A thorough guide to understanding and treating acne.


Dearest Santa,

All I want for Christmas is clear skin.

Not one to follow the herd, I nevertheless could have chimed into the holiday spirit this year by writing about “stocking stuffers,” “10 gifts under $10” or ”how to buy something sweet for your sweetheart” but that's not the way the sugar cookie crumbled. The only thing my fingers felt like typing when I started this story was “BAH-HUM-BUG!” That's right — you heard me, ”BAH-HUM-BUG!”

Now don't get me wrong, I'm no Debbie Downer. Christmas really is my favorite time of year, but a few weeks ago, I was perched on my vanity analyzing my reflection from my foldable, 3 tier, 5x magnifying mirror with daytime lighting and staring back was a sight that would've made Rudolph blush. "Ladies and Gents, step right up and let the side show begin! Hurry! Hurry!" Sigh. The ghost of acne past had paid me a visit.

Now, if my memory serves me right, I dumped my acne face senior year in high school circa 1998, but like gum on my stiletto, its remnants still cause me trouble. Fed up and broken out, I made a vow to myself not to waste another dime on clarifying lotions that don’t clarify.

A girl can't ring in the New Year with acne!

I pulled out the x-files (11 years of acne homework), consulted with one of New York City's finest dermatologists, Dr. Anne Chapas, and a top nutritionist, Dr. Gillian McKeith, on how to cure breakouts from the inside out, and personally tested dozens of products to bring you a list of the best! My gift to you: “The Acne Manifesto”.

P.S. Sprinkle a little some of this in your morning tea: 2010 is the year of reinvention and great skin...I can feel it my pores!

Happy Holidays!

Love always, LeydaQ

Acne: It ain't pretty...

If you suffer from blemishes, you are not alone. 95% of the population has dealt or will deal with some form of acne at some point. 3 out of 4 teenagers suffer from acne and recently various reports show that adult acne is becoming more and more prevalent with people in their 20s, 30s and even well into their 40s. There's nothing worse than having an oil spill ruin your day and having to hide your breakouts behind those pretty curls.

What Triggers Acne?

Acne can be dormant for years then all of a sudden, BAM! You've been bamboozled by acne without knowing why, when or how it began.

The leading triggers of acne are:

  • Bacteria
  • Clogged pores
  • Over-production of oil
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Allergies
  • Diet

Acne Trigger: Bacteria & clogged Pores...

Acne is a disorder of the sebaceous glands, which can be hereditary. The sebaceous glands are microscopic glands attached to each hair follicle that produce oil. Inside each follicle, and present in problematic as well as normal skin, is a bacteria called Propionibacterium Acnes, more commonly referred to as the P. Acne Bacteria. P. Acne Bacteria is the bacteria that causes acne.

On normal skin, sebum (oil) moves up through the follicle, onto the skin to lubricate, and moisturize the surface. On problematic skin, the follicle walls are weakened by an overproduction of sebum (oil). When an overproduction of oil causes damage to the follicle, the P. Acne Bacteria floods the follicle. The follicle is then plugged by a mixture of bacteria, oil and dead skin cells, which form a bond that prevent oxygen flow and cause the infection to build up. White blood cells rush into fight the infection, which leads to redness and inflammation and in the process a papule (a red bump without pus) or pustule (a soft red bump with pus) more commonly known as a “soft whitehead” appears. Pus is dead white cell matter—the aftermath of dead white bloods cells that fought the infection.

An open comedone (blackhead), or closed comedone (hardened whitehead) occur when dead skin cells that have not properly shed from the follicle mix with oil, become hardened, and clog the pore.

Why is a blackhead “black”? The top part of an open comedone or “blackhead” is exposed to air which allows the “plug” to oxidize and change in color. A closed comedone or “whitehead” is filled with the same matter as a blackhead but has a microscopic opening to the skin which prevents air from penetrating and/or oxidizing the plug matter.

Acne Trigger: Over production of oil, hormones, stress...

Hormones are substances that our bodies produce to sustain and regulate its functions. Androgen production and stress hormones kick our adrenal glands into overdrive and wreak havoc on our sebaceous glands, stimulating them to produce more oil. According to Dr. Chapas, at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, "fluctuations in hormones that can be caused by stress, menses and possibly even diet, peaks in testosterone or testosterone-type hormones stimulate oil production, which leads to increased cysts and bacteria-filled bumps.” Usually, hormonal breakouts occur “along the jaw line.”

Hormonal breakouts are usually treated with oral medications that balance the hormones, such as oral contraceptives or Spironolactione. Spironolactione is synthetic steroid that is used as an anti-androgen. Accutane, a form of vitamin A, “is an option when acne is scaring or recalcitrant to prescription medications.” Always seeking a holistic approach, I asked Dr. Chapas if it were possible to treat hormonal breakouts without the use of hormones, to which she replied “there is some evidence that diets low in refined sugars and dairy may help restore hormonal balance.”

It's important to consult with your dermatologist if you have serious, persistent or hormonal acne. Together, you and your dermatologist can decide whether or not oral antibiotics, oral contraceptives or Accutane is the right choice and discuss any contraindications.

Learning to de-stress is our skin's best defense!

Acne Trigger: Diet and allergies...

Does your diet affect your skin? Some say "NAY" I say "YAY"! Our skin is the body's largest organ and what we eat can manifest through the skin in so many ways!

Have you ever caught a whiff of someone who had one too many cocktails the night before, reeked of having too much garlic in their pasta, or ate too many onions for lunch? No amount of soap or mouth wash can remove that stench because it's literally coming out of your pores! Nasty! Everything you put into your body, comes out one way or another. There are various reports that indicate allergies to dairy or high sugar diets can aggravate acne. “Milk is mostly derived from pregnant cows, the milk from pregnant cows contain hormones. The enzymes in our bodies convert the cow's milk into the DHT (dihydrotestosterone) hormone. DHT causes our sebaceous glands to produce more oil which indirectly leads to acne.” In addition, eating too much of both fructose and glucose turns off the SHBG gene that control the levels of testosterone and estrogen working inside the body, creating hormonal imbalances.”

“When the SHBG gene shuts down, our body senses that it does not have enough hormones, and produces more testosterone and estrogen, regardless of the current levels of testosterone and estrogen currently in our system.”

In addition, toxins in your intestines and an imbalance in your organs can also lead to congestion in the skin. When the intestines are backed up, the body will use other means to eliminate waste—for instance, through the skin. Dr. Gillian McKeith author of "You Are What You Eat" www.gillianmckeith.info makes it easy to pinpoint where our imbalances are.

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Leyda Q
Very informative. I'm tired of my mother saying it has nothing to do with food. I know it does because my face shows it. I heard of Gillian before but I didn'tknow she traced areas of breakouts to specific organ systems. That was a shocker. But what about Green Tea did I miss that someone. It's a great antioxidant thats cheap and you can find it in pretty much any grocery store. Thanks for the article!

There is a new line of products out called Kairos that I found out about in recent Shape and Real Simple magazines. On their website, they claim a lot of acne is caused by shampoo/hair care products with irritating ingredients that get on your skin (face, chest, back) when you wash your hair, sleep on your pillow, etc. Interesting... So, their products are designed with "skin-friendly" ingredients to both clear up and prevent acne. So far, they are TOTALLY working and my skin has never looked better. I have not changed a thing with my diet or other beauty routines. Awesome!

I love the fact that the sugar and dairy connection were mentioned. I think this is a huge culprit for those with adult acne.

I loved this story!

The benzoyl peroxide scrub from Epicuren works really good and it wasn't over priced. I also used the Persa-Gel which was cheap but worked quick. I like the info on the imbalances in the body.

I had acne for years (freshmen year of high school to this year about 10 years total). After trying everything short of accutane I learned about Paula Beguon from Oprah and I started following her advice which is to be as gentle as possible to your skin. I stopped using strong cleansers, alcohol free clarifying lotions and medicated lotions. Turns out my skin was just being over-exacerbated by these products and as soon as I switched my pores shrank, blemishes left and my skin stopped producing so much oil. Try Paula's approach, it worked wonders for me.

Nice article! I appreciate that you address diet as well as topical solutions.