The most up-to-date research on how to fight against acne

Today we know that only our gut microbiome counts for a genome of more than 3 million genes which is 150 times larger than the human genome. Considering that every organ has its own bacterial population (aka microbiome) and that the skin is an organ itself – actually the body’s largest organ – we can accurately say that we are basically bacteria. 

The gut-skin axis is one of the hottest topics right now because of an increasing incidence of acne among adults simultaneously with gut issues – with IBS in the first place. Science has been showing that the gut influences the skin and vice versa. 

I want to update you all on the new research about this incredible link between the skin and the gut microbiomes and how we can fight against acne from the inside out. 

First of all, acne seems to be related to an outgrowth of opportunistic bacteria and science has identified a few possible guilty parties. Different studies agreed that acne is commonly associated with higher than usual H. pylori (the bacterium linked to acid reflux and IBS symptoms), A. candidiasis and protozoa (single-cell animals). 

What Is Disrupting the Skin Microbiome…

  1. Food

Some foods can hurt the gut microbiome and consequently the skin microbiome. These foods promote the outgrowth of opportunistic bacteria leading to inflammation (acne, cellulite, weight gain, water retention, etc.).

Foods that disrupt our microbiomes are:

  • Foods that are high in added sugars. Oh, even if the sugars come from natural sweeteners like honey, agave, or maple syrup.
  • Vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil, safflower and corn oil. Most of the packaged foods we get from supermarkets (even from health stores) do contain these types of oils and most of the food we eat outside is unfortunately cooked in these oils (with some exceptions for Italy, where we mainly use olive oil)

Some eating patterns also disrupt the microbiomes: 

  • Overconsumption of omega 6. Science has shown that too much omega-6 actually leads to inflammation inside the body, increasing the risk of many chronic diseases. Foods rich in omega-6 are soybeans, corn, nuts and seeds, safflower and sunflower oils. Yes, nuts and seeds are superfoods, but we don’t want to overdo. I highly suggest limiting the consumption of sunflower seeds and focusing more on seeds rich in omega-3 instead (chia, flaxseeds, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds)
  • Too little consumption of omega 3. Omega-3 helps fight against inflammation and should be incorporated on a daily basis. This potent fatty acid is a must for the health of skin, hair and nails, and hormonal health too.   
  • Too little consumption of fiber. Fiber feeds our good bacteria and, thus, is necessary to keep the microbiomes inside the body healthy and well-populated. Remember that we are basically bacteria and consuming enough fiber is simply the base for a healthy body and mind (the brain has a microbiome, too!). 
  1. Skincare Products 

Skincare also plays a huge role in skin health. Things such as over-exfoliation and overuse of acids (BHA, AHA, glycolic, retinoids, etc.) are shown to disrupt the microbiome. On the other side, exfoliating and using acids moderately (once or twice a week) is beneficial as it promotes better skin turnover and skin cleansing. 

Also, using alkaline solutions (with a pH higher than 7) is shown to disrupt the microbiome because our skin has a pH of 5-6 and that’s also the pH needed by our bacteria to survive. Using high pH products can eventually kill the good bacteria on the skin. 

How To Restore the Skin Microbiome and Fight Against Acne …

  1. Food

Food is medicine and can be used functionally to reach our health goals. In this case, we need the proper feed to nourish our microbiomes at best to prevent inflammation and so the appearance of acne and other diseases. I recommend focusing on: 

  • Antioxidants to boost the skin blood flow. We need good circulation to promote the transport of nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood throughout the body (including the skin). At the same time, a good blood flow boosts toxin elimination and promotes proper skin cleansing.  The richest foods in antioxidants? A lot of fruit and vegetables!
  • Prebiotic fiber, the favorite feed of our microbiomes. Our bacteria thrive on this type of fiber and this is why we should be eating it daily. You can find a table with all the prebiotic-rich foods here.
  • Omega 3 to prevent inflammation in the first place. You should never go without fatty fish (salmon, tuna) and other fish such as mackerel and sardines. You can also get some plant-based omega-3 from seeds, such as chia seeds, hemp seeds and flaxseeds. 
  • Pumpkin seeds. I am dedicating a separate paragraph to this superfood over here. The emerging research shows how pumpkin seeds have a beneficial effect on acne and hair growth. Have them raw into salad or grain bowls, in the form of flour (you can make your own just by blending some pumpkin seeds) or make pesto (check out the recipe for the “Hormone Balancing Pesto” here)
  1. Skincare Products 

Now let’s talk about some of the products that feed the skin microbiome from the outside, helping control and prevent acne:

  • Pumpkin seed oil. Yup, beneficial from the inside AND from the outside! Use it as a moisturizing serum am or pm. 
  •  Thermal water by La Roche Posay, a prebiotic water to help restore the skin microbiome.
  •  Squalane oil. Another nourishing oil that you can use alternating with pumpkin seed oil.  
  • Skincare Tip: do not dry your skin with a towel, let it air dry instead. Towels can build up with bacteria which would make their way to your skin, causing unwanted breakouts. 

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