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The underestimated key part of acne: The Lymphatic System

Acne is not straight forward and if you suffer from adult acne you know this! The main causes of acne are often preached to be your facial products, poor diet and gut health. But what if you dealt with all of this and you still aren't getting answers?! That’s because something else is going on.

The body is very complex and here is a reason that could be your missing key – the lymphatic system!

(I could talk forever on this topic so bear with me, there is a lot to get through)

What is the lymphatic system?

It is a network of little vessels that lay just under the skin. Its main function is to transport lymph (a clear fluid containing white blood cells) collected from the blood stream, cells and tissues. It also absorbs fats from the digestive tract and protects the body against foreign invaders.

The big difference between the lymphatic system and the circulatory system is that the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump, so it moves with you and only when you do. Therefore, it can get clogged and not drain properly leading to lymphatic system issues.

Toxins, toxic waste & clogged lymphatic system

A key organ in your lymphatic system is the liver. Your liver is responsible for cleaning toxins from the blood, regulating hormone production, and assisting the immune and drainage systems.

These days toxins are everywhere around us and often too much for the body to be able to process, even when the liver and the lymphatic system are working optimally. Toxins are not only alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine but also derived from stress, pollution, beauty products, cleaning products, pharmaceutical medications, artificial food flavouring, plastic bottles, microwaves, pesticide, herbicides just as a minimum.

The quickest way for the liver to remove these toxins is through the lymphatic system via the skin as it can easily escape through your sweat. When your body sweats, the toxins can often build up in the skin and mix with the natural oils of your skin (sebum) which can cause a buildup and, result in an acne flare up.

If your detoxification pathways, especially your liver, aren't optimized- you can do all the protocols and take all the supplements and may actually feel worse NOT better. This is a big reason why- you need to make sure that your detoxification pathways are open and functioning optimally FIRST!

Detoxification & Acne

You must understand that in order for the body to get rid of acne it might get worse before it gets better! And the only way is through. As we have seen the toxins must go and when detoxing this can make it worse because they have to get out of the body somehow. Break outs are very common when detoxifying which means its WORKING!

Signs your lymphatic system might not be working correctly

So how do you know it is a toxin and lymphatic system issue? Well, you might also have some of these other symptoms:

  • Swelling, in particular in the ankles – you can often see this on planes or when you wear tight shoes and they leave a mark

  • Bloating, constipation

  • Unable to lose weight

  • Itchy skin

  • Sore breasts with menstrual cycle

  • Bags under the eyes

  • Swollen tonsils

  • Headaches, brain fog

  • Lack of energy / fatigue

  • Recurrent sore throats

How to stimulate the lymphatic system and prevent acne

Relax your jaw

Excessive muscle contraction can lead to tightness in all of the tissues, restricting the flow of lymph and leading to stagnation.

Herbal tea

There are herbal teas that increase lymphatic action such as red clover, astragalus, goldenseal, fenugreek, ginger and olive leaf tea. Teas are most effective if you drink several cups over the course of the day.

Clean up your skin care products & makeup

Your skin is the largest organ of elimination and absorption—80% of what goes on your body is absorbed through the skin. Your skin care products can contain ingredients which are toxic and increase your toxic load. There is a new app called “Think Dirty” which exposes the ingredients in your products. This app is based in the US and therefore, doesn’t have all the products in the UK but hopefully it will expand.

In the UK the best places to buy non-toxic skin care products include the following:

Identifying toxins and detoxifying

Work on detoxing diet and lifestyle toxins, cleaning out the liver. Detox protocols can be very powerful when it comes to acne. Find a specific detox protocol to assist with this, I prepare detox protocols or there are other options on the internet. The focus must be on increasing fruits and vegetables, herbal preparations can also help.

Gua Sha

Use a Gua Sha tool every morning on your face. Gua sha works with the epidermis and dermal layers and therefore, has the potential to help clear chronic blackheads, whiteheads, and prevent hormonal breakouts. Sometimes when you start using it you may find breakouts occur as the toxins below the surface come out, but don’t stop it your skin will be grateful afterwards.

Clean diet

Eat Clean! We all know what this means by now, decreasing processed foods, removing junk foods. Acne has also been seen to be caused by high dairy intake and sometimes gluten.


Getting a cardiovascular workout for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week, can be very supportive to the lymphatic system by helping to stimulate movement in stagnant fluids. Muscle activity plays a role in bringing lymph back to the drainage points. Therefore, if you sit all day for your job this can be a big problem.


Dehydration is a common cause of lymph congestion. Lymph becomes thicker when you are dehydrated, but flows well when hydrated. Water can adequately rehydrate the body and get the lymph moving.

Infrared Sauna

Infrared saunas provide a gentle, side-effect-free, effective mechanism for detoxification. Their waves penetrate deep into the human body, elevating the temperature, activating circulation, sweating and excretion of toxins from the lymph and blood through the skin.

To conclude, acne is not straight forward, the lymphatic system can play an important part in this. Don’t ignore the symptoms your body is trying to tell you something!

When I make a personalized protocol for a client, I take a full case history to understand what is happening in the body and which systems aren’t working optimally, in particular the detoxification pathways. These are critical to be addressed as a matter of priority because any protocols, supplements etc will not work if the detoxification pathways are blocked. Nutritionists can help you solve this as they look at the body as a whole and address the root causes.

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