Acne affects parts of the skin where there are hair follicles and active sebaceous glands which produce oils or sebum. It shows up as blackheads, whiteheads and redness due to inflammation. The most common type is acne vulgaris, characterised by inflamed, pus-filled spots which open out on to the skin. Acne conglobata is more severe – when the infection does not actually break through the skin but stays underneath, forming a painful cyst.
What causes acne?
There are various factors which differentiate acne from ordinary spots. The fact that more boys suffer from acne and that people with no male hormones do not suffer at all gives us some insight into its causes. The amount of the male hormone testosterone in the body increases at puberty. This triggers the production of sebum and keratin – an excess of which can block pores. It has also been found that it is not just the increase in testosterone – which happens to all teenagers – but excess conversion to an even more powerful version of the hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone) which may bring on acne.(1)
With the increase in keratin, a blockage forms, which in turn creates a build-up of sebum behind it and shows up as a blackhead. As the pores become blocked, it provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria which normally live harmlessly on our skin, causing them to create an infection in the skin, inflammation and the soreness of a spot. If this inflammation gets out of hand, it can spread through to deeper tissues and if it doesn’t break through to the surface, cause a cyst under the skin.
Avoid dairy for a while
A number of trials have shown a clear link between dairy product intake and acne.(2) Some people are unknowingly allergic to milk, but nevertheless milk promotes a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in all of us and possibly also oestrogens. IGF-1 levels peak in teenage years, doubly so if you consume a lot of dairy products, and may be a factor in acne if they become too high.
Oestrogen dominance is also a common cause for acne in female adults. A diet high in meat and milk can contribute to oestrogen dominance in both men and women. Being overweight has the same effect, because fat cells whether ......
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