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Your Go-to Guide for Acne-Repellent Skin

Updated: Mar 7

Skincare lineup for acne skin

Unexpected and unwelcome, acne can suddenly appear. Some may recall it as the "symbol of youth" during their teenage years. However, statistics reveal that 15% to 40% of individuals aged 30 to 40 are troubled by adult acne.

Unlike teenage acne, adult acne tends to be more persistent and challenging to manage. The contrast between those who rarely experience acne and those prone to it can often be traced back to subtle lifestyle differences.


In this article, drawing inspiration from the habits of an ethnic group that didn't face acne issues, we'll reevaluate common self-care practices that modern individuals may unwittingly engage in. Alongside, we'll introduce simple tips for fostering acne-resistant skin.


Contents

Why Does Acne Occur?

Acne is considered a physiological phenomenon experienced by many during adolescence but formally labeled as acne vulgaris, a skin condition.

While the causes of acne vary with age and environment, excessive sebum secretion is a prominent factor. Excessive sebum leads to clogged pores, inflammation, and the development of acne.

Additionally, diet, cosmetics, resident bacterial balance, genetics, and hormonal imbalances in women can contribute to acne.

Instead of resigning to the inevitability of acne that often accompanies adolescence, why not reconsider habits based on the lifestyles of a hunter-gatherer tribe that didn't struggle with acne?


Lifestyle of Acne-Resistant Hunter-Gatherer Communities

Hunter-gatherer tribes maintain a lifestyle centered on hunting, gathering, and crafting with natural materials. Despite their lack of skincare routines, these tribes, existing in contemporary times, surprisingly remain largely free from acne.


Diet and environment

Their diet comprises the natural meat of hunted animals and gathered plants, distinguishing it from our processed and refined modern diets. They consume fresh, unprocessed ingredients, avoiding the refined grains, processed foods, sugar, and preservatives common in our unconscious dietary choices.


Constantly engaged in securing prey, they convert their daily routines into consistent exercise, contrasting with the sedentary habits of modern life facilitated by food delivery apps. The tension of securing food for the day keeps them active.


Aligning with the circadian rhythm, their daily activities follow the sun's movement, influencing metabolic activities and sleep-wake cycles. In contrast, modern individuals, often living under artificial lighting, experience disturbed circadian rhythms, impacting overall health, including skin.


Skincare

Hunter-gatherer tribes reject high-cleansing facial cleansers and double-cleansing routines. Their reliance on natural resources in nature leads them to rinse off dirt in rivers or lakes, avoiding excessive cleaning. Surprisingly, their skin hosts about three times more resident bacteria than modern individuals, protected from dryness by minimal cleansing, contributing to stable skin environments.


Self-Care for Improving Acne① - Dietary Improvement

Drawing inspiration from the nature-centric lifestyle of hunter-gatherer tribes, here are self-care suggestions to enhance acne management.


Reduce High-Glycemic Index (GI) Foods

Start by minimizing high-GI foods.

GI, or Glycemic Index, gauges the rate of post-meal blood sugar elevation. Foods with higher GI values lead to faster increases in blood sugar levels.

Examples of High-GI Foods:

  • White rice

  • Bread made from wheat flour

  • White sugar

  • Noodles like pasta and ramen

Link Between High-GI Foods and Acne

Consuming high-GI foods triggers a rapid spike in blood sugar, prompting insulin release. Insulin, in turn, stimulates IGF-1 hormone production, leading to elevated sebum levels and more easily clogged pores.

Clogged pores, resulting from excess sebum, contribute to inflammation and acne. To curb excessive sebum production, it's advisable to decrease high-GI foods and opt for low-GI alternatives.


Examples of Replacing High-GI Foods with Low-GI Foods:

  • White rice → Brown rice, mixed grain rice

  • Wheat flour bread → Rye bread, whole-grain bread

  • White sugar → Beet sugar, agave syrup, honey

  • Pasta, ramen, etc. → Gluten-free noodles

Be Cautious with Milk and Protein

For individuals dealing with clogged pores and acne linked to excessive sebum, exercising caution with milk is crucial.

The amino acid leucine present in milk elevates IGF-1, leading to increased sebum production.

As leucine is also abundant in whey protein, careful consideration is necessary when choosing protein supplements.


Self-care for improving acne ② - Skincare


lineup of skincare products for acne skin

We explored the uncomplicated care habits of acne-resistant hunter-gatherer tribes. Now, let's delve into common missteps in our daily self-care routine that may contribute to acne.

A Korean study surveyed 539 acne patients, unveiling prevalent habits among those grappling with acne.


✖️Overwashing - Double Cleansing

The first issue is overwashing, encompassing the habit of double cleansing. This involves removing makeup with a makeup remover and then cleansing again with products containing strong ingredients. Such practices can burden the skin and strip away its barrier function and essential moisture, including resident bacteria. While high-cleansing is necessary for heavy makeup days, it's crucial not to overburden the skin.

Consider opting for a natural makeup look and a mild cleanser with lukewarm water in the morning.


✖️Overuse - Quantity of skincare products

The second concern is overusing basic skincare products. Too many products can increase the risk of surfactants and preservatives, potentially weakening the skin's resident bacteria. While these aren't necessarily harmful, a simple skincare routine is recommended to maintain a healthy bacterial balance.


✖️Heavy, water-proof makeup

The third habit is regularly using makeup that doesn't come off easily, requiring strong makeup removers. With mask usage on the rise, choose long-lasting makeup only when necessary and opt for gentler options for regular use.


Foundation and Cleansing compatibility


cleanser for acne skin

Even if you use a soap-washable foundation, using a high-cleansing cleanser and then washing with a facial cleanser can be counterproductive. Similarly, using soap alone to wash off tinted foundation may not be sufficient.There might still be residue left behind.


Is oil cleansing a no-go?

Some may avoid oil-type cleansers for sensitive skin, but natural oil-based cleansing oils can effectively cleanse with minimal irritation. Choose wisely, considering your skin's needs.


Self-care for improving acne③ - Gut Health

High-GI foods trigger hormone secretion, leading to acne. Interestingly, maintaining a healthy gut suppresses this mechanism causing skin issues.


Probiotics Research in Italy

Probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host by improving the balance of the intestinal flora." Examples include lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria, which help regulate the gut environment when ingested.

Italian research revealed that 12 weeks of live human-derived probiotic lactobacillus intake, specifically Lactobacillus paracasei, reduced the hormone IGF-1, responsible for excessive sebum.



Self-care for improving acne④ - Skin Bacteria

Similar to gut health, research explores reducing acne susceptibility through skin bacteria care.


Study on Lactobacillus paracasei

In a 4-week study with 104 mild to moderate acne patients, Group A used 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, and Group B applied a probiotic lotion with Lactobacillus paracasei extracts. Both groups showed anti-inflammatory effects, with no significant difference.


In essence, the probiotic lotion had an anti-inflammatory impact comparable to common acne medications, offering a safe alternative for those with conventional medication side effects.


Conclusion


clear skin after treating acne skin

In this article we introduced simple lifestyle habits inspired by hunter-gatherer tribes that didn't struggle with acne. These are practices that we can quickly improve and implement in our daily lives.


Acne is one of the consequences of the modern world's convenient but excessive beauty routines, especially for those living amidst abundance.

While maintaining a regular lifestyle and reevaluating dietary habits, it's also beneficial to try subtractive care – simplifying skincare routines.

During times of acne troubles, it's common to focus on the external aspects of the skin. However, it is crucial to pay attention to the internal factors, particularly the balance of microbes in the gut.

We hope that this article serves as a guide, encouraging you to take the first steps toward improving acne.


This blog post was medically reviewed by Yutaka Shimokawa.



【References】

・Acne prevalence in adults aged 30s and 40s: 15% to 40% Collier CN, et al. The prevalence of acne in adults 20 years and older. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008 Jan;58(1):56-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2007.06.045.


・Causes of acne change with age Kutlu Ö, et al. Adult acne versus adolescent acne: a narrative review with a focus on epidemiology to treatment. An Bras Dermatol. 2023 Jan-Feb;98(1):75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.abd.2022.01.006.


・Hunter-gatherer tribes do not experience acne Cordain L, et al. Acne Vulgaris: A Disease of Western Civilization. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(12):1584–1590. doi:10.1001/archderm.138.12.1584


・Skin resident bacteria in hunter-gatherer tribes are three times more than modern people Prescott SL, et al. The skin microbiome: impact of modern environments on skin ecology, barrier integrity, and systemic immune programming. World Allergy Organ J. 2017 Aug 22;10(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s40413-017-0160-5.


・Global population suffering from acne Vos T, et al. Years lived with disability (YLDs) for 1160 sequelae of 289 diseases and injuries 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet. 2012 Dec 15;380(9859):2163-96. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61729-2. Erratum in: Lancet. 2013 Feb 23;381(9867):628.


・Gut microbiome of Japanese individuals Nishijima S, et al. The gut microbiome of healthy Japanese and its microbial and functional uniqueness. DNA Research. 2016 Apr;23(2):125–133.


・High-GI foods increase insulin and IGF-1 Baldwin H, Tan J. Effects of Diet on Acne and Its Response to Treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2021 Jan;22(1):55-65. doi: 10.1007/s40257-020-00542-y. Erratum in: Am J Clin Dermatol. 2020 Dec 26.


・Milk consumption increases IGF-1 Adebamowo CA, et al. Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008 May;58(5):787-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2007.08.049.


・Probiotics for 4 weeks Huang N, et al. Efficacy of probiotics in the management of halitosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2022 Dec 20;12(12):e060753. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-060753.

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