What’s The Difference Between Eczema And Cystic Acne, And What Are The Solutions?

Our resident naturopath and kinesiologist—Georgia Kilpatrick—shows us the differences between cystic acne and eczema, what they have in common, and what you can do to start loving the skin you’re in.

Toxin release via the skin

I was reminded recently by an old colleague and uni pal—you know who you are Adrian Harper—that in Naturopathic understanding, the skin is known as the 3rd kidney.

Both the liver and the kidneys break down toxins and compounds within the body to be thrown out with the body’s waste products. However, if they’re not keeping up with their daily to-do lists, then the next pathway to throw out toxins is the skin and the lungs. This means that when toxins are excreted through the skin, they can cause inflammation that agitates the skin as they pass through the layers. For different people, this can cause different challenges.

Don’t get grossed out, but…

Our skin has millions of microbes on it. These microbes include bacteria such as staph, fungal spores, and viruses. If the skin is healthy, then these microbes are not harmful. If the skin’s protective barrier is compromised, then infections have a way in and can start to grow.

Eczema – inflammation weakens the skin

Therefore, if toxins coming out through the skin are causing some inflammation, these inflammatory spots weaken the skin in that area against opportunistic microbes such as staph and ringworm. These are the two infections that are commonly associated with conditions termed as eczema.

Eczema usually has a whole lot more going on internally including internal gut health which leads to absorption issues and inflammation, as well as the presence of allergies (see my Eczema case study here for more info on this).

Cystic Acne

Another common skin condition I often see in clinic is cystic acne. This is deep acne usually around the cheeks, along the hairline, and can also be along the jawline, down the neck, and even down the back. It can be very uncomfortable and as an adult experiencing cystic acne it can undermine self-confidence, especially on the professional and social sides of life.

Humidity as an aggravator

Cystic acne and eczema are often agitated by humid weather. Our skin is a barrier for the outside environment as well as an inbuilt cooling system.

Humid weather can hinder the water-cooling system on our skin. That is, to cool down, we rely on the sweat glands releasing sweat to evaporate off the surface of the skin, which in turn cools the skin and body down. When it is more humid, there is less evaporation from the skin. This slows down the movement of fluid throughout the body, making more work for the kidneys to filter the fluid, and leaving the waste products stagnant for longer, causing increased inflammation.

Oil production as a cause of acne

The most common underlying cause of cystic acne is an increase of oil production released in the sebum through the skin pores. When the oily sebum gets trapped and clogged in the pores through the skin for too long, secondary infections start. Hence, acne and the bigger infections known as cystic acne.

Both eczema and cystic acne have staph infections in common.

Although cystic acne is a different presentation to eczema, it is the opportunistic secondary infection causing a lot of the discomfort. There can often be other microbes such as fungal spores adding to the infections also.

Is topical treatment enough?

It is not enough to treat the infection topically, because in both of these types of infections, the underlying causes come from internal clearance issues.

The increased oil production through the skin is often due to hormones not being broken down and excreted properly through the liver, which is over flowing to the skin through the lymphatic system. This will slow down in hot and humid weather also, causing more congestion through the skin, and increasing the likelihood of infection and acne.

What you eat is important

There are some foods which commonly affect both eczema and cystic-acne conditions. The big three are:

  • Sugar
  • Gluten
  • Dairy

Of course, this depends on the person and how inflamed the whole system is at the time. Some people only have to remove two out of three!

Kinesiology balances

After the initial assessments, other foods can also play a factor, again depending on the person. What I’ve seen in clinic often is the person needs to eat really cleanly and do a naturopathic detox for at least 6-8 weeks, plus the kinesiology detox balances to really allow the body to do a full clean (see my blog post about detoxing with kinesiology here).

Depending on the severity of the case, follow-up kinesiology balances are usually 2-3 weeks apart for 2-3 months. Through this time, we start to see less flare ups and reduced severity. A pattern also becomes clear as to what the flares are in reaction to. This makes it easier to understand what the body needs less of in diet and lifestyle.

If I stop eating my favourite food, will I ever be able to eat it again?

This is a question we all ask when changing our eating habits.

After a period of time where the flares have been minimal and understanding why and what to do about them, we can start reintroducing some of the eliminated foods. However, it really does depend on the person’s individual make up, their lifestyle and environmental factors, and how frequently and how much the body can tolerate of the reactive foods. This is where muscle testing with kinesiology comes in handy to give an indication of how much is too much.

Empowerment and knowledge leads to happiness

What I see more and more from this whole process ends up being an empowered and happy individual. That is, the process gives you an understanding of what works for your body, what foods to eat or avoid when you’re busy and stressed, what lifestyle protocols to put in place, how much you can have of what and when, and what you can do to calm down any flare ups you may have.

Feel free to come visit me in clinic for a consult so we can get you on the path to wellness. You can book online here. Georgia x