Acne is a common skin issue that many people struggle with. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association “Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually.”
It occurs when hair follicles under the skin become clogged by oil and dead skin cells. Sebum, the oil our skin produces helps to prevent skin from becoming too dry. The pores of our skin can get clogged with sebum, as well as dead skin cells, and can lead to outbreaks—what we call pimples or zits.
While acne appears to be merely an issue with the skin, there is more to the picture. It is actually an expression of a deeper cause—an underlying imbalance in our digestive or hormonal health.
Gut Health, Liver Health and Acne
When you have an issue in your gut, it can lead to issues with your skin, read more about this connection in our gut health skin connection blog. Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, for example is a common digestive issue that can create an autoimmune response that may result in breakouts and rashes on the surface of the skin.
Many people think of “the gut” as being only the stomach or intestines. The term “gut” actually refers to the entire gastrointestinal tract and the organs involved in the process of digestion—and the liver is a very important part of the digestive system.
In fact, the liver is an important part of your entire body, and is by far the hardest working organ performing more than 500 tasks on a daily basis. Among these hundreds of jobs, the liver filters and neutralizes the toxins that you ingest, it constantly produces bile—which is a chemical that helps turn fats into energy and is a necessary part of the digestive process, it also produces cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body.
As you can see, the liver is an important organ. Therefore, the health of the liver is essential to the health of our entire body, and when the liver isn’t functioning properly, it creates a cascade of effects that can lead to numerous issues and conditions—including acne.
When the liver is overloaded with toxins, alcohol, hormones, or inflammatory byproducts it can result in skin conditions such like acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. Poor liver function, or liver disease and acne have a strong connection.
Liver Acne Connections
Acne and liver health have a strong connection. Acne can certainly be a result of not exfoliating your skin, as it the dead skin cells can clog your pores and lead to breakouts. It can also be caused by hormonal imbalances that lead to excess oil (sebum) production. When this oil mixes with dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells, it can lead to clogged pores and acne.
In many cases, however, acne is caused by poor digestive health and poor liver health (which is part of the digestive system).
If your liver is congested it can’t breakdown toxins efficiently, allowing them to build up. When this happens, your body will try to flush these toxins out in other ways, such as through your sweat. When toxins are expelled through your pores, they can irritate your skin, cause inflammation, and lead to breakouts.
When your liver can’t filter your blood properly, the toxins in your blood—such as pesticides, chemicals, drugs, alcohol, environmental pollutants—are distributed throughout your body to your tissues and organs, including your skin (which is your body’s largest organ).
Your liver also plays a key role in breaking down fat through the production of bile. Bile is a fluid that is made and released by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed by the body in the digestive tract.
When liver function is impaired, these fats aren’t broken down efficiently and instead float around in your bloodstream. The sebaceous glands, which are the sebum producing glands in your skin, will often try to compensate for this extra fat in the blood and attempt to make use of them. However, using these fats to produce sebum can actually the natural oils on your skin because they commonly contain inflammatory toxins.
This will largely be determined by the quality of the fats that you are consuming. If your diet contains a large amount of fats from rancid oils (like industrial vegetable oils i.e. canola oil, sunflower oil), fried foods, margarine and other similar foods, it will likely lead to breakouts—hence the old saying that “greasy foods cause acne.”
It is the poor quality of fats in your bloodstream unable to be processed by your liver, and therefore being released by your sebaceous glands, mixing with your skin’s natural oils, and leading to breakouts.
This is why liver disease and acne typically go hand in hand. Unfortunately, though, many people are uneducated about the liver and don’t know how to care for it or restore it to health when it is damaged. But the liver has the incredible ability to regenerate itself if given the right nutrients to do so, and if it is not being constantly burdened with toxins.
Additionally, when one is cleansing the liver they may experience liver detox acne as a cleansing reaction. Liver detox acne is essentially caused by toxins being released in the bloodstream that may result as breakouts in the skin.
Traditional Chinese Medicine’s View of Liver and Acne Connection
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acne is not considered a single condition, but the outcome of a range of different patterns of imbalance in the body. Therefore, the treatment of acne is approached in different ways depending on the individual’s unique patterns.
This traditional approach to acne tries to look at what acne means. Instead of just seeing all acne as a sign of dirt and bacteria trapped in the pores, they observe the face and think "what does your acne mean? why do you have acne in one spot and not another?" And they actually have a face map for acne that has developed over the years suggesting why one has acne in one area and not the other.
Without going into too much detail about Traditional Chinese Medicine or the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to acne, it is often said that acne is caused by a build-up of “excess heat.” An excess of heat can build-up due to an unbalanced diet, a hyperactive lifestyle, emotions like anger, and other lifestyle factors.
In TCM, they actually say that anger is stored in the liver, and that this heat energy of anger can lead to poor liver function, which in turn can cause heat to get trapped in the blood. Since the blood nourishes the skin, this heat energy will be released through the skin and lead to breakouts.
Pretty interesting, huh? This ancient view of acne, which is over 2,000 years old, is not far off from modern medicine’s understanding. Except, instead of saying that toxins affect the liver, get in the bloodstream, and are released through the skin, they say that it is “heat” or “heat energy.”
They also add an emotional component to it that is not typically addressed in modern medicine.
How to Improve Liver Health
A good skin-care routine is important for preventing acne. However, equally important (if not more important) is a good liver-care routine. Really, a whole gut-care routine is essential, as the liver is a part of the digestive system.
There are ways to improve liver health, and in doing so, to help heal your acne. Some of the best ways that you can care for the liver:
- Lower your toxic load. We all have a toxic load, which refers to the amount of toxins in the body at any given time. ALL of these toxins have to be processed by the liver, which is why a diet or lifestyle that exposes you to high amounts of toxins can easily overburden your liver. Toxins are in so many things, they can be hard to avoid. They are in processed foods, foods grown with pesticides, tap water and bottled water, cleaning products, detergents, hygiene products, personal care and cosmetic products, paint, cookware, exhaust fumes, and so much more. To best care for your liver, and health in general, try to avoid exposure to toxins by eating organic foods, filtering your water, getting an in-home air filter, using non-toxic cookware, and using natural cleaning and personal care items.
- Drink plenty of good quality water. Water is essential for life and essential for your health. Water helps to flush toxins from the liver and keep all your organs (including the liver) functioning.
- Eat liver supporting foods. Certain foods have compounds in them that are known to support liver health. Apples, asparagus, dandelion greens, dragon fruit (pitaya), berries, olive oil, almonds, and leafy greens are among the top liver-supporting foods. A high-fiber diet is also good for liver health. Read this blog about the best superfoods for detoxification to learn more.
- Manage your stress levels. Stress is extremely hard on the body. Whether it is psychological stress and tension, or the stress caused from lack of sleep or overworking, it can be detrimental to your health—especially when prolonged. Make self-care a priority, get good rest, and make time for relaxation.
- Exercise is important for many body functions. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers stress, and helps improve digestion. Aim to move your body each day to support your liver and your body overall.
Cleanse & Regenerate Your Liver
One way to cleanse your liver and help to improve liver function is through the use of key clinically-studied herbs. Our Liver Detox & Support Tonic contains a synergistic blend of herbs that have been clinically studied for supporting the natural detoxification and removal of built up toxins in the liver, rebuilding damaged liver tissue, and supporting overall liver function.
Our formula also uses a therapeutic extraction process that is able to concentrate the active ingredients into a therapeutic liquid extract that is significantly more potent than regular tea powders or capsules. The herbs in this formula are also completely water soluble, so they’re absorbed immediately in the bloodstream and not in the digestive tract, allowing them to begin working instantly.
Milk thistle, one key herb in our formula contains a high amount of silymarin, a compound with antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties known to improve liver health. Studies have shown that milk thistle helps protect the liver from toxins and improves liver function in people with liver diseases.
Olive leaf helps remove bad cholesterol, protect the digestive tract, and neutralizes the toxic effects of alcohol. Agrimony is a bitter herb that helps regulate liver and gallbladder function. Chamomile’s sesquiterpene lactone content helps the liver prime its detoxification pathways. Red rooibos increases the levels of antioxidants in the liver and can help regulate liver enzymes. Burdock root helps to reverse liver damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Burdock is also well-known for its blood-purifying properties, which can support the liver in one of its primary roles of removing toxins from the blood. And pau d'arco lowers inflammation and kills liver fluke parasites.
Together, these herbs have a synergistic effect and function as a potent and effective liver detoxification and regeneration formula. All of the herbs used in our formula are either biodynamic, organic, or wildcrafted, and are always sustainably sourced.
Liver-supporting herbs can make a big difference in your liver health, and therefore in your acne. Since liver and acne are often so commonly linked, a holistic approach of improving gut health and liver health, maintaining hormonal balance, as well as topically addressing the skin is a well-rounded approach for successfully healing acne.