Ok, so skin problems (especially adult acne or any acne for that matter) certainly don’t classify as a glamorous topic. But, while this blog certainly reflects my love of all things glamorous, it is – more importantly and over-archingly – about sharing helpful hints and life hacks with those that want to look their best, be their best and, ultimately, live their best lives.
I am not a hoarder (as evidenced by my fascination with Marie Kondo and her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”) and it’s thus very much against my grain to hoard information that might make someone else’s life a little bit easier. Last but not least, I’m far from perfect. And, in a world where we often use social media to portray our lives through literal and figurative filters, it’s liberating for me to point out one of my many imperfections, right here in broad cyber-light.
That being said and whether we like it or not, we live in a world where our appearance matters. Not only does the outside world often judge us by our looks, but it would seem that some of us can be our very own worst critics. Whilst we struggle to live up to the unattainable ideals portrayed by Hollywood & the Instagram It girls, most of us nevertheless strive to do so.
So, hopefully, with all that in mind, my story about how I radically transformed the appearance of my imperfect skin (by taking some very simple and side-effect-free steps) can inspire some life-changing magic.
It all started in my very early teens when my face (almost overnight, I swear) went from pimple-free perfection to resembling pepperoni pizza. Not the ‘hot’ kind either. My parents, the wonderful and well-balanced human beings that they are, never wanted to put too much emphasis on appearance and, in hindsight, my first eventual visit to the dermatologist’s office probably came a few years later than it should have. But, be that as it may, the problem was eventually addressed.
PHARMACEUTICAL TRIALS & ERRORS
At first, I was put onto a course of RoAccutane (a very strong, commonly prescribed acne medication that comes with a long and scary list of serious side-effects. It can cause birth defects in pregnant women, it’s very heavy on the liver and it can cause dry lips, skin and joint pain). Although it helped clear up my skin at the time, once I had completed the course, it only took a few months for the problem to rear its ugly head again.
The second option I tried, along this very long and frustrating journey, was a contraceptive pill called Diane. Again, this was and is a commonly used method of treating acne, often prescribed by many skin specialists who believe the problem to be hormonal. Although it was extremely effective at clearing up my skin without the drying effects of RoAccutane, Diane’s own side-effects of weight gain and mood swings barely made it worth it.
The third and final (medicated) attempt I made at solving my skin problem (which continued to affect me well into my twenties), was taking a maintenance or low dose of RoAccutane (at one tablet, twice a week). The dermatologist told me “all the models were doing this”. Of course, I was sold:) In practice, this ended up working well for me insofar as it cleared up my skin, without drying out my lips or causing any of the other side effects.
THE SIMPLE SOLUTION
In my early thirties, as my interest in holistic and, specifically, nutritional health started growing, my desire to go off the RoAccutane completely and seek a more natural solution to clearer skin, steered me in a new direction.
After much of my own research (and I’ll save you the details of said research, as it’s A Long Story), I started cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar from my diet. I am pretty much an all-or-nothing girl, so I stuck to this new regime pretty rigidly. My diet consisted mainly of a variety of vegetables (especially the green kind), protein and healthy fats like avocado, seeds and coconut oil. This was no mean feat but, after two to three weeks, my skin started taking what can only be described as a dramatic turn for the better. It was almost unbelievable. After struggling with periodic skin problems since the age of 13, it was only now in my early thirties that I finally experienced what it was like to have naturally blemish-free skin, without the assistance of pharmaceuticals. Having witnessed this radical transformation first hand, I was in hindsight disappointed that none of the specialists I had consulted, throughout the years, had made this rather simple recommendation to me. I suppose there’s little money in telling your patients to ‘stay away from milk-based products’.
So, if you are battling breakouts and seeking a solution free of harmful side-effects, do yourself the favour of changing your diet and seeing what happens. (Of course, everyone is different and some skin conditions are related to serious hormonal disorders or other medical conditions that might not respond to dietary changes alone.)
For me, the biggest change has definitely come with eliminating all sources of dairy. Sugar and gluten are known to cause inflammatory reactions in the body as well, so for maximum results I would recommend limiting those two common culprits too. The only bad news is that, at least insofar as my experience goes, if I have even just one cheesy cheat on Monday, I’ll wake up on Wednesday with pepperoni pizza problems, which will take about a week or more to clear. But, as they say, knowledge is power, which means I can live with the odd breakout more easily.
In the end, life is all about trade-offs and, of course, for the die-hard cheese- and chocolate lovers out there, cutting out dairy (let alone gluten and sugar), might be too much of an ask. For me, it has been absolutely worth it. Because, simply put, no amount of Chanel or Armani foundation can give you the kind of confidence that a clear complexion can.
- there are many dairy-free foods, treats and snacks (including vegan ice cream) available on the market today, so don’t feel despondent
- use ghee (a dairy-free, clarified form of butter) or coconut oil, instead of regular butter, for cooking purposes
- a good skin care routine, including an anti-bacterial cleanser (I use Image’s Clear Cell salicylic acid cleanser) is, of course, essential
- always wash your face immediately after exercising
- omega 3 fish oil supplements are widely known for their skin-enhancing benefits (I take The Real Thing Mega Omega Supreme)
- when the craving for chocolate strikes, go for the very dark kind that contains no milk (it’s so good for you anyway and you’ll get used to it quickly). I love Lindt’s 85% Cocoa slabs
- drink plenty of water (this is so obvious, but I had to include it)
- get enough sleep (again, another super obvious one)
- limit alcohol
- keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day by eating low-GI foods
- limit stress
- avoid oily makeup products and keep your makeup brushes clean
- high-frequency or blue light treatments (offered at some beauty salons) work very well at clearing up breakouts quickly
- avoid over-stimulating facials
- Cetaphil makes a great oil-free sunblock with SPF50 that doesn’t cause breakouts (this popular skin care brand is available at most pharmacies worldwide)
CELEBRITIES WHO SUFFER FROM ADULT ACNE
This part of the post is just to make those of you suffering with problem skin feel a bit better and a little less alone. To name but a few, Victoria Beckham, RiRi and Cameron Diaz have been battling breakouts for years. As they alway say in those cheesy (no pun intended:) tabloid magazines: “see? they’re just like us”!