The other day a friend of mine asked me about my acne- and holy cow some old memories flooded in!! Then the same day I saw my nutritionist post on facebook about how she is helping people clear acne through nutrition. And I thought you know what? I need to share my story!
Why do we get it? Where does it come from? How can we prevent it?
So in case you all aren't aware, I don't have any kind of medical background. I can't actually sit here and type to you why we get acne. Does this mean you shouldn't listen to me? I don't think so..and here's why
My whole life I had acne. Acne on my forehead, all over my chin, all over my face.
In Elementary school I had guys and girls tell me to wash my face more, use a face cloth. I actually even had a teacher once approach me during a track and field meet to recommnd a face washing technique and certain type of soap. Needless to say I rounded up my friends and we paid a visit to her house that night with some eggs and some underwaear!! :S….Don't judge me- all 12 year old kids do stupid things right??
Outside of school I made regular trips to the dermatologist to try a new cream. To be told to stop drinking pop and eating chocolate. To be put on the birth control pill at 13 to try and control any hormonal influence that could have been playing into it. Nothing worked long term.
So I lived with it, and I felt ok with it. I knew I would never have great skin. I was still able to socialize normally and be in relationships, so I just started to ignore it!
Then, after first year University I was put on an extremely high dose of prednisone for a kidney condition I have. Not only did my face balloon out to make me look like I weighed 400 pounds, but I also got a SEVERE flare up in acne. I tried proactive, I tried facials (which were BRUTAL), I tried Oxy Clean, whatever it was you name it, I tried it. I just went on living with my acne.
Throughout University it seemed to kind of come and go, it would flare up huge here and there. But the worst came my last couple months of University. It got out of hand! All of a sudden my entire face was covered in acne. Massive cystic acne that hurt like hell, and looked awful. But again, no matter what I did nothing worked to get rid of it. This time I tried daily hot yoga, I tried new types of facials, I had a special cosmetics lady try some new creams on me. In the end, I pretty much spent that summer hibernating in my room. I was unhappy, the acne was getting worse, and I can fairly say it was finally starting to really affect my life, and my self esteem.
So when does it get positive?
After I participated in a cycling trip across Canada I noticed my face had started to clear up. What was different? I didn't drink coffee for 3 weeks on the trip. Ok- clearly coffee had to have a major influence on my adrenals, and therefore hormones, and therefore acne. What else was different? Well I was no longer hibernating at home, I was out exploring the country and fresh air? Perhaps that was it? hmm…
While living in Vancouver I continued on my path of trying to lose weight by following different exercise and nutrition regiments. I started to notice a correlation between acne flare ups and how hard I was trying to lose weight. It seemed as though every time I followed a 'diet' or exercised a ton, I would get a flare up? Hmm…was it worth it to be super skinny, but have bad skin? I thought so! So I kept trying…
I then enlisted the help of a naturopath who said "no dairy, no wheat, no coffee, no chewing gum, exercise before 12 pm, sleep 8 hours a night, limit alcohol, eat a ton of veggies, etc." And I was 100 % not in a stage where I could commit to all of those. So what happened? When I followed his rules, my condition got better. When I didn't, it got worse. But still I wasn't willing to put in the work. I wanted to follow my processed food diet of 1200 calories to try and lose weight.
Finally after a year of living in Vancouver with mildly bad skin I decided that I needed to try Accutane. Nothing had ever worked, so I would go for the final resort. The reason I say final resort is it has been shown to cause liver failure, depression, and death, among just a few side effects. AND you can not possibly get pregnant on it, so much so that my crazy old man doctor had me vow to not walk on the same side of the street as any men, that's how far he wanted me to stay away!!
So I did my accutane, and my skin dried up like crazy, and I had depressive thoughts, but my skin did eventually start to get better! Yahoo, who cares about my liver anyways right?
But guess what? It went away, but I still had flare ups. My skin never went a long time without looking great.
Where's the happy ending here? If drugs and creams didn't work- what did?
At the end of 2012 I started a very restrictive diet, that had no carbs, and no dairy (and NO a lot of other things). I lost a ton of weight too quickly and my body shut down (that's another story). But one thing that did get better was my skin…hmm…. So in my attempt to maintain my weight after losing it, I kept wheat/gluten/dairy/processed foods out of my diet. I was way more motivated to be skinny than I was to have better skin I guess!
So what happened? Well, my skin cleared up, and literally has been clear ever since.
The person who used to wash/tone/moisturize twice daily now doesn't even use soap on her face.
The person who used to get picked on, is not getting compliments on her skin.
Do I attribute it only to nutrition? I believe 80 % was altering my diet. I am happy to refer you to a friend of mine who is a holistic nutritionist and has posted to her blog recently about wanting to help those with acne!!
What else do I think contributed?
1) Developing a better relationship with myself. Now that I no longer stress about my weight or my physical appearance, I no longer ever restrict calories, over exercise, cut food groups out, or do any crazy dieting. I keep my weight at a healthy stable number, and therefore my skin stay's healthy too!
2) I sleep more, and I barely drink caffeine. A few coffees a week has made much difference for me compared to 1-2 a day previously! I get 7-8 hours most nights now, whereas before I was ALWAYS tired, ALWAYS undersleeping, ALWAYS exhausted.
3) I do accupuncture, homeopathy, and chiropractic. An overall healthy body is not going to develop a skin issue like acne (this is a sign something in your body is out of whack).
4) I no longer binge drink like I was doing in University, I am sure that helps!!
5) I started taking a digestive product (aloe vera), and an herbal supplement of adrenal enhancing compounds. I didn't start taking them for my skin, it actually started around the time I started the restrictive diet, and they were part of the program. But holy cow did they ever improve my digestion and my adrenal function!
6) I improved my digestion. Gas, bloating, constipation, stinky farts, abdominal pain, are all not normal! I suffered from these my whole life, but who knew they were coming from dairy and grains?? I sure didn't. When your digestive track doesn't function properly you can't absorb the proper nutrients for optimal body function, AND, if you have 'leaky gut', aka poor digestion, you are in fact absorbing some bad things into the blood that you shouldn't be!
Do I look at my skin and think it's the best skin around? Definitely not. Sure there are definitely some scars, bumps, etc. AND I am sure there are some more things I could be doing to make it look it's BEST. But you know what? I am happy with how it is now 🙂 Check out my videos to se my skin recently!
So do I expect you to listen to me? YES! This is an example of "I have been there". And guess what? If you try all of these things and the acne doesn't go away after 6 months or so, then perhaps there is another underlying issue. But why not try these first??