02 Nov 2018

Acne can be one of the most distressing conditions for your clients, yet it’s notoriously tricky to treat. According to the NHS, it affects 80% of people aged between 11 and 30. AND adult acne is on the rise. A study of 92 private dermatology clinics recently reported in The Telegraph that the number of adults seeking specialist medical expertise for this condition rose by a staggering 200% in the last year. 


Over 80% of adult acne occurs in women. This is largely down to fluctuating hormones, which are often the single biggest culprit. Menstrual cycles, contraception, such as the pill or the coil, are often to blame. The drastic changes experienced by the body during the menopause can also trigger unwelcome breakouts. Hormonal imbalances cause sebum to become thicker, which in turn makes it more likely to block hair follicles and cause pimples.

Solution: Skin Accumax™ from our Advanced Nutrition Programme™ range contains DIM, a naturally derived compound which helps to balance hormones and assists in the production of the more beneficial ones.


The pressures of modern life are sending the nation’s stress levels soaring, which is bad news for skin. Clients who suffer from acne are likely to tell you that it gets worse during particularly stressful periods and this is true of other conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The exact reason is still up for debate, but a hormone called cortisol is thought to play a key role. Like adrenaline, the body produces cortisol in times of stress or danger, to help us deal with a perceived threat, but it does so at a price. A side effect of excessive cortisol is that it stimulates the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive and produce more sebum. This then mixes with dead skin cells and clogs pores, leading to a flare up.

When we’re extremely stressed, our bodies produce adrenaline, which is useful if you’re running away from a bear in the woods, but not so great if you’re trying to avoid a breakout. Adrenaline decreases blood flow to the skin and directs it to key internal organs, robbing the complexion of oxygen and nutrients to exacerbate any pre-existing conditions.

Solution: Stress is part of everyday life, but it’s how you handle it that counts. Taking regular exercise, aiming to get 8 hours of sleep each night and practicing relaxation techniques can all be beneficial.


When first attempting to tackle a client’s problem skin, it’s important to ask them about their diet. Our skin is a mirror of what’s happening on the inside, so it’s no surprise that what we eat directly affects our complexion.

People with problem skin are often told not to eat chocolate, but it’s sugary foods in general that are to blame. One study found that people who frequently consumed added sugars had a 30% greater risk of developing acne1. This increased risk may be explained by the fact that high glycaemic foods such as cakes, biscuits, white bread and pasta send glucose levels skyrocketing. The body releases insulin to quickly move the excess sugar around the bloodstream and into cells where it can be used for energy. This surge is bad news for acne sufferers. Insulin makes androgen hormones more active and increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). This contributes to acne development by making skin cells grow more quickly and by boosting sebum production.

Research also points the finger at dairy products. Many studies have suggested a link between milk and acne severity, and two in particular found that young adults who regularly consumed milk or ice cream were four times more likely to suffer from acne2.

Like high glycaemic foods, milk is known to increase insulin levels, (despite the fact that it doesn’t significantly affect blood sugar) which may worsen acne severity. Cow’s milk also contains amino acids that increase IGF-1, which are linked to the development of acne.

Solution: Advise clients to try eliminating dairy products from their diet for a month to see if their acne starts to clear. They should also cut down on sugary treats, saturated fats and avoid refined carbohydrates.


Sleeping is the body’s way of recharging and repairing itself, so lack of it has the opposite effect. Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, making skin more susceptible to the build-up of bacteria that can trigger breakouts. Lack of sleep has also been shown to increase inflammation and can also lead to insulin resistance. As if this wasn’t enough, the body tries to compensate for tiredness by releasing more cortisol, which as we’ve seen, exacerbates acne.

Solution: Getting a full eight hours sleep every night isn’t always realistic, but there are things that help to improve sleep quality. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day will help clients to regulate their body clock. It’s also important to turn off all electronic devices such as tablets and phones at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light they emit has been proven to disturb sleeping patterns.


Several research studies in recent years have highlighted the role of free radicals and the depletion of antioxidants in acne-prone skin3. People suffering from the condition are under higher oxidative stress than people with healthy skin. As a result their antioxidant levels are exhausted. A chain reaction sets the stage for acne formation: free radicals cause oxidative damage to sebum, which reduces oxygen content. This in turn makes it a very attractive environment for the P. Acnes bacteria, which causes acne. The bacteria multiply in the pores, causing inflammation and increasing the number of pimples and blemishes.

Research has shown that people with acne have significantly lower levels of several antioxidant nutrients compared to people with healthy skin. Similarly studies show that people with acne have higher levels of inflammatory chemicals in the blood.

A study published in "Clinical and Experimental Dermatology" found that patients with acne had significantly lower levels of vitamins A & E when compared to individuals in a control group. The study concluded that deficiencies in either of these vitamins could aggravate acne and that taking both vitamins improved acne. Note that, vitamin A blood serum levels fall during menstruation.

Solution: Clients should replenish their antioxidant levels by eating lots of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables and by adding Skin Antioxidant supplements to their diets daily. This should also be accompanied by vitamin A both orally and topically.


The link between a healthy gut and healthy skin only became apparent relatively recently, so it may not have crossed your clients’ mind that their levels of ‘good bacteria’ may be affecting their complexion.

A major review of studies published in the journal Gut Pathogens in 2011 found evidence that the gut lining may be more permeable than usual in people with acne 1. The gut is lined with a layer of proteins, but in some people the links between them become too loose, allowing foreign substances through the gut lining and into the bloodstream. This is known as a ‘leaky gut.’ The review showed people with acne are more likely to have certain toxins in their bloodstream, which may be the underlying factor behind their breakouts.

Solution: Advise clients to take probiotics and to include lots of fibre in their diet which helps to feed gut-friendly microbes.


Acne sufferers may be tempted to exfoliate affected areas when suffering from breakouts in an attempt to clear skin. However, harsh exfoliation can irritate rather than heal, leading to further inflammation and spots. Your clients may also be avoiding oil based moisturisers because they’re under the misapprehension that it will make their skin more greasy, but this isn’t the case. Clients may also be tempted to camouflage spots with heavy make-up, but this can clog pores and make the problem worse. “Oil cuts through oil”, says Tracy Tamaris, iiaa’s Training Director.

Oily skin still needs to be moisturised, but using water based products doesn’t help – remember, oil and water don’t mix. For this reason, we always use Hydroxy Acid Sebu-Lac Lotion and Vita-Botanical Sebu-ACE Oil combined to treat problematic skin.

Solution: AHA’s gently dissolve the bonds between skin cells so that the top layer is removed without damaging the epidermis or causing irritation. Use of oil based, vitamin A rich moisturisers will normalise skin moisture and sebum levels. Environ® Cool Peel treatments are also excellent at targeting problem skin. Using a clean make-up such as jane iredale will allow skin to breathe and function as normally as possible without blocking pores. jane iredale skincare products provide flawless coverage, are anti-inflammatory and as a result, continue to benefit the skin as an anti-bacterial treatment.

REFERENCE: *Source Persistence Market Research PMR. 1. Acne: prevalence and relationship with dietary habits in Eskisehir, Turkey. Aksu AE1, Metintas S, Saracoglu ZN, Gurel G, Sabuncu I, Arikan I, Kalyoncu C. 2. Acne and dairy products in adolescence: results from a Norwegian longitudinal study. Ulvestad M1, Bjertness E2, Dalgard F3, Halvorsen JA1. 3. Acne Vulgaris: The Role of Oxidative Stress and the Potential Therapeutic Value of Local and Systemic Antioxidants Whitney P. Bowe MD,a Nayan Patel BS,b and Alan C. Logan MDc June 2012.
Acne, anxiety depression and suicide in teenagers: a cross-sectional survey of New Zealand secondary school students. J Paediatric Child Health, 2006, Pages: 42:793-6. REFERENCE: Acne, anxiety depression and suicide in teenagers: a cross-sectional survey of New Zealand second REFERENCE: Acne, anxiety depression and suicide in teenagers: a cross-sectional survey of New Zealand secondary school students. J Paediatric Child Health, 2006, Pages: 42:793-6. REFERENCE: Role of insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, hyperglycaemic food and milk consumption in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Bodo C. Melnik1 and Gerd Schmitz2. REFERENCE: El-akawi, Z. , Abdel-Latif, N. and Abdul-Razzak, K. (2006), Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition?. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 31: 430-434.