How I Cured my Cystic Acne

How I Cured my Cystic Acne

I used to have SEVERE cystic acne, and I mean severe. I tried literally everything- from topical ointments to hydrogen peroxide (yes, it was stupid and bleached all my towels but I was desperate) to tea tree oil (didn’t work- just aggravated my acne). Nothing was working. So I went to a dermatologist in a last-ditch effort to try and get rid of this monster. I had acne since I was 13… By the time I went to the dermatologist I was around 19 years old. She said my only hope was to go on Accutane. That was the last straw- I had heard horror stories about Accutane, and I really didn’t want to be putting a strong form on vitamin A in my body that could potentially mess with my hormones and cause depression (of which, was already something I struggled with). So, I decided it was time to find a cure. I believed there was a cure since these painful red bumps on my face did not seem normal and I believed my body might be trying to tell me something.

I started with my diet- which I found out was the MAIN reason for my acne. What I was putting in my body was potentially causing an allergic or inflammatory reaction and my body was responding by creating painful red pus-filled bumps everywhere. I went on a quest to figure out what was causing my acne… and after a LOT of digging, I came across an interesting link between acne and wheat products. I decided to take a chance and eliminate all the pizza, pasta, bagels, and sandwiches I was eating to see if anything changed. Then, the most interesting thing happened. By eliminating gluten from my diet, my acne slowly started disappearing!! Now, I should also mention, I was suffering from stomach cramps every morning, brain fog, concentration issues, and what I now think was stunted growth. Around the same time I eliminated wheat from my diet, all these symptoms also disappeared. My body seemed to stop being so reactive and the inflammation on my face disappeared. The interesting thing is that I believe the gut is tied to our overall health as well- I am probably a celiac or at least wheat intolerant, so every time I ate wheat it would irritate my gut, not only causing celiac-like symptoms but also lead to acne. I think this is something that should be explored in the scientific community because there are so many people out there with evidence to show the link between gluten and acne, and yet there are few if any studies out on this topic!

So please, if you are suffering from really bad acne- perhaps try eliminating wheat and gluten from your diet and see if it makes a difference. I also learnt a lot about what products to use and lifestyle changes for better skin. Here is the full list of things I did to see eliminate my acne for good:

1. Inflammation= Acne. Cut out any allergy-causing foods (recommended: GLUTEN)

Undetected food allergies may be the KEY reason for acne. Nine foods cause 90% of food allergic reactions. These include cow’s milk, wheat (gluten), egg, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish, and shellfish. The easiest way to see if you’re allergic to a certain food is to eliminate ONE type of food (e.g. dairy) for a week or two and see if you feel better. If you do feel better, chances are you’re allergic. Obviously, the most accurate way is to go to a doctor and get an allergy test done or some celiac testing done-which should give you a complete confirmation. But my philosophy is- if you feel better not eating something, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Another thing is that we all require different diets. Some people function better with a predominantly high carb low-fat diet (serotonin diet), whereas others work best on a high protein, high fat paleo diet, and yet others only eat meat. Either way, we need to do what feels right for ourselves.

In the case of acne, it is usually dairy and/or wheat responsible for the inflammation. So, cut it out and see what happens.

2. Irritation=Acne. Use GENTLE products with essential oils

Irritating products can cause acne. My thinking is this- anyone with acne automatically has sensitive skin. Before I mention what products you should use, note that you shouldn’t be rubbing or scratching or doing much of anything to your face. When you cleanse your face, lightly blend the cleanser in and when you wash and dry your face, lightly pat it dry. Your fingers should gently glide over your face, barely touching it. Treat your face with respect and love (even if it hasn’t been treating you the same! Lol). This makes sure that you are not irritating your acne, causing further breakouts.

Secondly, USE GENTLE PRODUCTS with few harsh chemicals!! Ditch the Neutrogena (IT SUCKS) and the Clearasil and the ProActive (that stuff is the devil). All you need is 1) A gentle cleanser with few active and harsh ingredients,  2) A natural moisturizer. Your products should be natural and contain essential oils only. I recommend staying away from salicylic acid as it tends to aggravate acne. There are a few drugstore products I recommend and they are the gentle non-comedogenic and non-irritating ones. KEEP IT SIMPLE with your beauty routine- the more products you use, the more irritation is likely.

For cleansers that work best with acne-prone skin, I recommend the CeraVe foaming facial cleanser, Cetaphil gentle cleanser, Murad soothing gel cleanser, Skinstitut gentle cleanser and Kora Organics cream cleanser. Look for cleansers with soothing ingredients added, such as cucumber oil. For moisturizing properties, look for a cleanser with hyaluronic acid, macadamia oil, avocado oil, rosehip oil, and vitamin E. But most importantly, cleansers with no active ingredients and no dyes or scents added are the best for acne sufferers (CeraVe and Cetaphil are the best choices). I personally use the Kora Organics cream cleanser as it is made up of different essential oils like macadamia, rosehip, and avocado, and it glides on the skin. It feels light and is excellent for sensitive skin. All in all, any of the above cleansers mentioned are good choices.

Lastly, for moisturizers, I try and stay away from anything with too many chemically ingredients, which tends to be most drugstore moisturizers. However, any moisturizer that is non-irritating and gentle would work, such as one from CeraVe or Cetaphil (both of which are drugstore). Any moisturizer with essential oils and few chemicals you can’t pronounce will be good. I really love Lush’s Vanishing Cream (ITS A SHOWSTOPPER FOR ACNE- TRY IT!), Sukin’s Mattifying Facial Moisturiser (great for oily skin), Kora Organics Hydrating Day and Night Cream (for dry skin, contains SO MANY beneficial oils and ingredients), or you can just mix a basic vitamin E cream with tea tree oil. If you have super irritated skin, I would skip a traditional moisturizer and opt for a moisturizing facial mist like the Skinstitut Multi-Active Mist, which is very soothing and doesn’t require you to touch those painful acne bumps, all while moisturizing your face. You can also use a rose, lavender or cucumber mist as these are all great choices. There are so many options for great moisturizers, but overall just look for products that are natural and have soothing essential oils in them.

3. Use ACTIVE ingredients for the skin

If your skin needs a little something extra, I recommend adding a serum and facial spray to your skincare routine. In the morning, between cleansing and moisturizing, I recommend adding a facial spray containing rose, lavender or cucumber. At night, use a serum that will literally transform your skin overnight.

For night serums, there is only one thing I recommend acne sufferers use- and that is retinol. Retinol is a form of vitamin A is works WONDERS for the skin. It is anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, anti-redness, anti-scarring, anti-pimple…. basically, it gets rid of everything you don’t want on your face and turns damaged skin cells into healthy ones. It is great for acne, acne scarring, lines and wrinkles, sun damage, enlarged pores, and pigmentation. Retinol is usually really expensive, but I have found a brand that is cheaper and WORKS. For only $30 AUD, try Skinstitut Retinol Serum and thank me later girl! It burns at first, but after your skin gets used to it, you’ll be left with flawless skin. I use it at night on any pimples I have and by the next morning, they’re reduced or gone. It’s also a great preventative measure to take (ahem.. period anyone?). On a side note, there is another serum I would recommend and it is The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% which is SUPERRRR affordable and proven to be seriously effective (just look at those reviews!). It infuses the face with nice strong B vitamins and zinc which are just awesome for skin health and eliminating acne.

4. Eat the full spectrum of vitamins

Whoo! Now that we’ve got through all of that, the most IMPORTANT STEP is to EAT HEALTHY. I know that sounds obvious, but try to nourish your body by eating leafy greens and a large quantity of fruit and veggies every day. When I added a green smoothie to my diet for breakfast, after a week my family noticed my face looked less irritated. If you hate eating veggies like I do, just juice them or make a smoothie! Greens are the most powerful, so I suggest making a green smoothie or drinking some watermelon juice. Watermelon and cucumber are calming ingredients that calm the digestive tract and contain lots of water. This is great for your skin. Consider adding these 2 powerful skin ingredients to your diet and get glowing skin from the inside out.

5. Get rid of fatty foods and sugar

My dad calls sugar and other white refined sugars “white evils”. For me at least, sugar and wheat are truly the devil. LOL. I’m laughing but it’s true. I stay away from sugar at all costs because it tends to break me out. It’s like a socially acceptable form of crack cocaine.. once you try it you can’t stop (and no, I haven’t tried cocaine). Another thing that I thought was a myth was fatty foods.. I thought there was no link between diet and acne but it turns out there is for me! If I eat anything greasy or oily I am much more prone to getting a pimple the next day. So if you love your skin, try and eliminate these foods and eat them only once in a while. Moderation is key.

6. Drink lots of water

This is pretty well-known, but if you want clear skin you NEED to be drinking lots of water!! It’s easy to do and it can give you an instant glow. Aim for 3-4 glasses a day if you drink only 1.

Well, thanks for reading and I hope my acne guide can help you clear your skin too! This regime worked SO well for me and I hope it does for you too. Comment any questions, concerns, or share your results below. Try my plan for 2-3 weeks and see your skin change!

Take care of yourself!

 

 

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Down the rabbit hole

Down the rabbit hole

I’ve finished my university courses and have graduated… which means I have a lot of time on my hands. I’m giving myself a 2-week break to relax and look for a job. In the meantime, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the internet researching conspiracy theories (WTF are you thinking!- I know) Of course, this isn’t a conspiracy blog and I won’t be getting into specifics… I’m not here to tell you what to believe. But what I’d like to talk about today is the way we deal with challenging ideas.

The further and further I went down the rabbit hole (so to speak), the more my beliefs and ideas were called into question. I started to panic. Ideas that I had held so dear and thought were true were being challenged… and the evidence was quite substantial. What if everything you thought was true was a lie? How would you act? In my case, I’ve been researching and following so-called “conspiracy theories” for quite some time… so I’m used to this. When faced with such horrific ideas about reality, I can’t sleep for a few days, I ruminate and I think to myself, “how am I going to change my life according to this new information?”. Of course, I don’t believe everything I read. But it’s only after much investigation that I submit to the fact that maybe- just maybe- my ideas about the world might be wrong. Maybe everyone isn’t like me- maybe everyone isn’t so good. Maybe there IS an evil cabal that controls the world and wants to destroy you (lol we’re all laughing- it’s funny.. but what if it’s true?!). After a while of crying, ruminating, not being able to sleep, and thinking, comes the last part- acceptance. I get back to my normal life, accept the evil truths, and go back to normalcy. But life can never be the same when your ideas are challenged. You act and think differently.. maybe you choose to listen to different music and watch different programs, hang out with different people, and perhaps, eat differently. When faced with challenging beliefs, we can often face a phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is something everyone does. When faced with ideas that challenge our own beliefs and preconceived notions, it is extremely uncomfortable (like, REALLY uncomfortable). Our brains hate that. The brain needs a consistent and stable state to function properly (much like homeostasis). Our beliefs and ideas determine our lives and what actions we take, so if we were to constantly change opinions, our lives would be chaotic. The brain protects us from that with mechanisms like cognitive dissonance. I think this is an evolutionary adaptation- you can’t be constantly changing your ideas and beliefs, especially after you have internalized them and live according to them. But rarely, when some ESPECIALLY convincing evidence comes into view- we are faced with a decision. When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviours, something must be done to eliminate the dissonance. We can discount the dissonant beliefs, avoid them and lessen them in our mind, or, the hardest part, we can change OUR beliefs to align with the dissonant ones. When you make a decision to avoid cognitive dissonance, accept the new information, and change your beliefs accordingly, your brain faces a traumatic situation. It is hard to do that but I think it is important. The goal of cognitive dissonance is self-preservation. But using cognitive dissonance as a means of self-preservation can actually accomplish the opposite- keeping one in an echo chamber of sorts, unable to adapt to new information, and in a state of denial about the world. At what point does self-preservation become self-harm? When should we confront hard truths and face them head on?

Why is it that people who confront their beliefs head on are seen as “conspiracy theorists” and crazy? Why is someone labelled “crazy” for believing we never went to the moon, or the Illuminati is real, or there is an evil cabal of Satanists at the top that control the banks and the whole world? What if those things were true? Are we in denial?  Just because the information isn’t made popular in media, does that mean it isn’t real? We see people who believe in such things as lunatics… but we have no evidence to contradict them. What if we listened to them, researched their information, and came to find out they were right? Of course, we could also find out they were wrong- which would be a welcome relief.

In life, there will always be information that challenges our beliefs. Instead of going into cognitive dissonance as a protective mechanism, I think all of us should take some time to face those uncomfortable truths and perhaps examine our beliefs and opinions and change them if they need to be changed. It may be uncomfortable in the short term, but in the long run, it allows you to adapt to a changing world and grow as a person- and that is truly a better way of self-preservation.

Anyways, I think I’ve had enough of conspiracy theories for now. Time to relax and watch some movies in my PJ’s.

Take care of yourselves,

-The Wild Psychologist

8 Ways to Slow Down

8 Ways to Slow Down

The Italians have got many things right- they’ve perfected the art of food, they are known for their art, their culture and there is even the phrase Italian lover for a reason. One thing that most Italians know how to do well is the phrase “La dolce far niente”– translated as “the art of doing nothing.” Europe just knows how to do it. In many countries in Europe, people sit on patios drinking espresso or have a nice glass of wine in the middle of the day. Yes, the middle of the day. Why is this not common in North America?! Well, for one I guess it’s the shitty weather. But seriously, I think if everyone took a little siesta break offices would be more productive and the world would be a better place.

In such a busy and chaotic world like this one, it’s important to take time to slow down. With our computers constantly on, the buzz of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the whirlwind of looking your best, making lots of money, learning more, being better than others, and getting better grades– life can be a constant busy struggle for some. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and even trigger mental illness! La Dolce far niente is the opposite of all this. It’s about unplugging, slowing down, and taking in the experience of life (smelling the roses!). I’m not sure about you- but the more I look at apps like Facebook and Instagram, I want to have more, more and more– it’s neverending! More money, more success, more beauty (those IG models, though! WTF am I right?) The world isn’t supposed to be like this! Life definitely has more to offer. So I suggest- unplugging and plug yourself into some of these meditative, relaxing life experiences instead of going on your computer.

Is it just me- or after wasting so much time looking at other people’s lives on Instagram or Facebook, you start to feel a little bit shitty about your life. That isn’t good. That feeling is not a feeling we should be experiencing. We should compete with ourselves and only ourselves for “living my best life“, a popular Instagram hashtag. Such bullshit. Honestly- I’m sick of people posting that! Because no one knows what’s going on behind a photo! We need to stop deceiving ourselves into thinking this culture of competitiveness and more more more is a good thing!

Most people have heard that studies show the benefits of yoga and meditation- activities that get you to slow down and relax. I think practising dolce far niente can be incorporated into our everyday activities. Another word that could mean the same (which is common here in the West) is practising mindfulness. 

If you want to have a little dolce far niente in your life, consider adding a few of these 10 activities into your life:

1. Go for a mindful Walk: 

No, not just any walk. It has to be one where you stop and smell the roses. Walk slowly, take in everything and listen to the birds, and all the sounds around you. A mindful walk in a forest or along the beach in bare feet will do you good.

2. Get coffee mindfully

Go to a cafe and order your favourite drink. Read a book or simply observe others around you. Enjoy the moment. Try not to go on your phone and distract yourself. Enjoy taking time out for yourself!

3. Go swimming

Studies have shown swimming is good for anxiety. The repetitive movements are calming and give you time to think (or not think) while you’re getting some cardio in. The controlled breathing and repetitive strokes make swimming a mindful and healthy activity.

4. Take a hike

Hiking is one of those activities which enables you to get out in nature and exercise at the same time. The Japanese have a word for walking in the forest translated as “Forest bathing”- studies have actually shown that going for walks in the forest is good for your overall physical & mental health!

5. Take a nap

La Dolce far niente isn’t always about doing something! Sometimes, it’s about doing less. Life can be overwhelming and stressful- sometimes you just need to take a nap. I think it’s important to know that its okay if you need to rest during the day. Our  culture here in the West is always about go go go, but that can be taxing on the body! Listen to your body- if it’s the weekend and you need a break- don’t feel bad about slowing down.

6. Stretch

Stretching increases flexibility, promotes blood flow, and improves posture. It is also extremely relaxing. Consider incorporating a few morning and evening stretches into your routine- you’ll notice it makes your mornings and evenings a little more relaxing and comfortable.

7. Listen to music

When’s the last time you sat on your bed, put your headphones on, and just listened to music? Music is very therapeutic, and studies have shown this as well! You could even go outside & get some sun while you’re at it.

8. Get some sun

Many people who live in the Western hemisphere are severely deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is so important for bone health, immune system support, brain health, cardiovascular health, and more!! The sun has been demonized as a cause of skin cancer, however, too little sun is not good for you either. Vitamin D activates important enzymes and is important for many chemical reactions in your body! Sitting in the sun for an hour or so (not too long!- too much sun is also dangerous) can make you feel great. I suggest incorporating this into your day whenever you can.

So, hopefully I’ve convinced you to slow down a bit!

Thank you for reading, and as always, love yourselves 🙂

-The Wild Psychologist

Breathe- it’s good for you

Breathe- it’s good for you

Um.. okay. Right now you’re thinking “I already am breathing- that’s how I’m staying alive, dumb dumb.” Ok, I get it. We’re all breathing. However, I just found a study that emphasizes what we all already knew was good for us- the importance of breathing.

So what’s the deal then? Well, in this study breathing was found to modulate brain activity and mental function! What exactly does that mean? Well basically, according to this article by the Guardian, “The rhythm of breathing co-ordinates electrical activity across a network of brain regions associated with smell, memory, and emotions, and can enhance their functioning, according to a new study by researchers at Northwestern University. ”

Interestingly enough, breathing controls emotional recognition and memory recall, and this effect is seen more accurately during breathing IN than breathing out. Oh, and the “mode of delivery” is also important here- breathing through the nose showed these effects whereas when the participants in the study breathed through their mouths, their performance on both tasks declined markedly. So what does this tell us? Well, breathing is unconsciously controlled by the brainstem (the good ‘ol brain stem), and our breathing changes in response to emotional stimuli and mental effort, this suggests that our thought processes affect our breathing rate (which, we all knew anyways- I mean, who doesn’t notice the quickening of breath when we are mad or scared?).

This study is so important because it suggests that breathing can impact how well our brains work and our mental function. If breathing has some kind of effect on brain activity, it would make sense that by breathing fast when you’re scared or in a highly dangerous fight-for-your-life situation, this can optimise information processing in the brain so you can think and act appropriately and quickly. Put simply, breathing fast= more air. More air= a better working brain. This makes me think of running; when you run, you breathe faster so your muscles get more oxygen to meet the increased energy needs. This makes intuitive sense that the same would apply to your brain- a more strenuous task or situation (such as fight-or-flight) would require more oxygen to work better. As the article states, “When you breathe in… you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus,” says Zelano. “In a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster [and] as a result you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling,” [This] could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”

Anyways, what I got from this was 1) Breathe through your nose damn it! and 2) breathe- it will keep you alive girlfriend.

Link to original study:

Zelano, C., et al. (2016). Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function. J. Neurosci., 6: 12448 –12467 [Abstract]

Why wild?

Why wild?

Hi there! Glad you could stop by!

I’m so excited to start this new project, which entails reviewing interesting and wacky psychology, neuroscience, and general science articles and providing my perspective. I will also be sharing some interesting ideas I have on philosophy and life in general here. Why am I doing this? For one, reading scientific articles and practising writing is an imperative skill for any future psychologist to master. You must be excellent at analyzing scientific articles, picking apart their flaws, and critiquing their research. Secondly, as I am an aspiring psychologist, I need to get better at writing and reading scientific articles. In general, writing is a skill that can always be improved upon. Taking up a personal growth project such as this one can only improve one’s life and the life of others. By showcasing interesting research, it not only improves my knowledge of new research but helps others as well. So hopefully, you out there somewhere reading this, and I can work together on this project in scientific discovery and exploration together.

So why “wacky” psychologist, you ask. Well, people that know me describe me as wild. In a good way (I hope). The second thing I should address is my Carie Bradshaw-Sex-in-the-City-esque approach to this whole scientific writing thing. I’m here to write for fun, in a fun way, and what better way to connect to you than to appeal to your human side and write in a way that appeals to everyone-to make science accessible. If you’ve ever seen Sex in the City, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Most episodes open with Carie on her MacBook, typing and internally dialoguing her words as she writes, in a quirky and eccentric way on some unusual sex or dating topic. I intend to be the “Carie Bradshaw” of psychology blogs. So, buckle up and strap yourselves in- this is going to be a wild ride!

-Take care of yourselves,

The wild psychologist