***I am a Certified Holistic Nutrition Health Coach however, this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be used as nutrition or medical advise. See my blog’s disclaimer for more information.
I did a post back when I first started my blog in 2017 (before I relaunched it this year) about how I cleared my severe cystic acne. I’m happy to say that my skin has continued to stay clear! Through lots of trial and error, many failed dermatologist appointments, and my own research, I cleared my skin and it’s been clear for 5 years now! (Almost exactly! I went gluten free in October 2015 and my skin’s been clear ever since.)
While a gluten sensitivity was my issue which caused excess inflammation in my body and showed up in my skin via cystic acne, gluten isn’t the issue for everyone. In this post, I’m going to address,
- The problem with how dermatologists treat acne.
- Foods that could be causing your acne.
- What you can do to get clear skin for good!
So if you (or your child) is suffering, definitely keep reading!
(Even though I caked on the makeup when my skin was bad, you can still see how bumpy my skin was…and this is with the not great 2010 quality camera’s…)
My Acne Story: (brief version)
I started getting acne when I was about 12 years old. Everyone attributed it to “normal teenage acne” and just brushed it off. The older I got, the worse my skin got. I not only had acne on my face, but it was down my neck, chest, shoulders, back, stomach, and I’d even get spots on my upper thighs. I’m sorry but common sense says that my acne was not caused by makeup clogging my pores or using the wrong skincare products on my face since it was literally ALL OVER MY BODY!
When I started seeing the dermatologist, he swore up and down that diet had nothing to do with my acne. (*If you have a dermatologist who says the same thing, run! Find a new one, or even better, start working with a holistic health/nutrition coach!) Even my primary care doctor was convinced that diet had nothing to do with my acne too.
Here’s My Big Issue With Doctors and Dermatologists:
My dermatologist started me with antibiotics (ampicillin) twice a day as well as a prescription cleanser and a cream called Duac Gel. When I went to see him 3 months later, my skin was still pretty bad, so he prescribed me a peeling solution that he had the pharmacy mix up for him. This peeling solution had large amounts of salicylic acid and alcohol in it. My skin was beyond dry, red, flaky, itchy, super irritated, and I STILL HAD CYSTIC ACNE. At that point, he took me off the Duac Gel and switched me to a different antibiotic (tetracycline).
In the meantime, I had an appointment with my primary care doctor. She noticed how bad my skin was and says, “I’m going to prescribe you this cream. It’s great, it’ll clear that acne right up!” I asked her what cream it was because I already go to the dermatologist and he has me on treatments already. She said the cream is called DUAC GEL. I told her my dermatologist already had me on that cream, it didn’t work, so he took me off it. She tells me, “No, it works. Let me write you the prescription and you can try it.” I told her, “No, don’t write me the prescription. I’ve already tried that cream and it DID NOT WORK.” This is when I really got mad… she tells me, “Well let me just write you the prescription, go fill it, but you don’t have to use it.” Let’s just say I did not go back to that nutcase who didn’t even try to hide the fact that she’s getting a kickback from the drug companies.
Anywaysss…I tried the new antibiotic (tetracycline) from my dermatologist and had a horrible reaction to it, so I stopped taking it after the first day. I remember going to my mom in tears just questioning what to do because nothing was working. So I went back to the dermatologist, where he prescribed me a topical antibiotic instead (clindamycin), as well as retin-A and cortisone. Again, none of it worked and my skin got even worse! (Keep in mind that diet was never mentioned and he swore up and down that diet had nothing to do with it.) At this point, he told me that if I didn’t want to do Accutane, then he had nothing else for me.
The big problem with doctors and dermatologists is that they treat acne like it’s the problem instead of treating it as the symptom of a problem (which is what it is.) They try to hide the symptom instead of looking for what’s causing the symptom and they don’t even acknowledge that there could be a bigger problem. This is especially the case with cystic acne as cystic acne starts on the deepest layer of your skin…you feel it coming before you ever see it.
Try this with me…
Use some common sense and critical thinking skills and answer this. How would something that’s irritating the top layer of your skin appear at the deepest layer of your skin first and not even show up at the top layer of your skin for days? The answer is, it doesn’t. Cystic acne is an internal issue and it needs to be treated as such. No amount of creams, face washes, or skincare routines will fix the problem. They may hide the symptoms of the problem temporarily, but you’re doing yourself a disservice by not looking for the root cause.
Root Causes of Acne:
Many cases of cystic acne can be attributed to a food sensitivity or intolerance. Did you know the most common, undiagnosed food sensitivities/intolerances are gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs? For me, the culprit was gluten! Apparently I’m sensitive to it. I figured it out by doing an elimination diet. To start, I eliminated dairy. I was dairy free for months, but my skin was still bad. As soon as I went gluten free, within 2 weeks, I didn’t have a single new breakout and the breakouts I had were clearing up! When you’re doing an elimination diet (especially for acne), give it at least a month or even 2 in order to see if eliminating a certain food will make a difference.
A brief run-down on how to do an elimination diet is to eliminate all possible culprit’s at once (gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs) for a few weeks, then slowly add them back into your diet, one at a time. Give each food at least a week (or even more to give time for your skin to react) before adding back another food.
If you don’t believe your acne is caused by a food sensitivity, it could be caused by a poor diet in general. What I mean by that is too much sugar, preservatives, artificial flavorings and colors, additives, etc. If you’re not eating real food, but you’re eating food like substances instead, you’re not giving your body the nutrition it needs to function properly. Eating junk causes excess inflammation in the body. One place that inflammation appears is the skin in the form of cystic acne, eczema, rashes, and other skin issues.
Changing up your diet and eating real, whole foods can really help your skin look its best! (I did a post on how to eat real food, so if you’re struggling with eating a clean diet, check it out!)
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Another “root cause” of cystic acne is a hormonal imbalance. Too much testosterone in females can cause acne. But an imbalance in other hormones such as estrogen and even your thyroid can cause skin issues. I HIGHLY recommend reading THIS BOOK…it will teach you so much about your body and hormones which I believe is so important for every female to know!
Heal Your Gut:
Your gut is literally the center of everything going on in your body! If your gut isn’t healthy, you’re not healthy. 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. If your gut isn’t functioning properly, your body won’t be absorbing nutrients properly, and it can cause inflammation in your body which all effects your skin. (Having an unhealthy gut causes many more issues than just those 2, but this post is focused on acne.) If you need to heal your gut, you can also start with an elimination diet and see if you feel better after eliminating certain foods. You can take a probiotic and prebiotic and eat fermented foods to help restore the good gut bacteria. You can also take gut enzymes to help break down food and digest food easier. When I was having some gut issues and I started to heal my gut, I started taking Dr. Axe’s gut formula, fermented enzymes, and probiotics. Dr. Axe sells different combinations of gut healing products so take a look and see what may work for you!
I truly believe it is so important to find the root cause of not just acne, but any other health issue! Skin is just the surface and any reaction on your skin is most likely causing a reaction internally as well.
As important as finding the root cause of acne is, I also believe it’s so important to know what you’re putting on your skin for acne treatments as well. Unfortunately, companies can make claims that have no proof just for marketing purposes. They can claim to be non-comedogenic, but have ingredients in the product that are very clogging. It’s so important to read ingredient labels and know what you’re actually putting on your skin! I address skincare for acne in this post. There’s a lot of information on ingredients you should always avoid if you suffer from acne! (You’ll probably be surprised by a few of them.)
If you’re struggling from acne, you’re not alone. Please know there are better, more permanent treatment options than your typical drugs from the dermatologist (which do more harm than good.) There are so many different causes of acne, but getting to the root cause is the only “treatment” that will work in the long run. And beyond just clearing your acne, you’ll probably cure other issues you didn’t realize were related! Quick little story before I end this post…when I went gluten free for my acne, my chronic headaches went away as well, my “time of the month” issues improved, and my seasonal allergies improved TREMENDIOUSLY! (All of these issues are made worse by inflammation in the body…I got rid of a big source of inflammation which not only cured my acne, but was the most effective treatment for my other health issues!)
Just remember that FOOD IS THE BEST MEDICINE and it can easily be more effective than any prescription drug. If you’ve improved or cured your skin or other health issues through finding the root cause and making lifestyle changes, I’d love to hear your story, so please share in the comments below!