We’re sitting in a circle, my friends and I. We’re listening to Radiohead and passing a cigarette stolen from my dad. I glance at the teenage faces around me, all hidden beneath limp hair that covers hormone-ravaged complexions.
I am one of the lucky ones. My skin is still clear. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t last.
Dealing with Adult Acne
Although I thought I’d survived the trauma of adolescent acne, I was wrong. Instead of struggling with it like all my friends during those awkward, uncomfortable years, my face flowered far later. By the time I was investing in heavy duty concealer, everyone else had outgrown their acne and had glowing skin.
Trips to the doctor only resulted in frustration as topical creams, antibiotic treatment, and the pill all failed to have an impact. It felt like symptoms were being targeted on a superficial level rather than the underlying cause being sought after. My skin remained riddled with pimples—angry, red, and raw.
Acne during our teenage years can largely be attributed to fluctuations in hormone levels that activate the oil glands in our skin. Usually, dead skin cells are shed, but the excess sebum binds the cells together and they get stuck, block the skin’s pores, and bacteria develops—the perfect conditions for a pimple.
Traditional treatments are focused on preventing bacterial overgrowth, regulating oil production, and managing hormone fluctuations. In adults, it’s thought that hormone imbalances, stress, or aggressive products that irritate the skin are predominantly responsible for our erupting epidermis.
Ayurveda and Acne
Yet, Ayurveda has a slightly different perspective. Ayurveda, the traditional healing system in India, makes the connection between acne, impaired digestion, and a build-up of toxicity in the body.
You see, in Ayurveda, everything in existence is made up of five elements: Fire, Water, Earth, Air, and Space. These elements partner together to form ‘doshas’ or ‘types’ that influence our physical attributes and mental characteristics.
Vata is the dosha of Air and Space. Its qualities are dry and cold. Pitta is Fire and Water. It’s qualities are heat and intensity. Kapha is the pairing of Earth and Water. Its qualities are heavy and slow.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, illness, disease, and acne are caused by an imbalance of all three doshas, although it is predominantly pitta dosha that is usually to blame for most spots.
More importantly, Ayurveda recognises that we can manage these imbalances and optimise our health with diet and lifestyle changes that promote good digestion, improve elimination, and increase our vitality. It can help to try and understand which dosha is the driving force behind our own acne.
Vata is characterised by dryness. An imbalance in vata results in poor digestion and the accumulation of toxins.
To balance vata, try these nutritional tips:
- Include more fats and oils in your diet, as these help to soothe and smooth the digestion and nourish the skin.
- Up your intake of low-fat dairy products.
- Go for grains such as rice and wheat.
- Favour sweet, heavy fruits such as: bananas, avocados, and mangoes.
- Cook vegetables instead. Favour asparagus, beets, and carrots.
- Spice things up with cardamom, cumin, ginger, and cinnamon.
Pitta acne is characterised by redness and excess heat. An imbalance in pitta affects the blood and liver, resulting in inflammation.
To balance pitta, try these nutritional tips:
- Cool the fire with good quality, low-fat dairy.
- Skip anything that is fermented.
- Avoid sugar and opt for honey instead.
- Pacify pitta with olive or coconut oil.
- Let grains guide you. Wheat, rice, barley, and oats are the best grains to reduce pitta.
- Eat sweeter fruits such as grapes, melons, and cherries.
- Eat cooling, calming vegetables such as asparagus, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green leafy vegetables. Reduce tomatoes, hot peppers, carrots, beets, eggplant, onions, garlic, radishes, and spinach.
- Go easy on spicy seasoning. Instead chose spices that will cool and soothe. Coriander, cilantro, cardamom, saffron, and fennel are good choices.
- If you eat meat, chicken, pheasant, and turkey are best.
Kapha is concerned with oiliness instead. An imbalance in kapha means excess sebum is produced and overwhelms the pores so they become clogged.
To balance kapha, try these nutritional tips:
- Eat light.
- Reduce the intake of dairy.
- Drinking hot ginger tea with meals helps stimulate slow digestion.
- Tuck into beans, as they help dry excess kapha.
- Favour lighter fruits such as apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries, and apricots.
- Reduce heavier fruits like bananas, avocados, pineapples, oranges, peaches, coconuts, melons, dates, and figs.
- In general, all vegetables are recommended but reduce consumption of sweet and juicy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini.
- All spices except salt are pacifying to kapha. Use pungent spices like pepper, cayenne, mustard seed, and ginger freely in your diet.
- Keep fats to a minimum.
- Grains: Favour barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye. Reduce intake of oats, rice, and wheat.
If all of this feels a little confusing, take simple steps to cut out additives and preservatives first, so you’re eating foods that are as whole and natural as possible.
This will help keep the body calm and clean from the inside out. Always opt for chemical free products, even when it comes to things like laundry powder and household cleaning sprays—they will have an impact on your skin as well.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, as well as getting sufficient rest too as stress is known to contribute to acne in adults. It could be time to reconsider a regular meditation practice or reignite your interest in yoga.
Finally, as frustrating as it may be, remember that beauty comes from within and there is no need to feel anything less than fabulous. Don’t let acne knock your confidence.