Acne as an adult is the fucking worst- let’s be honest here.
I have struggled with acne since I was 10 years old. I got acne earlier than my schoolmates, and it was WAY worse than most of them.
Big, red, deep and cystic pimples all over my face, chest and back. Not pretty.
The first time I ever tried to do anything about it, I was 14 years old and in 9th grade. I went on a medication called Accutane.
It was a bloody miracle because it made all my acne go away. I was told this would be permanent- score!
Then, a year or so later, my acne came back. At 16 I went on birth control, and that seemed to calm things down for another year.
Then the acne came back. So I went on various antibiotics and used tons of harsh creams that left me feeling red and raw (and utterly disgusting).
They didn’t work. So I did Accutane a second time, and it worked again (temporarily).
I seriously thought I was going to be stuck with acne for life.
Enter nutrition school, and I came off birth control. Then my “second puberty” started and the acne got WAY worse- bad like when I was 10 years old.
Super hella embarrassing when you’re in nutrition school and want to look like a glowing health fairy. Yeah, not so much.
I was diagnosed with PCOS at this time and suddenly I knew WHY my skin was so bad- it was the syndrome!
Of course that didn’t make it any easier to get rid of.
During the first 2 years after my diagnosis, I tried all kinds of things.
Tea tree oil.
DIY face masks.
Store-bought face masks.
“Natural” spot treatments galore.
Some of these worked a little bit (Yonka products are AMAZING), but never got rid of my acne completely.
Now I know this is because I didn’t address the root causes of my acne from the inside. Rather, I stuck with topical treatments.
At this point in my PCOS-skin journey, my face, back and chest are clear.
I get the odd pimple if I’ve been particularly stressed out or had a week or two of shitty eating. It’s INCREDIBLE to not have to worry about covering up my skin, but rather embracing my natural glow.
I get asked a lot how I did it. How did I go from deep cystic acne on my face, back and chest to clear all over?
Let me tell you.
How I Cleared My PCOS Acne
#1: Insulin-Balancing Diet
Whether we like it or not, most of us PCOS Cysters have some form of Insulin Resistance (yes, even with “normal” blood labs).
Insulin resistance leads our ovaries to over-produce androgen hormones like testosterone. High testosterone often gets converted to DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, a “naughty” form of testosterone that increases sebum (oil) production on the skin, among other things- that creates acne.
I started by reducing processed carbs (bread, noodles, crackers, cookies, etc) and increasing healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, nuts/seeds, butter, MCT oil, etc). A by-product of this was a healthy weight, too.
I then made sure to eat at regular times, and to include as much fresh produce (mostly veggies) that I could in a day.
All this together helped to balance my blood sugar and restore my insulin sensitivity- leading to clearer skin.
#2: Simplified Skin Care Routine
I tossed out all my expensive store-bought products (like I said, Yonka is FABULOUS, but damn expensive).
I simplified the ingredients in my skin care routine to be made of things I could EAT – no toxins, no fake stuff, no fillers or fancy extracts.
At the time of writing this article, my routine is as follows:
- Cleansing: Wash my face with a cinnamon/honey mixture
- Optional: If I’m feeling dry, I’ll mist with some rose hydrosol
- Moisture: 100% pure rosehip seed oil (I use Skin Essence brand)
- Weekly: A facial mask that I either DIY or buy (usually with some clay and essential oils in it)
And that’s seriously it. I don’t wash my face twice a day. Over-washing makes me produce more oil, and therefore get more acne. No thanks. I don’t use fancy creams. My face is no longer an oil slick by lunchtime.
#3: Gut Support
Acne is a sign that your gut needs some help. Your digestion isn’t working properly, and inflammation is running wild in your body.
I started to support my gut first by adopting the diet I outlined in #1. Then I added in some gut support tools – digestive enzymes, and the like. In fact, this is SO important, we devote a whole week to it in my PCOS Hormone Bootcamp program.
Then I upped my probiotic game. Probiotics, aka good gut bugs (bacteria) are ESSENTIAL for glowing skin. E-S-S-E-N-T-I-A-L. Seriously. Don’t skip this.
I started taking a probiotic supplement (I currently use MegaSpore Biotic by Microbiome Labs) and incorporated 1-2 servings of fermented foods with my meals daily.
Sauerkraut was and still is my favourite.
#4 Toxin-Free Makeup
I threw away all my old makeup and replaced it with natural, toxin-free versions that won’t upset my skin. If you want to check out your makeup, go to EWG.org and search their beauty database- it will give you a score of houw good or bad a product is, SO amazing.
My current makeup:
- Liquid Foundation: Sappho Organics
- Mascara: Raw Mascara by Earth Lab Cosmetics
- Eye Liner: Liquid Eye Liner by Lavera
- Lipstick: Etherealle Vegan Mineral Lipstick (purchased on Etsy)
- Eye Shadow: Zuii Organic and/or Beneficial Minerals Brand (purchased on Etsy)
#5: Stress Management
Stress is bad for your skin. So bad, there’s even a book written about it. This was a big missing piece in my own healing puzzle.
The diet was there. The supplements and skin care were on point. And I still got acne.
Then I started meditating, doing yoga near daily, journaling and just generally working on taking better care of myself, and letting go.
I did something to manage my stress every single day (and still do). If I don’t, my acne flares up.
Affirmations are another great way to shift mindset and reduce stress. Louise Hay has a great affirmation for acne:
“I am a Divine expression of life. I love and accept myself where I am right now.”
How Long Will It Take to Clear My Acne?
This is the BIG question, and I get asked this a lot. It took me personally about 2 years to clear my skin.
If I knew what I was doing at first and if I had created a targeted plan of attack from the beginning, I imagine I could have cut that time in half.
Everyone is different, but that’s my personal experience. It slowly got better- it’s not like I went two years with crazy acne and woke up one day to zero pimples. It was a slow but steady decline.
It can (will) happen. Keep consistent.