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Acne In Adulthood

Clare Jones on how diet, digestion and hormones can cause break outs in adult life

Written by . Published on November 25th 2011.

Acne In Adulthood

SO there you are, in your 20s (or 30s, 40s...) and your skin is still breaking out in the acne you thought you should have left behind in your teenage years.

Not only does it seem outrageously unfair, it also undermines confidence and leads to some people shunning a social life.

Not only does it seem outrageously unfair, it also undermines confidence and leads to some people shunning a social life. Why are some people so prone to acne in adulthood? What is likely to trigger a breakout? And can making changes to your diet make any difference?

I frequently see people with problem skin in my clinics: often it's not the main reason they come to see me but a side-issue they would be happy to clear up alongside other health problems, so it won't surprise you to learn that the causes of acne may not simply be due to having 'difficult skin'. Broadly speaking, I would split underlying causes into 3 main categories: diet, digestion and hormones.


For some people, simply cleaning up the diet makes a huge difference. Important nutrients for your skin include:

- Water

- Fats (yes, you do need fat in your diet, despite what low-fat aficionados tell you). Choose the 'good fats' in oily fish, nuts, seeds and their oils.

- Antioxidant vitamins and minerals found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.

- Foods to avoid:

Sugar - there is a strong link between adult acne and problems processing sugar in the body.

The 'bad' fats -  ie. hydrogenated and trans-fats found in processed and fried foods. We do need some saturated fat, so choose butter rather than margarine, but in moderation.

Your Skin Likes Brightly Coloured Fruit And VegYour Skin Likes Brightly Coloured Fruit And Veg



I often find that people who are prone to spots and acne also have problems with their digestion. They may have a formally diagnosed condition, such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or are perhaps just prone to constipation.

Improving these problems can go a long way towards clearing up break-outs. We get rid of both toxins and hormones (see below) via the bowel so it's important to keep things running smoothly. Acne sufferers are often prescribed antibiotics, which they may be taking long-term but these also kill off 'friendly' bacteria, which are important for the health of the digestive tract.

Another area to consider is a reaction to certain foods. This is not the case for everybody but some people find that sensitivity to dairy products can trigger a break-out. If you are planning to exclude foods, you should only do this with expert help to ensure that you continue to have a well-balanced diet.

How Is Your DigestionHow Is Your Digestion?


In men, an excess of the male hormone testosterone may be the trigger for acne but it surprises some people to learn that this may be a trigger for women too. We all produce testosterone; it's just that men produce more. Women with the common hormonal condition PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) produce much more testosterone than usual and are prone to acne.

Another hormone link, common to many women, is the typical break-out that occurs around the time of their period. Logic dictates that if it happens at this time every month, there is almost certainly a hormonal connection. This may be due to increased production of testosterone around the time of menstruation or low oestrogen.

Try adding a tablespoon of ground linseed to your breakfast. This is a source of fibre, which supports the excretion of excess hormones and may help avoid constipation (see above) as well as a source of 'phyto-oestrogens', or plant oestrogens which may help hormone balance. Not only that but linseeds add protein, which supports blood sugar balance and omega 3 essential fats (see above).

Ground LinseedGround Linseed

The advice given here is not intended to replace medical advice. Always consult your GP if you are concerned about your health.

Clare Jones, BA(Hons), Dip ION, mBANT NTC & CNHC registered
Nutritional Therapy 07985 166606.

If you would like to make an appointment for a personal nutrition consultation with Clare, please contact her on the above number or visit Clare’s website: www.clarejones-nutrition.co.uk

Follow Clare on Twitter @ClareJonesNutri

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AnonymousNovember 29th 2011.

Avoiding milk is the most important thing in my experience: it's a boost of unnecessary hormones and has an inflamatory effect on the skin.

AnonymousJune 8th 2012.

Some good advice. Woman can take Dianette (the pill) for acne, but men can not reduce their hormones (testosterone). For topical application, Retin A is very good. All these are prescribed medications.

AnonymousJune 21st 2012.

wow! fab website:

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