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Adult acne can be the outcome of several different root causes and for most, is NEVER as simple as merely cutting out dairy as we once thought. 

The key to eliminating adult acne is getting to know that root cause inside and out, becoming friends with it and then addressing it from several different angles, rather than just targeting the symptoms. 

Sound complicated? It doesn't have to be and we've made it a little simpler for you. 

Firstly, let's have a look at those common root causes:
Hormonal Imbalances 
  • Overactive 5-alpha reductase pathway, high levels of DHT and testosterone
  • Oestrogen dominance 
  • High cortisol and/ or insulin 
  • Thyroid dysfunction 
  • Post pill hormonal imbalances 
Gut Health 
  • Food sensitivities 
  • Damage to the gut 
  • Poor digestion 
Nutrient Deficiencies 
  • Due to gut damage and poor absorption 
  • Insufficient nutrients in the diet 
  • Consuming too many processed foods that deplete these nutrients
Other Reasons:
  • Reaction to product 
  • Poor hygiene (pillows, towels etc)
  • Reaction to medication 


Address the Hormonal Imbalances 

Potentially the most common root cause of adult acne, addressing a hormonal imbalance will serve you in many ways besides just clearing up your skin. 

From elevated testosterone or DHT, oestrogen dominance or high levels of stress hormones, your hormones work in a type of network with one enough, when one is slightly off, the rest usually follow. 

Balance Blood Sugar 

One of the leaders of the endocrine system and closely linked to the rest of your sex hormones is insulin. Released from the pancreas when glucose hits the bloodstream, insulin’s job is to guide the sugar into your cells, ready to be turned into energy. 

When there is too much glucose in the blood, too often or chronic stress further increases the need for cell fuel, insulin levels increase and long-term can lead to an increase in testosterone, one of the drivers of acne. 

How to Balance Blood Sugar: 
  • Ensure that every single meal is macronutrient balanced and always has a quality protein source, healthy fat and fibre, to balance blood sugar. Then add your mindful, low GI carbohydrates. 
  • Fruit is absolutely still on the table, regardless of a lot of people being cautious about its sugar content. Always pair fruit with fat to ease the release of glucose into the blood, like nut butter or coconut yoghurt.
  • Keep added sweeteners and processed flours to a minimum. Opt for fibrous alternatives such as dates, whole grains and legumes.
  • Opt for an apple cider vinegar tonic before meals and add cinnamon to sweeten up snacks whilst also helping to stabilise blood sugar.
  • Replace sugar with a healthy fat source.
  • Go for a quick walk around the block after dinner. 
  • Try to avoid eating too close to bedtime.

We can also block those unfavourable pathways that hormones (such as testosterone) take to become more potent, done by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. Whilst this isn't exactly addressing the driver of why this is happening, it can be helpful for symptom relief. This is often the case in PCOS, a metabolic endocrine condition in which adult acne is a common symptom.

5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitors:
  • Spearmint tea
  • Green tea
  • Catechins (found in dark chocolate)
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil
  • Saw Palmetto 
  • Zinc
  • Curcumin 
Reduce Stressors

Another dominating hormone is cortisol, one of the major stress hormones. When we continuously find ourselves in that heightened state of fight or flight, cortisol gets pumped out of our adrenal glands and just like insulin, can influence how the rest of our hormones behave. 

Think of it this way, when your body is trying to keep you alive from any stressors, regardless of their origin, your clear skin is the last thing on its list of priorities.

How to Stabilise Cortisol:
  • Have a look at your life and the sources of stress, be it people, deadlines or bills. Think about how you can approach them with minimum stress and anxiety – cut them out, get it done or flip the situation on its head.
  • Consider temporarily substituting hard, high-intensity workouts for lower, slower movement. The latter won’t raise cortisol and drastically as the first.
  • Ensure that your diet isn’t a form of stress on the body. This can be anything from restrictive diets, too many processed foods and not enough of the important nutrients.
  • Make self-care and rest an absolute priority and schedule it into your everyday.
  • Establish a calming morning and evening routine so that you can head into the day or drift off to sleep, in a parasympathetic state.
  • Consider adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha or Rhodiola.
Support Detoxification 

High levels of oestrogen circulating the body in a more potent form can lead to those hormonal breakouts, especially at certain points in your cycles when those levels naturally rise. We want to ensure that we’re sufficiently packaging up those used, metabolised hormones and excreting them so that levels remain balanced and don’t wreak havoc.

How to Support Detoxification and Excretion:
  • Support your liver (the way we package up those hormones, ready for excretion). 
  • Opt for leafy green and cruciferous veg every single day, stay adequately hydrated and avoid liver distractors such as alcohol and processed foods. 
  • Consider supporting supplements such as NAC, glutathione, milk thistle dandelion root and burdock.
  • Support your gut to excrete, through incorporating a variety of different plants and fibrous rich foods.
  • Omit processed, inflammatory foods that feed the bad bacteria.
  • Consider a probiotic supplement and incorporate live foods into your meals
  • Opt for prebiotic fibre, in certain vegetables, or consider adding inulin powder to smoothies.
  • Ensure that you’re going to the toilet. Every. Single. Day! If not, we need to up the fibre.
  • Eat mindfully – away from distractions and never on the go.
  • If nothing else works, consider getting a GI map done and some further testing to check for any deeper issues in the gut.


Address Foods Intolerances and Sensitivities 

Whilst this might seem straight forward, we ultimately want to deep dive into the foods in your diet that could potentially be a trigger for inflammation leading to the acne, without being too restrictive and causing nutrient deficiencies.

We advise that you follow an elimination diet with a trusty nutritionist or health professional who will be able to guide you through the whole thing, but in short, the protocol is as follows:

  1. Outline all the major allergens and foods that appear to be triggers for your acne. These allergens include (dairy, soy, gluten, wheat, eggs, nuts etc) but also foods such as nightshade vegetables, spices and sugars.
  2. Either remove all the allergens and suspected culprits completely or remove individually.
  3. Allow yourself a significant amount of time for your body to adjust (typically 5-6 weeks).
  4. Gradually add back in each food one by one and keep a close eye on any reactions.
  5. If you do react, omit that food from your diet. 

Address the Nutrient Deficiencies 

We always want to start with diet, as supplementation can only go so far. Really ask yourself, are my meals as nutrient-dense as they could be, or is there room for improvement? 

If your diet is up to scratch but you’re still experiencing symptoms and adult acne, is there a reason why these nutrients aren’t doing their job in the body. Think about having a deep dive into gut health and look into the reason why you’re not able to absorb sufficiently.

Here are our favourite ways to up the game when it comes to nutrition and getting in those important vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

  • Aim for at least half of your plate in plants.
  • Aim for a type of leafy green vegetable in every single meal.
  • Keep a bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer, ready to add as a side to your meals. Simply add lemon zest and some extra virgin olive oil and you’re glowing.
  • Add greens and veggies to your smoothies – get creative and try butternut squash, cauliflower, courgette etc.
  • Opt for one portion of colourful, antioxidant-rich berries every day, accompanied by some nut butter or coconut yoghurt. 
  • Opt for wild-caught fish, grass-fed organic meat and pasture-raised eggs where possible.
  • Start reaching for colourful and eat them in abundance.
  • Consider organ meats such as liver or supplement with them.
  • Five a day is not enough in our books, aim for 10+. 
  • Get creative and blitz veggies into dips and spreads, such as beetroot hummus or smash peas into your avocado toast. 
Then, we look into supplementation.

A decent multi-vitamin can act as a nice insurance supplement, a type of top-up on those nutrients you might not be getting throughout the day. Always ensure that you’re not overlapping by supplementing with any other singular mineral or vitamin on top of it, as it may cause harm.  

If you decide not to go down the multi-vitamin root, we’ve outlined a few of the common nutrients associated with acne and skin health. Consider documenting a week’s work of food intake via apps such as Chromometer, which will be able to highlight where your diet is lacking. Furthermore, hair mineral analysis tests are a really insightful way of getting to the bottom of any deficiencies. 


Many believe its best to supplement with a b-complex rather than individual vitamins as they all work rather well together and some alone, in high doses, can be harmful. It's important to be aware of overlaps here too, as too high of a dose, specifically of B12 and b6, could exacerbate acne.

Vitamin A 

You’re most likely familiar with topical retinol, but for some, vitamin A (retinol is its preformed name) can be an important vitamin when it comes to clearing up adult acne. Again, high doses can be harmful, so always best to work with a pro. We like desiccated liver supplements that are naturally rich in vitamin A.


Another one you’ll often hear about in regards to skin health. Zinc stores can become depleted in cases such as vegan diets, the contraceptive pill and chronic stress. Its always advised pairing zinc with copper, as they are antagonists of each other.

Vitamin C

Often only really considered the immune function hero, vitamin C is another vital skincare nutrient. Whilst it is pretty easy to obtain from a healthy diet (think leafy greens, orange veg and citrus fruit), you can also look into supplementation. 

Other Factors to Consider:
  • Change your pillowcase regularly
  • Wash your flannels and face towels after each use 
  • Regularly wash makeup brushes 
  • Clean your photo every single day 
  • Stop touching your face (seriously)
  • Go back to basics with your skincare and slowly add products back in, paying careful attention to any reactions
  • Double cleanse your skin after makeup and SPF
Our Favourite Adult Acne Ingredients:
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Retinol 
  • AHA/BHA 
  • Vitamin C 
  • Niacinamide 
  • Red light therapy 
  • Fragrance 
  • Essential oils
  • Dyes 
  • Harsh physical exfoliants 

glow market and the content provided are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on glow market and The Scoop is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your doctor and/ or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.

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