I’ve never had what you would call severe cystic acne, but from the age of about 13, until a year ago I would ALWAYS have at least one pimple on my face. The pimples were usually concentrated on my chin and jawline and they would mostly flare up before my period, but pimples would also randomly appear on other areas of my face. Sometimes they were big, pulsating pimples and sometimes a small cluster of white heads or black heads or both… The pimples upset me. They made me feel self-conscious and want to cover my face.
When I was 14 I begged my mom to take me to the doctor and get antibiotics prescribed, because that’s what all the other people I knew with pimples did. After much misery and whining from me, she eventually relented. I was put onto antibiotics for many months (maybe even a year or more?) with only a small improvement to my complexion. My mother flat out refused to let me try Roaccutane and from the side effects that I witnessed in some of my school mates, I wasn’t too disappointed in her decision.
I visited dermatologists. Many. I tried countless expensive facial products and treatments. My skin would sometimes improve for a short while, but then more clusters of pimples would rear their ugly heads. I layered on foundation and concealer to try to mask my imperfections. I remember even going to the gym a few times with a full face of make up on. Counterproductive much?
When I was 18 I started using the contraceptive pill. The hormones helped a little for my skin, but my skin never stayed clear for very long. I think over almost a 10 year period, I was on three different kinds of contraceptive pills with varying degrees of skin improvement.
Someone suggested I cut out sugar. Someone suggested I cut out dairy. Someone suggested I cut out alcohol. I listened with one ear. I wasn’t ready for that. I was thinking about my skin as an isolated external organ instead of treating my body as a whole and trying to find the root cause of my breakouts. I was only interested in putting a band-aid over the problem.
I tried hundreds of different skin care products. I blamed my hormones. I blamed genetics. I finally went off the pill, but my skin stayed the same.
A few years later I started to take a deeper interest in nutrition, yoga and natural skin care. I started to read lables and started to pay attention to what I was putting on and in my body.
I visited a holistic doctor. He suggested I cut out dairy for two weeks and see how my skin reacted. I followed his advice and did notice an improvement, but I still couldn’t maintain the no dairy thing for very long.
In 2015 I starting studying to be an Holistic Health Coach. I was learning so much, but most importantly I was learning to become a health detective. I learnt that I am the expert on my own body. I know how to heal myself. Given half a chance, my body could heal itself by itself.
During this period, I was preparing for a juice cleanse and that meant cutting out sugar, dairy, meat, caffeine, alcohol, chemicals and additives. I completed the juice cleanse and then carried on with the no dairy thing. And carried on and carried on. I wasn’t full of mucous anymore. No more lingering sore throats and colds. I lost a bit of weight. And what do you know? My skin was clear – not just for a few days or a week… like clear for a month! I waited for the usual PMS breakout on my chin and it just didn’t come. Amazing!
I also learnt about the importance of a healthy microbiome and how all the years of negligent antibiotic consumption had messed up the balance of my good and bad gut flora. I started consuming pro- and pre-biotic rich foods and beverages. My skin and digestive system – the health of which are both interlinked – had never been happier!
After I overhauled my eating, I started to care a lot more about what was in my skincare products. I mean if you wouldn’t eat it, why would you slather it on your largest organ? Most mainstream skincare and make-up contain a long list of scary chemicals and preservatives which disrupt your hormones and cause toxic overload. Your liver has to process these foreign materials and when your liver is overburdened and sluggish, it will show on your skin…
I started to make a lot of my own skin care and chucked out 90% of my make-up that wasn’t natural, organic and cruelty free.
Today my skincare routine is so streamlined and cheap, it’s quite laughable!
I either make my own cleanser with castille soap and jojoba oil and then add a few drops of tea tree and peppermint oil. Sometimes I use a simple charcoal soap bar or a gentle cleanser from a local organic skincare brand.
My favourite, life changing clear skin hack: diluted apple cider vinegar as a toner! Yes it’s a bit (ok very) stinky, but it has such strong antibacterial qualities whilst still maintaining the pH balance of your skin. It’s cheap and it works like magic!
I then add lots of moisture with a mixture of oils, shea butter and different essential oils according to how my skin is feeling. Don’t be afraid of oils! My favourite oils on highest rotation: lavender, tea tree, rose geranium, neroli, patchouli and lemon. My favourite base oils which I also use according to my skin’s needs: argan, rosehip, jojoba, calendula and castor oil. It’s important to find the highest quality oils that are natural and organic.
If my skin feels a bit congested I either use a fine exfoliating cloth or I do a scrub with just plain old bicarbonate of soda (you need to be very gentle with your fingers and don’t do this more than once a week). If I feel like I may be getting a pimple, I make a paste with bicarb and castor oil to leave on overnight. A cotton bud soaked in apple cider vinegar and held against the pimple for a little while also works well. Dabbing extra tea tree or lavender oil onto the pimple is another solution, but be careful not to dry your skin out too much as this causes the vicious cycle of your skin overcompensating and producing too much sebum, which clogs your pores and causes more pimples…
Lastly if I feel like doing a face mask, I just make my own! Sometimes they are clay based, with activated charcoal to detox and sometimes they are more nourishing and good enough to eat! (Hello honey and lemon.) The internet is full of easy DIY mask recipes and most ingredients can be found in your kitchen! I highly recommend Adina Grigore’s amazing book “Skin Cleanse” – she was a major inspiration for making most of my own skin products.
Obviously I’m not a complete saint with the no dairy thing. I mean who doesn’t freakin’ love cheese? I try to pick my battles. I eat some butter. I indulge in a crazy, gourmet milkshake once in a while, or a basket of truffle parmesan fries. I will do a 10 course tasting menu without requesting any special dietary requirements. I fall off the wagon. Almost immediately afterwards I will probably get a pimple or two. I don’t beat myself up about it though, because stress and worry are not your skin’s friends either!
After a dairy intake overload, I increase my fermented food intake and maybe pop an extra probiotic; chug a bit more water (maybe add some lemon or activated charcoal for an extra detox kick), load up on all the greens and move on with my life.
You might find this a bit too woo-woo escoteric, but I also believe that your emotions are connected to your skin and that breakouts can sometimes be a sign that you are feeling ugly on the inside, lacking self-worth or that you are rejecting something or someone in your life…I feel that learning to truly love myself has also contributed to clearing up my skin.
I also have some amazing supplements that I like to cycle to support my skin, as well as some customized cleansing protocols which support the health of the colon and liver. Clearing up your skin requires some patience and trial and error and I’ve been experimenting on myself for years!
I know that having bad skin sucks, but I also know that if you become fixated on it, it just channels more negative energy and perpetuates the situation.
For more tips and tricks on how to get clear skin the natural way and how to make your own facial products send me an email and let’s chat! I’d love to help you.
Do you have any skin care tips or breakout nightmares? Comment below!