Our bodies are our homes while we’re on this Earth. And we want to feel good and comfortable in our own skin.
My skin definitely isn’t perfect, but it has come a really long way from where it’s been. I’ve always had acne. It usually clears up during the summer time and resurfaces during the change of seasons (at its worst during winter). But over the course of the last year, I started getting cystic acne on my cheeks and forehead. These spots would stick around for months at a time. I got back and chest acne as well. My pores were enlarged like crazy. And on top of all this, I was breaking out in rashes, and on occasion, burns from trying a billion different products. As the acne itself went away, it would leave behind scars that I thought would never leave.
I didn’t know where to turn when it came to skincare. Everything I used either didn’t work or made it worse. I got a few products from my dermatologist at first, but they take three months to kick in and work steadily. Truly, I was impatient, and I also didn’t want to have to rely on these to keep my acne away for good.
I was really embarrassed of my skin. I told myself I could only wear certain clothes, so people couldn’t see my back, and I scrambled to find a good foundation to cover up my face. I didn’t want anyone to see me. Growing up in the age of social media makes it really hard to be confident in your own skin, when you’re constantly seeing these seemingly perfect people. There’s a lot of room for comparison. I used to edit my face on some of my pictures because I didn’t want anyone to know what was really there.
I had to learn to love myself throughout all of this, despite what my skin looked like and know that there is so much beneath all of that. Having acne is not an “ugly” thing. It’s a normal human thing that most people struggle with. There was nothing wrong with me when my skin was awry- it just needed a little more TLC. It was my body’s way of telling me something was up that I needed to deal with. Acne didn’t make me any less. I didn’t, and don’t, have to hide.
I wish someone could’ve flat out given me a solution when I was desperately searching for one. This was my journey though, and everyone’s solution is going to be different. What’s listed below is what helped me, and hopefully it’ll help lead one of you to yours.
Secrets to Getting Clear Skin
Treat from the inside-out.
We must work from the inside-out. Doing this helps you clear the root of the problem, so it doesn’t resurface again. The goal is to nourish and nurture your overall health.
Your inner work and work that is done from the inside is where the bulk of the effort lies.
- Mental/Emotional Health. When I look back at the times I had a lot of acne, I was most often not happy, stressed, anxious, or depressed. I wasn’t doing well mentally, and my skin was a reflection of that. It sucked because my skin breaking out put an even bigger damper on my self-esteem, but those were times when I really needed to take care of myself.
- Me-Time. Make time for yourself and things that make you happy. Go for a walk. Make some art. Make sure there’s always at least a day a week that’s just for you. Don’t be afraid to be selfish.
- De-stress. Stress can play a HUGE role in acne. It’s important to de-stress throughout the day. Meditate. Do some breathwork. Write in your journal, and identify your feelings. It’s important to come back down to the ground and realign yourself.
- Happiness. When I’m happy, I have the best skin. It’s almost like it glows. The key (for me) to being happy is what’s said above. I lean towards being anxious, so I’m constantly having to identify what’s going on inside of me, debunk stressful situations, and re-ground myself. I do things to set myself up for success. P.S. Being grateful brings joy into your heart.
- Cleanse. While looking for solutions online, I discovered Organic Olivia’s blog about how she cleared her acne. She swore by doing a parasite cleanse. I was familiar with the subject because I’d done a few before, but I’d never thought about how parasites can relate to cystic acne. (Yes, we all have parasites. And no, they don’t have to be causing life-threatening illness.) Parasites can also cause a slew of mental health issues like anxiety. It all lined up for me. I went to Whole Foods and picked up a two week microbial cleanse. I did the two weeks, waited one week, and repeated it. Not only did my entire body feel like I was getting rid of all the junk, but my face acne was significantly reduced in size, and my body acne was disappearing.
- A Good Diet. A good diet doesn’t mean dieting. It means clean-eating and drinking lots of water for the most part. It’s not about being super strict with yourself either. Treat yourself, but understand it’s everything in moderation. I don’t hold back when I want something because I don’t want my relationship to food to be negative. I want to enjoy the food I eat. For the most part, I try to stick to eating a plethora of veggies, lean proteins, and I cook at home. I also try to stay away from most processed foods and sugary drinks. Kombucha is my favorite alternative because it has probiotics and is also fizzy like soda.
- Listen to your body. Only eat when you’re hungry. Overeating can put stress on your body because it’s overloaded. Be conscious of what feels good.
- Less Coffee. Coffee dehydrates the body. This is my biggest vice because I love coffee, but it also causes major anxiety. Staying away from it, and choosing to drink herbal tea instead, improves my skin health tenfold. It also helps bring my stress levels down :).
- Vitamins- A good probiotic can go a long way. Imbalances in the body, especially in the gut, can lead to acne. I took a Skin Probiotic for a while, when my skin was at its worst. Now, I stick to a Bio-K probiotic for my overall gut health.
Treating the surface layer.
- A Good Skincare Routine. There are lots of super fancy acne fighting products on the market. There are many things people will try to sell you because it’s “revolutionary”, but 1) why would I spend that kind of money if I don’t know if it’ll work, and 2) they’re usually out of my budget. I needed things that actually do something and are reasonably priced. I tried pretty much everything and read a bunch of articles before I found the one. The first thing that worked for me was the SLMD Acne System Kit. I opted out of using the cleanser because of a sulfate it contained, but everything else was great. After using it for a few months, I began to branch out.
- My skincare routine consists of:
- Cleanser– I use this once a day, usually at night. If I’m breaking out more, I use it twice a day. Otherwise, in the morning, I just rinse my face with warm water, massage with an exfoliating glove, then rinse with cold water. I like to have a cleanser with salicylic acid in it to help fight breakouts, so the Aveeno Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser is ideal and also cheap. There’s another awesome exfoliating cleanser by Skin Medica with AHA and BHA. It’s a little more pricey.
- Toner– I use this morning and night. As an astringent, it helps tighten your pores back up after washing. Just regular witch hazel works, or the Thayers Witch Hazel (rose petal).
- Exfoliant– AHA and BHA work wonders on acne, ESPECIALLY if you get those little skin colored bumps that don’t ever leave. It helps peel away the dead skin and reveal a new layer. I like the BHA Liquid Exfoliant from Paula’s Choice. I only use it at night because if used too much, it makes my skin dry.
- Retinol– This is only used at night. It helps bring collagen to the surface of your skin, helps smooth skin texture, and get rid of dark spots/acne marks. I still use the SLMD Retinol Serum.
- Treatment– This is basically a spot treatment. I use drugstore brand benzoyl peroxide whenever I get a stubborn pimple. Other times, I use tea tree oil- ONLY when there’s nothing else but lotion on my face. (CAUTION: Always dilute tea tree oil. Never ever mix it with chemical treatments. And test to see if you’re allergic first.)
- Moisturizer– Used morning and night. It’s always, always oil-free. (Oil clogs pores, so I try to make sure all my products are oil-free.) I like it to have vitamin C to help reduce hyperpigmentation. The Avalon Organics Intense Defense Oil-Free moisturizer is my favorite.
- Sunscreen– I really only use this in the summer time or when my skin is oily. My sunscreen contains niacinamide, which helps balance oil production. I like the EltaMD sunscreen.
- If you have body acne, I swear by the Paula’s Choice Acne Body Spray.
- *Bonus*- To help extract the dirt out of my pores and pull out toxins, I use the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. This stuff is true magic.
- My skincare routine consists of:
- Don’t Pick at Your Face. Just don’t.
- Check the Ingredients in Everything. I can’t stress this enough. Because Perioral Dermatitis is triggered by certain things, and because my skin is so sensitive, I have to be careful with what I’m using. Everything I buy, I READ THE LABEL first. Most products contain SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), which is a really big no-no for PD. Sulfates can clog pores and also cause skin irritation. Check your detergent, dish soap, foamy hand soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Look for things without sulfates, parabens, fragrance, etc.
- It’s hard to find products without all these chemicals in them, I know. But there are brands out there that strive to put conscious products out. Some examples are; Shea Moisture, Whole Foods Organic Detergent, Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, and Lyonsleaf.
- Know everything you put on your skin goes into your body. It all has an effect and swings back around. Here are some quick little facts for you about things to avoid (from @plateful.health on Instagram):
- Makeup. The thought of this at first made me nervous because I didn’t want to expose my skin, but wearing less face makeup helped reduce my problem of clogged pores. Instead of covering my face in foundation, I just use concealer under my eyes or as a spot cover up. Primer helps the product not seep in either. Remember to properly remove makeup- exfoliating with gloves help here. Also CLEAN YOUR MAKEUP BRUSHES. I’d get acne wherever I was swiping that brush because bacteria was collecting all over it. It’s important to wash them periodically.
- Exercise. Get your blood flowing! Exercise helps improve circulation and move the blood to where it needs to go. Sweating also helps expel toxins. I don’t love exercising, but it makes me feel good and improves the way my skin looks. Even just getting out for a walk every day makes a huge difference.
Ever since doing all of this consistently, I haven’t broken out much. Sometimes I’ll break out because of something I ate (like dairy, sugar, or gluten), other times for hormonal reasons (my cycle). My pores stay clear, and I keep an eye on my mental health, which helps keep my skin glowy. I also make sure to get enough sleep, so my body has time to heal itself.
These are some photos of what my skin looks like now. Healed :).
Take this all with a grain of salt. Know that you are beautiful, and you don’t have to be ashamed of your skin. I understand that now more than ever and have to fully accept myself as I am.