As you can likely assume from foreshadowing, my hormonal acne came back with a vengeance. I was frustrated, emotionally feeling beaten down by my cysts. I have to say, I tried my best not to care. On my days off I would run around the city without makeup, after leaving work I would wipe away my makeup before spin class. We all have moments of weakness where we feel vulnerable, though. I had a lot of those.
At some point, everything seemed to stop working. My hormonal acne cysts were back. Maybe at the end of 2016? I had a huge flare up the week of November 8th, 2016…. that was definitely stress-induced, ha!
I’m not one to make New Year resolutions, I wouldn’t even call what happened a resolution. I just happened to decide to make a lifestyle change when the year ended. I had been visiting my therapist for other personal matters, seeing progress and growth, and wanted to take self-care seriously. To be honest… it was necessary for survival. Emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, I had to make a lifestyle change. Cue seeing lots of crystals on my Instagram.
When January rolled around, I decided to address my skin from the inside out, tweaking my diet for what I called a vanity project. I wanted to see what would happen to my skin. Not only would this mark the beginning of my obsession with health food, but it would also mark the shift in my approach to skin health. You may already be aware, I see it as a holistic thing: it should be addressed not only topically but our wellbeing should be taken into consideration as well. Think mental wellbeing, emotional well-being, internal wellbeing, physical wellbeing. Your skin is a direct reflection of your whole being, topical products will only go so far. They’re necessary but only a piece of the puzzle.
After implementing my new healthy choices the cycle began, again. Perfect skin for a few months, followed by recurring breakouts.
I found myself deep in the rabbit hole, researching every idea I could think of. Digging through archives of niche esthetics Facebook groups, the natural approachers of skincare. Asking estheticians I’ve befriended over the years for advice. I read Clean Skin From Within and purchased Younger Skin Starts in the Gut (the latter turned into my skincare bible). I introduced fish oil consistently, a healthy balance of omegas, zinc monomethionine, and DIM. I became disciplined in checking labels for soy and dairy, keeping both out of my diet.
This needs to be said: I never prescribe supplements, it’s beyond my scope of practice. I may mention them but only so you can research yourself or ask your doctor about additions to your routine. Stating I use something is not me saying you need to add it to your routine.
I specifically added zinc monomethionine due to this type of zinc being organically bound to a sulfur-containing amino acid. In theory, it should address acne optimally compared to other forms. Initially, I used zinc picolinate, however, it caused more breakouts. During my treatment period, I used zinc for 12 consistent weeks, now I only use it as needed when I have an active breakout.
DIM is like eating 3 pounds of cruciferous vegetables, except you take a single pill instead of force-feeding yourself broccoli and you get exactly what you need from it: diindolylmethane aka DIM. It’s popular among naturopaths and other natural approach practitioners for its ability to metabolize estrogen.
You go through a “detox” period for a week or two while your body flushes out excess estrogen, it’s easy to become dehydrated through the process. DIM was the reason I cut spironolactone out. While I could have continued on both, I felt far too dehydrated and spironolactone seemed to have stopped working for me. So, after some research, I cut it cold turkey. I didn’t have the patience to call my dermatologist office after the weekend.
With these changes, I was making major headway! The continuous tweaking, researching, questioning—it was paying off. My breakouts were changing. Hormonal cysts became less and less of an issue, instead smaller papules, pustules, and blackheads appeared. I don’t know about you, but I’d choose to manage those over cysts any day.
Next, I decided it was time for some blood work and hormone testing, make sure everything was functioning properly internally.
My testosterone came back showing to be crazy high, my estrogen insanely low, all other hormones normal. BONUS: my specific IUD can raise testosterone levels. FAAAAANTASTIC. As it turns out, taking spironolactone medically made sense, but I refused to go back on it.
Around the same time, we were visiting Denver where I had a facial with Stacy, who’s also working towards her naturopathy certification. She works closely with an onsite doctor and offered to help figure out my internal puzzle. On Stacy’s suggestion, I had blood work done. My test results came back near perfect medically, however, naturopaths look at the numbers slightly different.
I really, really wanted to work with a doctor who treated ailments naturally. I had already gone the modern medicine route and didn’t want to continue down that path. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford it, not with launching a skincare line later this year. I wouldn’t normally DIY my health, but it was a realistic option.
Based on my labs I was told I could have potential blood sugar, digestion, liver, and hormonal issues. I went back to researching, finding what I could do myself in the meantime. I read a congested liver can cause hormonal imbalance, so I did a liver detox. I experienced some purging during this time, so I feel it legitimately cleansed my liver. I found a fantastic article outlining how to lower testosterone and used it as a guide, evaluating my test results. In addition to DIM, I added milk thistle and became more disciplined with probiotics and digestive enzymes. I keep my sugar intake below 25g a day because Google says that’s healthy.
I’m a HUGE foodie, like I really, really love food. I’ve always said I would be heartbroken if I acquired a food allergy or sensitivity. Well, somewhere I read gluten can affect hormonal imbalances. Vanity wins again.
As of the end of August, I’m now soy, dairy and gluten-free. Honestly, it hasn’t been bad. I actually like the way health food tastes, to the dismay of the BF. What I miss most is deep fried foods coated in gluten… I have dreams that one day I’ll be able to sneak in a cheat day here and there, I’ve been able to have dairy once or twice a week without issue. Fingers crossed I can one day enjoy biscuits and gravy for breakfast again.
Now I’m keeping a food journal, logging what I eat daily, aches and pains, and keeping an eye on skin changes to rule out other food sensitivities. I no longer wear foundation, only concealer under my eyes to allow my skin to breath.
My skin looks better than ever. I have breakouts, but they heal quickly with minimal scarring. I’m hopeful within a few months not only will my skin be completely clear but my body will feel even better than it already does. That’s another plus, my body feels amazing. It feels cared for, healthy.
Actually, I have a Clear & Brilliant laser treatment this week as a jump start on acne scarring. The breakouts were pretty bad this year, I think my scarring is noticeable, like battle wounds. I’m really looking forward to getting my old face back, feeling as good about myself externally as I do internally. Between personal growth, taking control of my health, and fully reversing my acne I feel like I’m going to be a whole new person by 2018.
The moral of the story? Staying positive is challenging. Having clear skin takes work. There are so many variables, our bodies vary from person to person, there is no one size fits all solution. There is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope, you can reclaim your body. With discipline, homework, and working with professionals ( whether through printed work, digitally, or in person ) you can defeat your acne.
I’ll share again later on, once I’ve been successful longer than a few months. Thanks for reading, being interested, for caring. This was definitely a vulnerable subject to share. xo