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What causes acne and breakouts?

Four Contributing Factors to Acne

1. Sebum overproduction

Your skin is covered with hair follicles or pores and where the hair comes out of the skin are the sebaceous glands. Sebum is a natural oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands to keep your skin moisturised and healthy. When the density of natural sebum increases for various reasons, often during hormonal changes like puberty or at times of stress such as pressure from exams, work or relationship issues, this is often when breakouts occur.

2. Hyper- keratinisation

Combine denser sebum with hyper – keratinisation which is when normal shedding of the skin cells is accelerated to result in excessively rapid skin cell turnover. This process means ‘dead’ skin cells build up, causing obstruction of the pore and ultimately resulting in a pustule.

3. Bacteria

A bacteria Propionibacterium acnes lives at the base of the hair follicle. When a trigger such as stress or hormonal changes occur, this starts to oversupply sebum as a result, then bacteria may irritate surrounding skin tissue and cause inflammation.

Whiteheads occur for the same reason, but the white blood cells, sebum, and other substances combine to create a yellow pus that bulges under the skin. A blackhead is when those same substances are exposed, by an open pore, into the air. It is not dirt that causes the blackhead to darken, but a chemical reaction to the air.

4. Hormones

Many women will associate breakout skin with their menstrual cycle and in fact, other hormonal changes can trigger acne in later life. Acne located beneath the cheekbones and along the jawline is often more likely to be related to hormonal issues than acne across the forehead or the bridge of the nose.

Hormonal acne tends to be sensitive to touch and likely to leave a scar and ironically can even be accompanied by dry and flaky skin.

Many people will suffer on the neck, chest, back, shoulders as well as on the face. Skin all over the body has just as many hair follicles as it does on the face and the combination of sebum overproduction with hyperkeratinisation can affect these areas as well.

Managing problem skin from the inside out

It is important to give the skin the vitamins and nutrients it needs in order to make skin healthier and there are some key ones such as Vitamin A.

Remember, skin cells are ‘born’ in the deepest layer of the skin (the base of the epidermis) and turnover of skin cells (which happens in their thousands every day) is controlled by Vitamin A which also regulates of sebum production.

Vitamin A is found in food like liver, cod liver oil, mackerel and salmon. You also can also make vitamin A from beta carotene found in orange and yellow vegetables. Vitamin A is the number one nutrient to turn to when you’re looking at trying to get your skin clear.

Another important food is the cruciferous group of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussel sprouts. These have a very detoxifying effect on the body and can help eliminate toxins from the body.

Over production of sebum can also be regulated by increasing essential fatty acids in the diet. For example: nuts, seeds, walnuts, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Look out for beneficial bacteria which will to balance the bacteria contributing to breakouts and unhappy skin. Beneficial bacteria are found in fermented foods, such as kimchi, tempeh, and sauerkraut.

A study shows that people with acne have lower blood levels of vitamin A than those who don’t have acne. And the more severe the Vitamin A deficiency the more severe the acne. The clearer skin diet would include foods that are rich in Vitamin A and essential fatty acids. And have some broccoli, cauliflower, spinach or kale every day.

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