Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Acne is a condition that is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve definitely been there and still do struggle with acne. Acne can impact our quality of life directly because it is our outward expression to the world. It is completely normal to feel insecure and have lower confidence when our skin is not “clear.” In this blog post, I want to share with you my personal journey and some things I’ve learned along the way.
First, I want to say is that it is very normal to have blemishes, marks, scars, blackheads and other so-called "imperfections" on our faces. It hasn’t been normalized for a very long time because of what we see on social media (especially now with filters). It is very common to see airbrushed and glowing skin on our phones that is not reflective of what people look like in real life. So this your kind reminder to remember that!
Now to my story...
I was fortunate enough that I didn’t experience acne during my teenage years. Instead, I was faced with adult-onset acne. I don’t there is ever a good time to have it, it affects you just the same! There were a couple of changes in my life that happened at the time I started developing acne so it’s hard to say what exactly contributed to it. But around the age of 22 I started to experience acne. There were some years where I remember it being deep, painful and and cystic, and other times where it would be common to have a few pimples before my menstrual cycle.
After I started seeing my Naturopathic Doctor and ran some blood work, I didn’t fit the criteria for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which can be a common cause of deep cystic acne, especially around the jawline. This is something that is important to rule out. However, I did have other markers that came back low that needed to be optimized, including Vitamin D. Testing Vitamin D levels is actually really important when it comes assessing acne. Research shows that getting to adequate levels of Vitamin D can decrease the number of inflammatory lesions. Additionally, the more severe the deficiency, the worse the acne.
In addition to lab testing, here are 3 things I learned along the way that I want to share with you:
1. Increased restriction does not lead to increased results.
At one point, I found that I was trying to restrict multiple things from my diet, thinking that multiple things must have contributed to my acne. Apart from dairy (which does have very good evidence in causing acne), I didn’t see results there. A lot of times I felt overwhelmed when going out to eat because I truly craved things like gluten and dairy and chocolate and I felt guilty whenever I had them. Less restriction over time actually led to more freedom and better skin, which I found very interesting. There is evidence to support that while acne can cause depression and anxiety, the converse is true, where stress and anxiety can also lead to acne. This highlights an important bidirectional relationship between the skin and our nervous system and emphasizes the importance of a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to caring for patients with acne.
2. Buying a new skincare product every 3 weeks is not the answer.
My skin started to feel its best again when I actually used targeted skincare products recommended to me by a skincare therapist. Prior to this, I can’t even tell you how many products I tried, hoping it would be the answer. As important as it can be to find products that work for you skin, please remember that you will always get the best results when you work on your health both internally and externally. Looking for a product to save the day will only leave you with an empty wallet.
3. Talk to a health care provider who knows the research and is qualified to help you.
I will be completely honest and say that this is something I wish I had done sooner. Because I was in naturopathic school while I was experiencing acne, I really thought I could figure it out on my own. The truth is we all need someone to take care of us. It wasn’t until I started working with my Naturopathic Doctor (ND) that I really started to see results. I found that I was definitely WAY more compliant when I had follow-up visits scheduled with my ND, and I had a plan that I could follow. When I was doing things on my own, I wasn’t as compliant and I would get frustrated when I wouldn’t see results in a couple of weeks. It was a good reminder that acne is a long-term, chronic condition that can definitely be managed, and it is something that therefore takes time.
My last thoughts that I want to leave you with: If you have sought out any conventional therapies like Accutane or other medication for your acne, please don’t feel any shame in that. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, our faces are our outward expression to the world and it is completely normal to want to do everything you can to help it. I also worry about the increasing depression and anxiety rates that comes with acne, therefore if a treatment like that will help with your depression and anxiety, then the benefit outweighs the risks. I encourage you to work with your health care provider to get appropriate lab testing, a targeted supplement and skincare regime (if indicated), and nutrition advice that does not just focus on restriction.
It is my absolute passion and mission to educate and empower women on their health journey to find the results that they are looking for and to be able to achieve what they desire. If you are interested in booking a free 15 minute meet and greet to learn more about my approach, you can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medical Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is not and should not be relied upon as medical advice. None of the information provided is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No doctor-patient relationship has been formed.