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Why is My Skin So Acne-Prone?

Acne: Let’s show it the door…

It’s tough to look in the mirror and see pimples and blackheads lining your face. Acne is the most common, and distressing of all skin conditions. Adolescents and teens are the most likely to suffer from it, but if you still have acne-prone skin and your high school days are a distant memory, you’re not alone and it’s by no means a modern problem. A number of adults continue to have clogged pores and acne outbreaks well into middle-age, even as signs of aging are starting to appear.

What Causes Acne-Prone Skin?

The all too visible manifestations of acne are due to the overproduction of an oily substance called sebum. Glands called sebaceous glands pump out this oily material to keep your skin moist and lubricated. When sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, this sticky material clogs follicles on your skin and their openings called pores. If you could look inside a clogged pore, you’d see a mixture of dead skin cells, sebum and bacteria. When hair follicles become clogged, they become inflamed. The red pimples you see when you have an acne outbreak are a manifestation of this inflammation. Clogged pores that aren’t inflamed are called whiteheads or blackheads, depending on whether they open onto the surface of the skin or not.

What causes your sebaceous glands to produce too much sebum? Hormones are a factor. Acne is more common in adolescents and teens because they’re starting to produce hormones like testosterone that play a role in acne outbreaks. Testosterone is a male hormone but women product small amounts of it too. Testosterone increases the amount of sebum your sebaceous glands produce and that makes skin more prone towards acne outbreaks.

Hormone fluctuations may continue to trigger acne outbreaks even into middle age. Genetics are a factor too. If your mother or father had acne, you’re at higher risk too. Stress appears to contribute to acne outbreaks in some people. It’s challenging to completely control stress though, isn’t it? Certain medications can also make acne worse. If you think your medications are contributing to your own acne breakouts, talk to your doctor to make sure your meds aren’t the root cause of your acne.

How You Care for Your Skin Matters

Acne-prone skin needs special care. Cosmetics that contain added oils can make the problem worse. Choose water-based cosmetic products with no added oils. It should say non-comedogenic on the label. Oils in cosmetics and skin care products clog pores and trigger outbreaks. It might be tempting to choose a harsh cleanser to remove as much excess oil as you can. Don’t. If you use a cleanser that’s too harsh or irritates your skin by scrubbing or rubbing it, it increases sebum production and makes acne worse.

Choose a gentle, oil-free cleanser made for oily or acne-prone skin and use it twice a day. Cleansers that contain benzoyl peroxide help to kill bacteria that contribute to acne. After cleansing, use a light, oil-free moisturizer that’s non-comedogenic. Look for moisturizers and acne treatments with ingredients like glycolic acid or salicylic acid and use it consistently. Glycolic acid and salicylic acid help to slough off dead skin cells that can clog your pores. Salicylic acid is available in some cleansers for acne-prone skin as well.

Acne-Prone Skin: The Role of Diet

Can certain foods trigger acne? Some research shows eating too many high-glycemic carbohydrates can make acne worse. High-glycemic-carbohydrates, so-called because they raise your blood sugar rapidly, include “sugary” foods and foods made with white flour. They include sweet desserts, pastries, white bread, potato chips, cookies, cakes and sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks. These foods aren’t good for your overall health either. Milk lovers beware! Some research suggests milk triggers acne outbreaks in some people. If you enjoy milk on your oatmeal in the morning, switch to a non-dairy milk like coconut, almond or soy milk and see if your skin improves.

What should you eat? Add more foods rich in antioxidants like fruits and vegetables to your diet. Antioxidants help to reduce inflammation. Other anti-inflammatory foods are those rich in omega-3 fats including salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, flaxseed and walnuts.

The Bottom Line?

Acne-prone skin is a challenge to deal with – but you already know that. Unfortunately, acne isn’t a new phenomenon, but changing the way you care for your skin along with dietary changes may help your skin stay clearer and less prone towards acne.

And Finally…

This month’s smoothie recipe on our front page is a quick and convenient smoothie recipe specifically for clear skin, which apart from being very effective, it also appears to be extremely popular (if not a little unusual).

So while we’re on a roll, here’s another ‘Clear Skin’ recipe, which once again, is packed with vitamins, minerals, acne & age defying ingredients, and both recipes incidentally are also low glycemic…

The Ultimate Green Smoothie

Most fruit smoothies, whilst being delicious, will give you a real rush of energy due to the natural fruit sugars present.

Don’t take this as a criticism, because we have no issue at all with natural fruit sugars, and for an almost immediate healthy energy boost, they’re fantastic.

But for those of you who’re looking for a sustained energy hit that is delivered over a couple of hours and without a high Glycemic Index, we think this next recipe ticks all the boxes.

The main ingredients at a glance:

  • Avocado (B-Complex Vitamins, Vitamin E and Vitamin K)
  • Cucumber (Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin A and Vitamin B6)
  • Spinach (Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Vitamin C)
  • Coconut milk, Almond milk or Soy milk

As you can see, there’s not much in here to sweeten things up, but this smoothie isn’t about sweetness it’s all about clear skin, energy, a new unique flavour and feeling fuller for longer.

The Ultimate Green Smoothie Full ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 1/3 of an average sized cucumber (peel on or off, as you prefer)
  • 1/2 of a ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened almond butter, coconut butter or sunflower seed butter
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 small piece of fresh peeled ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup spinach (kale or leafy greens)
  • 1 small cup of (Unsweetened) coconut milk, Almond milk or Soy milk or water if you prefer – add more as needed.
  • 1 small handful of ice if you prefer


Drop the ingredients in a blender in no particular order and blend until smooth and creamy. (add your chosen liquid if required for your preferred consistency)

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Main references:

Am J Clin Nutr July 2007 vol. 86 no. 1 107-115

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