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A Holistic Approach to Acne

Updated: May 10




no acne, clear complexion

Acne is not just a teenage woe but a skin condition that affects many adults worldwide. It manifests due to clogged hair follicles that lead to pimples, and while several factors contribute to its development, understanding these can help manage or even prevent this skin dilemma. This blog delves deeper into the causes of acne and offers practical tips, expanding on the insights provided by our latest YouTube video.


Genetics and Lifestyle: The Intrinsic Connection


Studies have long shown that genetics play a significant role in acne development. Individuals with a family history of acne are evidently at a higher risk. However, as functional medicine suggests, if "genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger." This implies that lifestyle choices can significantly influence the appearance and severity of acne, even in genetically predisposed individuals.


Disrupting the Skin Microbiome


The skin, like the gut, hosts millions of microorganisms forming the skin microbiome. An imbalance in this microbiome often results in skin issues such as acne. This dysbiosis can be triggered by external factors such as tight-fitting clothing, headgear, harsh skincare products, and the overuse of antibiotics.


Tip #1-To prevent such imbalance, it's essential to avoid these triggers. Avoid touching the face or picking at acne as it will make it worse. Maintain cleanliness of anything that frequently touches the face ( cell phones, makeup brushes, pillow cases, etc.). Lastly, choose skincare products wisely, steering clear from those that are thick, oily, or wax-based, or contain harsh chemicals.


The Gut-Skin Connection


Our digestive health is surprisingly linked to skin conditions including acne. The presence of certain bacteria and organisms like H. Pylori and Candida in the gut can contribute to acne. Expert Dr. Julie Greenberg has noted that a significant portion of her acne patients show elevated levels of these organisms.


Tip #2-consider consulting with a functional medicine provider about interventions that might include gut-healing/antimicrobial protocols. Support the gut lining with bone broth and L-glutamine powder.


Hormonal Imbalances and Acne


Acne often flares up in response to hormonal imbalances in the body. Excess androgen hormones such as testosterone are notorious for triggering acne outbreaks. These are remarkably common in conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Hormonal fluctuations during various life phases—puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause—also contribute to acne.


Tip #3- If excess androgens are at the root, talk with your practitioner about supplements that help balance hormones like DIM and Saw Palmetto.  Berberine is also an Antimicrobial herb which helps with insulin resistance and excess androgen production.  


Dietary Influences on Acne


Certain dietary elements have been linked to exacerbating acne. Foods high in sugar and dairy products can increase levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which in turn can lead to increased sebum production and acne.


Tip #4- Trial eliminate dairy products, high-sugar foods, and other potentially triggering foods (like gluten or eggs).  Eliminate them for a period of 3 to 4 weeks to see if complexion improves. After the elimination period, foods should be reintroduced slowly and strategically under the guidance of your practitioner.


Nutrient Imbalances and Their Role


Imbalances in certain nutrients can cause acne. Low levels of zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin D, and high levels of vitamin B12 are associated with the development of acne.

Omega-3 and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) supplementation were each shown to improve acne symptoms, indicating an association between these nutrients and acne.


Tip #5-Consider Additional skin supplements if nutrient deficiencies are that the root such as Zinc, A, E, D, and omega 3.  Trial eliminating B12 if you are on it.  A well-balanced diet along with specific supplements might prove beneficial if nutrient deficiencies are suspected.


The Impact of Stress on Acne


Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone which indirectly might cause acne by influencing other hormone levels and aggravating conditions like leaky gut.


Tip #6-Incorporate stress reduction techniques like breathwork, journaling, walks.  Consider supplements like Ashwaganda for stress management.



Topical Ointments


For topical coverage, look for products containing ingredients like niacinamide with zinc, azelaic acid, or tea tree oil, which can help reduce acne symptoms.


A Personalized Approach Is Key


While these strategies can serve as a general guide, effective acne management often requires a personalized approach under professional guidance. Consulting with a specialist in functional medicine can provide tailored advice and treatment plans suited to your specific conditions and needs.



Ashley Osborne CEO, FNP, Wellness Coach

Wellness with AO


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