You have to remember the foods which are beneficial for human skin, and organise the diet that is optimal for your own needs. You have to cook and budget for all those foods, and possibly revolutionise your entire lifestyle.
But there’s one acne strategy which is available to all human beings at all times. You can use this acne-clearing trick at work, in the car, or while watching TV.
It is equally accessible to a poor villager from the valleys of Nepal and a rich billionaire sitting in a penthouse. It is a trick which can be performed at any time and at any place.
We are of course referring to your breathing technique, said by some to be the most overlooked factor in acne ever.
Why the average person has messed up breathing
The relationship between breathing and acne has hardly ever been discussed in the past and has only recently attracted interest. But breathing in oxygen is so vital to bodily functions that it’s completely feasible that it does affect your skin.
Your survival depends on breathing. You can survive for 3 days without water; you can survive for 3 minutes without oxygen. You inhale oxygen 18 times a minute, 1080 times an hour, and 25,920 times a year.
Take a deep breath and you will feel the clear-headedness right away. Most of the deaths on Mount Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga and other 8000 metre-high mountains aren’t because of the cold weather or avalanches. They occur because of the “death zone”; the oxygen deprived environment above 8000 metres to which the human body can never acclimatise. Many mountaineers fall because of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), a swelling of the brain caused by the lack of oxygen. Their physical co-ordination, ability to think, and judgement are all impaired.
Some mountaineers get so confused because of the thin air that they start climbing back uphill once they’ve already summited. They might die from the cold temperatures later, but the lack of oxygen is what kick-started the chain of events.
Oxygen is vital for human life. Your skin turns blue without it. Even without any science it makes sense that breathing could affect your acne…
…and it happens that the average man or woman has a very poor breathing technique in the 21st century. Stress is running rampant, so people keep their bodies in a very tense position. The result is an obstructed diaphragm, which makes deeper, more replenishing “belly breathing” harder.
Obesity is also running rampant. This causes people to block deep breathing by 1) sucking in their stomach to look thinner, and 2) physically reducing the amount of space inside the abdominal cavity. Office jobs are everywhere, so people are hunched over for eight hours per day, possible more.
Finally, basic bad habits are everywhere. Observe the breathing of the average 3 year old and you’ll notice their belly rising and falling naturally, through deep diaphragm breathing. Many people get into the habit of shallow breathing by age 5-10. The same applies to mouth breathing. You are designed to breathe through your nose; a constant lack of exertion means that many people get stuck breathing through their mouths.
Check your own breathing patterns. Do you breathe through your nose or mouth? Is breathing deeply a challenge for you? Are you stressed and holding your muscles in a rigid, inflexible position which is the opposite of what you need to breathe freely?
Since you perform most of your breathing involuntarily, it’s difficult to analyse exactly how you breathe when you’re in the subconscious mode. However, the point is this – most people alive today do not breath in the way nature intended. If breathing does affect acne then the consequences would be huge.
Breathe properly, get more attractive skin
Both chronic mouth breathing and breathing without the full potential of your diaphragm can reduce your arterial oxygenation rate, the quantity of oxygen in your bloodstream. The upper 7% of your lungs absorb oxygen at a rate of 4ml per minute. The lower 13%, where the diaphragm expands and contracts, absorbs 60ml per minute.
If you regularly keep your stomach muscles tense, or if they’re tense at this very moment, you are not maximizing the oxygen delivery to your skin. If you breathe properly, on the other hand, you will enjoy a healthier skin colour and more attractive skin in the eyes of the opposite sex (see below).
Nose breathing is just as vital, because the inhalation of oxygen through the nostrils stimulates the release of the gas nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide is the most potent vasodilating agent in the human body. Inhale a lungful of air through your nose and a burst of nitric oxide will make its way into your lungs and into your bloodstream. The result, according to this study, is that the “addition of nasal air samples” can increase your arterial oxygenation rate by a huge 18%.
You are designed to breathe through your nose; the role of nitric oxide is just one factor. How does oxygen affect your face? Firstly, it’s well known that higher oxygen delivery to the skin gives a healthy red tinge to it (study).
Secondly, this study concluded that extra oxygen can make your skin more attractive. Some scientists set out to test whether manipulation in the facial redness of humans affected both perception of health and attractiveness. Increasing the skin colouration associated with higher blood oxygenation increased perceived healthiness and attractiveness in 98% of the young adult Caucasian faces studied.
Men and women were also allowed to manipulate photographs of human faces, to produce a face which they personally found attractive. With few exceptions, the colour changes they chose were in line with the appearance of higher blood oxygen delivery. Deoxygenated colour was decreased by the participants; a lack of oxygen is associated with the grey, pallid, anaemic look.
Interestingly, the female faces were more sensitive to blood oxygenation increases, but the men improved significantly as well. Overall, the study’s results indicated that human beings prefer a skin colour and tone that is consistent with elevated blood oxygenation and blood perfusion. They concluded that one’s blood oxygenation is “important for mate choice”. In other words, get more oxygen and both men and women will find your skin sexier.
To gain the advantage you have to optimise your breathing. There are no studies on whether blood oxygenation rates affect acne specifically, but think about the people you know. If you place two 20 year olds with equal levels of acne side by side, the one with a glowing skin tone magically looks more attractive. The pimples they do have seem far more natural somehow.
Breathing can funnel acne vitamins to your skin
One benefit of optimised breathing which could affect acne, however, is the nitric oxide boost.
Nitric oxide is the king of blood pressure reduction. It’s the master of circulatory regulation and vasodilation. You can witness it for yourself when you take an NO boosting supplement such as l-citrulline, or eat a nitric oxide boosting food like dark chocolate; watch the veins on your arms turn into a road map.
We already know from the study above that breathing through your nose results in increased concentrations of nitric oxide in the bloodstream. Similarly, this study found that nose breathing during exercise significantly lowered blood pressure. The mechanism was deemed to be “unknown” but this study was performed in 1990 and the nitric oxide link has emerged since then.
Nitric oxide can increase the delivery of oxygen to the skin through blood, but also the delivery of blood itself. Therefore it’s highly likely that nose breathing can encourage the flow of healthy acne nutrients to the skin.
If it does, then the implications for acne would be excellent. The ability of vitamin A to bind with sebaceous gland receptors and decrease oily skin would be enhanced. Antioxidants like vitamin E and resveratrol would build themselves into skin cells and keep your skin acne-free more efficiently. A variety of anti-inflammatory compounds whether it’s the sulforaphane in broccoli or the cryptoxanthin in carrots would be free to reduce acne more powerfully.
Nose breathing isn’t proven to enhance nutrient delivery, but if you stop to think then the connection couldn’t be clearer. Switch to nose breathing and you increase nitric oxide formation. Nitric oxide decreases blood pressure and increases circulation. Increased circulation increases blood flow to the skin and hence the delivery of nutritional goodness to the skin.
This isn’t an official acne power, but I’d judge the chances of it being correct as 95% plus. The verdict – nose breathing can enhance your skin’s defensive armour.
Does your breathing technique affect stress?
If there’s one physiological benefit which is commonly associated with breathing techniques like yoga or breathing deeply, it’s reduced stress and anxiety. The implications for acne are huge, since elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol are a significant villain behind weak skin and poor digestion.
Luckily, you don’t need fancy yoga and meditation techniques. You can slash your stress levels and your acne levels by simply breathing through your nose or utilising your entire diaphragm.
The human body has the “flight or fight” response built into it. You probably know this. You feel it every day; if you’re blasting around empty, back country roads at 70mph and a deer suddenly walks in front of the car, your heart starts pounding and your energy levels surge.
However, you might not know that the human body also has an opposite system, the relaxation response. The flight or fight response takes such a heavy toll on the human body and its heart function, energy metabolism, and brainwaves that your body needs to counteract it. Controlled breathing is one way to activate your body’s relaxation response, and with it, slash your acne.
There are more basic factors at play as well. Mouth breathing leads to higher water vapour loss, increasing dehydration. Dehydration can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol at all intensities of exercise, according to this study; that’s one reason why water is important for acne.
Mouth breathing also increases the fight or flight stress response activation by up to 50%. Why? Who knows, but I’d guess that your body is priming you for battle mode. If you’re inhaling big, gulping gasps of air through your mouth, then your body probably assumes that you’re in danger and in need of some fighting energy.
There was also a big study on nasal breathing which detected significantly increased alpha brain wave activity compared to mouth breathing. Alpha brain waves are produced by the brain to induce a relaxed and meditative state.
The nasal breathing exercise also resulted in 50% increased parasympathetic nervous system activation. Remember the relaxation response which we discussed earlier? The parasympathetic nervous system controls it; it’s the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the flight or fight response.
Finally, nasal breathing led to increased brain wave coherence compared to mouth breathing, which is useful for keeping anxiety and runaway worrying thoughts suppressed.
The relaxation from breathing deeply is one benefit which you can feel right now, or at any time and any place.
You don’t even have to turn into a new age yoga guru; just use your nose and maximum lung capacity.
If you focus hard on optimising your breathing until the new techniques become natural, you can be stress-free all day long. Your skin will then become acne-free all day long. A reduced stress response equals less new acne, and faster healing of old acne. Breathing properly is one of the ultimate weird tricks for clear skin.
How to correct your breathing technique
To summarise then, you have two major breathing goals. To reduce acne, you need to 1) breathe through your nose, and 2) breathe deeply, utilising your entire lung capacity. Here’s how to do it:
Practise – it may be years since you’ve done any proper belly breathing. Singers and wind instrument musicians are probably the only group alive today who have to practise deep breathing on a regular basis.
Relax, inhale and make sure that your stomach rises. Sit at a desk and bend forward. You will feel the change in your lung capacity instantly; the diaphragm will be obstructed and shallow breaths will become your only option.
Focus on the areas of your lungs obstructed by this exercise, and use them in your regular breathing. Keep practising until you nail it. The best measure of success is the feeling of relaxation and happiness from these deep breaths.
Nose breathing, meanwhile, is very easy. Keep your mouth shut and inhale and exhale through your nose. Do a test run in order to ensure that you have no obstruction due to obesity, stress-related muscle tension, or dodgy nose genetics.
Remember, however, that deep breathing itself makes nose breathing infinitely easier. If you start nose breathing using your old shallow technique, it might be challenging. Some people who switch to nose breathing instinctively alter their technique in detrimental ways.
So here’s what you should do: pretend that you are mouth breathing, and utilise the same old action, while keeping your mouth tightly shut. Pretend that you’re inhaling big gasps of air, but only use your nose. Do that and you’ll be shocked at how easy and replenishing nose breathing is.
Lose weight – losing weight will go a long way to correct the issue of obstructed lung capacity and the need to suck in your stomach, particularly in men. Many overweight people find nose breathing challenging as well; that’s why they get stuck in the mouth breathing habit.
Tape your mouth shut – this old man reckons that taping his mouth shut at night revolutionised his sex life. If you understand the role of nitric oxide in the body, you’ll know why instantly.
For acne, the idea is to force your body to breathe through its nose all night long, to give your subconscious mind no choice. Taping your mouth shut guarantees your skin a good eight hours of hyper-oxygenated blood.
It’s all well and good to perform regular nose breathing exercises, but you have a job to perform, and school, sports, friends, and exercise. You can’t consciously control your breathing all day, every day. Taping your mouth shut is an excellent method because theoretically, you should reprogram your subconscious mind into breathing through your nose all day as well. Eight hours is easily enough to start rewiring your brain.
Five minute exercises – you might be shocked at the speed with which you can completely alter your breathing method. Recently, I decided to optimise my breathing as well, to see what improvements in energy, focus and skin tone I would achieve. I focussed on the nose breathing aspect, keeping my mouth shut and breathing in and out only through my nose, keeping the benefits in mind.
I quickly lost patience and reverted back to what I was doing previously. However, as I was walking around later in the day and not thinking about the exercises, I suddenly realised that my mouth was shut and I was still breathing through my nose.
I was carrying on with the new breathing technique automatically, despite having only focussed on it for two or three minutes earlier in the day. If you’re like me, it will be a piece of cake for you to change your old breathing habits.
You too can revolutionise your breathing technique in no time. If you do, you will reap the rewards for your acne and your skin’s attractiveness.
Does living in the mountains starve your skin?
The last question is the question of altitude. It’s a related topic, since many wonder whether the chronic oxygen deprivation of living at 2000, 3000 or 4000 metres would damage your skin.
Don’t worry; the human body can easily acclimatise to thin air at heights of up to 4000 metres. If you dropped a man on the summit of Mount Everest wearing the normal thick layer of insulating clothing, the lack of oxygen would kill him within 5 minutes. After four weeks spent at base camp, however, he can survive for two days.
Less than 12 hours after increasing your altitude, your red blood cells begin to multiply, and your metabolization of oxygen becomes more efficient. The end result = no difference in skin oxygenation.
If you want to clear acne and enrich your skin tone for free, there are few better tricks out there then breathing correctly.
If you can’t afford vitamin D, organic foods, or fruits and vegetables, then breathing is available to you no matter what. If you’re reading this on a laptop in an Antarctic weather station, or on a rowing boat in the centre of the Pacific Ocean, you can take a deep breath right now. Breathing is easily one of the top cheap tricks for acne, alongside drinking plenty of water and standing up straight.
Optimise your breathing and you will enjoy 1) less acne due to reduced stress levels, and 2) a more attractive skin tone in the eyes of both men and women, due to the enhanced oxygen supply. You’ll also lower your blood pressure, and even enhance your mind, keeping any brain fog suppressed.
Unless you don’t want to be chased by hordes of women wherever you go, there’s no reason not to correct your breathing technique right now.
Thanks for reading!