Cystic acne is the worst. It's one thing to experience it as a teenager, but the mental effects can be highly detrimental when you're an adult, especially on your self-esteem.
After years of being prescribed antibiotics and the contraceptive pill, I realized that this was not curing my skin condition. It kept coming back every few years, and when it did reappear, it definitely looked and felt angrier than the last!
Accutane is often the last resort for many, a powerful drug used in the treatment of acne. It reduces the production of pore-clogging oil on your skin, kills bacteria, and has a success rate of about 85%. However, serious side effects include liver malfunction, birth defects, depression, and more. You also need to take regular blood tests, too, throughout your course of medication which is never a good sign. I just remember some of the kids in school that were suffering from painfully dry-looking skin…
Last year I decided it was time to try a different approach. I went to see a naturopath to find out the root cause to cure this skin condition once and for all.
While I won't go into all the details of what happened, I found out over time that it was a balancing act of improving gut health and diet, skincare, stress management, good sleep, and reducing toxin exposure.
Here are some tips from experience:
Gut-health & diet
Many foods can trigger inflammation of the skin and oil production.
Dairy is the biggest culprit! Dairy cows are treated with artificial hormones that affect their milk supply which you ingest. These hormones can then throw your hormones off balance and aggravate acne.
Another big player was refined sugars. A lot of refined sugar is found in processed carbohydrates. When your blood sugar levels spike, the extreme overdose of insulin increases sebum production – the oil that often clogs pores.
Eat low inflammation foods like omega-3s and foods that balance blood sugar levels, like healthy fats and protein.
Antibiotics kill all the good bacteria in your gut. This contributes to leaky gut, which allows the bad bacteria to enter your bloodstream and affect various parts of your body. A lot of research points to your gut-health as the root cause for many health problems. Make sure you are consuming a good balance of both prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotic supplements are a great way to ensure you're getting enough if you're concerned you won't get a sufficient supply through your diet. To also cleanse the gut, try to avoid any processed food.
Acne can be a sign of high stress. Cortisol is your stress hormone, and when this is high, oil production tends to increase, leading to more clogged pores and acne breakouts.
Stress can arise from things that you may not have even thought could instigate stress; this can include poor sleep, intense exercise, caffeine, your work environment, bad relationships, skipping meals or under eating.
Self-care isn't just about applying a face mask once a week. You need to allow your mind to rest to reduce stress without any distractions.
To rest, you should ensure you get a good night's sleep, practice deep belly breathing, and meditate for at least 10-20 minutes each day.
To relax, you can listen to chill music, take a hot bath, or catch up with a friend.
To reset and refresh, exercise at least three times per week. While you may think high-intensity workouts help get rid of stress, they can actually cause more stress – physically on your body. Opt for low-intensity activities, yoga is a great workout as it focuses on relaxing the mind and body.
It's tempting to scrub your face to rid the oil and unblock pores, but many of these cleansing methods can make acne worse!
Avoid cleansing brushes, exfoliation scrubs, hot water, face cloths, harsh cleansers, and oil cleansers. Once you find a cleanser that works for you, stick to it! Using 50 different skincare products is not going to clear your acne either. Double cleansing is always a must.
It's important to keep your skin hydrated – serums with hyaluronic acid work best to penetrate your skin. Other serums that I've found helpful for acne scarring are Vitamin C or Niacinamide, which helps target pigmentation issues and brightens the skin, while also clearing any congestion.
Exposure to chemicals can cause a hormonal imbalance that can also trigger acne. It can also affect the liver. If the liver becomes stagnant, the body cannot remove toxins which means these will come back up into your lymphatic system and eliminate through your skin.
Try going for more organic products or avoiding these products altogether if possible: deodorant, perfumes, and colognes.
It's definitely a journey, and it's not easy to implement everything, but trust me – this all works!
Has anyone else suffered from cystic, hormonal acne? I'd love to hear your story