This may sound crazy, but I owe a lot to acne and in a little bit you will find out why! After sharing the above photo on Facebook (which ended up spearheading my idea to finally launch a wellness website) I received a lot of requests to share my "Acne Story". I put this off for a long time because I went through so many ups and downs with my skin and health that I wasn't even sure if I would remember all the details! But thanks to the big internet cloud in the sky and social media, I was actually able to hunt down a lot of my old photos and skincare routines!
My goal is to try and keep this as simple and easy to follow as I possibly can...BUT keep in mind that this was over the span of a few years! I had to do quite a bit of mental digging. While I did struggle off and on with acne throughout high school and college, I want to focus more on my most recent acne flareup (which was my worst one) that lasted from 2013-2015.
This year was a year full of change and with any big change comes a certain level of stress. (you will notice that stress is the common denominator during this story!) I was 22 and working full time as a Certified Veterinary Technician at a local clinic in Florida. I had a wonderful job and my skin was doing great! I was convinced I had finally discovered the "cure" for my acne struggles and that was following the acne.org regimen using drugstore products. Twice a day I would cleanse my skin using the CereVe Moisturizing Cleanser & my Clarisonic Mia. Following my cleanse, I would then spread a thin layer of Acne Free's Terminator 10 cream ( A Benzoyl Peroxide Treatment). Once that dried I would then apply Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream and be on my merry way. That's a lot of steps and a lot of products...but my skin was clear, smooth and bright!
I had also been gluten and refined sugar free for the past year and physically felt great. Little did I know that despite eating so "healthy" the products I was lathering onto my skin were incredibly toxic and only treating symptoms ( Acne is often an external symptom of an internal problem!) It was during this time that my family moved to Alabama. Everything was good about the move for my family and it was just what we needed at the time. But I was beginning to put roots down in Florida ( had a steady boyfriend as well) and moving turned out to be much harder than I thought. Not to mention relocating to a new town, new home, different culture, and needing to find a job. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled that my family had been blessed with the opportunity to return to our home state. We would be close to family, and have a place to live in a community of the most caring, loving, selfless people I have ever met. God knew exactly what we needed and blessed us richly! Unfortunately the human body does not always know the difference between good stress & bad stress and will handle it in the same way. After moving to Alabama, I was able to find a technician job fairly quickly. (We moved in March and I started work in April) The downside was where we lived everything was a good 45min-1 hr away. The job was a full time position (which I was very thankful for!) but that meant getting up at 5:30am, being on the road a little after 6am so I could be at work around 7:15am, working all day, getting off at 6:30pm and making it home before 8pm to eat dinner and then be in bed before 11pm. The combination of a new work schedule, long commute, less sleep, new living situation and long distance relationship would end up sending my already stressed self into a downward spiral.
Fast forward to the end of the year 2013: I began to notice that my skin was starting to break out a little. Only this time the spots were deep and painful (cystic) and located on my cheek & jawline area. (any breakouts I had in the past were always on my forehead, chin, or around my nose.) I couldn't understand why my Skincare Regimen was not working...I thought I had found the cure! I decided it was just hormone related and pushed it out of my mind.
4-6-14 Day one of the OCM
I had been at my new job for 9 months now. I was stressed, struggling with insomnia, anxiety, and emotional ups & downs. I was eating healthier (gluten free, sugar free + more fruit and veggies) but my skin was starting to breakout ALL over my face! After much thought and desperate research, I realized that maybe I should finally make the switch to all natural products. It didn't make sense for me to eat so healthy yet still use chemicals and harsh treatments on my skin! I did some research online and discovered the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) where you use oil to cleanse your skin and treat acne. I quickly made the switch, ordered my oils (here) and started my all natural skincare journey convinced that my skin would return to normal in no time now that I was using healthier products AND eating healthy! I also decided to start documenting my skin through pictures on an instagram account as a way to help me stay motivated.
My skin calmed down a little using the OCM, but I continued to have a lot of clogged pores & discomfort. I also started to pick at my skin and my old habit of popping zits returned. I was constantly touching my face to feel for any new breakouts and was VERY self conscious about how I looked. Every time I went out in public, I covered my face with makeup..I felt like EVERYONE was judging me and staring at my skin! I did not feel pretty, and despite eating so healthy I definitely did not look healthy.
My skin went through many ups and downs, it would get better and then get much worse. I continued to tweak my diet, skincare routine and supplements hoping that at some point I would find the magic combo!
4-15-14 Started a new supplement that would supposedly help clear my acne by balancing my hormones.
In May my family went to the beach for a much needed vacation. Other than quick weekend trips to visit my boyfriend, Isaac, in Florida... I had not had a chance to go on a proper vacation. I took the above picture on our first day at the beach and was shocked at how sickly & exhausted I looked. I was so stressed and sleep deprived at this point and spent the entire week resting.
The picture above was taken on the last day of our vacation ( 5-19-14). I was amazed at how much brighter and happier I looked. Just a week of stress free R & R + fresh air & sunshine did wonders for me inside and out. This was the day that I finally made the connection between Acne, Stress, and Sleep.
After vacation my skin starting to drastically improve. It is amazing what sleep and less stress will do to your body! But while the time off did help a lot, I was still fighting the acne and just could not seem to get rid of it!
June 6, 2014
In June my life changed once again! I had flown down to Florida to visit Isaac and he PROPOSED! It was one of the happiest times for me! We wanted a short engagement and I quickly made plans to quit my job and move to Florida so I could start planning our wedding!
My skin at this point had improved A LOT. I also had the "pre-wedding" glow and could not wait to move back to Florida! My goal at this point was to focus on healing. I had a little under 3 months (between moving to Florida in August and our wedding in October) where I was not working and could completely focus on health, rest, recovery, and planning a wedding. It was then I stumbled across The Love Vitamin's Caveman Regimen. The theory is your skin is already capable of healing and protecting itself (called the "Acid Mantle") but you can damage your skin and prevent healing by constantly washing it and lathering on products and chemicals. The Caveman Regimen is where you don't wash your face with ANYTHING. Not even water if you are hard core. You give your skin a chance to repair and heal by not wearing makeup, slathering on creams, or using cleansers & masks. To me it made perfect sense, all this time I was constantly applying some sort of "natural" product to my skin to try and speed up the healing process when in reality I was never giving my skin a break and ultimately making things much worse!
My skin had improved a good bit, but I was still having minor acne flareups and a lot of redness & scarring from previous breakouts. I had nothing to lose, and 3 months where I was not working and had plenty of time to play around with this new found regimen.
The first couple of weeks on the new regimen were HARD. My skin looked awful, it was oily in places, dry and scaly in others. It was super itchy and all I wanted to do was scrub and clean it! I knew that this was just part of the healing process, plus my skin had to get used to completely new routine after washing it every single day since I was 14. About a month later I noticed a HUGE improvement! My skin was more even, the bumps were smaller, and overall redness had gone down.
After 2 months I FINALLY felt like my acne was starting to disappear! I then introduced ONE product that really helped heal the last of my acne scars and even out my skin tone: Moroccan Rose Water. (I have been applying this gem of product twice a day ever since!) I had also drastically reduced my stress levels, was sleeping better, and had discovered the amazing healing benefits of eating a diet high in healthy fats & protein.
Our wedding day: October 18, 2014
By our wedding day I felt like a completely different person. The Caveman Regimen not only helped to FINALLY heal my skin ( along with stress management, adequate sleep & a balanced diet) but it also gave me the confidence to be comfortable in my skin no matter how I looked (not washing your face or wearing makeup for 2 months can have that affect on you.)
One year later: October 2015
What Acne taught me:
- What you put IN your body is just as important as what you put ON it.
- What you put ON your body is just as important as what you put IN it.
- Less is more when it comes to skincare!
- Acne is a superficial symptom of an internal problem.
- There is no "one regimen fits all."
- Research, Research, Research.
- Your body & needs are unique.
- What works for me may not work for you!
- It takes time, and more than one step or product to heal.
- Be consistent with what works.
- Health is not everything, but you can't do much if you don't have good health.
- Emotional scarring from acne is a real thing.
- Acne does not define you.
- Stress can have a snowball affect and wreak havoc on you body, skin, digestion, mental health and hormones. Everything.
- Good quality supplements really can help.
- Moroccan Rose Water is AMAZING.
- What you eat really does matter!
- You can't out diet a stressful lifestyle.
- Poor quality sleep causes more stress.
- Stress can lead to poor quality sleep and/or insomnia.
- You can't out diet being sleep deprived.
- Stress Management, Sleep, Diet, and Exercise. Always in that order.
- Acne can be caused by MANY things.
- There is no magic cream or pill.
- Your body is complex & sometime the treatment is complex.
- Changing your lifestyle can be really hard, but it is NOT impossible!
- Don't be afraid to try new things!
- Patience. This too shall pass.