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!