When I was struggling with skin issues, all I wanted was fix my skin through internal methods. Why? Because I felt I had exhausted my topical options. As a 13 year old, my allowance money went to Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Purpose, Cetaphil, and later, Clinique. None of them worked. Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser actually stung my face, and I do not even have sensitive skin! Both Neutrogena’s 3 step (Oil-Free Acne Cream Cleanser, Clear Pore Toner, and Oil-Free Moisture) and Clinique’s served only to irritate my skin as well, causing the skin on the side of my nose to inflame and turn red and even painful. I couldn’t believe that this stuff was being recommended by dermatologists as the brands claimed. How could they recommend such harsh products, twice a day at that?! No, these fuckers popping out of my skin must be related to something else deep within.
Drinking water was always the number one advice in articles for basically any skin issue the magazine were covering. I remember even reading that drinking water will provide more water to your skin, which therefore will have more water than oil, so you’ll break out less (Um?!). So far, there aren’t enough studies to convince me whether water intake actually boosts skin hydration, or if it is just a myth.
This study tackles the fact that most skin dryness is caused by “exposure to dry air, prolonged contact with hot water and scrubbing with soap (both strip oils from the skin), medical conditions and medications”, while these two studies examine less than 100 subjects who increased their water intake, thus increasing skin density and thickness. Both studies conclude that “effects within the skin seem to differ depending on the nature of the water ingested” and “natural mineral water supplementation may be used in order to improve the hydration of skin dryness as a complementary cosmetic approach.” Neither of the studies reported how much water the subjects drank before the study was conducted. How do I know if they drank a cup a day normally, then began the study?
For me, this is not definitive enough to drink more than the 1.5-2 liters I try to consume daily. If I’m dehydrated, my skin is affected only because I’m too fatigued and tired to take care of my skin. If we are tired, the skin is usually the last thing we worry about. “Oh I’ll take care of it tomorrow” but your ongoing lack of staying sufficiently hydrated is going to only make you more tired, more apathetic to your skincare. At least for me, that is the case.
When I was in my early teens, my dermatologist was very quick to prescribe an oral antibiotic along with other topical antibiotics for my cystic acne. A pill a day and acne goes away? Awesome! I’ll be just like the other girls who use Clean & Clear face wash and start their day. On I went taking my prescription oral antibiotic, happy as a pig in shit.
I can’t even explain the embarrassment when those drugs hit your stomach and you’re in the middle of an exam in 8th grade. Sweating, panting mad dashes to restrooms are not the wave in middle school. I’m sure oral antibiotics have helped many with their acne, but for me, the gastrointestinal side effects were not worth it.
Probiotics, Zinc, Fish Oil, & Spearmint Tea
** I do not claim to be a doctor or a medical expert. Speak to your physician before beginning any of the following. **
I started to examine other oral remedies for acne. There must be something that helps the skin, a more natural antibiotic perhaps? While birth control pills were a miracle for my acne in my early 20’s (particularly monophasic pills rather than the biphasic or triphasic because those fluctuations in hormones wrecked my mood and skin), I didn’t want to rely on artificial hormones to balance my acne. I looked for more natural ways of balancing hormones. Taking the following daily not only improved my mood and immunity, but also my skin!
Probiotics: This is a bacteria that maintains the balance of good vs bad bacteria in your intestines. I read a detailed study linking acne, probiotics and gut-brain-skin axis. The reason this study appealed to me was because over 13,000 adolescents were part of a study that “showed that those with acne were more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, halitosis, and gastric reflux. In particular, abdominal bloating was 37% more likely to be associated with acne and other seborrheic diseases.” I highly recommend reading the full study because there is too much for me to condense, but the TLDR version is simply
- L. acidophilus in fermented milk beverages or capsules are beneficial in maintaining the bacteria in your small intestines. Fermented milk is better than the usual dairy because it has significantly lower insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) during the fermentation process. Milk contains growth hormones, artificial and natural. I avoid added hormones at all costs.
- Balancing your microflora leads to less intestinal issues, reducing inflammation within.
- You’re stressed, you stress eat your burgers and fries, your gut is like “wtf wheres the fiber”, your body and skin are not getting nutrients, so here’s some inflammation.
I like to take Enzymatic Therapy Probiotic Pearls. They make several different kinds however the Pearls IC have more strains than the others varieties. The IC also contains l. rhamnosus, which is one of the best for maintaining vaginal health.
Zinc: A proven anti-inflammatory immune booster, more so than Vitamin C. Zinc gluconate in particular has been studied, stipulating that “oral zinc gluconate has been found useful in managing inflammatory acne.” This study explicitly states that “antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, have been attributed to zinc, including as a treatment for psoriasis, hair loss, leg ulcers, wound healing, and acne.” Therefore, take zinc to boost your immune system. Take zinc and heal your body from within.
Currently, I take Solgar Zinc 50mg tablets once a day, at night. It contains zinc gluconate, though zinc sulfate has also been studied to lessen acne, so try to look for zinc in those forms. I take it nightly because nausea can be a side effect, so I take it about 30 mins to 1 hour after dinner and go to bed. My boyfriend also takes zinc, he isn’t on any topical or oral treatments for acne, and notices a difference when he forgoes his daily dose.
Fish Oil: Recommended for cardiovascular/heart health for decades, fish oil impacts our skin health as well as mental wellbeing. The truth is, most Westerners do not consume fish as much as recommended for the daily dose of omegas. Look for Omega 3 rather than Omega 6 if you are trying to battle inflammation. Studies have found that omega 6 fatty acids can increase inflammation in those suffering from acne, while omega 3 actually decreases inflammatory conditions. This review touches on several factors regarding diet and acne and backs it with references galore. Vitamin D, along with omega 3’s, have a huge impact on mood as well.
I take Nature’s Bounty Fish Oil 1200mg + D3 1000mg, twice a day. This is the only fish oil supplement to not upset my stomach or cause fishy burps. It contains the Vitamin D, who’s deficiency has been linked to depression as well.
Spearmint Tea: Androgens, or the male hormone, are present in both sexes. Heightened androgen levels contribute to excess sebum and inflammation. Your skin might be producing oil at a much faster rate, resulting in sticky sebum that blocks pores, contributing to acne. Women with heightened androgen levels may also experience excessive hair growth (hirsutism) and poly-cystic ovarian syndrome. According to this study, Spearmint is one of many natural plant derived anti-androgens that balance out the hormones. If you feel your acne is caused by hormonal factors, spearmint tea would be a simple remedy, more readily available remedy. Synthetic anti-androgens include spironolactone and finasteride. This is why the birth control Yaz was touted for its anti acne benefits, because the progestin drospirenone is in the spironolactone group. Drinking spearmint tea twice a day is not only refreshing, but can help with hormone related acne issues.
I drink Traditional Medicinals Organic Spearmint Tea. I chose this because it is spearmint and nothing else. I’ve found many brands that contain other herbs in addition to spearmint, like peppermint and lemongrass, but this is 100% spearmint leaves. I use boiling hot water, steep for at least 15 minutes, squeeze as much of the tea bag as I can, and drink twice a day. Sometimes I up it to 3x a day when PMSing. Besides being super refreshing, I have noticed a reduction in the size and duration of pimples that appear during my menstrual cycle.
I won’t say that I have completely cured my acne by taking fish oil, zinc, probiotics and spearmint tea. But I can tell you that I have noticed a SIGNIFICANT reduction in inflammation and acne in general when taking these supplements, in addition to a fairly healthy, clean diet. I avoid soda and milk like the plague. If I need dairy, I drink almond milk instead, though cheese can be a weakness… 😛
Speak to your doctor before trying these remedies, especially if you are taking any medication. As with EVERYTHING related to skincare, YMMV and introduce one at a time to be able to identify what’s not working and what is.