So, you thought you were long past the days of acne? Contrary to popular belief, pimples and blackheads can plague us long after our teen years. What’s a girl to do? Develop a natural strategy that zaps those zits while pampering your grownup complexion. The best place to start is by understanding what’s really happening below the skin’s surface.
An acne lesion starts with increased oil production and a blockage in the hair follicles. The blockage is made up of sebum (an oily substance that lubricates your hair and skin) and dead skin cells. This combination literally plugs the pore and shows up as a whitehead or blackhead. When this condition occurs, bacteria—specifically Propioni bacterium—can cause the infection and inflammation better known as pimples, blemishes, or zits. And these outbreaks aren’t just limited to your face. They can also crop up on your neck, chest, back, shoulders, and even your upper arms.
Why do some people suffer from acne as adults and others don’t? While there’s no clear answer, there are some risk factors that can contribute to its development. Changes in your hormones—like that monthly swing in estrogen and progesterone just before your period—can trigger acne by increasing sebum production. What you eat also matters.
One literature review conducted by researchers at the University of Kentucky concluded that the uptick in acne among U.S. teens and adults is likely due to an increase in the amount of sugar and high-glycemic foods in the Western diet. These foods quickly break down into glucose in the body, which raises your insulin levels. Simple carbohydrates, like table sugar, white bread, and soda, cause your insulin levels to spike. This extra insulin stimulates oil-producing hormones and accelerates cell growth in the pores, which can lead to breakouts.
Instead of chemically filled lotions and potions, keep skin blemish-free with essential oils. Boasting anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties, the following essential oils can offer targeted relief. Just be aware that these essential oils should be diluted before use. To make a 2% dilution, simply add 12 drops of essential oil to each fluid ounce (30 ml) of a cold-pressed carrier oil like almond or jojoba oil. Apply the dilution directly to the blemish with a clean cotton ball or swab.
Tea Tree Oil has been used for centuries to treat wounds and blemishes because of its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. A 2007 study of 60 patients found that, used topically, tea tree oil was 3.6 times more effective than a placebo at reducing acne lesions. It was also 5.8 times more effective at taming acne severity, making it an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne.
Lavender Essential Oil is a gentle yet healing anti-inflammatory oil that gets its blemish-busting benefits thanks to its antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities. As a bonus, its soothing scent can also calm stress. Researchers believe that an increase in acne may be due to higher levels of sebum that are produced in times of stress; lavender essential oil serves as a powerful tool because of its stress-reducing capabilities.
You can also help to heal acne from the inside out. Along with a low-glycemic index diet, look for an acne-specific supplement that provides skin-friendly antioxidants like vitamin A and zinc, natural anti-inflammatories like boswellia, and antimicrobials like burdock root. Together, these strategies can help you attain and maintain radiantly clear skin at every age.