Cystic Acne is one nasty mofo. Unlike your average superficial pimples, cystic acne is the kind that forms a large painful bump deep under the skin so that it does not come to head and is not poppable. It is the kind of acne most responsible for scarring as it causes inflammation to the tissue even when left alone, but especially if you try to squeeze or pick at them.
THE HORMONAL RELATIONSHIP
Whilst estrogen excess can certainly cause acne, the major culprit for cystic acne are the hormones called androgens which are the natural steroid hormones in our body responsible for male characteristics, such as testosterone, DHT and DHEA.
Cystic acne is more prevalent in males compared to females, mostly due to the link with androgen hormones. Whilst testosterone is a normal healthy hormone for males, the other guy called DHT (dihydrotestosterone) whilst very important for male growth, can be a major contributor to cystic acne when in excess. High levels of DHT is also inked with hair loss, excess sweating, increased libido, and aggressive behaviour.
High DHT levels in males can often occur during periods of growth or hormonal change such as puberty where it is essential for growth of male characteristics. DHT is actually made from testosterone i.e. a portion of testosterone is converted to DHT every day which is a normal healthy response. However if excess DHT is suspected, the approach is to reduce the amount of testosterone converting to DHT. This is done by inhibiting the enzyme (5-alpha-reductase) responsible for facilitating the conversion. There are nutritional, herbal and medical tools to assist with this.
Androgens are important for the female reproductive system too. However, there are many women who experience androgen excess, which is often connected with cystic acne. Other signs of androgen excess in females include: noticeable hair growth on the face and stomach, hair thinning on top of head, menstrual irregularities, weight gain, unnaturally aggressive mood.
Androgen excess in women can often occur during times of hormonal change such as puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause, with stress also having a major impact.
If you are a male or female who thinks you may be experiencing symptoms of androgen excess, book an appointment a naturopath so that a treatment plan can be made for you, alongside your GP who can facilitate hormonal testing for you.
STEPS TO MANAGING CYSTIC ACNE
Follow a low GI / GL diet
This means reducing your amount of sugar, dairy, refined carbohydrates and processed food. Try filling your diet with vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes and fish.
Increase Dietary Zinc
Zinc has shown to be able to reducts the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase which is responsible for increasing levels of DHT. Zinc also increases the rate of wound healing and supports skin integrity.
Cleanse your skin daily, to keep it clean.
Let your skin breathe some nights. Cleanse then spirits with a leave on aqueous solution such as our Balancing Face Mist and skip on the moisturiser now and then. This has both a natural hydrating and antibacterial action.
Exfoliate once per week to remove dead skin cells and support circulation.
Avoid cream based makeup such as cream highlighter and cream blush, instead opt for natural loose mineral makeup
ACNE & MENTAL HEALTH
It is well known that people who suffer with acne can also feel self conscious and even depressed. The important thing to remember is that our skin is an organ that lives on the outside. Armed with this knowledge, understand that skin health is a holistic process that requires adequate care inside and out.
Cystic acne is strongly linked with hormonal and dietary cause, therefore in conjunction with a good skincare routine, these areas need to be investigated and addressed.
But on this journey of healing, remember - that having acne does not define who you are. Having acne can really effect your quality of life if you let it, therefore my advice is don't let it! Be adventurous, curious, creative. Read books, write poems, climb mountains, swim in the ocean, travel the world. Don''t let having acne delay you from living.