If you've ever dealt with chronic, cystic acne, you likely know just how stressful, confusing, and costly the search for a solution can be. I expended a ton of energy, money, and time seeking out a solution for my adult acne. Countless prescription regimens, antibiotics, and expensive products later, it seemed like nothing worked. I tried oral supplements, quitting sugar, and bought products that friends and family swore had cured their acne. No one solution was the answer. But the good news - there was and is an answer. This is how I healed my cystic acne, naturally.
HEALING THE GUT
For the longest time, I believed that acne was a skin problem. I thought that by using the right cream or cleanser, I could cure my cystic acne. But the truth is - chronic, cystic acne is a symptom of deeper issues and imbalances. No cream or cleanser can treat a 'leaky gut' (or an 'unsettled spirit' which we'll get to.)
What made a truly drastic difference in my skin was my decision to change the way that I eat. Is eating 100% 'clean' the only way to clear, beautiful skin? No. Did I have to sacrifice my favorite foods or be doomed to cystic acne forever? No.
Years ago, I reduced or cut out dairy & red meat products from my diet. It was easy to make this decision because I was desperate! I didn't see an immediate difference and it took months of trial and error, but my decision to cut back on dairy and eliminate red meat (especially factory-farmed meat!) from my diet changed my skin drastically for the better.
I've written an entire blog on the Gut-Acne Connection and how to eat to heal your acne here, but very simply, individuals with acne-prone skin are often sensitive to certain foods - namely foods that are high in hormones, inflammatory fats, etc. We also often have co-occurring gut issues that ultimately cause breakouts - and are worsened by what we eat. If you suffer from chronic breakouts, there's a good chance that the food you're eating is in some way contributing to your acne.
Common food culprits include:
- factory-farmed red meat, dairy & eggs (organic and pastured options are much better!)
- GMO soy
- an excess of certain nuts (ie. almonds)
- processed sugar
Want to know more about the connection between your gut health and chronic acne (plus, how to eat to heal your skin)? This blog has all the deets!
THE SKIN-SPIRIT CONNECTION
They don't call me The Skin Shamaness for nothing! As a pioneer of The Skin-Spirit Connection, and having lived my own experience with this, I love sharing what I've learned about the ways our skin (and physical health in general) are deeply intertwined with our mental and spiritual health.
If you ask any dermatologist or skin scientist about the causes of chronic adult acne, they'll likely name off these two major culprits - hormones and stress. These, particularly for women, are widely accepted as the #1 causes of chronic breakouts. And while I agree, I believe that stress is too surface-level a term for how our spiritual well-being is linked to our skin. What they call stress, I call 'an unsettled spirit.'
If you're experiencing chronic skin symptoms, ie. cystic breakouts, chronic inflammation, etc., there is a high likelihood that your lifestyle, past traumas, and/or spiritual well-being (or lack thereof) are at play. Is it any surprise that when my anxiety was at it's peak, so too was my cystic acne? Is it any coincidence that when I made a daily practice of self-care and meditation, my skin completely transformed within weeks (and has never been the same)? I'll let you decide. See below for some of my immediate recommendations on how to heal your spirit so you can heal your skin.
Tips & inspiration...
- Commit to a morning ritual that you can practice on a daily basis. Whether it's five minutes or 30 minutes in the morning, use this time to connect with yourself & your higher power thru prayer, journaling, meditation, yoga, a walk thru nature or whatever makes you feel connected & at peace.
- Do a stress inventory! Take some time to sit & write about what is causing your body, mind & spirit stress in the here and now. What feels out of alignment in your life right now? Try to get to the root of what is causing your stress (rather than focusing on symptoms) & write down a few actions you can take to reduce your stress in those areas.
- Use your evening skincare routine as an opportunity for mindfulness and self-care. Use products that feel nourishing on your skin (the way skincare should feel), engage your senses thru beautiful scents and textures, and truly feel like a treat.
- For those with trauma, commit to healing your inner child & loving yourself back to wholeness. Do whatever it takes to nurture your mental and spiritual health, whether it means weekly therapy visits, joining a women's group, or whatever method of healing speaks to you. This, by far, has had the most profound impact on my health - skin & otherwise - in the long-run.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SKINCARE
I wish this weren't the case, but here is the truth: most of the products that are geared towards acne-prone skin aren't very acne-friendly! In fact, many of them are overly harsh and punish your skin (rather than caring for it - the whole point of skincare.) And while healing acne is partly an inside job, your skincare routine serves to either hurt or help the situation.
So how do you find the right products for your sensitive, acne-prone skin? I wrote a entire blog answering this very question, which you can read here. What I will say is that, for a long time, I gravitated towards products that contained a laundry list of actives, clays, essential oils, and had ingredients lists that were 15, 18, 20+ ingredients-long...because more is better, right?
Not always. When it comes to sensitive and acne-prone skin, simplicity is key. Less is more. What has worked for me & many of my clients is to: avoid harsh or drying ingredients, be consistent with our skincare routines, and feed our skin simple, luxurious, quality ingredients. In other words, treat your acne-prone skin like sensitive skin - because it is! Below you'll find a few of the products that have worked wonders to heal my skin, and many others'.
My Top Skincare Picks for Acne-Prone Skin
1. Blemish Correct Serum
With anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredients like Temulawak (Javanese Turmeric), the Blemish Correct serum works miracles on inflamed, acne-prone skin. Great for redness and inflammation, you can use this gentle, effective serum as a spot treatment or all-over facial serum to keep breakouts at bay.
2. Still Waters Soothing Ritual Facial Mist
Containing just three ingredients - Wild French Lavender, Lemongrass and Tulsi (Holy Basil) - this hydrosol blend is ultra-gentle and soothing with anti-bacterial and gentle astringent properties that make this mist perfect for sensitive, acne-prone skin.
If you struggle with chronic, cystic acne, know that you are far from alone. 54% of women over the age of 25 have some facial acne. Up to 55% of adults age 20-40 are diagnosed with persistent acne. Adult acne, especially of the cystic variety, is painful and often embarrassing. Those who are uninformed assume that you don't care for your skin or that you're just not using the right products when, in fact, it goes so much deeper than that. Finding a solution is not easy or without trial and error as every individual is different. This is simply my personal experience - I hope you've found it helpful! Please feel free to reach out here for a free skin consultation (new or existing customers only) or you can find us on Instagram @wabisabibotanicals.
Very good article. I have personally never struggled with cystic acne but I have had my fair share of bad breakouts through the years. I became vegan solely for animal rights but never realized the impact it was going to have on my skin. It has been amazing! I have been a licensed Esthetician for many years and agree that good skin starts from within. I am lover of many of the Wabisabi products and I believe wonderful skincare combined with a diet free from harmful animal products is key. It’s also amazing for the soul knowing you cause no harm to any living being. Let food be thy medicine and it will heal you from the inside.
Ive had to deal with a full 23 teen/adult years of pimples and severe acne to cystic acne that ONLY cured once i left all sorts of dairy and starches mainly potatoes and eggs plus milk with cereal. Now ive cut out gluten too so zero bread or pastries at all and the results are glowing. Just unfortunate that im naturally skinny, its a battle in trying to gain weight or rather LOSE the ugly acne but clear skin is most important since it caused intense bullying throughout its course. Its hard to keep up with a diet for acne thats no lie
Great article! I too have found that eggs cause cystic breakouts. I also find that taking pantothenic acid daily helps keep 95% of my breakouts at bay. Miracle in a pill. But I’ve also given up dairy, eggs and meat. More for environmental and moral reasons than for my skin. Totally worth it. You can see a day or 2 later after reintroducing it when the cysts begin to emerge. Good to finally have found the cure though.