Acne can be a horrible condition for those suffering from it, particularly if it doesn't seem to be getting better.
Let's face it, being a teenager is hard enough without having to deal with unpredictable skin blemishes. Puberty unleashes a volatile cocktail of hormones on the body and acne is one of the many issues you may be dealing with.
Technical jargon alert! Acne begins where the sebaceous gland and the hair follicle connect, known as the pilosebaceous unit. The sebaceous gland is stimulated by androgen hormones (like testosterone) to issue a thicker sebum (an oily substance which provides the skin with lubrication and protection) which then traps substances in the pores creating an infection. These androgen hormones also cause abundant shedding of keratinocytes (skin cells that secrete the structural protein keratin). Acne occurs when hair follicles get blocked (by keratinocytes and thick sebum), then the bacteria that reside in the follicles (probionibacterium acnes) become trapped and issue an inflammatory response resulting in redness and a whitehead/spot.
The good news is that you can work in harmony with your body and support your skin by nourishing it from the inside out, simply by eating the right food. It also helps to limit the foods that feed the acne (ie sugar, fizzy drinks and highly processed foods) think about making some simple switches from juice (laced with sugar) to water or herbal tea/iced tea. Swapping biscuits and sweet snacks for a handful of nuts and a banana (there are some amazing healthy treats you can make at home as well - see my recipe attached).
Vitamin A improves skin tone by supporting collagen. Fibrous proteins collagen and elastin are important structural parts of the skin, they are responsible for its elasticity and plumpness. Vitamin D's active form (known as calcitriol) helps skin cell growth, repair and function as well as aiding the immune system in fighting free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to DNA and cells, this is known as 'oxidative stress’.
Foods good for skin health include; eggs, spinach, salmon (& other oily fish), mushrooms, sweet potato, seeds, avocado, asparagus and broccoli. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a good start.
I must give a mention to one ingredient in particular. Shiitake mushrooms are a bit of a superhero ingredient for skin health, not only high in vitamins A&D and the mineral selenium, they also contribute to the production of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase. Glutathione peroxidase is the body’s most potent self-made antioxidant, it’s essential in order to protect collagen fibres and skin cells from damage by free radicals. I know when I was a teenager the thought of eating mushrooms wasn’t appealing at all, so if you’re not a fan of mushrooms there are different ways to get the benefit - check out a good independent health food store for advice on what products they offer with these properties, I’ve even seen hot chocolate made with mushroom powder!
Obviously I would advise you to eat them, chop them up really finely and add them to bolognese or curries etc.
For a healthy snack recipe to support your skin, check out my Cacao Bliss Balls Recipe in the blog section...
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