Skin- When you its clear and glowing you feel confident. When its covered in pimples you don't. Its hard to even listen to anyone else talk because you're so in your head worried if they are staring at your pimples that you can't hear a word they are saying. At least thats what happens to me.
Often when you switch your diet to a whole foods plant based one your skin clears up. And mine did initially but this last year my skin took a turn for the worst. And it sucked.
I was dealing with all kinds of breakouts. Serious painful breakouts that came to a head this January and I was just over it.
Read on to see the transformation of my skin with un-edited before and after photos and the changes I made in diet, lifestyle and products that have left me with the clearest skin I've had in years.
Let me start off by saying these pictures of myskin are sort of embarrasing but full on real-ness. For many this might not seem like horrible acne, but for me personally this was pretty awful. Worst of all was these pimples hurt and I couldn't seem to get them to go away.
I took these starting at the beginning of Febauary through the end of March for the befores and the afters were taken the beginning of June. The same day I am writing this post actually.
These pictures aren't easy for me to share but I am hoping to help any of you who are struggling to figure out how to clear up your skin too.
As someone who eats a prodomintely organic, plant-based diet, the fact that I had serious acne was leaving me perplexed.
What was going on?
It had to be deeper then diet.
So you have the full picture, I rarely eat processed foods or refined sugars, I ditched dairy neons ago, I drink a shit ton of water and drink alcohol in moderation. So I was certian it wasn't diet related. Additionally I have been eating this way for years without this intense of acne.
It was something else.
I tried many natural, non-toxic cleaners, but could not find something that worked.
So what was making my skin look the worst it ever had?
Here is what I discovered:
I was just rounding out a year of owning and operating my own restaurant which I decided to put up for sale.
Although it was an amazing experience and in most ways an absolute success, I had experienced a new kind of stress. Consistent day in and day out that had begun to snowball.
Stress causes skin issues to flare up no matter what you are prone to -rashes, eczema and in my case acne.
When you get stressed your body releases adrenaline and cortisol that can throw off your horomones and increase oil production in the skin. Cortisol also weakens your immune system which gives "propionibacterium acne (a type of acne that occurs as a result of slow-growing bacteria) the chance to form."
Shit, I am stressed so I have acne and now my acne is causing me stress. ugh. #viciouscycyle
Due to stress, aneixty and an unbalanced lifestyle (not working out, working insanely long hours, not de-stressing) my horomones were all sorts of messed up. This disrupts the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut leading to a surplus of issues, skin of which is just one.
After doing some research it was clear as day that much of my acne woes were hormonal. If you have breakouts the same time each month (i.e. during your period), your breakouts are always in the same place (for me that was cheeks and chin), and the pimples are deep, cystic and painful then you are most likely having hormone related acne. My acne wasn't just around my period though- it was constant so I knew it wasn't just going with the flow.
Excess testostrone which is released by your adrenals is the androgen responsible for breakouts in women. The skin has androgen receptor cells and that is where excess testosterone often goes to be purged in the form of cystic breakouts. So if you are stressed and your adrenals are in overdrive then HELLO ACNE.
SIDE NOTE* This is also why it is SO SO SO IMPORTANT to eat organic meat and dairy products. Hormones are injected into almonst all conventionally raised animals. Hormones are fat soluable meaning they are stored in fat so fatty meat and dairy- think bacon and cheese are full of extra hormones. If you want to avoid unwanted horomones that can be causing acne (in addtion to a slew of other health related issues) then spend the extra money on organic and hormone free varieties. That said dairy products, regardless are loaded with sex and growth hormones regardless organic or not.
I was not exercising. Maybe once a week at most. Exercising helps reduce stress and physical activity helps by increasing blood circulation which sends more oxygen to the skin and carries waste away. Sweating can lead to breakouts by irritating the skin so its important to wash your face right after (or atleast rinse with water) but sweating also releases toxins and regenerates the skin so its important nonetheless.
Between the stress, hormone imbalance and a lack of exercise everything was compounding exponentially and left me with the skin you are seeing in these pictues.
What I learned is the mind, body and the skin are intimately involved and the term for it is "psychodermatology." It is a more holistic approach to dermatology and one that I totally can get on board with. It takes a more well rounded "the whole is greater then the sum of its parts" mentality.
SO WHAT CHANGES DID I MAKE TO CLEAR UP MY SKIN:
After learning the role stress plays in acne (in addition to all illness) I encorporated stress-reducing activities to help calm my mind and give my adrenals a break.
Started using the App Headspace to meditate 2-4 times a week which has been so beneficial. I notice that I am more focused throughout the days that I use it too.
Exercising 3-4 times a week again- hiking, running, yoga, spinning, stair climbing, biking. Exercise is the number 1 stress reducer for me. Nothing compares. Its the magic pill in my opinion and its free with little to no unwanted side effects (something I can't say about any pharmacutical).
I have kept it up too and its a game changer. In the past I would tend to fall in and out of workout routines but knowing the impact it has on my mind has motivated me to stay committed for the last several months.
Diet related changes:
I encorporated adaptogens into my daily routine. Adaptogens help your body respond to internal and exterior stressors like toxins or anxiety. I add them to my coffee, smoothies and desserts and have noticed a huge difference in how I feel each day. When I add them to my coffee I notice that I don't get as jittery- a balancing act between ashwaganda, reishi, cordyceps, mitake and the coffee.
I kept eating lots of veggies (especially ones in the Brassica family like broccoli and cabbage), drinking plenty of water and keeping the alcohol to a minimum (for me thats 1-2 drinks 1-2 days a week on average so anywhere between 1-4 drinks a week- mostly wine).
I switched to one 16oz cup of coffee a day (no other forms of caffeine) from 2-3x that depending on how busy I was. Too much caffeine can over stimulate the nervous system. Have you ever had too much coffee or soda and then felt your heart racing? This is your body physically stressed out and it increases your blood pressure too. Decreasing my caffeine intake was critical to lowering my stress levels and in turn my acne.
Products I switched to:
Om Botanicals - this is the exact prodcut I've been using. (Not sponsored) This product line is the most legit I have ever come across and am a huge believe in their effectiveness. The amount of compliments I have been getting on my skin is proof that not only has it cleared up my skin but its making it look younger. Its even reduced the appearance of my acne scars. Impressive if you ask me.
They are made with 100% plant based, non-toxic ingredients and are NOT thinned out with a whole bunch of water decreasing their potency. When the first or second ingredient in a skin care product is water I have to laugh and say pass- formulators add water to make the products cheaper to manufacture with little benefit to the consumer.
I have never believed in a product so much- I use it once or twice daily depending on my schedule or if I worked out that day. It has no artificial ingredients or chemical laden fragrances- everything is truly natural, real and non-toxic.
So it quickly SUM IT UP what cleared up my skin was a combination of: De-stressing, balancing my hormones, working out regularly and finally finding a product that works!
I hope this helps you if you are suffering some intense acne woes. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment! And if you are here from Instagram, please let me know :)