Acne. A party no one wants an invite to. But, thanks to the stress of moving and hormonal factors, my face erupted into a full-scale rave shortly I returned home from travelling in summer 2016. It got to a point that my face was sore from the cists, plus I was embarrassed to be seen in public, so I dutifully went to see my GP. I don’t want to say he was unhelpful, but he didn’t seem keen to discuss any of the lifestyle factors that I had researched online. I suppose GP deal with facts, not wanting to encourage anything that hasn’t been clinically proven. So he sent me on my way with a prescription for benzoyl peroxide. It came with a warning that it might sting at first and not to put in on before bed, as it might bleach my pillow case. This cream had the power to bleach fabric, and I was meant to be putting it all over my face. Erm, well, thanks, but, no.
I decided to follow the holistic route, but to take it with a pinch of salt and not be disappointed when traditional remedies didn’t live up to their promises. Here’s what I learnt in the months that followed:
Coconut oil cleansing is messy work and makes your towels smell like coconut all the time. Damp coconuts. No.
Maca tastes delicious, but I can’t tolerate it raw, and it wasn’t the wonder ingredient for skin (although it did have a noticeable effect on my mood).
Lots of lotions and potions didn’t deliver. I stripped back my skin care regime to just a very simple, sensitive skin face wash. No serums, no moisturizers, no toner, no cleansers, just warm water and face wash. And I stopped using flannels, using just my clean hands.
Exercise helped, but I had to be meticulous about washing my face ASAP.
I would have my good days and my bad days, but there didn’t seem to be a hope that my face would ever clear up completely. In all the articles I read about acne and skincare, two themes kept cropping up time and time again, but I would always turn a blind eye, pretending it wasn’t true. One was dairy. The other was sugar. It would mean a major shake up to my normal diet, but looking in the mirror at my red crater face made me determined to give anything a go.
The dairy wasn’t too much of a concern, I was never a cheese fiend in the first place. I now use almond milk for my oats and porridge. I have a cheesy pizza once a week and on occassion, I will have a couple of spoonfuls of Greek yogurt or sour cream or normal cream. These changes are not really a sacrifice.
Sugar, on the other hand, was going to be a harder habit to break. I’ve always thought I had a rampant sweet tooth and that would always be the case. It wasn’t all crappy sweets, but I used to eat a lot more flavoured yogurt, granola, honey, both dark and milk chocolate and fro-yo. By being incredibly aware of my sugar intake, I have helped my skin immeasurably. This is the one thing that has changed my face from lumpy to lovely, as you can see:
Now, I have one teaspoon of my chosen sweetener in my breakfast (normal either organic honey or pure maple syrup). I have a sweet treat in the afternoon at work, either a home made flapjack or a date-based bar, or possibly a couple of pieces of chocolate. I haven’t had to give up chocolate completely to get my face back on track, but I have a lot less, whether it’s dark or milk or anything. I have fruit, but not an excessive amount, and I rarely have sugary drinks. I think twice before ordering a latte with syrup in. If I’m out with a friend and it’s a treat, then I will enjoy it to the full. But I don’t have one everyday.
When I went on holiday recently, I left with a clear face. By the time I got back, after enjoying French cheese and Belgian chocolates, I was definitely looking more than a bit patchy. That’s how I know it’s the dairy and the sugar that directly affect my skin. It might not be the case for your skin, we’re all so different. But if you are struggling with painful spots, I would highly recommend that you cut down on both for at least a couple of weeks and see where you end up. It took a good five months before I saw real change with my skin, and at least two months of being low-sugar. I still get a large spot every now and then, but they are smaller and nowhere near as sore. I don’t crave sweets and chocolate in the same way anymore, but I do look forward to my 4pm treat.
I’m very comfortable with keeping my diet this way as long as it continues to be beneficial. Do you have a top tip for good skin? Do you eat anything in particular to help? I would love to hear all about in the comments section below, or come and find me on Instagram.