What’s Making My Acne Worse?

A few months a go I wrote a blog post called ‘How I Healed My Acne.’ and i’d honestly never smiled so much whilst coming up with a title before. I was overjoyed. It had finally gone. Yet here I sit 2 months later, with my red eyes and puffy face, crying yet again because I feel so fed up about my skin.

Since returning from travelling, the acne on my face has somewhat returned (although thankfully not as aggressively as before, you can see in the photo below that it’s really nothing to cry about)

 

But my back is covered in breakouts. And not just any old spots, I’m talking painful, red, sore and swollen lumps that are driving me absolutely crazy. The only thing keeping me from crying all the time is my wonderful boyfriend who constantly reminds me that I’m beautiful/loved and that ‘it’s only skin.’

The one thing I have continued to do since my very first breakout, is cut out dairy in a bid to balance my hormones and cure my acne. But it doesn’t seem to have made enough difference. Things are still out of whack, and i’m beyond fed up.

I went to the doctors last week and at risk of sounding like a total bitch, she was pretty much clueless. She told me that I had wasted my time trying to change my diet because the food we eat has nothing to do with our skin… (where did this woman go to school). She also told me that If I wanted to go on antibiotics I also had to go on the contraceptive pill (no thank you…more hormones?) and that Accutance would be my final option and a last resort (which I absolutely agree with).

It’s the only medically documented cure for acne and it’s a pretty controversial drug, which is well known for its wide list of side effects, the most severe being the strong potential to cause birth defects. Plus, if you take it then you’re put on strict medical watch due to serious problems that can arise, such as depression. Yay.

My main issue with Accutane is that it targets the symptom and not the problem. It works by ‘aging’ the oil glands and drying you out. When our oil glands are overactive, our skin produces too much oil which leads to clogged pores and ultimately, acne.

“In most cases, especially with younger women, the cause of acne can be linked to issues with hormonal imbalance which is (YIPPEEE) one of the more difficult types of acne to treat or eliminate. Acne in this case is merely a symptom of a serious internal health issue and usually requires a completely lifestyle overhaul. There’s no magic pill. This hormonal imbalance if left untreated is what can lead to more challenging female conditions down the line such as infertility, endometriosis, heart disease and even ovarian cancer.

Great. But at least there’s a positive here – the acne is a sign that something is ‘off’ internally….which means if i cure it PROPERLY, FROM THE INSIDE, I’ll also be lowering my risk of future health issues. Rather than magicking away the symptoms with a pill.

So my doctor also referred me to a dermatologist, who is yet to call me and make an appointment so I’m still waiting for that. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to prescribe me some more topical creams, persuade me to go on the pill or put me on Accutane. None of which I want to do. I’m determined to cure this naturally, from the inside out, and deal with the underlying problem first.

SO. I’m doing an experiment. During those months in Bali where my skin was so bloody clear, I was doing 3 things:

  1. Getting a lot of sunshine.
  2. Eating a plant based diet. 
  3. Avoiding refined sugar and gluten. 
  4. Not eating meat, but I still don’t eat meat often so nothing has really changed there. 

That’s it. And it was easy there because I ate at restaurants every day, it cost about £4 a meal and it was soooo fresh, and everything was pretty much vegan. But since I live in London where the sun don’t shine (well, not enough for me to hang out in the garden and sunbathe very often), I can hardly afford to eat out every day and must do all my own meal prep and cooking, and since I’m not a fan of sun-beds, I shall be opting for the latter.

A plant based ‘diet’ (hate that word) without refined sugar or gluten. 

Now the only reason why I’m not already doing this, is because I’m stubborn and I insist on eating whatever the hell I want because it makes me happy. I’m generally a healthy person, I love eating well because it makes me feel good, but I also just want to eat chocolate and pasta some days. I know. I’ve been on a diet since I was 14 years old, and I’m now free from the yo-yo hell and thoroughly enjoying the freedom that comes with no rules, no strict meal plans or calorie counting. But it’s about time I put the past behind me, and realised that my health is number 1. I don’t care about my weight – whatever. I just want to be the healthiest version of myself possible and see if that can help to cure my acne! We shall see.

Here’s a lil bit of info on sugar & gluten and how it contributes to our hormone levels and causes acne breakouts and inflammation in the body. (I stole this from a Forbes blog)

SUGAR.

Let’s examine how sugar affects your skin. Sugar’s oxidative properties can provoke acne and breakouts. Sugar and foods high on the glycemic index (meaning foods that, once ingested, convert quickly into glucose and cause your body’s insulin levels to elevate), lead to a burst of inflammation that goes throughout your entire body. Foods high in sugar and saturated fats – like white bread, chocolate, fried foods, ice cream, sodas, and anything else with a main ingredient of sugar – cause spikes in your body’s insulin levels that further exacerbate inflammation. Steep insulin spikes increase the production of skin oils and contribute to the clogging of follicles, which can worsen skin complexion.

To bring down these spikes, your body responds by producing androgen hormones, which further aggravate acne. When this happens for an extended period, your body begins to lose sensitivity to insulin, causing insulin resistance. This means you have to pump out even more insulin to bring the blood sugar down. If this process spirals out of control, it can lead to further complications for your skin.

GLUTEN/INTOLLERANCES.

If you’re gluten intolerant like me (I had blood tests done years a go and it came out on top as my numero uno worst enemy), digesting gluten is a problem because the body does not recognise it and treats it as a foreign body. Over time, the small intestines become damaged, causing digestive issues. In some instances, the result is acne.

Intolerance to gluten triggers hormonal reactions that lead to increased sebum production, blocked pores and overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria. Inflammation which is caused by the body’s immune system working to “fight off” an invader (gluten) releases histamine thereby increasing inflammation as well as insulin resistance.

First of all, you need to decide if you’re gluten intolerant. If you’re not, gluten will not cause the internal issues that would eventually lead to acne. However, if you do suffer with acne and haven’t explored gluten as the potential trigger, maybe now’s de time to do a little research and find out.

Just to wrap things up:

Two major causes of excess sebum that lead to female hormonal acne:

  1. Excess male hormones (androgens, testosterone) which are caused by a spike in insulin, which is caused by eating sugar.
  2. Toxins in the body, which are caused by eating sugar and foods you’re intolerant to. (Among other things, but we’ll talk about those later.)

Both of which I absolutely 1000% believe can be corrected by our diet and lifestyle choices. So let’s take it one step at a time.

 I’ll see you in one week for an update on my skin. 

Wish me luck <3

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7 Comments

  1. M
    August 15, 2017 / 10:57 pm

    I went vegan years ago and I have never felt better. My skin cleared, my digestive system is amazing, I’ve got more energy and I feel more positive, my periods and PMS have improved soooo much… 80% of my problems were caused by a hormonal imbalance, and it just disappeared. I believe that a plant-based and lots of water and a bit of exercise is the best option for a lot of things. As a medicine student, I still think that drugs or other invasive treatments should only be used when the problem can’t be solved from a lifestyle change, and I hope other professionals start to understand this as well.

    Whenever I’ve had some animal product by mistake I’ve had awful breakouts on my face, my digestion has been painful and I’ve felt like I had a hangover. Your body is smart and wants to thrive.

    Also, those who don’t feel well eating plant based usually aren’t doing it properly (not eating enough or not eating the right things) so as long as you educate yourself and learn how to nourish your body, I think this will be very beneficial for you. And there are lots of plant-based chocolate/cake/ice cream/cheese/anything you sometimes just want to eat because life is too short to have salad every night.

  2. Danika
    August 15, 2017 / 11:41 pm

    You’re such a gem Megan and I relate to your journey so much. “Balancing” between food freedom + finding a holistic solution to acne is so frustrating. I have a lot on my face lately that seems hard AF to pinpoint! Thank you for inspiring me to stay positive and share my struggle with it too. Love you as a woman human and friend!! Danika Lauren

  3. August 16, 2017 / 9:19 am

    So interesting about sugar and insulin resistance. I have PCOS but have also suffered doctors wanting to treat symptoms (not the cause) so while I knew sugar wasn’t good for us I had no idea how it could exasperate the problem with hormones. Good luck with lifestyle change (and fingers crossed for you! 🤞🏽) 😘

  4. Shay
    August 16, 2017 / 5:14 pm

    I’m struggling with the exact same thing!!! Have you tried evening primrose oil? It’s said to help regulate hormonal imbalances. Also, probiotics. Like you said you have to heal internally.

  5. C.
    August 17, 2017 / 2:22 am

    Mad support for such a candid and honest post! A plant rich diet can definitely aid in your quest for better health. I’m unsure of your stance on vitamins, but zinc, L-lysine & a probiotic combo can help as well!

    For your back I’d highly recommend trying epsom salt. Once a day clean off with a moisturizing body wash, then grab a handful of epsom salt–(getting is slightly wet, so it’s more of a mushy consistency)– and gently work it across inflamed/prone areas for a few seconds. Magnesium sulfate is a wonderful, natural compound that can help flush toxins and ease inflammation!

    Best of luck to you!

  6. Lisa
    August 17, 2017 / 4:27 am

    My husband

  7. Lisa
    August 17, 2017 / 4:30 am

    Haha! Sorry new to this!

    What I wanted to say is my husband actually wants to start eating more of a plant based diet and I have always thoughts my acne was due to a bad diet… cheese and sugar are my enemy. I’d love to see what you will be coming up with for meals, as I too can’t afford to eat out for every meal and live in the US, the fast food capital of the world!!

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