I sometimes forget that when people stumble across this site looking to get rid of their acne, they are going to be coming from all different backgrounds. Some will know everything there is to know about whole foods, natural health, and alternative medicine. Some won’t know a multivitamin from an aspirin.

I’ve decided a glossary would be helpful to those newbies who don’t know what’s going on when they stumble in here and Im going off about quinoa, kefir, and kale. It’s okay! We all have to start somewhere, and that somewhere can be right here.

Without further adieu, The Love Vitamin’s glossary of “holistic acne” lingo:


I use the term “healthy lifestyle” a lot to describe the reason behind why we get acne. When I say this, I’m referring to the quality of food you eat, the amount of exercise you get, how your emotional health is, the quality of sleep you get, and how much sunshine and fresh air you receive. Together these make up your “lifestyle”. My goal at the Love Vitamin is to get you to improve your lifestyle to bring your body back into a place of balance where it can heal itself and your acne.

The Root Cause of Acne

When I talk about the root cause of acne, I’m referring to the specific thing in your body that went wrong, which then affected every body process that relied on it, which then affected the next set of processes, until it eventually affected your skin and resulted in you having acne. The root cause is usually either digestion and diet related or stress and emotions based. Or both.


Digestion is how your body breaks down your food, absorbs the nutrients, and moves the waste along through your intestines. Since a functioning digestive system is how our body and skin obtain all the nutrients we need for health, if your digestion is poor, it can and definitely does lead to acne. 

Emotional Health

When I refer to emotional health, I’m referring to how you deal with stress, how you have dealt with past traumas and hardships, and how you feel about yourself. Your self esteem is a major part of having good emotional health. Emotional health is another major root cause of acne because it wears your body down and constantly releases cortisol, a hormone that can be responsible for acne.


Holistic means whole, or concerned with wholes rather than analysis or separation into parts. So holistic medicine is about treating the whole body as a means for the body to heal itself from what ails it, instead of isolating the affliction/body part/body system and only treating that. Western medicine and the medical system are not holistic systems, because they do not treat the whole person.


A doctor who focuses on holistic medicine, and treats the whole person with natural means such as lifestyle changes and supplements as opposed to pharmaceutical drugs.


Inflammation is a normal, healthy reaction by your immune system to a cut, wound, or injury. Redness, swelling, and heat – the characteristic signs of inflammation – are signs that your immune system is attempting to heal you. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles have thrown our bodies off balance and created a state of chronic hyper inflammation where your body inflames basically everything at the drop of a hat. This isn’t a normal or healthy response and  this is why a clogged pore can easily result in an inflamed pimple.

Blood Sugar

When you eat food, everything gets broken down and converted to something called glucose, which is fuel for all the cells in the body. Only a carefully regulated amount can circulate in the bloodstream at one time, and this is controlled by the pancreas and adrenals. Certain food, such as processed foods, enter the bloodstream as glucose too quickly and everything gets crazy. In response to this, your pancreas and adrenals pump out hormones that cause acne. So basically, we want to make sure we eat foods that do not cause blood sugar spikes.


A nutritional supplement is something added to complete the diet, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole. It is best to get all your nutrients and everything you need from whole foods, because your body can better absorb everything it needs when nutrients are in the exact right proportion that they are found in nature. Taking too many single nutrient supplements can actually cause more imbalances in your body and nutritional supplements are NEVER to be a replacement for a wholesome diet. However, whole food supplements such as herbs and whole food extracts can be helpful since most people do not get enough nutrients in their diets.


The natural oil that your skin produces. Not so good if your skin produces too much of it, as it mixes with dead skin cells, clogs your pores, and that can lead to inflammation. However, you don’t want too little or your skin dries out and that is not good for acne either. A right amount of sebum gives you a beautiful healthy glow.

Oils for use in Skin Care

Oils are actually the best thing you can use on your face. It tricks your skin into thinking you have produced enough sebum already and prevents overproduction. If you have dry skin, it is a brilliant moisturizer. Oil dissolves oil, so it also dissolves hardened plugs in the skin and unclogs your pores. Don’t be afraid of oils for the skin!

Jojoba Oil

Cold-pressed organic jojoba oil is my preferred oil because it is the most molecularly similar to our skin’s own sebum. I use as a makeup remover, cleanser, and moisturizer all in one.

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is a special antibacterial honey from New Zealand which has many magical properties. It is AMAZING to use as a face wash (in my opinion) and daily face mask. I use it every day.

Whole Foods

Whole foods are foods are in the form that they were in when they came from nature. In other words, they are not stripped of their nutrients, or have food additives, dyes, sugars, or preservatives. Whole foods are full of nutrients essental to beautiful skin and generally do not cause blood sugar swings.

Refined and Processed Foods

Often comes in a packet, box, or tin and has a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. It is food that is altered in some way – stripped of its nutrients, pasteurized, or has added oils, sugars, and dyes (basically the opposite of whole foods). Refined foods include white bread, white rice, industrial seeds oils, and basically everything in the centre aisles of the grocery store.


Proper digestion is very important to healing acne, and proper digestion is dependent on your intestines having the right balance of bacteria. There is good and bad bacteria in there, and the good bacteria is often referred to as “probiotics”.

Fermented Foods

Fermentation is when a food has been altered via the work of beneficial bacteria and yeast cultures. Fermented foods, providing they aren’t pasteurized afterward, are full of probiotics that can help you with your digestion.


Candida is a certain type of yeast that lives in your intestines. It likes to eat sugar and processed foods and overgrows easily when someone takes antibiotics – so, as you can imagine, with our modern lifestyles, this is very common. Candida overgrowth can lead to all sorts of digestive problems which lead to other health problems, including acne.


When I talk about allergies, I’m referring not to classic immediate allergies like sneezing and anaphylactic shock. I’m referring to foods that you eat in your day to day life that cause a delayed allergic reaction. These are also referred to as “food sensitivities“. Each person will react to delayed food allergies differently, and some who are acne prone will end up with acne. Dairy and gluten grains are two foods that often cause allergic reactions and acne.


Foods that are pasteurized (such as all commercial milk) have been heated to a high temperature in order to kill potentially harmful bacteria and increase shelf life. Unfortunately this also destroys the proteins in the food, make them hard to digest, and render them very unhealthy for human consumption. It also kills any beneficial bacteria that might have been in the food, as in the case with fermented foods.


The word dairy refers to anything that is made from milk –  including cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, butter, etc. When I use the word dairy, I’m usually referring to pasteurized dairy, usually from a cow. The reason I use this word a lot is because pasteurized dairy is a very potent acne machine! Raw dairy, fermented dairy, and quality butter may be exceptions, but it depends.


Kefir is a very, very powerful probiotic food that can help you to improve your digestion significantly. It is a sour milk drink kind of like yogurt (except way better for you), and you can make it at home with something called kefir grains, which are like small balls of good bacteria. Making it with raw milk is ideal, but the benefits tend to outweigh the negative even if made with organic pasteurized mik (preferably goat’s milk!).

Gluten Grains

Gluten is a sticky gluey protein found in certain grains – wheat, rye, barley, kamut, and spelt. Oats are often contaminated with it. Unfortunately it’s very inflammatory and horrible for your digestion, so it can be a major acne causer. It’s really not good for anyone to consume though, and I don’t recommend it.

Non-gluten Grains

Non-gluten grains include rice, millet, buckwheat, corn, amaranth and quinoa. These can be okay to consume in small amounts, preferably if prepared properly.

Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables include things like spinach, kale, collard greens, chard, bok choy, silverbeet, etc. Nutritional superstars, these are your skin’s best friend – and the darker the green, the more nutrients there are.

Green Smoothies

Fruit smoothies which include leafy green vegetables. It looks green, but tastes like fruit! Very, very highly recommended for beautiful skin.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

A type of fat that is super important to your brain, skin, and a gazillion functions in your body. The best form of it is from cold water fish, although some can be found in seeds such as flax and chia.

Cod Liver Oil

Grandpa was right – this stuff is off the hook. Full of omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D – I’m telling ya, it rocks your skin’s world. It’s even better if it’s fermented.

Traditional Diet

Although I don’t usually use this term, I would say it best describes how I eat, or at least strive to eat. Traditional eating is based on the teachings of the Weston A Price Foundation and Sally Fallon. It is a nutritionally dense whole foods diet that emphasizes high quality foods and traditional cooking methods. It includes fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, naturally raised meat, eggs, seafood, bone broths, and raw dairy products.Non-gluten grains and legumes are included but only if they are prepared by soaking, fermenting, or sour leavening which increases their digestibility. Fermented foods and healthy fat are heavily promoted on this diet.

Paleo/Primal Diet

Another diet that I recommend and has helped many people overcome their health challenges. It is pretty much like the traditional diet, except generally paleo folks do not include legumes or too much dairy, and are quite strictly against any grain consumption.


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photo by Martin Gommel