Acne and Skin Conditions

Acne and other skin issues like rosacea, eczema/dermatitis and psoriasis are our specialties! Glowing skin starts from within but the beauty industry doesn't want you to know that. So what causes acne and how do you clear your skin for good? There's only one way! Find out from our acne nutritionist & skin expert below.

Acne Nutritionist in Toronto & Canada & The US and Worldwide

What is Acne? 

Acne is due to an excess production of sebum which creates inflammation on the skin’s surface. This inflammation plugs the follicles and bacteria begins to overgrow. The more bacteria that overgrows, the more clogged the follicles become and the bigger the pimple will get. Blackheads and whiteheads are essentially the same as acne. Acne is not due to a bacterial infection on the skin. You can stop cleansing your face multiple times a day thinking it's "dirty" because it is not. Excess sebum is triggered from an imbalance inside the body. 

Acne is one of those conditions that most people will do anything to get rid of out of desperation. It should not be embarrassing or humiliating but those words are often used by clients coming to us for help. After years of struggling with my own skin and trying everything, I know how it feels. Since becoming an acne nutritionist and helping hundreds of women become acne free (and some men), I have discovered a permanent solution to acne and inflamed skin. 

What Causes Acne? 

We have narrowed down five main root causes to acne: stress, hormones, digestion, nutrition and detoxification which all accompany a variety of different things. Acne is truly an internal imbalance so you can stop wasting money on expensive skincare. Although, what you put on your skin topically can make acne either worse or better, it is NEVER the cause. 

How does stress cause acne? There are many different ways. Stress is most commonly known to cause inflammation and acne is a result of inflammation in the body. Furthermore, stress triggers cortisol production, substance p and prolactin which all lead to increased androgens thus causing acne.

 

When we are under stress, the hypothalamus and the pituitary tell the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and epinephrine. This is only meant for quick bursts of stress, our bodies cannot handle this chronically. Our nervous system is suppose to move in and out of the parasympathetic (rest and digest) and sympathetic (fight or flight) state. It is not meant to be stuck in either state. Since stress is very catabolic, our tissues will start breaking down when we are exposed to a great deal of stress over and over again. This will eventually create a burnout, adrenal fatigue situation where your adrenals stop being able to keep up with the demand and your mineral stores become depleted. If we are not able to retain enough magnesium, potassium or sodium, this can cause acne and other trace mineral imbalances. These are important for not just skin health but overall health.

 

Cortisol (stress hormone) is one of those foundational hormones that when dysregulated, the rest of your hormones cannot function properly either. This is because cortisol will steal progesterone needed for ovulation, shut down digestion, suppress your immune system and thyroid, break down your mucosal barrier and cause blood sugar issues. These are all huge contributors to metabolic chaos in the body and unfortunately, that chaos shows up in the skin for many. Essentially, chronic stress is going to destroy your metabolism which isn't just for weight loss. Your metabolism regulates every system in your body. If it slows, none of your organs or systems will be able to function optimally. This is because the food you are eating is not converting to cellular energy at a fast enough rate. The image below illustrates how stress can have this negative cascade effect and lead to acne for many. 

blood-sugar.png

As you can see, the entire body is all connected. One of the most common issues we see in acne patients is insulin resistance due to its ability to skyrocket androgens. Stress causes glucose levels to rise and when they are chronically elevated, your cells will become resistant to insulin which is the hormone that helps your cells use glucose. This is very predominant in our PCOS clients but balancing blood sugar is something that every acne sufferer should focus on. It's not just for people with diabetes. Nutritional stress, physical stress, psychological stress and chemical stress can all lead to blood sugar dysregulation. The liver is one of the major organs responsible for regulating blood sugar and it is sluggish with almost all of the acne patients we see. 

What Does Blood Sugar Dysregulation Look Like? 

  • Energy Dips & Extreme Fatigue

  • Mood Swings

  • Waking in the middle of the night 

  • Skin Problems

  • Wired but Tired 

  • Period Problems 

  • Constipation 

  • Weight Gain 

  • Hirsutism

How Do You Balance Blood Sugar and Improve Insulin Resistance? 

  1.  Remove PUFA's (nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, fish oils, corn, soy) & Replace with Saturated Fats (butter, ghee, coconut, animal fat, dairy)

  2. Supplement Magnesium (see nutrition module)

  3. Add White Flakey Sea Salt to your Water & Food

  4. Eat Potassium Rich Foods Daily (bananas, apricots, kiwi, potatoes, coconut water, beets)

  5. ALWAYS eat protein and carbs together! NEVER alone

  6. Remove sugar alternatives (stevia, monk fruit, artificial sweeteners) & Replace with real sugar (coconut, cane, raw honey, pure maple syrup)

  7. Add celyon cinnamon to foods regularly for chromium

  8. REDUCE STRESS!

 

This is not medical advice. These are just a few changes we have seen make a world of difference when it comes to insulin and acne. 

How Do I Reduce Stress and Improve Stress Resilience? 

  • Support and Heal Your Adrenal Glands (this is different based on which phase of HPA dysregulation you are in- check with a DUTCH)

  • Practice Mindfulness and Positivity

  • Learn How to Truly Relax

  • Frequently Replenish Minerals (magnesium, sodium, potassium)

  • Reduce External Stressors In Your Life

  • Reduce Overall Toxin Load 

  • Remove Toxic People From Your Life

  • Step Away From Your Phone and Enjoy Nature 

  • Aim for 8-10 Hours of Sleep

  • Cut out Processed Foods and Nourish Your Body 

 

Need help? Overwhelmed? That's what we are here for! Check out our signature skin clearing program called The Acne Solution

Hormones and acne have a very close relationship. Hormonal acne is typically deep, cystic and along the jaw line, mouth or in the neck region. You will likely notice acne flare ups around your period or during ovulation if it's hormonal. Hormones are closely connected with the gut as well as the liver. Your gut is responsible for absorbing nutrients which is going to build, transport and then breakdown those excess hormones you don't need. Once your liver has metabolized and "packaged up" those excess hormones for excretion, your gut should be getting rid of them. Therefore, improving detoxification and digestion are two key components to healing hormonal acne. Balancing your hormones can be a lengthy process as it takes 3 months for an ovarian follicle to mature optimally in order to have a healthy ovulation. Ovulation is the backbone to healthy hormones. Keep in mind, it is impossible to balance hormones and heal from hormonal acne when on any form of birth control (including the copper IUD). You can support your body and skin while on birth control, but your natural hormone production will still be dysregulated. Working with a nutritionist with an acne specialization is the best way to support the root cause of your acne.

What Causes Hormone Imbalances? 

  • Hormonal & Non-Hormonal Birth Control

  • Excess PUFA intake

  • Poor Digestion 

  • Constipation 

  • Toxins

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Stress 

  • Mineral Imbalances

  • Under-Eating 

  • Protein & Nutrient Deficiencies 

  • Slow Metabolism/Thyroid

& much more. This list is just some of the root causes to imbalanced hormones. It is by no means exhaustive. The best way to find the root cause of your hormonal acne is by doing DUTCH & HTMA testing through an acne nutritionist. 

What Causes Hormonal Acne? 

In terms of sex hormones, it is mainly androgens that cause acne but other hormones are involved too. Androgens are a group of hormones that play a role in male traits. The three androgens that are highly linked to acne are; testosterone, DHEAS and androstenedione. This is due to the fact that they all convert into DHT which is the most potent androgen residing in the skin. DHT increases sebum production thus causing acne. Androstenedione is a DHEA metabolite and DHEA is an adrenal hormone that rises when cortisol rises. It does this to balance cortisol out as cortisol is very catabolic and DHEA is very anabolic. DHEAS is basically the sulfated version of DHEA so it's the useable amount. Estrogen and progesterone may also be at play when it comes to hormonal acne. Excess estrogen can inhibit the FSH feedback loop to the hypothalamus which increases LH levels and causes the ovaries to produce more testosterone. This also increases DHEAS leading to acne. When it comes to progesterone, if levels are low, your 5 alpha reductase enzyme could be up-regulated which increases DHT and DHEAS. There also is a strong connection between estrogen and your thyroid. A slow thyroid causes low progesterone and dysregulates estrogen metabolism which can create a load of symptoms like acne and other skin issues. Lastly, we have seen elevated prolactin levels cause hormonal acne in some of our clients. Excess prolactin can be caused by stress, birth control, low thyroid etc. When prolactin is elevated, it can increase 5 alpha reductase activity and increase androgens produced in the ovaries. Ultimately, hormonal acne all comes down to elevated androgens but other hormones can be causing this. 

What Causes High Androgens?

  • Dysregulated Blood Sugar

  • Impaired Detoxification

  • Gut Inflammation

  • Low Progesterone

  • High Estrogen

  • High Prolactin

  • Stress

  • Post Birth Control Pill

How Do I Reduce DHT? 

This is the main goal when it comes to healing from hormonal acne. High levels of DHT cause acne by increasing sebum production and preventing exfoliation (clogged pores). This entire article is designed to educate you on properly rebalancing your body so androgens like DHT are not high. However, there are a few specific things you can implement to speed up the process. For instance, you can incorporate herbal aromatase inhibitors like saw palmetto, reishi mushroom, spearmint or licorice root on a daily basis. We like to use LifeBlud's reishi tincture in our shop as it has many other benefits for skin health as well. If you have done a DUTCH test and see that your phase 1 detoxification is poor, then a non-goitrogenic DIM supplement might be a good option for you. DIM not only helps metabolize estrogen but it is also a potent androgen blocker. Douglas Lab's also has a good formula called Testoquench which has herbal aromatase inhibitors incorporated in the formula and helps you metabolize androgens better. All of these are only meant for short-term use to get your hormones back on track. 

How Do I Test My Hormones? 

We typically recommend functional testing like the DUTCH Complete hormone test when our clients are struggling with hormonal acne. This is the most accurate and most precise test as it looks at hormone metabolites and how they all get broken down. However, if this test is not in the budget, here is some helpful blood work you can ask for from your doctor:

  • LH/FSH- important for ovulation

  • SHBG- low levels can indicate insulin resistance and excess sex hormones

  • Estradiol- estrogen made mainly by the ovaries 

  • Progesterone- test 5 days after ovulation 

  • DHEAS- androgen produced by the adrenal glands

  • Free Testosterone- androgen produced in the ovaries

  • DHT- the most potent and active androgen in the skin

  • Prolactin- high levels suppress hormones for ovulation 

How Do I Increase Progesterone and Decrease Estrogen?

After our clients get blood work done or do a DUTCH hormone panel, we often see progesterone being low and estrogen(s) being high which is part of the acne picture as mentioned above. If you also suffer from period cramps, heavy flow, weight gain and PMS, then this is extremely important for you. We never recommend decreasing estrogen per say, we suggest improving estrogen metabolism and detoxification while removing the culprits that are keeping estrogen high. For example, reducing stress, avoiding xenoestrogens and limiting the phytoestrogen foods you eat are all first steps you can make to improving this sex hormone imbalance. Xenoestrogens are a group of endocrine disrupting chemicals that are all around us and mimic estrogen in the body. See detoxification section of this article to learn more about toxins. Phytoestrogens are plant based compounds that mimic estrogen in the body like; soy, flax seeds, sesame seeds, wheat, lentils, alfalfa etc. This is another reason why plant based diets are damaging to your hormones. Polyunsaturated fats also lead to increased estrogen levels so be mindful of those as well. They are in a lot of are foods but are most problematic when isolated like in vegetable or fish oils (cod liver oil is an exception). The best way to limit PUFA's is by prioritizing saturated fats over unsaturated fats. This means eating more ghee, butter, animal fat, dairy, coconut oil etc. These saturated fats will also help with increasing progesterone production. After these foundations have been implemented, you can work on improving both phase 1 and 2 liver detoxification, regulating insulin, decreasing gut inflammation and replenishing magnesium and zinc stores. These things will all help with increasing progesterone to balance out estrogen. We sometimes recommend bio-identical progesterone from Lifeblud in our shop but that depends on your individual circumstance and other factors. 

If you need help balancing your hormones in order to achieve clear skin, please check out our acne program.

The gut is the main source of inflammation in the body and acne is a result of inflammation. Your gut is responsible for digesting and assimilating food as well as eliminating waste. If this system is disrupted or compromised in any way, acne and other skin issues can form. Your gut is responsible for many chronic symptoms related to autoimmunity, thyroid, mental health, hormone imbalances and more. Digestion is essentially an 8 step process and there are 8 key organs involved. 

1. Food starts being broken down in the mouth by saliva 

2. The food then gets pushed down through your esophagus into your stomach 

3. The food gets blended with digestive juices and stomach acid to break it down further

4. The liver secretes bile to break down fats 

5. The pancreas makes more digestive enzymes to break down food 

6. The small intestine mixes the food with bile and pancreatic enzymes to be sent back to your liver for more processing

7. The large intestine processes, stores and disperses indigestible food and water

8. Solid waste passes from the rectum in order to be eliminated

Gut and Skin Microbiome: 

Your microbiome consists of over 100 trillion cells of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live mostly in the gut and on your skin. The microbiome is responsible for initiating the cytokine response that creates inflammation in the body. Therefore, when you heal your gut, you reduce inflammation. The skin microbiome tends to mimic the health of the gut microbiome. If the gut microbiome is imbalanced, you are more susceptible to acne and other skin issues. 

What Causes An Imbalanced Gut Microbiome?

  • Poor nutrition 

  • Stress

  • NSAIDs

  • Pharmaceuticals (antibiotics, birth control pill)

  • Radiation 

  • Parasites/Pathogens/EMF

  • Toxins 

  • Alcohol and Drugs 

It's all about balancing the good bacteria with the bad bacteria. Too much of either is not a good thing- your gut loves balance and diversity. In our practice, we often see SIBO and leaky gut to be most commonly present when it comes to acne. It can be hard to tell what is driving your gut inflammation as all the symptoms look similar. If your acne is related to poor gut health you may be experiencing; gas, bloat, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, cravings, depression, anxiety, acid reflux, bad breath, joint pain, sinus congestion and more. 

Gut Testing:

The main gut health test we recommend is the GI Map. This test uses microbial DNA to assess the health of the microbiome and overall digestive dysfunction. It looks at your balance of bacteria and gives us valuable markers for both leaky gut and SIBO which are the two GI conditions most likely to cause acne. If you want to figure out the root cause to your gut issues and test pathogens/parasites as well as yeast, this is the way to go. There is no other stool test we recommend and we strongly advise against food sensitivity testing. We also like to run the HTMA test on our clients suffering with digestive issues as it gives us the foundational pieces to work on in order to restore gut function. Your metabolism is what regulates your digestion so it's important to start with optimizing that in order to truly fix the root cause. 

How Do I Heal My Gut?

This is very comprehensive and individualized so we always recommend working with a root cause practitioner and doing the testing above. However, here are 10 easy gut healing steps you can start implementing today: 

1. Chew your food and relax when you eat

2. Avoid probiotics and fermented foods (until gut testing has been done)

3. Drink any liquids and water away from your meals

4. Avoid hard to digest foods: nuts, seeds, grains (white rice is ok), legumes, cruciferous vegetables, raw greens/greens powders 

5. Avoid inflammatory foods: vegetable/seed oils, fish oils (cod liver oil is okay), soy, conventional gluten 

6. Increase gut nourishing foods: fruit, bone broth, raw dairy, organ meat, butter/ghee, coconut, root vegetables

7. Add in digestive bitters or apple cider vinegar before meals 

8. Consider doing a SIBO or anti-parasitic/anti-microbial protocol 

9. Reduce stress & improve stress resilience 

10. Increase your metabolic rate & improve thyroid health 

Can Constipation Cause Acne?

Constipation means you.are not fully eliminating on a regular basis. This usually looks like less than 1 bowel movement / day and comes with hard to pass stool. Bowel movements are a key part to our health because they get rid of waste and prevent toxins from re-circulating in the body. The chances of you experiencing acne when constipated is high because the toxins will need to get out some way and that is usually through your skin if not through your stool. If you are constipated, that also allows estrogen to be reabsorbed from the bowel and circulate your body which can also cause acne. Once you are having regular bowel movements, a good way to help your gut remove endotoxins and estrogen is by having a raw carrot salad daily.

There are many things that can cause constipation like; magnesium deficiency, dehydration, stress, improper fibre intake, gut dysbiosis, SIBO, medications, poor sleep, little to no movement and more. 

How Do You Fix Constipation?

It really comes down to improving your metabolic rate. About 80% of us are slow oxidizers meaning we convert our food into energy at a very slow rate. This majorly slows down our gut motility along with other symptoms. A big part of improving your metabolic rate is by making sure you are eating enough nutrient dense food frequently. Dieting and restricting is one of the worst things you can do for your metabolism. A good way to check your gut motility and transit time is by eating at least a 1/2 cup of raw beets or 1 cup of cooked beets and waiting to see how long it takes for the red colour to show up in your stool. You should see the colour within 10-24 hours- this is optimal. Anything over 24 hours indicates slow transit time and your bowels are not eliminating waste as frequently as they should be. If you see the colour in less than 12 hours, you are likely experiencing malabsorption of nutrients. If you are on the slower side and have acne, it's important to test not only your metabolism but your gut microbiome as well to see what exactly needs to be done. For now, consider liver support (see detoxification section of this article) and work on some of the things mentioned above. 

4. Nutrient Deficiencies

Diet plays a massive role in the health of your skin. If you are constantly eating processed inflammatory foods, you will never be able to overcome acne or any disease for that matter. This one tends to go hand and hand with gut health because the nutrients you are eating is irrelevant if you can't actually absorb them. This is why we always recommend the most bioavailable sources of nutrients. 

Here are some of the most important nutrients for skin health and acne:

1. Retinol

As most already know, retinol is a super nutrient for acne. No, we're not talking about retinoids in skincare nor are we talking about the synthetic retinol in accutane. Those are both very damaging to your skin long term. We are talking about the active form of Vitamin A which is retinol. Retinol is responsible for maintaining your skin texture and stimulating the production of new skin cells. Retinol is great for acne because it helps regulate sebum production and control androgen activity. It also helps stimulate collagen synthesis and the production of new blood vessels. All of this helps with acne, but also aging and skin colour. Retinol plays many other vital roles in the body when it comes to hormone and gut health which impacts our skin as well, but we'll save that for a different day. 

How can I get more retinol in? Our favourite sources are grass fed beef liver, raw grass fed dairy and wild-caught cod or any oily fish. For those who can't stand the taste of liver, try Perfect Supplements capsules in our shop. Some other great but less potent sources are pasture raised eggs and grass fed ghee/butter. Retinol can only be found in animal sourced foods. Our bodies are not very good at converting beta-carotene from plants into retinol. This one of the many reasons we do not recommend plant based diets. 

2. Zinc

Zinc works closely with retinol to support skin cell structure and healthy skin cell turnover. Basically everyone with acne has a zinc deficiency. This is why you see so many acne sufferers supplementing zinc. However, this is not necessarily helpful due to the other mineral imbalances zinc supplementation can cause. We only recommend whole foods or whole food based supplements to replenish zinc stores. In addition to acne, many people with digestive issues like heartburn and blood sugar metabolism issues need more zinc as well. Zinc is a powerful antioxidant that has loads of anti-inflammatory properties to reduce swelling and any redness in the skin. It is really important for rosacea sufferers and can increase the healing rate of not only acne but acne scars. It's great at healing and repairing your skin barrier while producing new skin cells. 

How can you get more zinc in? Oysters and grass fed beef liver are going to be your best bet. If you can't access raw oysters, try canned but make sure there is no sunflower oil being used. Crown Prince sells quality canned oysters in olive oil. Alternatively, Mitolife has a high quality desiccated oyster supplement and Perfect Supplements has a Grass Fed Beef Liver capsules all accessible in our shop with discount codes. Sometimes the taste just isn't for everyone! Other shellfish like shrimp, scallops and crab have lots of zinc too. Same goes for any red meat. Grass fed dairy and pasture raised eggs would have some bioavailable zinc as well. 

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that most people aren't getting enough of. Vitamin E is amazing for hormonal acne as it acts like progesterone in the body and opposes estrogen. It gets secreted through sebum 7 days after consuming and helps lubricate the skin. It also can inhibit the aromatase enzyme thus slowing the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. When dosed properly, it's very beneficial for the liver (specifically phase 1 detoxification) which is the main detoxification organ that directly mirrors your skin. Due to vitamin E's antioxidant properties, it does reduce overall inflammation in the body. A lot of this is because of its ability to reverse years of PUFA damage and lipofuscin. Don't forget Vitamin E is also amazing as a topical to moisturize and reduce acne scars! That's why I love getting the liquid form from from Lifeblud in our shop. 

How do you get more Vitamin E? Kiwi is a very good source with loads of potassium to go with it. Our personal favourite sources are grass fed butter, olives, cacao and avocados. Although nuts like almonds and hazelnuts do contain a good amount of Vitamin E, we try not to go overboard with those as they can be very hard on digestion. 

4. Potassium

Potassium deficiencies are common because we go through this mineral rapidly when under stress and the daily needs are quite high, especially for females. Many people know potassium's importance for acne because of the drug spironolactone. Spironolactone makes your body retain more potassium and excrete sodium in order to lower androgens. However, this drug is not fixing the issue and is very damaging to your skin. The best way to actually absorb potassium is through food. We see potassium depleted in a lot of people who suffer from insulin resistance as it is a crucial part of the glucose and insulin response. It also helps sensitize your cells to thyroid hormone. These are all pieces of the puzzle to hormonal acne and why potassium is so beneficial. 

What foods are high in potassium? Most tropical fruits have a good amount of potassium like kiwis. Apricots, watermelon and potatoes also have an abundance. We like to hydrate with coconut water which contains a ton of potassium and other important minerals. 

5. Magnesium

Magnesium seems to be the most talked about mineral and for good reason. Along with potassium, it is very important for blood sugar balance. It is most commonly known for improving your stress response and reducing cortisol in the body which is really important for acne as mentioned earlier. Most of the general population (acne or not) is deficient in magnesium because it is very depleted in our soil these days. Magnesium runs thousands of enzymatic reactions in the body and plays a crucial role in metabolic health. People often experience acne, insomnia, constipation, muscle spasms, anxiety and menstrual problems when they are low in magnesium. 

Where can you get magnesium from? This one is a bit trickier since our food is depleted. This is a mineral we typically recommend supplementing. Mitolife, Lifeblud, Live Pristine and Mitigate Stress in our shop all carry amazing magnesium formulas which we utilize often. If you want to attempt getting your magnesium through food; cacao and cooked leafy greens will be your best bet. Acne sufferers should monitor their skin when eating cacao as it may cause flare ups.

6. Copper

Copper is an amazing mineral for your skin as it helps repair the skin barrier and prevents loss of pigment. It also plays a vital role in skin regeneration, thus helping with the synthesis of skin proteins. It can help with the skin microbiome as well due to its biocidal and anti-viral properties. Copper is essentially your energy source because it helps your tissues get a constant supply of oxygen which is needed for a healthy metabolism. It works together with zinc to provide support for your immune system which is needed for acne-free skin! 

How do I get more copper in my diet? Copper is most abundantly found in shellfish like oysters and organ meats like liver. However, it can be found in any red meat, dairy and shiitake mushrooms. Some fruits contain a good amount of copper as well like berries. We highly recommend utilizing the beef liver capsules from Perfect Supplements in our shop and/or Mitolife's desiccated oyster supplement. Don't forget to use our discount codes listed in our shop! 

7. Selenium

Selenium has amazing impacts on your thyroid. It helps convert T4 to T3 and can help reduce thyroid antibody levels. Having a healthy thyroid is necessary when clearing your skin due to its regulatory impact on all the other body systems. Selenium also plays a direct role on your detoxification system as it's a cofactor for the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. More specifically, selenium neutralizes free radicals and works with Vitamin E to provide the protective coating around the skin cells. Selenium also helps modify the inflammatory response in the gut and reduce heavy metal toxicity by binding to metals like cadmium and mercury.

What foods are high in selenium? Brazil nuts tend to be everyone's go to. We only recommend eating 2 a day and making sure to buy organic as well as soak them to optimize absorption and reduce toxicity. Oysters, other shellfish and eggs also contain a good amount of selenium. Mitolife and Saturee in our shop carry desiccated oyster supplements to help. 

8. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant to fight free radical damage to skin cells and reduce inflammation. Vitamin C is not stored in the body so you need to make sure you are absorbing plenty through food. Especially because Vitamin C is heavily depleted from birth control use, drinking alcohol, high stress etc. Remember ascorbic acid (what most Vitamin C supplements are made of) is NOT Vitamin C and does not have the same impact on your skin, hormones, adrenals or immune system. True vitamin C is great at strengthening your skin barrier and supporting not only your hormones but your stress response. It also helps with the synthesis and maintenance of collagen. These are all key components to healthy skin. We really like using Kossma Vitamin C serum in our shop as a topical after derma rolling in order to get Vitamin C into the epidermis. 

How can you get enough Vitamin C through diet? Eat your fruit (especially the ones in season)! Any citrus fruit will have a lot as well as kiwis, acerola cherries, guavas, strawberries etc. Bell peppers also contain an abundance of Vitamin C. If you can't get enough through food, not to worry! Perfect Supplements, PaleoValley and MitoLife in our shop all carry whole food based vitamin C supplements that come in very handy. 

There are many other factors to consider when eating to support your skin. It's not just about what you eat, it's also how you eat and toxic foods to avoid like soy, conventional gluten, vegetable/seed oils, glyphosate etc. Grab our Pro Metabolic E-Book in our shop to learn the foundational nutrition guidelines everyone should be following. We also offer a 7 day clear skin meal plan to give you easy meal ideas and snacks that support your blood sugar and metabolism. If you are looking to clear your skin through food- please check out The Acne Solution.

5. Sluggish Detoxification

What Are Toxins?

Toxins are any substance that can cause harm to your body. They can be external like chemicals, endocrine disruptors, plastics, fluoride, fragrances etc. However, they also can be internal like the toxins parasites and other pathogens release inside of you. We recommend every acne sufferer to work on reducing their toxic load as the skin is a direct reflection of detoxification. There is 42 billion pounds of chemicals produced everyday where the health risks of 75% of them have not been studied. Remember about 65% of what we put on our skin is getting absorbed. Health is far more than just the food we eat and how much we exercise. It's not about avoiding all of these toxins- that would be impossible. It is about reducing the load on your liver and other detox organs so toxins can be properly metabolized and excreted. Our skin is the largest eliminative organ we have. Toxins that aren't properly eliminated through your stool can end up getting pushed out via your skin causing acne. 

How Does Your Body Detoxify?

It starts with your lymph moving fat soluble toxins throughout your body. Then, the liver converts these fat soluble toxins into water soluble toxins to prepare the body to remove them. The gut then eliminates most of these toxins in your stool, the kidneys eliminate some in your urine and some goes in your bile. Phase 1 detoxification involves the fat soluble toxins, phase 2 detoxification involves the water soluble toxins and phase 3 detoxification is the elimination part. It's good to use a DUTCH test to assess which phase of detoxification you need most help with. We typically see phase 2 on the slower side in people with acne but that is not always the case. Your treatment plan will be different depending on which part of detoxification you need more help with. For example, phase 1 detoxification requires B Vitamins, fat soluble vitamins, an abundance of minerals and Vitamin C. Fruits like papaya, cherries and oranges along with root vegetables are great for phase 1 detoxification. We also often recommend trying this liver elixir to help. Phase 2 requires more amino acids like glycine, taurine, cysteine and glutamine. This means eat your eggs, drink lots of bone broth, source and eat raw dairy if available, vary your meat intake and ensure you are getting in your organ meats as well as eating high quality seafood/shellfish. There are different supplements in our shop that we use to help with each phase and different estrogen metabolism pathways depending on what your DUTCH test results show.

When doing any sort of detoxification protocol, it is imperative that the person is having regular bowel movements (1-3 times per day). If not, you run the risk of toxins along with estrogen being recirculated and reabsorbed causing skin aggravation and many other unpleasant symptoms. 

Acne and Detoxification

​When supporting detoxification pathways, you want to start at the bottom of the drainage funnel above and then work your way up. It all starts with supporting bowels and then your liver and then your lymphatic system. Gut health is very important when it comes to detoxification due to the gut liver axis. It can be a massive burden on your detoxification organs if there is a lot of dysbiosis, yeast, parasites and bacterial overgrowths present. We recommend addressing those first. There are many tools you can use to support your liver and bile flow directly. This will also help with any estrogen dominance symptoms as estrogen metabolism occurs in the liver. We like to put the Queen of The Thrones castor oil packs in our shop over our liver every night as a gentle liver support. We also will use KL Support and Biotoxin Binder from CellCore in our shop to give the liver an extra hand. If we have a client suffering from bile insufficiency, we incorporate beets, dandelion root and digestive bitters from Organic Olivia in our shop. The lymphatic system always gets forgotten when it comes to acne which is a shame because skin health is directly linked to lymphatic health. The liver is very important too don't get me wrong but if you have stagnant lymph, you will have congested skin. Period. Since your lymphatic system does not have a pump, you need to make sure you are moving lymph manually on a regular basis. Simple strategies like dry brushing, gua sha, massages, sweating, walking and stretching are all great ways to support your lymphatic system. 

How Do You Further Support Detox?

In addition to the above, we want to reduce your toxic load. This typically comes first and then we directly support the detox organs/pathways like your liver, kidneys, lymph, digestive tract and even lungs sometimes. The above explains how to do this properly. We do not do heavy metal detoxes or any sort of juice/tea detox that involves fasting for long periods of time. These can be very damaging to your skin long term. Your body knows how to eliminate and detoxify, you just got to support it properly. In order to start reducing your toxic load, we recommend downloading the EWG and/or the Think Dirty app to see the toxicity rating of commonly used products. Try to avoid using any products in red. However, we still recommend checking the ingredients on all the personal care products you buy. Here is a list of ingredients you don't want to see:

  • ​Parabens

  • Synthetic Colours/Dyes

  • SLS

  • Fragrance

  • Hydroquinone

  • Phenoxyethanol

  • Fluoride

  • Aluminum Hydroxide

  • Proplyene Glycol & Polyethylene Glycol

  • Formaldehyde

  • Triclosan

  • Methylene Glycol/Methylaldehyde

  • Petroleum Derivatives

  • Talc

  • Oxybenzone

  • Dimethicone/Cyclopentasiloxane

  • Phthalates

We never recommend going to the extreme and buying all new products right away, but rather just making a slow yet sustainable transition to a more natural, non toxic life. The most important products to swap out for cleaner alternatives would be deodorant, cleaning products and any feminine hygiene products. Start with those and then eventually tackle...

  • Air, Cigarette Smoke, Water, EMF (electronics, smart devices)

 

  • Heavy Metals: lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, iron in Cookware

 

  • Conventional Perfumes, Cosmetics, Personal Care Products, Candles

 

  • Formaldehydes: Rubber, Timber Products, Paint, Plastic, Mattresses

 

  • Fluoride: Toothpaste, Pharmaceuticals, Water

 

  • BPA: receipts, plastic, canned food, infant bottles, water bottles, water pipes

 

  • Mold: laundry machines, windows, bathrooms

Watch out for greenwashing! A lot of companies promote that they are natural and environmentally friendly, but it really is just a marketing scheme. The most common greenwashing brands we see our clients fall for are: Mrs. Meyers, Native and Seventh Generation. We often see a lot of plastic products advertised as BPA free but that is impossible. There is no such thing as BPA free plastic and BPA is one of the biggest endocrine disruptors causing hormone imbalances. There are a few natural brands we trust in our shop with discount codes listed. FatSkn is a Canadian brand that carries low PUFA lip balm, moisturizer, exfoliants, deodorant and more. Kossma is a great low PUFA natural skincare line. Neither of these companies use fragrance in any of their products which is key as fragrance is a non-regulated term that can accompany an array of toxic chemicals. When it comes to household cleaning products, check out Branch Basics in our shop. Viv is our favourite period company with non toxic menstrual cups, pads, liners, tampons etc. 360 Cookware carries the only truly non toxic cookware we have found as it is stainless steel and not manufactured with chemicals. We do not recommend cooking with teflon, aluminum, cast iron or ceramic. We also have a couple reliable EMF mitigation devices in our shop from BluShield and Somavedic. Most importantly, you should invest in a good quality water filter for your skin and overall health. Unfortunately, Brita and the filtration through your fridge isn't going to cut it. These only filter chlorine at best. Tap water contains a lot of contaminants we need to remove for healthy detoxification like fluoride, mercury, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, arsenic etc. We recommend filtering your drinking water and bath water with Live Pristine in our shop. This filter will protect your skin microbiome, reduce your heavy metal exposure and toxic load as well as prevent calcification. 

If you are looking for an individualized approach to support your detoxification pathways in order to overcome skin issues, we are here to help! Please check out our 1:1 membership .

Fungal Acne

Does your acne look and feel a little bit different than usual? Do you have a bunch of tiny red bumps close together? Are they itchy especially when in humid environments? If so, you might have fungal acne! 

Fungal Acne Nutritionist

What is Fungal Acne? What Causes Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne is an overgrowth of yeast malassezia on the skin. Most of us have this yeast a part of our skin microbiome in normal amounts. Fungal acne only develops when your skin microbiome is imbalanced causing this yeast to overgrow. There is trillions of microbes that reside in your gut and on your skin. Various skin disorders develop when either microbiome becomes imbalanced. Since the microbiome of the gut determines the microbiome of the skin, gut dysbiosis is often the root cause of fungal acne. Fungal acne can be present on the face, chest, upper back and arms. If you are unsure whether your acne is fungal or not, come see us- we can assess over video! Alternatively, your dermatologist can take a scraping and examine it. 

How Do You Treat Fungal Acne?

Healing your gut is the first step just like regular acne as discussed above. As always, treating it from the inside out is going to give you the best results long term. However, there are topical treatments that can make fungal acne drastically worse or better. Malassezia likes to feed off oils so it's important to avoid oil based skincare until the acne is gone. Once the acne has been dealt with, oil based skincare can be an incredible tool to use. In the meantime, you can use raw honey as a cleanser and use the Avene Tolerance Extreme Emulsion formula to moisturize. Aloe vera and green tea are safe toners to use when you have fungal acne. 

What is An Acne Friendly Skincare Routine? 

The above would work great for regular acne. However, there are other great acne friendly options as well (see below). We do not recommend going based off of comedogenic ratings as they are not reliable. The studies showing which oils/fats clog your pores was done in the 1980s and mainly just on animals. There is new research proving a lot of those conclusions wrong. When choosing natural skincare, saturated fats are best because they won't oxidize on your skin leading to inflammation. They also closely mimic your skin's natural sebum. This is helpful because your body will see this as having a sufficient about of sebum and therefore won't produce more. However, most people who have acne can't even tolerate oils on their skin yet. It takes a little bit of healing before they can start to implement those.

Acne Friendly Cleansers:

Acne Friendly Moisturizers:

Acne Friendly Exfoliators (if tolerated):

Acne Friendly Toners (optional):

Acne Friendly Serums (optional):

Acne Friendly Sunscreen (optional):

  • Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint

  • Derma E Sun Defence Mineral Oil

These are not all 100% natural but pretty clean and low PUFA content. We always recommend less is better when it comes to skincare. If you wear makeup, we suggest sourcing an alcohol free witch hazel to remove it. Ilia and Nude by Nature are great non-toxic cosmetic brands to use. We only recommend cleansing once every 2-3 days so your skin barrier can maintain its integrity. Your skin can't be healthy if the barrier is damaged. Your sebum production will be dysregulated and your skin will always be inflamed or irritated. Of course, it all depends on your skin type but we usually don't recommend exfoliating often and sometimes not at all. If you have rosacea, we strongly recommend against exfoliation until your skin is healed. When acne is present, we never recommend physical exfoliants as it tends to just spread the acne around. Toners and serums are completely optional and most often, people don't need them. When it comes to sunscreen, we actually don't recommend frequent use but of course it's necessary to prevent a burn sometimes. We usually teach our clients safe sun exposure, how to eat properly and what fats to consume in order to make them less susceptible to sun burns. This is because the sun is very healing for acne and we want to get exposed to as much vitamin D as we can. 

What Should I Avoid in Skincare?

  • Retinoids

  • BHA/AHA

  • Steroid Creams & Antibiotics

  • Essential Oils & Fragrance 

And any other harsh chemicals or ingredients as they are very disrupting to the skin microbiome as well as the skin barrier. We also only recommend washing your face in cold water. If you have been using any of the above products for a long time now, it might be best to take a 1-2 month break from putting anything on your skin (other than filtered water). This will give your skin barrier the time it needs to heal. 

What Medication Helps Acne?

The simple answer is none. There is no medication that can heal acne permanently. They all simply work as a short term suppressive mechanism with a lot of long term damage. Your acne will return with a vengeance once you are off the medication or later down the road when your body becomes resistant. When taking any medication or supplement, you should always consider the potential side effects it can have on your body.

Will Accutane Clear My Skin?

Accutane consists of synthetic13-cis retinoic acid which blocks your body's ability to naturally produce retinoic acid and shrinks your sebaceous glands in the skin, therefore suppressing acne. Retinol (active form of Vitamin A) is important for skin health but accutane will stop you from breaking down retinol into retinoic acid which disrupts retinol metabolism in the liver. This results in high copper in the tissue (unusable), retinol accumulation in the liver and low ceruloplasmin (bioavailable copper). This happens because you need retinol to metabolize copper into ceruloplasmin. This process is needed to produce energy, produce thyroid hormone, convert thyroid hormone in the liver and support iron recycling. Of course, accutane along with other retinoids heavily burden your liver which is one of the most important organs for your skin. Doctors will frequently test your liver health with blood work while on accutane because it is that damaging. Why would you take a medication that directly works against your natural skin healing? People are always looking for short term fixes but thats not what health is about. Yes your skin might clear up temporarily but we need to address the root cause of your acne to truly heal. Accutane comes with a lot of side effects on and off of it that are not desirable. It is probably one of the most detrimental medications you can take for your health. 

Will Spironolactone Heal My Acne?

This is a very popular medication prescribed for hormonal acne because it blocks testosterone receptors and lowers androgens. However, this is not fixing your acne by any means. It is simply suppressing sebum production so your skin clears while on it but sebum is bound to surge once you come off causing more acne. A lot of women with PCOS get temporarily relief when taking spironolactone but it still is not treating PCOS. Spironolactone is a high blood pressure medication that forces the body to retain potassium and excrete sodium. It blocks the actions of aldosterone (a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that controls the balance of sodium and water). When your body is forced to retain more potassium- androgens lower as a result. Wouldn't it make more sense to increase potassium rich foods in your diet and optimize potassium retention? We think so. Once you stop spironolactone, not only will your androgens increase but your magnesium and sodium stores will be completely tanked. You also will have sky high potassium levels causing a mineral imbalance and probably a zinc, calcium and folate deficiency as well. This causes a lot of unnecessary chaos in the body. We often see clients come off spironolactone with a lot of estrogen dominant symptoms, dysregulated blood sugar and thyroid antibodies present.

Will Birth Control Clear My Skin?

Many women are prescribed oral contraceptives to mask an array of symptoms but it never treats them. Birth control does not treat PCOS or endometriosis either. It could help with acne temporarily but it has proven to make your skin, as well as other symptoms and conditions worse in the long run. In some cases, birth control is the cause of hormonal acne and/or PCOS altogether. This is called post birth control syndrome. You can learn more about the pill and acne on that page. 

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that is classified as an autoimmune disorder. Essentially, your immune system is triggering an inflammatory response causing new skin cells to rapidly form. Regularly, you would replace skin cells every 10-30 days but with psoriasis, you create new skin cells every 3-4 days. This creates a build up of old skin cells being replaced with new skin cells causing that scaly look. Psoriasis skin cells repopulate rapidly. Psoriasis can happen anywhere on the body, even your scalp. Some looks different than others. We will often see psoriasis show up as small pustules on people's palms and feet. This is called pustular psoriasis but there is also plaque psoriasis (most common), guttate psoriasis, nail psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. All types of psoriasis are a chronic condition that can cause frequent flare ups. They are all reversible through nutrition and lifestyle. 

Symptoms of Psoriasis:

  • Red scaly patches on skin 

  • Small skin spots

  • Joint pain and swelling

  • Thick and pitted nails 

  • Dry and cracked skin 

What is the difference between psoriasis and eczema? They are both autoimmune conditions that can show up anywhere on the skin but they tend to present a bit differently. Psoriasis is is a lot scalier/patchier and bunched together. Eczema tends to be very itchy, inflamed and a bit more spread out. 

Acne and Skin Nutritionist

What Causes Psoriasis?

Anything that causes inflammation or a hyper-stimulated immune system can cause psoriasis and psoriasis flare ups. 

  • Physical and Emotional Stress

  • Trauma 

  • Leaky Gut & Food Sensitivities

  • Gut Inflammation

  • Medications

  • Gut or Any Infections 

  • Cuts/Scrapes

  • Surgery 

  • Alcohol 

  • Smoking 

  • Hormone Imbalances

  • Mould Exposure

  • Heavy Metal Exposure

  • Toxic Overload

  • Mineral Imbalances / Iron Overload

Just like acne and any other skin condition, you need to heal from the inside out. Getting to the root cause of psoriasis is the only permanent solution. There are topicals, medications and strategies to help minimize psoriasis flares but in 1:1 we teach you how to truly heal so it never comes back. We often use topicals like progesterone or vitamin E from Lifeblud in our shop or beef tallow products from Fatskn in our shop to help alongside your healing journey. 

Eczema / Dermatitis

The terms eczema and dermatitis are used interchangeably. We often call eczema, atopic dermatitis. There are multiple types of eczema like contact dermatitis or neurodermatitis but atopic dermatitis is the most common one. 

What is Eczema?

Similar to psoriasis, eczema is an autoimmune condition resulting in inflammation of the skin. It's often itchy, red and so dry that it can become cracked. It's most common in children but we still see adults suffering from it all the time. If you live in Canada or a cold climate like we do, you know how irritating it is to have extremely dry skin. Eczema can flare up anywhere on the body and can swell or even bleed if you itch it aggressively. Medical doctors consider eczema to be part of the "atopic triad" which means it often is associated with asthma and hay fever. This is due to its close connection with the immune system. 

Eczema Symptoms:

  • Itchy Skin

  • Dry Skin 

  • Inflamed and Discoloured Skin 

  • Swelling Skin

What Causes Eczema?

There can be many triggers for eczema flare ups. Stress is the biggest one and is also a root cause. Eczema can be irritated by cold weather, foods sensitivities, environmental toxins or chemicals, fragrances, metals from jewellery etc. The root causes for why you have eczema in the first place is similar to the list above for psoriasis. Of course, genetics play a role in both conditions but genetics just loads the gun, your diet and lifestyle pulls the trigger. We can optimize your diet and lifestyle to safely recover from eczema and prevent it from happening again in the future. We use the same topicals for eczema as we do for psoriasis but again, those simply manage symptoms while we address the deeper underlying issue. 

Rosacea

Along with acne, rosacea is a condition Katie used to suffer with pretty severely due to gut issues from the birth control pill. Rosacea is a type of chronic skin inflammation that can hit your self esteem hard. Women are a lot more prone to getting it but when men do get it, it tends to be more severe. Most commonly, it shows up as red inflamed skin on your cheeks and sometimes can be bumpy or have capillaries showing. There are 4 main types of rosacea: 

Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea (ETR)- Redness in the centre of your face. Your skin may also be swollen and sensitive. 

Papulopustular rosacea- Red pus filled bumps with oily skin. Looks similar to acne. 

Rhinophyma rosacea- Nose becomes thick, bumpy and red. Usually happens after alcohol consumption. 

Ocular rosacea- Red skin that burns or stings. Often irritates the eyes and mimics other allergy symptoms. 

Some common things we've noticed that cause rosacea flare ups are; stress, environmental toxins and chemicals, extreme heat or sunburns, intense cardio, spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, cinnamon and chocolate. 

We do suggest reducing some of these common triggers when healing from rosacea but this is not a long term solution. A healthy body can tolerate all of these things in moderation and not show severe symptoms. Therefore, we also work on digestion and rebalancing the gut microbiome as this is typically the root cause to rosacea. We often see parasites, h pylori and leaky gut to be the biggest culprits. Sometimes rosacea is even caused by a parasitic infection on the skin. This is when we would use a probiotic cleanser or moisturizer to give the skin microbiome an extra hand and crowd out the bad guys. We do not suggest over-cleansing or over-exfoliating when dealing with rosacea as you need to give your skin the opportunity to regenerate and heal. If you have sensitive skin, always make sure to use very gentle, natural products (no chemicals). Pure aloe vera (alcohol free) tends to be very soothing and healing for rosacea. 

Overall, if you are suffering from any skin condition, tackling the 5 main root causes for acne as outlined above will work to restore balance in your body so you can heal from not just acne but rosacea, psoriasis and eczema as well. If you need help with this, please check out our 1:1 membership. This is our specialty- we've helped hundreds of women clear their skin! If 1:1 isn't for you, we also offer a program that teaches you what is causing your acne and how to reverse it. We never like to fixate on one's diagnosis as we treat the body as a whole by finding hidden stressors. You may have the exact same skin issue as your friend but a totally different root cause. We are all unique, bio-individual human beings. For a more individualized approach, work with our acne nutritionist, Katie. We accept clients in Canada, US and worldwide!