This is Part 1 of How To Get Rid of Acne series. In the next five weeks I will talk about the main causes of acne, six key mistakes I made, my tips for getting clear skin, and, finally, my complete morning and evening skincare routine.
Please check out the video below, which I made on this topic. It briefly touches on all five subjects. Keep reading if you want the full story.
Acne Is Just a Cosmetic Defect? Really?
Acne is just a cosmetic defect, they say, but oh how it scars our hearts and souls forever. Our faces are the one and only part of our bodies that we never cover (of course, I am talking about the West).
People also say that eyes are windows to our souls but what if those windows are on an ugly and unhealthy canvas?
What if looking into a mirror every time becomes an excruciatingly painful experience?
What if when somebody comes really close to us wanting intimacy, we automatically imagine them steering at our spots and take a step back?
Sometimes I think that I failed to make many meaningful and close friendships as I was growing up because I was always taking those steps back and subconsciously pushing away people that were close to me. Because I don’t like anyone seeing me vulnerable or imperfect. Because I am the one who never cries in public!
I allowed my acne take over my life.
Makeup Addiction Ruled My Life
You are probably going to say, “But acne can be covered up! We live in the 21st century”. Well, when your skin is so dry, flaky and irritated, covering up in most cases can only make you look worse. I was covering up my acne for 12 years, and no one apart from my family and husband ever saw me without makeup. In 12 years!
I was one of those girls who go out to throw away rubbish wearing foundation, concealer and all that jazz. Many people thought I was vain, but it was only my self-defence. I couldn’t bear showing my unhealthy skin!
If you had asked in those days what my biggest fear was, I would have said, “Losing my luggage with makeup!”. That’s why I never put my makeup in the hold luggage, I had to have it with me at all times. What a slavery it was!
But a Different Life Exists Out There
Let me warn you – this is going to be a lengthy post but I hope that some of you will be able to relate to my acne story, and I would like to think that I’ve managed to inspire those who are going through the same experience.
There is hope and you will get there! Healthy skin is your birth right! Even if doctors and the cosmetics industry are trying to deny it.
So grab yourself a cup of herbal tea, sit back and enjoy my story with a very happy ending.
The Birth of the Monster
I first started getting acne when I was around 16. I had perfect porcelain skin until my mum decided to take me to a dermatologist for a couple of milia under the eyes. If I had known what a horrible snowball effect it would all have, I would have embraced my milia forever, but…
The dermatologist performed a facial, removed the milia and prescribed a cream with strong glycolic acid – that was it, the beginning of my acne troubles.
As years passed, my skin was getting progressively worse. I tried so many different things and spent so much money on all kinds of treatments. I got excited about a treatment only to get bitterly disappointed a couple of weeks later. I’m sure a lot of you will relate to that .
What Went Through My Desperate Mind and Gradual Road to Recovery
Let me share with you the thought process behind my battle over the years. It might look like a meaningless mix but it is what eventually brought me to the winning combination.
Those who were laughing and teasing me (that’s you, mum!) will have to bite their tongue because I ended up winning.
What inspired me to write a list like this was an article on Skinacea. It made me so relieved to know that I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t alone, so I thought I would share my own.
So here’s my eclectic thought process over the 12 years:
- “Glycolic Acid is making my skin peel. It feels super dry but the derm said it’s supposed to be like that. Maybe I should try a a strong glycolic peel to speed up the shedding of dead skin.”
- “After the peel, my skin doesn’t look better – in fact, it looks redder and more irritated. I guess I’ll just quit all acids altogether and try to ignore the problem. Why not use plain cheap skincare for combination/oily skin?”
- “Skin is super dry during the winter, why don’t I get some nourishing cream?” It works great for a week but then ends up clogging the pores. “Hmmmm, back to skincare for oily skin.”
- Start working for a luxury department store and get access to discounted high-end skincare brands. End up using Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturising Gel and Laura Mercier’s cleansing gel. Things kind of plateau for a couple of years.
- Laura Mercier stops producing my cleanser, so I am forced to find a new one. I choose Mac’s green cleansing gel – it works so great for the first month that I am acne free for the first time in ages.
- That Mac’s cleanser dries out my skin so much that my skin is severely dehydrated. I read somewhere about Dermalogica’s Pre-cleanse Oil and decide to give their line a try. My skin goes into oily overdrive after double cleansing every night. I have the worst skin ever, and I also start getting massive cystic acne for the first time. Coincidentally, it’s also the summer of my wedding – shit happens!
- Scared off any oils, I go back to oil-free cleanser and start trying out various spot treatments: Bare Minerals Blemish Remedy, Origins Spot Remover, Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, etc. At this point, it’s costing me hundreds of pounds but everything is worth it if only it works. Sadly, nothing works. Things get better for a week and then it’s all downhill again.
- “Clarisonic sounds amazing. Everyone seems to love it and it seems to clear up acne. I have to give it a try!” It works brilliantly for a month – then my skin gets much worse again. Overexfoliation isn’t good!
- “That Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish sounds amazing. It cleared up a lot of people’s acne and a friend of mine is raving about it, so maybe I should try.” I get hold of it and it works amazingly well – I enjoy clear skin for a month. But one morning i wake up with oozing spots all over my face and extreme dryness. My face is burning and itching so much that I am going nuts. Makeup looks so caked up that my self-confidence goes down the drain.
- Thinking that maybe it was the eucalyptus oil and cocoa butter in the Liz Earle cleanser, I try the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) for the first time. It only gets worse.
- I decide to go the natural route and head over to Lush. I pick up the Herbalism cleanser and some masks. They end up irritating my acne even more – Herbalism has mild scrubbing particles. What did I expect using a scrub day and night as a cleanser? Obviously, my skin is worse than ever and I have numerous cystic bumps along my jaw line.
- I go on holiday and eat a lot of flour-based meals, as well as drink a lot of beer (which is based on wheat) – my breakouts are worse than ever but I am still not making the link. You know the conventional mantra – food is not responsible for acne! It’s still deeply ingrained in my brain.
- I get a facial done and the facialist mentions it could be demodex mites. I find a local aromatherapy store – they sell a bottle of natural oils that claim to kill demodex. It does make my skin more comfortable and nourished than ever but I am still getting a lot of spots. I go on holiday to Italy and enjoy glorious skin for a week but on the last day I eat a lot of sweets (plus pizza every night) and I come back home with not so glorious eruption on my cheeks.
- I start researching again and find a Chinese ointment that seems to have cured a lot of people’s acne by killing the mites. So I close my eyes to the price and order it. I am so desperate at this point that I don’t care about the cost anymore.
- “The Chinese cream definitely improves my skin but it also makes it extremely dry. Spots keep getting worse again as the time goes. I don’t want to deal with unknown Chinese chemicals anymore (did I tell you the cream didn’t even have an ingredient list?).”
- I decide to try the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) again. Since the initial success with Liz Earle’s cleanser, I’ve had a gut feeling that using oils is the right route (turns out my gut feeling was right all along) but I have to find a way to make it work.
- The OCM irritates my skin badly and I get a cystic breakout again. My skin feels drier than ever. (Now I know it’s because I used too much Castor oil in the mix).
- I get fed up and go to a dermatologist who prescribes an antibiotic lotion with alcohol. Works great for a week, then makes things much worse than before. Obviously! What did I think?
- Around this time, I read about the influence of foods and start limiting my sugar intake but don’t limit carbs or fruit. Being a vegetarian, I don’t get a lot of protein at all. On top of the skin problems, my hair starts falling out and my nails get really weak.
- I read that BHA acids could unclog pores, so I find Paula’s Choice products and order a lot of them. Again, the skin gets better for a while and then starts getting progressively worse.
- Desperate for another fix, I order Dan’s acne.org treatment with benzoyl peroxide. My spots don’t stop, my face looks burned, super red and irritated. I get at least 5 new spots every day. It’s so uncomfortable and painful that it makes me seriously depressed. Sometimes I even think it would be easier if I just died rather than living my whole life like this. I guess that’s my lowest point. I spend hours applying all kinds of products on my skin, hide fanatically from the sun, want to cry from all this burning and itching, and yet at any time I have at least 20 active pimples on my face. Usually I lose count before I count them all.
- My skin gets so dry that I realize it’s time to nourish it a bit, so I stop washing it and start moisturizing it exclusively with oils. I cleanse my skin with Bioderma’s sensitive micellar water and then apply a few drops of oil. Instead of keeping my skin more hydrated, the oils seem to be making it even drier.
- Go back to Paula’s Choice products but they aren’t working anymore at all. I move to a hot and dry climate – my skin is literally freaking out. Thought a bit of sun and sea water would do wonders but it does not!
- I try some French pharmacy brands, La Roche-Posay (the famous Effaclar K and Effaclar Duo) and Vichy Normaderm to be precise. There are some improvements but nowhere near enough. I also start developing patches of dermatitis around my lips and under my eyes for the first time ever.
- “My skin is getting progressively drier, and my spots seem to get worse on the days when my skin feels super tight and dry.” I decide to try more natural and gentle skincare, and end up ordering some Michael Todd’s testers. They seem to work great, so I order full sizes but by the time they arrive, my skin is again worse than ever! (Does it happen to you as well? You think it works, order a product and a week later it stops working?)
- I realize that gel cleansers are drying out my skin too much, so I start using Caudalie’s Gentle Cleansing Milk. My skin immediately improves and feels much better. I don’t get cystic acne anymore. But I keep getting those annoying white pustules and little red spots.
- A friend tells us about the 80/10/10 diet and we decide to give it a try. Skin is great for the first week and then gets seriously angry with lots of new spots. No wonder why with all that sugar! That deserves another blog post but I will just say that the 80/10/10 diet messed up my body so much that it took 2 months to recover.
- I discover the Paleo diet and convince my hubby to join me in trying it out. It works like a charm and my skin gets heaps better. My hair gets thicker than ever and stops falling. My nails grow long and strong. I’m exhilarated but I still don’t have perfect skin! And I still don’t feel happy depending on all those chemical products.
- I start sunbathing for 15-20 minutes a day to increase my Vitamin D production as I suspect I could be severely deficient after living in the North all my life and hiding from the sun due to all the acids I was using.
- I also start taking liquid Omega-3. My skin definitely feels more nourished.
- Paleo diet is not a diet, it is a lifestyle, so I go on a quest to make all aspects of my life Paleo friendly. I ditch the shampoo and have great results. I ditch fluoride based toothpaste and have healthier teeth and gums. I get inspired to try making my skincare Paleo friendly as well. I start doing the Oil Cleansing Method and start moisturizing with oils. I throw away all my chemical products and enjoy slowly but surely improving skin.
- Finally, I get rid of the last chemical in my life: the Pill. I decide to go for the natural birth control based on fertility awareness, and, as an unexpected surprise, my skin clears up completely.
The end! Hope I haven’t bored you with this. I now enjoy healthy and content skin. I attribute it totally to the Paleo diet (read here and here for Primal Diet Essentials), the OCM and getting rid of all chemical products (especially alcohol, perfume, silicones and other horrible things in commercial products).
Healthy Skin Is Just Round the Corner
If anybody had told me a couple of years ago that I would be happily walking around with a makeup free face and I would be proud of my skin, I would have laughed at them and probably would have slapped them on their face.
But my persistence paid off. Keep trying and you will find a way! Ignore those who laugh at you! Ignore those who say acne is incurable! Healthy skin is your birthright and you will achieve it!
As always, if you have any questions or simply need some support, I am here for you.
I want you to have healthy skin that you can be proud of! If I can help you achieve it, I will be one step closer to completing my mission.
Does my thought process look familiar? Can you identify yourself in any of my thoughts? What are your favourite methods of fighting acne?