A) struggling with skin issues and desperately searching for answers
B) want to see what I look like without make-up and are extremely inrigued by the bloody photograph (PS. not going into it… this was my trial with dermal rolling)
C) want to know about female hormones and why they make us crazy, pimple faced monsters one day and super humans the next
Well here it is! My skin journey… I haven’t found a miracle cure for acne, flare-ups or cysts. I still experience monthly break-outs (around my cycle) but I now understand the cause of these breakouts and how I can manage my diet, mind, gut and hormones to better accommodate my acne-prone skin. BTW I have one hand touching wood while I write this, praying I don’t wake-up with hormonal bumps all over my face tomorrow. Over the past 6 months I’ve learned a lot about my body and how it works. One thing I will say – every woman is INDIVIDUAL. What works for me may not work for you, but don’t let this be a barrier to finding out your own personal solution to managing your skin.
It’s taken me more than a year to completely understand my body. I’ve tried different make-up, over-treating my skin, under-treating my skin, microdermabrasion, dermal rolling, food elimination, oral skin antibiotics, topical skin antibiotics, using only face wipes, going off the pill, going on 7 pills, synthetic hormones, natural hormone balancing supplements, every supplement under the sun, visiting a dermatologist and even seeing a psychologist!! I’ve even taken cow placenta for F*** sake!
Well here it is! What works for me!
ANALYSE THE LOCATION OF YOUR ACNE
Before you pull the Bullshit card, zip your lips and read. Acne face mapping is an Ancient Chinese practice that follows the principle that when your skin flares up in certain locations, it can reflect an imbalance or something not quite right happening internally. Believe it or not… THIS WORKED FOR ME. The number of times the location of my pimples have reflected the occurrence of certain ailments in my body is unbelievable. For example, I rarely get pimples on my forehead and about a year ago I started getting little dots and big blind pimples all over my forehead. I remember being called Unicorn :(. I’d heard of face mapping so quickly googled what this particular location meant… BOOM digestion. I visited the doctor as I’d been having quite a lot of diarrhoea, bloating and IBS like symptoms. I have already been diagnosed with IBS but my symptoms seemed worse than usual. The bad news about my visit to the doctor was the fact that I had to poo in a cup (stool tests suck), the good news? They found an answer…I had Giardia (an infection of the bowel and gut). I’ve used face mapping ever since. See below for a picture of face mapping. When I’m hormonal I get cysts around my jawline, cheeks and mouth.
VISIT A NATUROPATH OR GENERAL PRACTITIONER
My partner is a General Practitioner and he is very hesitant when prescribing drugs, particularly when patients can sought a solution naturally or through lifestyle changes. A lot of great GPs will often suggest taking natural supplements and healing your body with the right food choices or exercise, rather than popping a pill. In saying this, a lot of GPS won’t. Personally, I visit a General Practitioner & Naturopath. There are now medical bodies which actually provide a list of practicing GPs who have natural medicine qualifications. Compounding Chemists with natural backgrounds are also great practitioners as they often provide you with natural solutions, backed by science.
A lot of skin issues and acne can be caused by HORMONES. Every female’s cycle is different. Some women are oestrogen dominant, some lack progesterone, others have high testosterone. Our female menstrual cycles are based upon important hormonal fluctuations. There are four phases in the menstrual cycle and if one hormone is out of whack.. chances are your whole cycle is. If your general practitioner/naturopath believes your symptoms are quite bad, they may test your hormones at a certain time of the month. This is EXTREMELY helpful when finding a solution to your acne. Pinpointing your symptoms at different times of the month can also really assist you and your practitioner to understand the reasoning behind your acne. This leads me to my next point….
TRACK YOUR CYCLE
Download CLUE app NOW! Start tracking your cycle and record EVERY LITTLE DETAIL. Please note* DAY 1 of your cycle is day one of bleeding (the day you start your period). You will need to enter these details into the app so you can track where you are. If you would like more information about your cycle and what happens at every stage (as well as what your skin is doing) check out my eBook HERE.
When I say track every symptom I mean EVERYTHING. The following tags are currently in my clue app:
I kid you not… I enter these at least 3-4 times per month. It actually helps identify what your hormones are doing!
SUPPLEMENTS THAT HAVE WORKED FOR ME
I currently have a prescribed herbal blend made for me by a naturopath (it tastes like shit but works). This particular blend of herbs works on my adrenals, helping to improve my stress levels and in turn, my hormones. Cortisol is strongly linked to hormonal imbalance and being the energetic, non-stop, working women that we are, there is a great chance your adrenals are under stress.
The below is a great article on herbs and adrenal support. It also provides a list of symptoms associated with adrenal dysfunction.
Scientists have found that Omega 3 & 6 have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Inflammation is one of the significant factors of acne severity so a lot of naturopaths suggest taking a GOOD QUALITY omega 3 & 6 supplement to see if it improves symptoms. I love researching so I looked at a few medical journals on the topic and although there isn’t a lot of supporting evidence to prove that this supplement assists acne, it has worked for me and a couple of my friends with similar issues. I also suffer from dermatitis and it has definitely improved my dry skin.
Placebo or not… worked for me! See which one I’m taking below.
FUSION SKIN TONIC
I’ve just run out of this supplement but LOVE this brand. The supplements are based on Chinese and Western herbal medicine… so of course I love it. My sister swears by this supplement and I don’t think I’ve seen her with a pimple in…forever. Their hair tonic is also AMAZING…. hello hair growth (BEWARE… I started taking this religiously and noticed I had to shave my legs more often!).
Vitex is a fertility supporting herb renowned for assisting menstrual cycle irregularities, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), acne, a more severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and symptoms of menopause. I asked Mitch to look at some Scientific studies and there are some which support this herb in the treatment of acne. This supplement didn’t work for me, however, It worked for my best friend when she had cystic acne. TRIAL & ERROR PEOPLE, TRIAL & ERROR.
Fusion sells a Vitex supplement so I would go with their brand (BTW THIS IS IN NO WAY SPONSORED!). This whole post is a genuine reflection of my experience with different supplements.
PROBIOTICS & PREBIOTICS
THIS IS A BIG ONE FOR ME! There is overwhelming evidence to support the link between your gut and mind, and your gut and skin. This is one base I will always cover.
There’s plenty of ways that the gut connects to the skin, but the biggest one is the microbiome – a fancy word for all of the critters that live in our digestive system. When you have too many nasty bacteria hanging out in your gut, they cause your body to produce something called Substance P – the one compound that’s implicated in heaps of skin problems and is super inflammatory. Fix the bacteria balance up, and suddenly the production of Substance P drops.
I religiously take a HIGH-STRENGTH, QUALITY probiotic every night. I suffer from IBS and although I can manage it with certain food choices, I want to ensure that I am constantly restoring the good bacteria in my gut…for every loose stool I pass (sorry had to put it in!). Want Better Skin? Try More Prebiotics
Probiotics, or good bacteria, can be found in foods such as cultured yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and miso (or the supplement above). Prebiotics, the fuel that feeds the good guys, is in garlic, onions, beetroot and nuts. Research shows that improving gut bacteria can actually improve skin health by reducing inflammation and aiding in the healing process.
This also brings me to a point about unnecessary Antibiotic Use….keep them for bacterial infections, not just any old sniffle. Antibiotics kill off good bacteria as well as bad, leaving your gut stripped and vulnerable.
A lot of underlying health conditions can be due to a mineral imbalance. I currently visit a compounding chemist (pharmacist x naturopath) who regularly tests my minerals and prescribes me a blend which is suited to any deficiencies that I may have. Search for a compounding chemist in your area and you will be surprised how much you’ll learn about yourself! Fixing a simple mineral deficiency can make a world of difference in your skin.
*** PLEASE NOTE: Some of these supplements are constants in my life (Probiotics & Omega 3 & 6), however, a lot of the herbal supplements I take are COURSES. They are not to be taken long-term. I am a big believer in regularly evaluating whats going on in your body and managing symptoms with the right supplements AS THEY OCCUR. In saying this a lot of natural supplements take at least one month to work. I recommend a course of 1-3 months before stopping. I also recommend consulting a NATURAL practitioner & General practitioner to ensure you aren’t wasting your money on a bunch of supplements that may not be right for you.
ELIMINATE YOUR CONSUMPTION OF REFINED SUGAR & REFINED CARBOHYDRATES, INCREASE YOUR CONSUMPTION OF HEALTHY FATS. CUT OUT DAIRY FOR 1 MONTH & SEE IF YOU NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE.
When I cleared my skin I had cut out all refined sugar & dairy and increased my consumption of healthy fats (nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, flaxseeds). My skin is actually one of the main reasons I developed my own low sugar breakfast/snack product (The Unrefined NutiiBoost). I put this in my smoothie every day to ensure I am consuming healthy fats.
Hormones are created by fat cells which means we require fat to balance and regulate hormones. Without fat, our hormones can become imbalanced.
Eating refined sugar & carbohydrates SPIKES your blood sugar, increasing your production of insulin. To reduce this spike in insulin, your body responds by releasing other androgen hormones which can in turn, trigger acne. The answer? Stop eating foods that spike your blood sugar. Eat more protein, more fat and less refined foods.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT: ARE YOU A BABY COW?
I cut out dairy a year ago and I saw an immense improvement in my skin. I know what you’re about to say… it’s so hard, I can’t! I have it in my coffee, it’s too creamy and amazing. It’s also meant for baby cows. I’m sorry Doctors of the world.. I do not believe in consuming dairy for healthy bones. There are plenty of other sources of calcium and nutrients, we do not need to resort to eating an animal’s breastmilk. There are actually numerous studies that also link acne & skin issues to the consumption of dairy.
BREATHE IN AND ELIMINATE STRESS
CORTISOL! It is one of the reasons my skin has taken a turn for the worse over the past few months. I knew I was stressed but I wanted to achieve so many things that I didn’t listen to my body. When I started getting endless cysts on my face, became anxious at the thought of exercising in a room with girls at Dance Barre (because of my skin) and was losing sleep over the matter… I knew something had to change.
I started my supplement journey, evaluated my life and realised the way I was living wasn’t realistic or sustainable long-term. WE ARE HUMAN. We aren’t superhuman so we do need our downtime. Whether you like it or not, being on the go 24/7 DOES put your body under stress. If you’re reading this now and are one of those women that set unbelievable expectations for yourself…. I’m right there with you. But I’m telling you RIGHT NOW… Give yourself a F**** break. I don’t mean stop working. I mean, factor in balance. I find this very hard to do but I’ve now told myself that every Sunday is my DAY OFF. Every night after 6pm my phone goes in a draw…. it’s non-negotiable.
I’ve had so many people recommend meditation, yoga and pilates but let’s be honest… I’m not that type of girl. My idea of a break is going for a 10km run and seeing how many people I can overtake on the river walk. I’m a highly competitive individual who loves a fast-paced life but unfortunately my body can’t keep up.
Every day I now make a conscious effort to lower my heart beat. That’s right! Lowering your heart beat is a simple and effective way to naturally lower cortisol levels….it’s simple science and it works. You don’t have to sit in a room with meditation beads, or listen to a podcast with some female telling you to calm down. If you’re like me and want shit done fast. Sit down. You can even do it while your driving! Put your hand on your heart and listen. Listen for your heart beat, feel your heart beating and feel your body completely relax while your blood pressure drops. Now, if you’re in the car. Turn off Iggy Izalea or 50 Cent. Put the beats on hold and embrace the silence for a moment in your life. This technique has literally been a life saver to me over the past couple of weeks and is SUPER effective. TRY IT! Do this as many times as you can and I guarantee you will notice a difference in your anxiety and stress levels.
WHAT MAKE-UP ARE YOU USING?
I’m not going to tell you to go make-up free for as many days as possible because seriously? I don’t even do that. I actually wear make-up to prevent myself from touching my face and for sun protection. My current favourites are:
Yes you can over cleanse… but you can also under cleanse. Find a balance and make sure you are removing all of your make-up before you cleanse (alternatively you can double cleanse). I use an anti-bacterial microfibre cloth or skin cleansing brush to wash my face. However, I don’t scrub until my face is red. I gently cleanse my face to ensure I don’t irritate my skin or cause an overproduction of oil.
I know it’s easy to go into the chemist, Mecca or David Jones and try every facial cleansing acne product known to man-kind but GIRL! You can’t afford it! Stick with something simple without fragrance, chemicals or alcohol and be consistent. It’s fine to change things up every couple of months but avoid using too many products at once. See what skin care products I use HERE
GO TO A DERMATOLOGIST
I like to treat my skin from the inside AND the outside so regularly visit a dermatologist. I currently receive red & blue light treatment. This has helped with skin inflammation, scarring and my skin appearance in general. Your doctor can refer you to a dermatologist or you can call directly. I live in Brisbane and go to Westside Dermatology. The nurses and doctors are great and really make me feel like I’m being looked after and my acne is treatable.
THE PILL: IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?
I’m not going to go into great lengths about this subject as it can get quite controversial. I have however done a YouTube video on what happened when I went off the pill. View it HERE. The pill was NOT RIGHT FOR ME. It actually made my skin worse and I had plenty of other symptoms from taking it, ranging from skin pigmentation and melasma to water retention, depression and acne. I also tried SEVEN different pills.
THERE YOU GO! A year’s worth of experimenting. If I can help at least one person with this post I will be extremely happy. If you’re experiencing skin issues comment below! I love hearing the skin and hormone journey’s of different women, it is more common that you think and makes me feel super normal. #girlpower #acnestruggles #lookatmyeyesnotmyacne