and swallowing dietary supplements, there is more you can do with acne:
- Showering daily
- Use the right soap
- Use clean towel
- Scrub weekly
- Wear loose clothing
- Stay hydrated
- Use a non-comedogenic body lotion
- Treat the pimples locally
- Use a new detergent
- A clean pillowcase every day
- Quit smoking
- No solarium tanning
- Reduce stress
I will explain these tips further here.
Tip # 1: Daily Shower
Showering is best done with lukewarm water. When you have finished taking a shower, it is best to rinse with cold water. This ensures that the clean pores close.
Do not overdo it by taking a shower twice a day (or even more often). With this, you run the risk that your skin will dry out and get irritated.
You can wash your face twice a day (including showering) but not more often.
If your make-up was used then your face before bedtime.
If you want to wash your face more often, do this with only cold water without using soap, this will prevent your skin from drying out.
Tip # 2: Use The Right Soap
Wash your skin with soap that is specially designed for acne or use a soap based on a natural oil such as Tea Tree oil. This prevents your skin from drying out.
Tip # 3: Clean Towel
Do not rub yourself dry but pat yourself off.
By rubbing, you can open existing pimple and the bacteria can get into the clean pores.
Tip # 4: Scrub Your Skin Weekly
However, dead skin cells can clog your pores and cause new pimples. By scrubbing your skin you remove the dead skin cells, prevent these pores from clogging and stimulate the renewal of the skin.
Do not scrub your skin more than once a week. If you start scrubbing often, your skin will start to irritate.
To scrub, preferably use a scrub based on natural oil such as Tea Tree oil.
If you wear tight clothing, the bacteria can start to heat up and dirt and sebum remain ‘caught’ between your clothes and the skin.
Therefore, wear clothing that is loose and where the skin can breathe.
It is important that your skin in any case not get irritated by your clothes. The best thing to wear is cotton clothing.
Spandex, nylon and wool are more likely to cause irritation.
If you drink insufficiently, your body goes into a low-energy mode.
By drinking enough (water) you give your body the possibility to wash away pollution. Aim for 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day.
In any case, avoid soft drinks because of the sugars.
Tip # 7: Use a Non-Comedogenic Body Lotion
A non-comedogenic body lotion prevents your pores from becoming clogged. With a body lotion, you prevent the skin from becoming dehydrated and therefore irritated.
Never use skin care products based on alcohol or with a smell.
These will irritate the skin.
A care product based on aloe vera is good for acne. Aloe vera contains salicylic acid and sulfur. These substances are often used in the treatment of acne (source).
Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) and is widely used in mild acne. It is very effective in mild forms of acne. It has an exfoliating effect, cleans deep into the pores and is also suitable for sensitive skin.
Tip # 8: treat the pimples locally
The places where you suffer most from pimples can be treated separately. This can be done in various ways.
A good way is to use activated carbon.
Activated carbon is, due to its fine microstructure and fine pores, capable of binding all sorts of substances by means of adsorption, including dirt and bacteria.
There are skin care products for sale based on activated carbon. These remedies absorb bacteria, sebum and dirt so that pure skin remains behind.
You can buy these skin care products ready-made, but it is cheaper to make them yourself.
Tea Tree Oil
In addition to treating your skin with activated charcoal, Tea Tree oil is good for your skin.
Tea Tree oil works just as well as chemical cleaners, it will only take a little longer before it has an effect (source).
There are all kinds of care products for sale based on Tea Tree oil. If the product contains at least 5% Tea Tree oil, then you are fine.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The beauty is that the organic acids (acetic acid, citric acid, lactic acid and succinic acid) of apple cider vinegar can kill the bacterium that causes acne (Propionibacterium acnes) (source, source).
Apple cider vinegar should not be applied to your skin purely. That will cause irritation. You have to dilute it first. 1 part of apple cider vinegar with 3 parts of water.
Dab a cotton pad in your apple cider vinegar solution and pat gently on the skin where the pimples are. Leave it for 15 seconds and rinse it with cold water.
Repeat this once or twice a day.
A lotion with green tea is also recommended.
It has been shown in several studies that a green tea extract reduced sebum production and that acne and pimples became less (source, source, source). These studies were done with remedies containing 2% to 3% green tea extract.
Tip # 9: Use a New Detergent
It is important that you wear clean clothes every day. So that bacteria do not have a chance.
Certain detergents can, however, provoke irritation and only aggravate acne. Therefore, use detergents that are hypoallergenic to prevent irritation of the skin.
Tip # 10: A Clean Pillowcase Every Day
Your pillow is also such a place where bacteria can sit and scorch. Change your pillowcase daily and clean your bedding regularly (at least once a week).
Tip # 11: Exercise
After exercising, take a shower with lukewarm water and finish your shower with cold water. Put on dry and clean clothes after working out.
Tip # 12: Stop Smoking
Do you smoke?
Then you still have a good reason to stop this unhealthy habit.
Smoking is known to make acne worse.
Tip # 13: Do Not go for Solarium Tanning Beds
Tanning beds are known to reduce acne … but this is only temporary and after some time the acne will get worse. It is, therefore, better than you do not go under the sunbed with acne.
Reducing stress is, of course, easier said than done. Yet this is very important if you have acne.
Two studies show that stress worsens the severity of the acne (source, source). And a study showed that the acne among the participants became less when they learned to deal with stress and provided more relaxation (source).
There are many ways to reduce stress. Without going too deeply into it you can:
- Ensure adequate rest and sleep
- To do mindfulness, yoga or meditation
- Doing more the things you get energy from and banning the things that cost your energy as much as possible from your life
If you have followed the nutritional and nursing advice from this article for a period of 2 to 3 months and you still see little or no improvement then you can talk to your doctor about your acne.
Acne is a condition that is usually treatable. The GP can prescribe your remedies and possibly refer you to a dermatologist, if necessary.
Did you know that research shows that 1 in 3 just gains from a diet instead of losing weight? (source)
In short, focus on nutrition if you want to stay healthy!
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