Not many people get through their teens without spots and pimple outbreaks, and this is really quite normal. However, when we suffer from prolonged periods of bad skin or acne, or it continues into adulthood, this can really impact on self-confidence and esteem. Before you resort to antibiotics, the contraceptive pill or acne medication, consider these ten skin tips first. Some of these ideas can also help to ameliorate the side effects of some of acne medications and can be used alongside each other.
The term acne describes the blackheads, whiteheads and red pus-filled pimples that can appear over the face, shoulders, and trunk because of the skin’s pores becoming clogged with sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells.
It tends to start around puberty, when an increase in androgen hormones, such as testosterone, stimulate the sebaceous glands and skin becomes oilier. This often starts as oily skin and small pimples on the forehead and around the nose. In some cases, it can last well into early adulthood potentially causing permanent scaring. However, most people do grow out of it quite easily by their late teens.
Whether your teen or tween just has just a few pimples or has full blown acne, then here are ten ways you can help to keep their skin to be clearer and more radiant:
- Adopt great skin hygiene. Use a specialist natural low pH teen/tween face wash and a fresh clean flannel or cloth every day to wipe off any impurities. Make sure they’re not scrubbing their face with exfoliants when the skin is flaring, as this can make things worse.
- Stress or sleep disturbance can produce higher levels of hormones in the body, which will increase sebum production, leading to clogged pores. Make sure they are getting their ‘beauty sleep’ and build in enough relaxation time, especially during exam times.
- Reduce ultra-processed convenience foods and refined sugars and where possible as these foods are pro-inflammatory and can exacerbate skin flares. This is because very starchy refined white carbohydrates have a very high glycaemic index. Switch white carbs to slow-release carbs like lentils, beans, root vegetables and wholegrains where possible. Also switch to fresh or frozen fruit and natural sugars such as honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar. Aim to cook from scratch as much as you can and encourage them to assemble or bake their own snacks, rather than grabbing a shop-bought packet.
- Drink lots of filtered water daily, to flush any toxin build up out of the body and keep the skin hydrated. Ideally, they should drink this out of a stainless steel or glass bottle, as BPA in plastic can disrupt hormones.
- Think zinc. It’s a key nutrient that kids need during puberty and zinc is important for skin healing. Studies have found that those suffering from acne tend to have lower reserves of zinc in their blood. It is naturally anti-inflammatory and helps with relieving the soreness and redness associated with teen acne. It is thought that zinc might help by suppressing the production of sebum and fighting the bacteria on the skin which can exacerbate acne. Add nuts, seeds, wholegrains and leafy greens into the diet and supplement daily for at least 3 months to see a difference.
- Give them foods high in vitamin A, as again research has found that those with marked acne have lower levels of vitamin A in their blood. This is super important for skin health, these include dark green leafy vegetables, yellow-orange fruits and vegetables like apricots, mangoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin or squash. Ghee, grass-fed yellow butter and liver are also great sources of Vitamin A. Cod liver oil also contains a lot of vitamin A and can be taken as a supplement.
- Ensure they are eating plenty of omega-3 rich foods such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, shellfish and prawns as well as whole organic milk, walnuts, chia and flax seeds. If they are taking a course of isotretinoin (Roaccutane) then the omega-3 can help to ameliorate some of the side effects of dry skin, especially dry sore lips and sore skin cracks at the side of the mouth.
- Buy organic full-fat dairy and grass-fed organic meats as these contain more anti-inflammatory vitamin A, D and omega 3.
- Try adding in fermented and cultured foods such as kimchi, miso soup or kefir/live whole milk yoghurt. Add in a probiotic supplement to bolster the gut and skin microbiome, especially if they have been on antibiotics.
- Up their greens. Pile in the broccoli, kale and green beans, think leafy or green veg boosted salads. Also try green smoothies or supplements boosted with super green powders.
It’s important to realise that these dietary measures do not mean that you need to eat “perfectly” all the time. These guidelines are more about adding in more good stuff and switching to some equally yummy but slightly healthier ingredients. It’s certainly not about taking away all the things that you love or feeling guilty if you do eat them sometimes.
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