Acne has many triggers and drivers. Your immune system isn’t always the most obvious cause, but it can both instigate and spread acne.
It usually begins with hormones
Hormones can cause changes in sebum levels, the oil naturally produced by the skin. This initiates an inflammatory response before any visible “pimples” can be seen. Hormones called androgens are the most common trigger for changes in sebum production. Additionally, another hormone called insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF1) can also be responsible for the development of acne. IGF1 is believed to be a significant driver of acne development during puberty. IGF1 levels naturally increase at this stage of life, and can be further increased by consumption of high glycaemic index foods typical of the modern western diet.
The role of inflammation
Inflammation is where the immune system comes in. Inflammation causes immune involvement as it is a sign that repair of some form is required. There is a commensal bacteria found on the skin called Cutibacterum acnes (C. acnes). Commensal means that it is part of the normal microbiome of the skin. When hormonal drivers initiate sebum changes, this bacteria can flourish into higher numbers and drive inflammation and presentation of comedones (pimples). High numbers of this C. acnes bacteria initiates an inflammatory immune response which drives the physical changes of acne such as the breakdown of tissue, and formation of scars.
C. acnes also can cause the sebum oils to change into inflammatory fatty acids, further contributing to inflammation within the layers of the skin.
Ways to combat an inflammatory immune response:
Ensuring you have a diet abundant in vitamins A, C, E and selenium. These antioxidants combat oxidative stress at a cellular level, and will help neutralise some of the inflammation.
Limiting your intake of highly processed carbohydrate foods. Consuming a western diet high in processed carbs and sugary foods can increase your IGF1 levels, leading to changes in sebum production.
Identify any dietary intolerances that may be driving an immune response stemming from your digestive tract! There is a huge relationship between the gut and the skin, I will do another blog on that soon.
Manage stress. Stress has its own effect on the immune system. Stress can drive inflammation, as well as reduce your ability to fight infections.
For me, a combination of food triggers, gut health and stress were the drivers of my acne experience. You can read about it here.
Want to work on your skin? Book a consult with me and lets get started.