I spent over 25 years hating my skin. Want to find out how I finally cleared my acne? Lets first talk about when my trouble began. It all started during puberty when my hormones started to change. My diet didn’t help either – it was terrible. I was a sugar addict and ate lots of processed foods, which I now know likely was impacting my gut too. Growing up as a child of the ‘80s and ‘90s, we didn’t know better. I remember eating TV dinners – you know the ones in plastic with the yummy dessert in the middle square?
My diet combined with my out-of-whack hormones were a recipe for lots of acne. I not only had acne on my face, it was all over my back too. Forget wearing a cute dress, swim suit or tank top. I was embarrassed. Hiding your face is much harder and as a result, I became very shy. I didn’t want to look anyone in the face for fear they would see my zits.
I used every lotion and potion I could find. I went to the dermatologist who recommended antibiotics and harsh creams. All those ended up doing was drying up my skin and messing with my gut health. I tried Proactive which did nothing. In desperation, I went on birth control pills, which did help my back acne, but didn’t clear my face as much as I had hoped.
In my 30s I discovered holistic health and realized that birth control pills were likely doing more harm than good and decided to go off. Did you know birth control pills are actually xenoestrogens and can ultimately make hormones worse? I went off them cold turkey and in three months my skin was worse than ever. I spent the next year working on my gut health (which included doing three stool tests), healing my adrenals, managing my stress, getting enough sleep, cleaning up my diet, and switching to safer beauty products, all of which benefited my skin and was finally the solution I was looking for. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast but it worked!
Healing your skin starts with healing the inside of your body, but what I use on my skin also makes a world of difference. Many products marketed for clearer skin end up making things worse; they can be full of hormone-disrupting chemicals. These products also often cause dryness and strip your skin of natural oils. Your skin naturally produces oil, so when your skin is overly dry, it reacts by producing more oil, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. Using products that nourish your skin and are void of toxic chemicals.
As I always say: it’s all connected! If you truly want to have better skin the three big things you need to consider are your gut, hormones, and using the right products on your skin.
How I healed my gut!
I know you are hoping that I will tell you the one magic supplement that healed my gut but – sorry folks – it doesn’t work that way. You also can’t expect to take a probiotic to fix the gut. What I recommend, and what I do with every one of my clients, is a comprehensive stool test. Remember in the beginning when I said I did three stool tests? The one that found my dysbiosis, parasites and worm was the GI MAP from Diagnostic Solutions. I always recommend working with a skilled practitioner to help interpret the results and come up with a plan because these tests aren’t always straightforward. I also recommend retesting as it can take some time to fully get the digestive system back on track. Your gut will be unique and different than mine so you need to figure out what imbalances you might have going on.
But it isn’t JUST about testing!
Once my gut was healed, things I do to maintain its balance include eating fermented foods, eating prebiotic-rich foods, managing stress through journaling and Heartmath daily, getting enough sleep, avoiding antibiotics as much as possible (I haven’t needed any in years), supporting my liver by including things like regular castor oil packs, coffee enemas a couple times per week and eating a nutrient-dense diet as much as possible. I find that if I start to overdo the sugar and dairy my acne will start to flare a bit. I also redo the stool test on myself annually to keep on top of my gut health.
How I healed my hormones!
Based on my symptoms, I had a hunch I was dealing with estrogen dominance issues. Aside from acne, I developed a fibroid. To find out for sure, I did a comprehensive hormone test. My favorite, and the one I run on all my clients, is DUTCH test by Precision Analytical. I love this test for many reasons, but for someone dealing with estrogen issues it is extremely important because it can show you how your body is detoxing estrogen. Did you know there are three phases of estrogen detoxification? DUTCH test shows us phases one and two. Phase three is seen on the GI MAP by looking at beta glucuronidase (because your gut bacteria influences estrogen detoxification).
Why is being able to see these phases important? Because this information will help determine what you can do to support estrogen detoxification. Estrogen dominance can be caused by many different things (in fact I wrote a whole post about it here) so knowing which phases are blocked will help determine a plan to fix it. I worked with a practitioner that didn’t test my hormones and suggested I take DIM based on my symptoms and this ended up not working for me at all. Why? Because after I did my DUTCH and GI MAP tests I was able to see that my biggest issue causing my estrogen imbalances were phase two and phase three NOT phase one (which is the phase DIM normally supports).
I found the right skin care!
I spent so much time and money buying products that promised clearer skin only to have them make my skin worse and look very dull. Years ago, I learned chemicals in beauty products can negatively impact my hormones, so I started swapping out products for safer ones. Even then, I tried a number of different brands and continued to be underwhelmed with the quality and impact on my skin – until I came across Beautycounter. Not only are these products safer, I’ve also seen the most amazing results. My skin glows more than it ever has (unless you count having super oily skin as “glowing”) and I find that the longer I use these products, the better my skin gets. I love and believe in this brand so much that I became a consultant!
Here are my top safer skincare products I have been using and loving….
1. Cleansing Balm– I use this product at night to help cleanse my skin and remove makeup. I feel like this balm has made my skin more dewy and soft. If forgot to take it with me on a trip once and I notice my skin missed it desperately so I am sure to never leave home without it now. If my skin starts to get really dry I will even apply it to my clean face and night and use it as an overnight moisturizing mask.
2. Nourishing Cream Exfoliator– I use this as my face wash day and night. I find it very hydrating as so many of the cleansers targeted toward acne prone skin are usually way to drying. If you dry out your skin your body with create more oil to compensate which can actually trigger more acne. So my skins prefers hydrating products.
3. Overnight Resurfacing Peel– One side effect of acne is acne scars. Even after healing my acne I still felt like I was working to cover up the dark spots acne left behind. Enter the Overnight Resurfacing Peel! In the beginning I used it every night but now I find myself only using it 2-3 nights per week for more maintenance.
4. Body Unburdened Beauty Blends No.2– This one isn’t Beautycounter but I love it! High in linoleic acid, this blend is perfect for blemish-prone skin, which studies have found tends to be deficient in linoleic acid, which makes skin more prone to inflammation and hyperkeratinization (a perfect recipe for clogged pores!) — the linoleic acid in the blend helps to bring skin back to a state of balance i.e. it’s happy place. You can use this directly on your skin or put a few drops in your favorite moisturizer like Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion or Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream.
5. Counter+ Charcoal Facial Mask– Use 2-3 times per week and can also be used as spot treatments overnight to help dry out a blemish.
There are no safe quick fixes when it comes to clearing your skin of breakouts, especially when hormones and gut health are at play. Healing your skin often takes a whole body approach and patience. It includes looking at multiple systems of the body and working on mental/emotional stress, diet and lifestyle. My skin is no where near perfect and pimples still pop up if I get a little lax on my diet or lifestyle but I know exactly what I need to do to bounce back. Supporting healthy skin is a lifetime commitment but it is absolutely possible! I am living proof!
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As a registered dietitian and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, I help clients get proper functional lab testing, assist in the process of reading those results using clinical correlation (treating the patient and not just the test results), and give them proper tools (diet, supplements, and lifestyle) to start the healing process.