If you’ve had acne you know how it goes: Pretending it isn’t there. Then angrily picking at zits and swearing to banish new pimples with every weapon of skin warfare. Tinkering with your diet–wondering if cutting out chocolate, oily foods or spicy foods could be the answer. Then the concealers, the powders and all modes of cover-up. It sucks. I’ve been there. And sometimes, when I fall out of sync with myself, I’m still there. I’ve more or less found my balance. But it wasn’t easy.
Here’s a list of everything I experimented with in an attempt to get rid of my acne. This started around the age of 12 and continued into my late teens.
- Antibiotics including minocycline, doxycycline and amoxicillin (for years)
- Over-the-counter topicals including Clearasil, Stridex, Neutrogena…you name it
- Premium topicals like ProActiv and Murad
- Prescription topicals like Retin-A and Tazorac
- Accutane (two rounds at different dosages–both ended early due to side effects)
- Chemical peels
- Home remedies (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, various masks)
I was so determined to rid myself of my acne Lady Macbeth out damn’d spot-style that I never stopped to consider what my acne was trying to tell me. Instead, I was wreaking havoc on my body’s ecosystem with my antibiotic abuse–not to mention all the other chemicals I introduced to my system in an attempt to achieve clear skin. Oh, and though I did experience periods of clear skin (especially while on Accutane), it always came back.
Enter my twenties when all this caught up with me and I began to experience gut issues in addition to acne. I had no choice but to change my diet, which included eliminating dairy, sugar and all complex carbohydrates (otherwise known as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet). Guess what? My skin had never been clearer. I still got the occasional zit with my period (more on that in another post) but nothing like what I had experienced for most of my life.
A lot of stubborn acne cases like mine stem from two major root causes: (1) an unhealthy digestive system and (2) imbalanced hormones.
Do you also suffer from food intolerances or digestive disturbances? Is your diet heavy on processed “foods”? Have you used antibiotics or other prescription drugs heavily in the past? Were you born by c-section or not breastfed? (Yup it can actually play a role in your gut health.) If you answered yes to some or all of these, your acne may be a cry out from your digestive system.
How about your hormonal health? Is your lifestyle high-stress with little sleep and lots of stimulants keeping you alert through the day? Ladies–how is your period? Is it regular? Do you know if or when you are ovulating? Does your acne tend to be concentrated around your mouth and jawline?
In thinking about these questions, you may have noticed some funky stuff going on with both of these systems. If so, your acne is telling you something very important about what’s going on in your body. It’s kind of a gift.
You heard me. Those annoying whiteheads, blackheads and cysts–they’re all a communication from your body. In simplest form: it’s a cry for help. And cries for help take time to address. It took me years just to come to this realization–and another couple of years to do the work to address the damage I had done by ignoring the underlying causes of my acne. Yes, it is work. But for me it meant feeling better than ever and dramatically improving the quality of my skin.
So stop picking, popping and concealing. Your acne is a valuable piece of data. Now that you’re tuned it, what is it telling you?