Why Do We Get Acne?!


January, 2024

Let’s go over the most common types of acne, what the root causes are, and then our functional medicine approach to healing our acne.

There is no one size fits all approach and solution to acne. Each person has different genetic makeup, environment and physiology. However, there ARE overlapping top causes.


So, what exactly happens to our skin to cause acne?

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  1.  Excess oil production
  2. Excess skin proliferation
  3. Clogged hair follicles
  4. Bacterial overgrowth and Fungal overgrowth (Malessezia)

Acne is most prevalent in teenagers (about 85% are affected) because of the big fluctuations of sex hormones during puberty. Some hormonal acne during this time can be normal, but it should not be extreme, painful or long lasting.

Adult acne can also occur (even when you thought you outgrew it, right?)

  1. Hormonal- as seen in cycling women- about 60% of females experience this. Their acne gets worse leading up to their period. They can get cystic and/or inflammatory lesions along the jawline and chin area.
  2. Low grade persistent acne- they break out throughout the month.  Between 40-55% of women ages 20-49 experience this.

The Conventional Approach:

If you’re lucky enough to get an appointment with a dermatologist, they most likely will recommend treatments consisting of of topicals (cleansers, gels, lotions) and oral medications (antibiotics, spironolactone, and isotretinoin).  But keep in mind, they don’t address the ROOT causes and triggers…plus, all oral medications come with side effects. 


We understand that acne is a direct reflection of an imbalance of your body’s systems, including:

  • The gut microbiome
  • The liver’s ability to process toxins and hormones
  • Sex hormone balance 


The Functional Medicine Approach

When it comes to acne, functional medicine aims to identify and address the root causes of skin issues rather than simply prescribing topical or oral medications to manage symptoms.

Here are some key principles of the functional medicine approach to acne:

Dietary Factors:

  • For more than 30 years most Dermatologists told patients that acne is not influenced by what they eat. This is false! It is now widely accepted that diet DOES influence acne.  There are inflammatory pathways that are turned on by the foods we eat.  The most common foods that drive the inflammation pathway are wheat, dairy, and sugar along with processed and junk foods.
  • Assessing and addressing any nutrient deficiencies are also important, as they may contribute to skin issues, such as zinc, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Gut Health:

  • An imbalance in gut bacteria (dysbiosis) can contribute to inflammation and skin problems. And a poor diet makes the gut health WORSE, so it becomes a vicious cycle. Probiotics and dietary changes may be recommended to support a healthy gut.

Hormonal Balance:

  • Functional medicine practitioners often evaluate hormonal balance, as hormonal fluctuations can contribute to acne, especially in conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Liver Detoxification:

The liver plays a key role in detoxification. When detox pathways are “clogged up” so to speak by chemical exposure, poor food, poor digestion and more, then it causes stress and inflammation in the body.

That stress and toxin build up in the liver can start to manifest through the skin, like with acne breakouts.

  • Supporting liver function through a healthy diet, proper hydration, and specific nutrients can aid in eliminating toxins that may contribute to skin issues.
  • Lifestyle Factors:

Chronic Stress:

Stress will impact hormonal levels wihich can contribute to skin issues. Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, and adequate sleep, may be incorporated to help with skin health.

Physical Activity: Regular exercise can help improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and support overall health, including skin health. Did you know sweat is a natural way our body detoxifies? The movement and blood flow is needed for removing toxins and clearing out the skin.

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Above all, Functional Medicine always uses a personalized approach. We use specific testing (like looking at nutritional deficiencies and gut health) to determine exactly what the best course of action is.

Where to Start

If you’re looking for foundational tips on how to improve your acne, then start here:

    • Prioritize a diet low in sugar, dairy, gluten and other inflammatory foods & ingredients
    • Stay well hydrated! Drink at least half of your bodyweight in ounces of water per day
    • Prioritize healthy sleep and night routine
    • Start managing your stress load better
    • Look at the ingredients in your products (cleaning, personal care, skin and beauty) to cut back on exposure to harsh chemicals and toxins
    • Get moving: Make it a point to schedule in your exercise and get daily physical activity
    • Get tested; find out what your body needs specifically in order to heal.
If you’re curious of how to get rid of your skin issues once and for all, please reach out to our office at whisperhealthnow@gmail.com to set up a complimentary call with me.