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What to do about acne caused by stress-related gut issues

Conventional acne treatments would have us think that whether you do or you don’t get acne comes down to the skin products you use. But this limited view ignores the facts that our skin is connected to and influenced by the rest of our bodies. It’s time to rethink conventional acne treatments and take a holistic, whole body approach to skincare.

In the first post of our natural care for acne series (which you can find here: Acne won’t go away? Let’s talk about gut health…) we looked at how an inflamed, disrupted microbiome can promote acne, and how a healthy gut can support clear skin.

Now let’s talk about why reducing stress and prioritising relaxation time each day should be part of your whole body acne treatment plan.

Mental wellbeing for clear skin

We now know that what goes on in a person’s mind can affect the gut. It’s been shown how anxiety, stress, and depression can all wreak havoc on the intestinal flora. The state of the mind can cause the gut to release the types of hormones and neurotransmitters that lead to systemic inflammation and, eventually, acne.

To state it simply, the more stressed you are, the more likely you are to experience acne breakouts.

So how do you de-stress for clear skin?

Torso and legs of woman sitting on floor in cross-legged position practicing yoga

There are simple ways you can help alleviate your daily levels of stress. Sitting down with a quiet cup of tea is a start. A regular meditation practice has been shown to have a positive effect on skin disorders. So has exercise, and that goes for yoga, running, swimming, or hiking.

For more ideas about simply daily relaxation techniques, see our post How to Build a Mental Wellbeing Toolkit.

The Aromatherapy Facial Steam

Treating yourself to an aromatherapy steam with essential oils offers two major benefits: It can soothe a stressed-out mind and treat acne-prone skin at the same time.

A facial steam opens the pores and releases trapped dirt. It also increases circulation and promotes a radiant complexion.

To do an Essential Oil Facial Steam, fill a large heat-proof bowl with water that has just boiled. Add 2-3 drops of essential oil (see choices below) to the water. Lower your face until it’s just above the bowl—it helps to be seated at a table so you can support your upper body by propping your elbows on the table—then drape your head and the bowl with a towel. Relax and breathe deep for 5-10 minutes. Take a break if the steam ever becomes too hot for your skin.

After steaming, rinse your face with warm water and apply a moisturiser.

Essential oils for treating acne

Boxes of The Nature of Things Essential Oils

Lavender - helps soothe a breakout
Shop Lavender Essential Oil

Rosemary - helps reduce redness and swelling
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Lemongrass - helps mattify oily skin
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Tea Tree Oil - helps reduce blemishes
Shop Tea Tree Oil Essential Oil

Frankincense - helps fade scarring
Shop Frankincense Essential Oil

Better sleep for clearer skin

There is such a thing as beauty sleep!

It’s now known that quality sleep is essential for gut health, overall health, and clear skin. Your goal is to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night.

Woman lying in bed asleep

If you miss those 8 hours, your body starts storing a surplus of cortisol, a stress hormone which is linked to inflammation and acne.

Another reason to prioritise sleep? During sleep, the body generates the building blocks of collagen, a protein that supports shiny hair, strong nails and—you guessed it—firm, smooth skin.

If you have trouble falling or staying asleep at night, there are a few herbal remedies you can try to help calm the body and mind in preparation for restful sleep.

Natural aids for better sleep

Viridian Cherry Night Powder is a nutritional nightcap containing cherries, dates, glycine, and magnesium. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium contributes to electrolyte balance, nervous system function, normal muscle function, and normal psychological function—all which contribute to healthy sleep. Mix with water or your favourite juice and drink one hour before bed.

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Jan de Vries Night Essence is a combination of flower essences that help restore inner calm at night, helping you to feel more relaxed and untroubled. The soothing essences include white chestnut, chamomile, yarrow, aspen, walnut, rock rose, agrimony, bluebells, morning glory, and vervain. Mix a few drops of the tincture into a glass of water and drink in the evening. The tincture is suitable for children.

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Irish Botanica Peace & Calm is a traditional herbal remedy that helps relieve the symptoms of mild stress as it aids sleep. The valerian in the tincture helps calm and relax the mind and relieve irritability, anxiety, and nervous tension. Valerian also has a physical and calming, antispasmatic effect on the muscles and helps relieve cramps. There are different dose recommendations depending on the level of difficulty you're facing when trying to get a restful night's sleep.

Shop Irish Botanica Peace & Calm

We’re still not finished

We've seen how gut health directly influences acne in our first post of the series, Acne won’t go away? Let’s talk about gut health...

Coming up in the final post of our natural care for acne series, we’ll look at oral and topical skincare products that fight acne.

When taking a holistic approach to treating acne, take it slow, and remember that you’re not only improving the look of your skin, but you’re increasing the wellness of your entire being, both mind and body. And that’s completely worth the effort!

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