What is Acne?

Contrary to popular belief acne is actually a genetic condition called retention hyperkeratosis. Here’s what that means:

Every day a layer of dead skin cells is shed inside the pore. In a normal, healthy pore these dead skin cells are pushed from behind by newer cells rising to the skin’s surface, then flake off. However, in people with acne, this continuous shedding process goes haywire.

Acne-prone skin produces up to 5x more dead skin cells than normal

These excess dead cells stay stuck on the skin’s surface and clog your pores. The resulting plug (known as a microcomedones), when mixed with the oil on your skin forms a blackhead.

When infected with bacteria, this microcomedone forms a blemish.

Acne Lesion

Acne Lesion

Because acne is a genetic condition, you’re always going to be susceptible to breakouts. Even after clearing your skin you have to keep up a maintenance regimen and vigilantly keep your acne triggers at bay.

The good news is that staying clear is a lot easier once you know how to avoid what’s triggering your acne in the first place.

First, let’s blast away some of the most common acne myths.

Myth #1: Washing Your Face Several Times a Day Prevents Breakouts

FACT: Of course you want to keep your face clean. But too much of a good thing will make your acne worse. That’s because washing too often will most likely just irritate and dehydrate your skin.

Dry skin causes more dead skin cells to flake off and accumulate on your skin. Which leads to more breakouts! Washing your face twice a day, in the morning and at night, is sufficient.

Myth #2: Acne is caused by dirt on your skin

FACT: Contrary to popular belief, acne formation has little to do with dirt and oil on the surface of the skin. Acne is an “inside job.” It starts to form deep within the layers of your skin.

So you have to use products that not only clear acne on the surface, but are able to penetrate into your skin to treat acne that’s starting to form. Products like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid treat surface breakdown and also have the ability to penetrate your pores and slow down excessive cell turnover.

Myth #3: Acne is caused by candy, chocolate and French fries

FACT: Yes, research does show that sugar and fast food can make acne worse. But it’s not the root cause of your acne! If this were the case, everyone who consumed sugar and fried foods would have terrible skin.

However, there are foods that do trigger acne—and some of them are so-called “healthy” choices. You’ll learn what they are in a moment.

Myth #4: You should spot treat zits with benzoyl peroxide

FACT: When you use benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid to spot treat your breakouts, you’re not treating the microcomedones –the future acne lesions—that are starting to form underneath the skin.

Benzoyl peroxide is best used as an all-over treatment because it will penetrate through the surface of the skin and kill the microcomedone.

Myth #5: birth control pills cure acne

Birth control pills, IUDs, implants, and shots are widely used today and prescribed often as a means to control acne. These contraceptives contain a combination of progestin and estrogen which helps create a stable environment for your skin, so it does help calm down acne for some people.

But many times, these contraceptives have the opposite effect: they may cause weight gain, mood swings and acne!

Consult with your doctor to see which contraceptives can help give you the birth control you need without causing any acne breakouts.

Four pesky hidden triggers wreaking havoc with your skin

Now that we’ve gotten acne myths out of the way, let’s take a look at the major triggers that cause your acne. Most people have more than one acne trigger. Some have all four!

Know these, and you’ve already taken a giant step toward getting clear.

Acne Trigger #1. Hormone imbalances

It probably doesn’t come as much surprise that hormones have a major role in the development of acne. Pregnancy, stress, menopause and going on or coming off of birth control can all trigger hormonal acne.

Hormonal acne is caused by androgen hormones. Androgens are considered “male hormones”, but they are present in women, too. The most common androgens are testosterone and its breakdown product dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Androgens bind to oil glands in the skin, telling the oil gland to produce more sebum. This excess oil combines with dead skin cells, debris, and bacteria and causes pimples to form.

Hormonal acne appears on the jawline, chin or lower cheek in females and on the back and shoulders for males. It often looks red and inflamed and cause some amount of pain.

One way to reduce hormonal acne is by eating a lot of fresh foods and vegetables and avoiding foods like cow’s milk and soy.

Many women have also seen great success with a herb called Chaste Berry Vitex. Research shows that vitex can support healthy hormone levels and be an effective natural treatment for hormonal acne.

Acne Trigger #2: Diet

Diet is a huge acne trigger. But the “bad” foods aren’t chocolate, hot dogs and junk food like you’ve been told. In fact, some of the biggest acne no-no’s are actually considered “healthy”!

So if you and your skin are waging a constant battle, some of the foods you should stay away from include:

    • Iodized salt (but sea salt is fine)

    • Dairy (especially cow’s milk)

    • Shellfish and sushi

    • Soy

    • Seaweed

    • Protein bars

    • Peanuts, peanut butter, canola oil

Some signs that your skin is affected by diet includes breakouts on your cheeks, or you notice some red/inflamed breakouts within 24 to 48 hours after eating acne triggering food.

Acne Trigger #3: Gut imbalance

Did you know that the health of your intestinal tract is linked to the health of your skin?Poor gut health not only causes digestive problems, but it also increases inflammation.The more inflammation in your body, the worse your acne becomes.

If your acne is primarily along the cheekbones and if you regularly have constipation, bloating or other digestive issues, chances are you have a gut imbalance.

A high-potency probiotic supplement can help re-establish healthy intestinal balance and eradicate acne and digestive problems at the same time.

Acne Trigger #4: Stress

It probably comes as no surprise that stress is a common acne trigger. There is a lot of research showing a direct relationship between stress and the health of your skin.

So why does stress make you break out?

The reason is that stress activates the adrenal glands to produce extra androgen hormones, like testosterone. And as we’ve seen higher levels of androgens put oil production into overdrive. This additional oil combines with the bacteria in your skin to clog pores–and voila! A pimple forms.

Plus, when you are under a lot of stress your adrenal glands start releasing high amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone that is also acne triggering.

If you get new breakouts 24-48 hours after a high-stress event – such as problems at work or school, moving, or emotional distress – stress is probably your main acne trigger. Not getting enough sleep also makes stress acne worse.

How can you alleviate stress-induced acne? We recommend an Adrenal Stress Formula supplement to support your Adrenal glands and prevent an overrun of cortisol.

I also recommend that you incorporate some form of stress-reduction, like restorative yoga, or mindfulness meditation. Even drinking herbal tea can help!

These primary acne triggers – hormones, gut imbalance, stress and diet – are having a field day with your skin. Once you pinpoint and eliminate your personal acne triggers and instigators, you can begin to heal your skin and control your acne.

Do you know YOUR primary acne cause? Still struggling with an unsure self-diagnosis?

We created a short quiz to help you Discover YOUR Acne Cause

Take The Quiz

Why the “FAILS” aren’t your fault

Plus, there’s another big piece to the acne puzzle that you may not know about. And it’s essential to helping you get clear – and stay that way!

First, avoid pore-clogging ingredients in your skin care

Did you know there are more than 125 known pore-clogging ingredients commonly found inside topical acne care, skincare, and beauty products?

    • For example, olive oil and coconut oil are popular choices in skincare formulations. They have wonderful moisturizing and hydration benefits. But they are terrible for acne-prone skin!

    • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and its chemical cousin, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are present in most shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and body washes. While the lather they produce may feel like a treat when you’re showering, the chemical-infused suds are clogging your acne-prone pores.

    • Meanwhile, Seaweed extracts are used as cleansing and exfoliating agents in face masks, body scrubs, and more. But these so-called healthy extracts penetrate your pores and actually accelerate the growth of microcomedones, or pre-acne.

Seaweed extracts are also high in iodides, which can irritate pores, and even trigger inflammation and the formation of pustules.

And did you know that your skin adapts to ANY skincare regimen within 2 to 3 weeks?

Have you ever noticed that acne creams, antibiotics, and other prescriptions you take seem great for a while, then stop working? It’s not you, you didn’t do anything wrong.It’s just that your skin has adjusted and become ‘tolerant’ to the product.


Just like your muscles adapt to a new routine within a few weeks and stop improving, your skin will adapt to a new acne clearing regimen after 2 or 3 weeks and stop responding.

Keep switching it up!

It’s a good idea to change up your skincare routine. Every 2-3 weeks your skin adapts to your current routine and stops responding, aka clearing!

You do this by either using increased concentrations of your existing acne products, varying the frequency or even introducing new products altogether.

And use your acne products daily on your FULL FACE or LARGE AREAS (such as your forehead, chin or back) – even when you’re NOT breaking out.

That way, pre-acne lurking deeper in the skin can be “dissolved” before it surfaces. And you can help prevent new acne from forming in the first place

This is the secret to clearing, not clogging!

The best way to treat acne is with a holistic, whole-body approach. You have to treat your acne from the inside out and the outside in. Acne can’t be cured, it can only be kept at bay with the right products, regimens and lifestyle habits.

Your acne is as unique as you. That’s why a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work

A one-hit wonder potion or drug can’t possibly address multiple, direct attacks on your skin. They’re not designed that way. Plus, everyone’s acne is different. What causes acne in one person may not be a problem for someone else.

At Natural Acne Clinic, our expert Clear Skin Coaches guide our clients every step of the way – hand-selecting products and regimens based on their unique blend of acne triggers – to keep them safe, confident, and clearing through their 90-day “break the acne cycle” journey.


Ready to clear your acne once and for all? We can help.

From our experience treating thousands of clients, acne usually appears to be triggered by a combination of issues, rather than one. That’s why a typical one-size-fits-all approach rarely works when it comes to clearing and controlling acne over the long run.

If you have tried it all and still have acne, our comprehensive 16-week Online Acne Program is the answer. Our Online Acne Program has a 95% success rate helping thousands of clients get clear. We can help you too!

Get started on your journey to clear by booking an Online Acne Consult today.


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About the Founder: Jessica Gremley

Jessica has been a Medical Esthetician, Certified Acne Specialist and Healing Diets Coach since 2003. After struggling with acne for more than a decade, she became determined to find a way to clear acne without pharmaceuticals for herself and eventually, future clients. Today, she offers a complete acne regimen that combines proven non-comedogenic skincare products, natural supplements, lifestyle coaching, and support from trained acne specialists to achieve lifelong clear skin. She and her staff serve locally at Natural Acne Clinic in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and nationally via NAC’s Online Acne Program.

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