By Dr Chung Wan Ling
Here are 7 tips from IYAC doctors on preventing adolescent and adult acne.
1. Go low and slow on sugar
This is what happens when we eat sugar and starchy carbohydrates:
Sugar spikes quickly in the blood → which triggers insulin to spike → chronically raised insulin levels create chronic inflammation → which is good for acne and bad for our health.
Studies have found that people with high sugar intake or on high glycemic load diets (including bread, rice, noodles and pasta) are more prone to acne. So, cut the sugar and the processed foods. Instead of the mee-pok or pasta fix at meals, opt for a fresh leafy salad with a lean protein. Skip the bubble tea at tea-time and watch that dessert intake. Try fruits or a handful of almonds or pistachios for a snack instead.
2. Cut the dairy
Hormones (androgens in various forms and growth hormones) in milk can interfere with our hormonal balance and over-stimulate oil glands, worsening acne. Skim milk appears to cause the most skin issues, possibly from the whey protein, hormones and sugars in it. Although recent studies have suggested that yogurt and cheese don’t appear to contribute significantly to acne, it’s still good to save dairy as a treat, not a daily affair, when you are trying to calm troubled skin. There are more efficient ways to get your calcium, such as eggs, cruciferous and dark green leafy vegetables, and of course, your trusty calcium supplements.
3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Incorporate colorful foods into your diet, as these are rich in natural antioxidants and protective polyphenol. Try dark purple and red foods such as berries; green foods like dark leafy vegetables and green tea; and yellow foods like turmeric and ginger. We all need omega-3 fat, a fatty acid that is critical for fighting inflammation, boosting immunity, improving cognitive development, memory and learning and preventing heart disease. To get it, eat foods such as wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, avocados, olive oil, chia seeds and walnuts.
4. Fortify the gut
What you eat translates into what you see on your skin, and a healthy gut system makes for better skin. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso and kombucha tea are loaded with probiotics, minerals and vitamins along with fiber. Good nutritious fiber like garlic and onions act as prebiotics by feeding the probiotics. When buying bottled probiotics, look for one with high potency (at least 25 billion CFU) and multiple strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Consider aiding the gut with digestive enzymes and the occasional detoxifying gut cleanser.
We live in a highly stressful environment, and chronic stress can increase our cortisol level (stress hormone) and exacerbate our body’s underlying inflammation. Stress also contributes to poor dietary choices – binge eating and sugar highs are certainly not the ideal way to deal with stress.
Look for other coping strategies. How about engaging in forest bathing and green walks? Similar to the pheromones of one girl that influences the menstrual cycle of another, phytoncides from plants and trees help to boost our immunity and enhance mental well-being. You may also try managing stress through meditation, yoga and other forms of exercise, saunas, massages (try IYAC’s Rest and Relax treatment), facials (try IYAC’s Facial Circuit), aromatherapy, music and more.
Stress can deplete our body of magnesium and zinc, which are trace minerals essential for general well-being and good skin, nails and hair. Rich nutritional sources of zinc include red meat, poultry and shellfish, with oysters providing one of the highest loads of zinc. Magnesium is available in nuts, green leafy vegetables and bananas.
6. Sleep more, sleep early
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation contributes to stress and inflammation, which feed the acne cycle. So how much is enough sleep? Simple math – 1 sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and even adults need 5 cycles of sleep to be considered well rested. That works out to be 450 minutes, and hence at least 7-8 hours of sleep are needed per day. By following an “early to bed and early to rise” approach (that means going to bed well before midnight), you also follow the natural circadian rhythm of your body and avoid unnecessary cortisol spikes. Sleep more and sleep early, to calm your skin and to give your body a much-needed daily turbo recharge.
For Dr Yeoh’s tips on sleeping, click here.
7. Use the right skincare
Even skincare labeled “non-comedogenic” may not necessarily prevent you from getting pimples altogether. It’s more important to use skincare appropriate for your skin type. In general, it’s good to use products that are free of parabens, propylene glycol and synthetic fragrances to reduce risk of sensitivity. Adolescent skin trends on the oily side. Use products that control natural oils without stripping them entirely away.
As we age, we lose hyaluronic acid (a natural lubricant) and we dry up. In response, our skin produces more oil in an attempt to lock in what little remaining moisture there is. Hence, we often hear people complaining of oily skin when the root of the issue is underlying dryness! From your late twenties, look for hydrating products. Consider using a facial oil to lock in skin moisture. It’s a myth that facial oils make your face oilier. Appropriately used, facial oil seals in moisture, stops unnecessary water loss and prevents your skin from kicking into its protective oil-producing state. Decreased activity of sebaceous glands equals less oily skin, fewer pimples and large pores!
Making all of these changes at once may be difficult. Try tweaking one aspect of your life, and then another, and you will be on your way to cleaner, clearer and brighter skin.
Speak to us at IYAC if you would like further clarifications on the above tips. We are more than happy to point you in the right direction and to provide further resources, supplements and skincare.