As someone who has struggled with acne for over 10 years, beauty editor Lauren Dunne knows how frustrating, demoralising and all-consuming it can be, here she shares her journey to clearer skin, which she says, starts from within.
Sometimes – particularly when I was in my teens – my entire mood and ability to function and concentrate properly could be determined by how moody my skin decided to be on any given day. By the time I was 16 I’d tried what felt like hundreds of different over-the-counter lotions, potions and pimple treatments that were all extremely harsh and dehydrating on my skin, and only minimally effective at keeping my acne at bay. My GP ended up putting me on the Pill to help (artificially) level out my hormones, and thankfully it worked beautifully for me. My skin cleared up within a couple of months, and I no longer had to think twice about wearing clothing that revealed my back and décolletage, and I was able to start using gentler products on my skin.
While the Pill did wonderul things for my skin, it wasn’t so amazing for my mental health. My moods were extremely up and down; I’d be loving life one minute and on the verge of tears the next. I was also irritable and anxious almost constantly, and while some of those symptoms certainly go hand-in-hand with being a teenager, I knew that I had been a lot more level-headed prior to going on the Pill. When I hit my twenties I tried coming off it a couple of times, only for my acne to come back with a vengeance.
The thing that ultimately made me decide to quit the Pill was a good old-fashioned medical scare. I was at work one day quietly typing away and minding my own business when my vision started to falter. It started with a little speck of light in one eye, and within a few minutes I could barely see anything at all other than flashing lights and shimmering zigzags. In retrospect I should have gone straight to the doctor (or possibly the emergency room!), but I was young and silly and decided just to go home and sleep it off. I felt unusually exhausted and fell into a deep sleep, and when I woke up I found that my speech was slurred and slow and I felt lethargic and spacey. I finally decided to hightail it to the doctor, who immediately arranged for me to have blood tests and a CAT scan.
I ended up in a neurologist’s office where I was told that I (luckily) hadn’t suffered a minor stroke (as my GP had half suspected), nor did I have a brain tumour or anything equally sinister. The diagnosis? A visual migraine – sometimes called a migraine with aura. While the condition itself isn’t necessarily cause for any major concern, the neurologist was adamant that he wanted me to stop taking the Pill because there has been evidence to suggest that women who have migraines and take some of the newer oral contraceptive pills that are on the market today can actually have a higher risk of blood clots and strokes.
I went off the Pill the very next day, and within a few weeks my skin started to act up and sprout blemish after blemish. I put up with it for months before eventually seeking the help of a nutritionist and naturopath Tania Flack, who had been recommended to me by a superstar in the skincare industry. One of her first stipulations was that I go on a gut-friendly diet designed to reduce internal inflammation, fix digestive issues and help my body metabolise hormones more effectively.
There were numerous different aspects to this particular diet plan, but the hardest part for me involved giving up sugar and dairy (which are, incidentally, two of my major reasons for getting up in the morning). The hormones found naturally in dairy products have the potential to interfere with our own hormone levels – particularly in cases like mine where there was already a hormone imbalance at work. Sugar, as well as increasing inflammation, can also cause a cascade of hormonal effects and increase your androgen levels (a hormone which can cause acne).
Admittedly it was really tough sticking to the diet, but within a couple of months I noticed my skin started to look and feel healthier. I had fewer breakouts, and the ones I did develop healed much more quickly and didn’t leave as many tell-tale marks behind. In addition, I also experienced less bloating and my tummy felt lighter and happier. I did cave in to cravings from time to time (I’m only human after all), but I tried my best to stick to a 90/10 rule – I ate for my body 90% of the time, and for my soul the other 10%. Besides – a life without chocolate would be a pretty tragic one.
As well as limiting dairy and sugar, here are some of the other dietary changes I made, all of which helped to improve my skin:
My typical day on a plate might consist of the following:
Although I believe beating acne starts by changing our diet and lifestyle habits, here are some natural skincare products I love to help keep pesky pimples at bay, to care for, protect and help balance acne-prone skins naturally.
Madara Purifying Foaming Cleanser – will make you feel like you have had a good clean, without stripping your skin of its natural oils.
La Mav Green Clay Detox Mask – will give skin a weekly detox and antioxidant boost
Acure Oil Control Facial Moisturiser – has mattifying ingredients to help control oil production, while helping hydrate and protect skin
Lavera 2-In-1 Anti-Blemish Treatment Mint & Zinc – a spot-on treatment for healing and concealing pimples without irritating them
Rosehip Oil – a skin loving oil that will help improve acne scarring
I’m a beauty editor, not a qualified medical expert, so I’m not going to say that making similar dietary changes will necessarily work for you – everyone is different – but it did work for me has been well worth the effort. Ultimately my advice for people suffering with adult acne is to not give up and to keep looking for a solution that works for them – whether you find it in a dermatologist’s office or a nutritionist’s, help is out there!
Originally published for BlushHour.com.au, written by beauty editor Lauren Dunne.