My own acne problems began at a very young age.
Some of you who know me or who have been reading Holistically Haute™ for a long time may know that I have a longstanding history of acne. It began when I was around 10. I am pretty sure it was related to hormones, since I began going through puberty shortly after that. I did not ever treat it gently or properly, since all my parents knew to do was give me cheap drugstore acne products that contained harsh ingredients like benzoyl peroxide which stripped, stung, and literally burned my skin. As I got into my teen years, I did get a topical erythromycin product from my pediatrician, which also irritated my skin and also did nothing whatsoever to clear up the acne. I even was given a prescription for Retin-A, which did plenty for completely drying out my skin, causing severe discomfort, redness, and peeling; but also did nothing for the acne. I did have a particularly traumatic visit to the dermatologist at which time I received 12 cortisone injections in my face. I still don’t know who was more traumatized, my mother or me. It temporarily cleared up the acne I had, but within a week new breakouts emerged. At least my mom knew back then that oral acne medications like tetracycline and isotretinoin (Accutane) were bad news so she never had me go on one of those.
My skin did not improve until I was in my early twenties and took it upon myself to start getting periodic facials and learn about how to properly take care of my skin with a good skincare regimen. My skin was fine for a few years, and then started breaking out again due to pregnancy hormones. At that time I was so desperate I tried everything in every price point, and the only product that worked was Proactiv…which I knew contained toxic ingredients and made my skin dry and tight…but at least the acne was under control. I was already beginning to learn about the dangers of toxic chemicals in skincare products and I was feeling terribly conflicted about my own situation: do I continue using something that I know is bad for me and is potentially harming me in the long run even though it is working for the problem at hand or do I take a chance on safer products that might not fix the problem? It was quite the predicament.
Things started to improve.
Fortunately, I was in aesthetics school at the time, and was introduced to Hylunia products which is what my school used (and still does). Even though these products are more expensive, I had learned so much about the importance of choosing products with higher quality ingredients that are formulated in a way that it can actually produce positive results while still using safe, natural, and anti-inflammatory ingredients that I decided to try it. It took my skin awhile to adjust to the new regimen, but after that period my skin appeared flawless and for the first time ever I began to get compliments on the texture of my skin.
I continued to use products from Hylunia, as well as some products from Osmosis, and continued to have great skin…however these products are not cheap and I know I was using too many products at once (because that’s when I still believed that “more is more”). My monthly skincare bill soon began to resemble a car payment.
My dependence on products started to decrease when I made other changes…
During this time I also began making dietary and lifestyle changes which ultimately led to my significant weight loss of 70-ish pounds, and really helped to detoxify my body on the inside. Another great side effect of changing my diet? I was able to significantly cut down on my dependence of expensive skincare products to treat my acne. Why? Because I stopped breaking out so much. Sure, I still some small breakouts at that time of the month like many women my age do, but I no longer have to use an actual acne product on a daily basis. I am able to use some products I make myself using natural, organic ingredients (from the recipes I teach in my skincare classes in the Philadelphia area), as well as some of my favorite high quality natural professional-strength skincare products. My monthly skincare bill has been cut at least in half…if not less than that. All because I started eating cleaner, less-processed, whole, real, organic foods (in addition to some lifestyle changes). I am living proof that acne alone can be cleared up without aggressive procedures and harsh chemical products. The entire direction of my career changed because of this conclusion.
I have written a lot about the relationship between the health digestive tract and the appearance of the skin (the skin is a window to the health of the overall person…acne, rosacea, eczema, and even psoriasis can in most cases be traced back to toxins or other issues in the digestive tract and other internal organs and systems). I also have written plenty about my dissatisfaction with our current healthcare system and the over-prescription of drugs in general. So when I saw the aforementioned article about new treatment guidelines specifically designed for children I was immediately on edge.
A brief summary of the article.
The article on Skin & Allergy News points out that until now, medical acne treatments were only ever really approved for use on children aged 12 and over. Well now, the American Acne and Rosacea Society are recommending medical intervention for children under the age of 12 (as young as age 1!) for infantile and pre-adolescent acne.
The reasons for this? The article states that “infantile acne can do significant lasting damage”…(as can all acne)…and that “acne arising in mid-childhood – age 1-7 years – is a red flag for an increased risk of an endocrinologic disorder. Referral to a pediatric endocrinologist is warranted if a child displays any abnormalities in height and growth, blood pressure, or displays signs of early sexual maturation.”
Some of the treatments discussed were dietary changes (although the article does not share what those specific recommendations were), prescription of oral contraceptives specifically to treat acne, and when needed, prescription of the “big gun”, isotretinoin (Accutane) in young children.
I have to tell you I almost fell off my chair when I read those last ones.
Let’s break this down from a more holistic (and in my opinion, much SAFER) perspective. One of the biggest internal causes of acne and other inflammatory skin conditions at any age is Candida overgrowth. Candida is a systemic yeast infection that can be passed down from mother to child, and can be transmitted through breast milk (often manifests as thrush or infantile eczema). It can also be caused by excessive use of certain medications like steroids and antibiotics, as well as by hormonal activity (either natural or synthetic which is what you get with oral contraceptives). What feeds Candida? Lots of things, but primarily sugar, toxins, acid-producing foods, and also gluten: which many American children consume too much of on a daily basis in poor quality cafeteria, fast, and processed/packaged foods.
The medical expert in the article stated that childhood acne is often an indicator of a more serious endocrine disorder. That may be true, but the acne itself is not the CAUSE of the endocrine disorder. It is just another symptom of something else going on. What are some known endocrine disruptors? Synthetic hormones and antibiotics (given not just to children but also to factory-farmed and processed animal products), synthetic fragrances, chemical preservatives, certain additives in processed foods, and pesticides used in conventionally-farmed foods; just to name a few. What else causes endocrine imbalances? Weight gain, stress, and an over-active immune system among other things.
What balances the endocrine system? A healthy diet and lifestyle.
Today’s children consume more chemicals, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, pesticides, and other toxins than ever before and as a result have more allergies and intolerances (many of which are severe), and more health problems such as childhood obesity, juvenile diabetes (which is really just a euphemism for adult onset type 2 diabetes), and even fatty liver disease. Overconsumption of these “foods” and toxins is the most likely cause of these health issues, and avoidance of them is the most likely (and healthiest) treatment of them.
If parents really want to help their children who have acne, they need to start inside with a proper diet that is rich in nutrients and that avoids sugar, gluten, and chemical-containing processed foods. A holistic health coach or practitioner can help design a plan that is right for a growing child’s needs. Then parents should consult with a holistic aesthetician who can suggest a proper, yet gentle skincare regimen that is simple and appropriate for whatever age the child is.
As a mother, and even as someone who went through pre-adolescent acne, teenage acne, and even adult acne I could not ever stomach the thought of putting my children on birth control pills or Accutane to treat acne. Never.
Obviously parents out there all have the right to make the decision they feel is best for their children, but I truly hope all parents understand that drugs are not the only way to treat acne (or many other problems). There are other ways, and there are professionals out there to help. But parents have to do their homework to find them.
Unfortunately our healthcare system does not make it easy for people to be their own healthcare advocates. It dictates what tests we can get, where we have to get them from, which doctors or other healthcare providers we can see, etc. and it does not recognize the validity of other healthcare modalities. The reason? Keeping people healthy is not as profitable as treating their symptoms with long-term courses of medication. I know that makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it won’t be the first time or the last time I get called that.
These are children. Our future. We should be building them up with healthy raw materials (food and nutrients), not breaking down their immune systems and altering their hormonal functions with drugs and poor quality food products.
*Image 2 courtesy of the ASCP