This is a really personal & sensitive (and gross) topic for me, but I always told myself that if I ever figured out a “cure” for acne I would absolutely write about it. Because when my acne was bad I spent countless hours researching cures on the internet, trying every remedy under the sun ($$$$) and then of course, crying because nothing ever worked.
If you’ve always had clear skin, consider yourself lucky and please move along.
My acne was BAD. I’m not talking about getting a few blemishes once a month. I’m talking about waking up in the morning to find 10 new, huge, PAINFUL, blistering type blemishes every morning. Acne that seemed to spread like wildfire. That’s what I had. And nobody ever talks about how much acne hurts! I mean they’re unsightly for sure but that’s not the worst part. The worst was the pain! These things would wake me up in the night they hurt so bad. And people tell you not to stress about it but it was hard to ever forget about it when it hurt to smile or move my face!
I don’t really have any “before” pictures. I would take pictures hoping it would be a before picture, but then my face wouldn’t improve and those pictures just became painful reminders so then I would delete them.
Well, let me just state for the record: my acne is pretty much gone. There really is no cure for it, but I now know what caused it and I know what I can do to keep it under control. I now go months at a time without a single breakout. And when I do breakout it’s nowhere near as bad. It’s just what I imagine “normal people” experience.
Here is a list of all the different remedies I tried that didn’t work for me. Obviously they work for zillions of other people, but not for me.
- Spirololactone (a prescription pill)
- Birth control pills (worked for years-then I stopped-then I went back on and my skin only marginally improved)
- Prescription topical benzoyl peroxide cream
- Benzoyl peroxide face washes (hello dry eyelids)
- That famous 3-step acne product
- The extra strength version of that famous acne product
- At least 5 other acne skin care lines
- Steam facials
- Regular facials
- Microdermabrasion (ouch)
- Tanda Zap (a light that’s supposed to kill acne)
- Makeup. No makeup. Clean makeup brushes. No difference.
- Not touching my face (I absolutely hate that piece of acne advice btw)
- Long fake fingernails just to make sure I couldn’t touch my face. Did I mention I tried everything?!
- Clean pillow case every day
- Clean face towel every day
- Bentonite clay mask
- Candida cleanse
- Vegan diet
- Not stressing(!!!)
- No smoking. I never smoked to begin with but everyone says smoking causes acne so let’s just add it to the list
- No dairy. Same as above.
- Countless other face creams, lotions, sunscreens and makeup (I have spent a small fortune on this).
- Various supplements-vitamin B, vitamin D, vitamin A, Omega Oils, and many more I can’t even remember.
The most important thing when figuring out how to treat acne is to figure out what’s causing it.
Ok, for some people it is a bacteria thing so always having clean pillow cases and using proactiv (and not touching your face) will make a huge difference.
For others it’s a “gut health” issue and can be fixed by eliminating dairy or wheat or other allergens.
It took me a long time to figure this out, but my acne was hormonal. How do you fix your hormones? Hormones are complicated!
I’ll back up. I have Polycystic Ovarian Sydrome (PCOS) and always have. There is no cure for PCOS, but you can take Birth Control Pills and that will pretty much take care of all the symptoms related to PCOS and for most of my life that’s exactly what I did! Of course I’m well aware of how unhealthy birth control pills are and as I approached my 30th birthday I decided I wanted to get off them. So there I was- 30 with a face full of painful acne. My acne ran wild for a good 4 years as I tried all the remedies listed above.
About 5 months ago I started to consider it was the PCOS causing my acne. I don’t really have any of the other symptoms of PCOS so it wasn’t obvious to me that this could be the cause. Then one day, I read the following statement somewhere:
“People with PCOS are generally insulin resistant. If you can get the insulin resistance under control the symptoms will usually go away.”
Maybe that’s not exactly what it said, but something to that effect. I had never thought of myself as insulin resistant! I mean I definitely had a sweet tooth and my diet consisted primarily of carbohydrates-but all those grains are good carbohydrates, right? I should mention quickly that a vegan diet IS a very high carbohydrate diet.
So then I started researching how to combat insulin resistance. It didn’t take me long to stumble upon the Whole30. And in fact, one of the Whole30 claims is that it can get rid of PCOS.
I started my Whole30 right away. I’d already tried everything else!
It took a couple weeks but by the third week my skin definitely looked better. So I kept going. And going.
And here I am today, with clear skin.
Here is a list of what I did and continue to do for clear skin.
- Drink 90+ ounces of water a day. It’s annoying I know, but I think water does help.
- Acupuncture. Maybe it was the relaxation, maybe it was the hormone balancing, but acupuncture really helped my acne. My acupuncturist in Salt Lake (Dr. Ding) also gave me some herbs that seemed to work wonders!
- Cut out soy products. I was eating a ton of soy in the form of edamame, tofu & tempeh but I have read soy can really mess with hormones.
- Go high protein and low sugar & carbs. I noticed a big difference when I started eating around 20 grams of protein at every meal (4 times a day=80-90 grams of protein a day) and cut back on sugar and starches. I get my carbs from vegetables and a little fruit. I then get the rest of my calories from fat since fat does not make blood sugar levels rise.
- Wear concealer even when home alone. It might sound silly, but the mental aspect of acne is huge. When my skin was bad and I didn’t have those spots concealed I would get so sad every time I saw my reflection in the mirror. That’s when I would tend to start touching my face or over doing it on face masks or I would look in the mirror every 3 minutes to see if “anything had changed”. Basically, I would obsess over it and create stress. I have found that just wearing concealer-even when I’m home alone- totally helps my mental state and prevents me from obsessing. My absolute favorite concealer is the Murad Acne Treatment Concealer.
- DO. NOT. PICK. Hardest piece of acne advice to practice. Picking and prodding does not help anything, it makes the skin (and you) angry and causes more breakouts! So put on concealer, step away from the mirror and go do something fun!
- Exercise, but not too much. When I would train hard for a marathon or half marathon the stress would make my skin way worse. Now I keep my exercise moderate!
- Try not to obsess about it. This is the hardest one for me. When my skin was bad I thought about it all the time. When my skin got good I worried that it would get bad again. I’ve discovered my skin is really the best when I don’t think about it at all-like when I’m on vacation or just enjoying life.
So, acne sufferers out there, I hope this was helpful. I still have PCOS and my face does still break out, but not like it used to. There is hope. Good luck to you!