I have dealt with acne for most of my life. I am not talking a few breakouts on my chin and cheeks, I mean cystic acne, deep-rooted all over my face for years type of acne. Using everything from countless pharmaceuticals as a teenager, to potent face creams, face washes, toners, acids, birth control pills, you name it - I have tried it. Most of the time the result was a really red face, more acne, more pills, and increased frustration! Using makeup to cover up and feeling super self conscience and embarrassed to look people in the face. I always thought people would judge me for something I felt I had no control over. I never knew what to do, I went to countless doctor visits and I felt like I had really tried evvvvverything. I always thought it was something that would eventually go away as I aged, when my hormones would "sort themselves out" but as I continued into my early twenties, I still had acne, and not only on my face it had started to show up on my back as well. I was so frustrated and felt completely defeated. I always though acne was a teenager thing, not an adult thing - I didn't understand. As I became increasingly passionate towards healthier, "granola crunchin" living, I started to understand something. Everything I had tried was trying to cover-up the symptom - not the root cause. Two things that were never discussed with me was diet/lifestyle factors and the ingredients in the beauty products I was using. It wasn't until my early twenty's that I clued into these two major factors. As someone who has been on a journey to clearer skin for what felt like forever, the idea that acne was a sign of imbalance within my body, and not just a facial annoyance was HUGE! First I started outward, looking into the products I was using on my skin and researching what was in them. Our skin is our largest organ - it absorbs so much of what is applied onto it. Think about that, all of the products that each of use on a daily basis; makeup, shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, nail polish etc., and think about how many chemicals, artificial colours, dyes, toxins and man-made substances are in these conventional products. Although some of the substances in products may be harmless, many are found to be endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and neurotoxins. These substances has been shown to disrupt hormones, lead to thyroid and immune balance, infertility, harm metabolic function and much more. According to a study done in the US by the Environmental Working Group, 2,300 people were surveyed, and found that the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every day and the average man uses six products daily with 85 unique ingredients. That is a lot of ingredients EACH DAY! I realized that not only were the face washes, creams and toners harmful to my skin and system, they also dried my skin out to no end, stripping it of natural oils. Some of the harmful ingredients to stay away from in body care products are:
Laurel Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate
And...the list goes on! As unfortunate as it is that so many of the products marketed towards us are full of harmful ingredients, there are thankfully amazing natural alternatives! It has become a major passion of mine to use the least amount of ingredients possible and get the same result of a fancy most likely harmful product when it comes to my beauty regime. I started making a lot of the products I would use or I would buy super natural alternatives to them. Some of the changes I made were using oils to cleanse and moisturize my face. I LOVE Castor oil to wash my face. Not only is it affordable, natural and effective, it even removes makeup! How to use it: I wet my face, then I apply a small amount of oil to my fingertips, then I massage the oil into my skin. I then warm up a facecloth and I gently rub my face with water and the facecloth to remove the oil and impurities from my day! It's awesome. It is rich in omega 9 fatty acids, it soothes acne, reduces redness and inflammation. You may be wondering, why an oil cleanser if you have acne?! Using oil on oily skin, actually allows your skin to re-balance and come back to it's natural moisture levels. I am not a dermatologist or doctor, however using castor oil on my skin has been amazing and I've had great results. To moisturize I use a bunch of different oils like carrot, rose and tamanu oil. I don't wear heavy face makeup in order to allow my skin to breathe and I don't over wash my face. I only wash my face at night, in the morning I just use water. I believe in allowing your natural oils room to do their job. Secondly, I looked inward and I altered my diet. As a Nutritionist I realize how important diet is in regards to our overall health and wellness. Diet is a major component in the health of our skin. Hormonal and digestive balance are major factors. For clearer skin I balanced my hormones and really upped my digestive support. To do this, I increased my fat intake through plant foods like avocados, nuts, chia seeds and hemp seeds, which made a massive difference. Your hormones cannot function properly without fat! Fats are the basic building blocks of your cell membranes, it surrounds every cell allowing the right balance of hormones to enter. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are all steroid hormones made from cholesterol - a fat which your body naturally produces and is also consumed. I started eating two Brazil nuts daily for a daily dose of selenium. Selenium aids in the production of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione, which repairs cell damage and slows down the skin’s aging process. I removed foods from my diet that spike blood sugar. When your blood sugar levels rise quickly your body releases a hormone called insulin. Too much insulin in the blood can cause your oil glands to produce more oil which may in-turn create more acne. Therefore, I cut out a lot of processed foods, refined carbohydrates and processed sugars. That's not to say I don't enjoy some vegan pizza, fries or brownies every now and then, but it's only about 5% of my diet. I removed dairy from my diet completely which has been shown to create inflammation within the body. I use things like cashew cheeses, nut milks and cultured coconut yogurts. I added zinc into my supplement regime, a food source would be pumpkin seeds. Zinc is an essential mineral that has many functions in the body, one of them is anti-inflammatory effects and helps the skin to heal wounds, and aids in new cell production. I inflated my diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, especially those high in antioxidants, vitamin A+E. Lastly, I increased the healthy bacteria in my gut with probiotic and prebiotic foods, such as kimchi, kombucha, onions and dandelion greens. Increasing fiber rich foods and healthy bacteria allows your body to digest and eliminate efficiently. When your body does not eliminate efficiently the toxins sitting in your digestive tract can get re-absorbed, causing a plethora of effects and imbalances. The third thing I did was to let go of the frustration of my acne. I accepted that I had it and I accepted that I was working towards resolving the root cause of my symptoms. I tried not dwell on it and became more confident as I did so. Many people deal with acne; men, women, teenagers and adults it isn't something to be embarrassed about. Calming my mind allowed me to take action towards healing it rather than staying stuck in ruminating over it. There is no one size fits all when it comes to our bodies and acne. There are many different factors that contribute to imbalances within the body. What works for me may not work for you, however if you deal with acne, the above are some great options to explore! Being able to smile confidently into a camera, look people in the eye and not have to worry about covering up my face has been a long and at times very frustrating journey but has taught me patience and a love for natural products and health. I am very happy to share what has worked for me. That isn't to say I don't get a breakout once in a while or experience redness; it still happens, and may always happen, however my acne has dissipated dramatically, naturally, and has been my catalyst to becoming healthier overall.