I’ve grappled with the idea of posting ‘before photos’ of my acne for a long time. It feels so personal/vulnerable/embarrassing…but then I have to ask myself: why do I feel ashamed? It’s not my fault that I struggled with cystic acne for so many years. Yet still, here I am, cringing a bit at the idea of putting these photos out there. I think it’s because, when you have become so used to hiding something for good chunk of your life, it never feels quite comfortable to expose it. I’ve decided that if I can help one person or give someone who feels helpless and hopeless, a bit of hope through posting these photos, then it’s worth it.
So, here we go….these photos range in progress from 2015-present day 2017.
(PHOTOS RANGING FROM 2015 TO 2019)
I used to hide my acne like it was my job. Leave the house without makeup? Never. I slicked on dermablend (the makeup used to conceal tattoos on movie sets) to cover each pustule and scar every single day. Creating my daily camouflage through makeup to ensure I stayed hidden took up lots of my time.
When you have acne, you feel that it’s all people see. When they look at you, you’re just hoping they’re not staring at the protrusions all over your face. I realize now, of course, that I am and always have been much more than my acne. I am a human who can offer much more than just my face or my skin. To everyone still struggling: I know how you feel. I used to be you. Reading a post like this one, having a twinge of hope that maybe this might have a nugget of information that could help, but deep down rolling my eyes because the cynicism becomes overpowering when NOTHING EVER WORKS. I’m still shocked that something finally worked…and it was as simple as changing my diet and lifestyle. It’s the strangest thing to say, but I can sit here right now and say I’m thankful for having acne, because without it, I would not be where I am today. I would not have this career, and I would not be healthy ; plain and simple.
This post is long overdue. I know I’ve been promising it for ages, but it’s never felt like the right time because it is such an extensive and overwhelming journey that it’s always felt difficult to just condense into a blog post. BUT, here we go…
Let’s start at the beginning…
I first developed acne at around the age of 13. It wasn’t terrible, just your run-of- the- mill- puberty- associated acne. At around 14, when I started high school, is when acne decided to get crazy on me. No more easy to deal with “normal” acne, but instead: deep, painful, red cystic pimples covering almost every square inch of my face. My acne has always primarily been located on my jawline, neck, cheeks and temples, aka the usual suspects when it comes to the hormonal variety.
I went to a dermatologist and was prescribed topical creams, antibiotics etc. Nothing helped. I’d douse my face in acids like benzoyl and salicylic, because every acne product screamed OIL FREE and PIMPLE DRYING, so I thought if my face was ridiculously dry and without even .001% of oil, I would be good to go, my skin would be clear! I know now that this was horribly wrong. I cringe thinking about my old skincare routine. I refused to use anything moisturizing, i’d dry my skin out, pile on thick caked up makeup, and do the whole thing again, hoping for clear skin. To read more about my skincare routine + do’s and don’t, click here
(For 2019 updated skincare routine: click here)
Basically, I tried everything under the sun, except accutane…I just wasn’t wiling to mess with the (often extreme) side effects. At around 17, I went on hormonal birth control and guess what? It completely cleared my skin; which was great…but it also gave me really bad side effects like horrible anxiety and weight gain. After a few years on the pill, I decided to ditch it and figure out another way to fix my skin.
2015 was the year my life changed. I wish I could remember what I first read that sparked my endless research on the connection between diet, health, and acne. It is INSANE to me now, that I had ZERO idea that there was a connection between what I put inside my body and what was reflected on my skin. I truly had no idea.
Up until my revelation, I ate like shit, I never exercised, I hardly drank any water. I truly ate horribly, like McDonalds, candy, frozen pizza, red bull, 3 bagels and cream cheese a day. Suddenly, I was a sponge soaking up all of the information and research on healthy living and clearing acne naturally through diet. First things to go: dairy and gluten. I decided to cut out these two usual acne offenders and I began following healthy lifestyle blogs and Instagram accounts. I was loving how great I felt; I started to eat more leafy greens and vegetables, I cut out processed foods and refined sugar. My skin started to clear up, FINALLY.
Things were really improving in my skin, not to mention I had more energy and less anxiety, my body was probably just screaming “THANK YOU” for taking care of it finally. Here’s where things get a little tricky and not as simple as giving one solution. Bio- individuality is important to understand, because it means that we are all different, there is no one size fits all when it comes to health and diet. What clears my skin, might not clear yours. You have to become in tune with your body and understand what agrees with it and what does not. When my skin first cleared up, I was eating a lot of green smoothies, leafy greens and vegetables with fish and chicken, gluten free toast with almond butter & banana, or chia pudding with dried berries. You’d think I would’ve just kept doing what was clearing up my skin and making me feel my best, but I was always researching and in experimentation mode. I started getting swayed into more of a paleo diet, and with that, I cut out all the fruit and grains and replaced them with eggs.
I’m originally from Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of DC. My boyfriend started attending medical school in South Florida and after being long distance, I decided to quit my job, and move to Florida to live with him in 2015. This is when I started Vibrant & Pure (yay!) and really got into cooking and healthy eating. Okay, back to the eggs…my boyfriend and I were eating SO many eggs when I first moved to FL. My skin was suddenly becoming aggravated again, but I had no idea why, I thought maybe it was the environmental change. It had never occurred to me that eggs could be triggering my breakouts, because through all my research, I’d never seen eggs mentioned even once.
One day, I was perusing Instagram, and noticed a friend post about egg yolks being an aggravator to their cystic acne and I was very perplexed. Long story short, I cut out egg yolks that day, and my skin started completely clearing up, almost miraculously. It’s so shocking to me that it was as simple as that. Again, I have to reiterate, this is just me– there are many people who eat egg yolks all the time and have perfect skin; I just have to let you know what made the biggest difference for me, in case it can help you. This is why I think it’s extremely important to figure out what foods work best with your body, help to heal your gut, and in turn, clear up your skin.
How to figure out what might be causing your cystic acne:
Okay, now you want to figure out what could be causing your cystic acne. You could get a food allergy test, but I would start out by trying an elimination diet. You basically just cut out a lot of the typical food allergy offenders, and then slowly add them in one by one and see how your skin reacts. I’ve kept a “skin log” for years. It sounds a little crazy, but you start to make connections between certain foods and breakouts and it helps you to figure out what your triggers are.
Be patient and be kind to yourself. I never thought I would be able to fix to my skin, until I realized what an effect food has on our bodies and our skin. You have to give it time and patience, and you WILL be able to clear your skin eventually.
Alright, I’m finished rambling now. I truly hope this can help someone. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any specific questions.
click here for my skincare routine
click here to read more about my acne story in Women’s Health Magazine
click here for my Skin Tracker- a downloadable PDF to track lifestyle + dietary changes and log progress while healing your skin
31 Replies to “How I Cleared My Cystic Acne”
Interesting post! Fortunately, I have never had severe acne, but I can imagine it can damage your self esteem. Your skin looks beautiful ❤
Thank you so much. It’s come a long way!
Same for me. Eggs,milk and coffee seem to be my culprits. I’m almost 100% sure on the eggs, not sure about the otters as much. Pantothenic acid is something that I also began to take and has helped tremendously with my skin. It had eliminated 95%of my breakouts. I also gave up meat,dairy etc. For environmental and moral reasons. So nice to finally have clear skin after suffering with acne for 15+ years. 🙏❤
Hi there. My skin had been basically clear up until a few months ago. January 1st I became a pescatarian and my skin looked great. I decided to stop taking birth control because I have been on it for 8 years and I wanted to give my body a break from it… pretty sure this is what caused cystic acne. I stopped taking it for about a month and a half and my skin has never looked worse. Within this time I tried a lot of new skin care routines to fix it- but nothing worked so I started taking birth control again along with a lot of vitamins. My skin started to clear up again. Any thoughts?
Your acne is hormonal and I have tried the exact same thing. When you get off the pill, your hormone levels drop, and it causes acne. I have PCOS and what helped me first was 1)acupuncture and 2) a clean diet (by that I don’t mean gluten free, because I do eat a lot of healthy fibers coming from barley, rye and whole grain wheat). What made my skin go from clean to vibrant was quality sleep! (At least eight hours each night). No alcohol, no cigarettes. A lot of healthy fats and greens. I really thought that nothing would ever help me, but I have no skin problems now.
Hi there. So sorry for the delay- going on birth control typically eliminates cystic acne for those who have it or are prone to it. Because of the sudden shift in hormones from going off birth control after so long, it’s totally expected that your skin would go through a big change that involves acne. When something like this happens, it’s a good idea to let your skin chill for a minute, trust me… I know it’s tempting to try a million products but they often just make things worse, and it’s hard to keep track of what’s causing the issues. If you want to be on birth control- that will certainly clear up your skin…but if you want to be able to get off it like I did. You will have to figure out what the triggers are that flare up your hormonal acne. It’s definitely a journey but it feels great not to be dependent on birth control anymore. I hope this helps!
Thank you for this! I’m a fellow Bethesda native 🙂 My (exclusively breastfed) baby had eczema. I cut out dairy, eggs, tree nuts and shellfish. His skin is completely cleared. So interesting to learn how much impact our gut has on other areas. I’m so inspired by your gorgeous pix!
Hi fellow bethesdian! (is that a thing?) That’s truly amazing…our gut health can impact so much, you’re right! Thank you <3
What an honest and inspiring story! Thank you for sharing. My teenage daughter aged 13 is just starting to get acne and I would so much prefer your healthy approach to antibiotics! She cannot image life without diary, but I will keep working on her!
Thanks so much for sharing. Really helpful and confirms all my thoughts about this frustration with acne that I have. I have also started connecting the dots and I think we all have weak spots in our bodies that speak to us…mine us my skin. My helpers are zinc…probiotics…carrot juice…and more…I think I have a lot more to learn though but as you say we also just have to live our lives!😊
I am so happy that this resonates with you. You seem to be off to a great start in connecting the dots…you just have to be scientific about it, you will figure it out! Good luck to you <3
I thought the article was super helpful! How long would you say you tried the elimination process for certain foods in order to see whether they had an effect on you?
Glad to hear that! This journey took about a year, I was just trying different things diet-wise in different phases. It’s a good idea to take photos of your skin even though it sucks (trust me), then you can look back and try to connect the dots of what you were eating during that time. I didn’t do a full on elimination diet right away- I just cut out processed foods, refined sugar, dairy and gluten and started eating healthier in general. Eventually when my skin was still having bad flare ups I decided to cut out egg yolks and that had the biggest effect for me.
Dermalmd blemish serum really helped clear up my acne. 13 years old and I have to battle with acne all the time until my Nana found Dermalmd blemish serum for me and ever since then my acne has cleared up. Thank you for creating this treatment
Hi, I appreciate this article. I have an experience I’d like to share.
I have been struggling with cystic acne since last year. I never had a lot of acne issues in the past, hormonal acne and breakouts here and there, but nothing like how it is now. I tried numerous skin care products that people swore by and promised would work, but in the end, I am realizing it is my gut that needs to cleaned out/refreshed. I was a fairly healthy eater and work out all the time, but read a lot of articles about dairy affecting acne. At first, I thought “How could I go without dairy when I grew up eating mac ‘n cheese, quesadillas, and all of that good stuff?” But honestly, in this day and age, there are some decent alternatives. The dairy was slowly helping the inflammation, but I could still tell there were other foods that were causing my cystic acne. I think the elimination is a good option, but I needed answers sooner than later and decided to take a blood allergy test that tests 96 foods. I got this from a Naturopath doctor I recently started seeing. Yes, it was $200, but it was worth it to me. You just prick your finger and draw some blood on a few spots on a small card and send it in and then about 4 weeks later, you receive your results. I definitely cried a little. I had severe reactions to eggs (the yolk and the white), dairy (casein (this is what is in milk), cheese, goat milk, whey), and gluten (wheat, spelt, rye). Ugh. I also reacted to almonds and beef, but they weren’t as high.
Today marks 6 weeks without gluten and eggs (and beef and almonds) and 10 weeks without dairy. My skin is not miraculously better, but the inflammation has gone down, my skin has started to smooth out (as it felt like like little rocks when I’d wash my face), and I have fewer breakouts. I am going to continue to avoid these foods as I still don’t feel the foods are fully out of my system.
People have been asking if I feel better. I actually feel the same internally. The exact same. But externally, I can see a difference.
I don’t know if this will be my diet for the rest of my life or just temporarily, but I am still giving it a try to see if I can someday have clear skin (like you!). I have hope, but I am not getting my hopes up quite yet. Just taking it one day at a time. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one!
I now stay away from egg yolks! They give me cysts in my ear or scalp.
Reducing dairy got rid of the Whiteheads . I switched to almond milk.
I occasionally chicken, may be once a month. That never bothered me ever because I always liked vegetarian food.
I am planning to go gluten free because I have redness on my cheeks which cannot be explained by anything.
Thanks a lot for sharing !
God bless you!
I’ve struggled with acne for years now and dermalmd acne serum cleared up my acne, I use it in the morning when I wake up on spots and they’re gone by the afternoon.
Hey! Thanks so much for posting this, it was a super helpful read. I swear I’ve tried every product until it was time to stop (it’s tiresome, not to mention, expensive!!) Now I’ve been cutting out foods left right and centre for a year. Nothing has really worked – I thought it was coffee for a while but it only got a little bit better and then worse again. Buuut coincidentally I didn’t eat eggs for a month when I was in europe (I would normally eat 3 eggs probably 3 or more times a week when I was at home!) and my skin cleared up nearly completely! Now I’ve cut them out – allowing the occasional egg or two in a meal, and I think we might have an answer. Then I looked it up and found this – which was awesome to see that someone has had a similar journey! So thanks 🙂 all the best and god bless!
Your post has been super helpful. Your blog on Skincare 101 very informative. Can you please share tips on Make-up products.
Makeup can be tricky because it depends on what skin type you have. I wash my face AM and PM and am sure to get all of my makeup off. (Skin care is a whole ‘nother paragraph. Be sure you know the ingredients of what you’re washing your face with.)
For makeup, if you have oily skin, try using powder foundation, like Emani Perfecting Crushed Foundation. If you have more dry skin, try using liquid foundation, like Fenty Pro Filt’r. Be sure to also wear sunscreen every single day as the sun can deepen/worsen acne and scars. I hope this helps.
Dermalmd acne serum is awesome! This is a wonderful serum! Have experienced the wonderful joy of adult acne but also want anti-aging protection from my products so I am not dried out and scaly! This works perfectly and has smoothed out my skin n texture very well! No more flare-ups every month!
I have had horrible cystic acne for over 3o years now. I have tried every drug and every type of diet you can think of. Nothing ever worked. I stopped eating eggs for a couple weeks and noticed I had no new breakouts but didn’t think much of it. I then did a 2 week fast because of some pain in my stomach. I thought I ha d a blockage. Well I broke the fast with eggs to get some protein and a huge cyst formed on my chin. That was my first real solid evidence for eggs being the culprit. I have avoided eggs for a month now and for the first time in my life I don’t wake up to cysts on a daily basis. I’m clear and I hope this last and isn’t just a fluke!
How long did it take that you started to see results after you had stopped eating eggs? I have not been eating eggs for 3 weeks and I haven’t seen any results yet. How long should I continue without eating eggs to see if eggs are the cause of my acne?
Jon, I would do 6 weeks of absolutely no eggs. And be careful as there is sometimes eggs in bread (even gluten free bread) and in a lot of things to bind them, like vegan/vegetarian burgers, meatballs, etc. So just be sure that you are asking if there are any eggs in any food if you are ordering at a restaurant.
Regarding everyone who has mentioned the link between eggs and acne, it is likely due to the content of biotin in the egg yolks.
It is common knowledge that biotic (especially supplementation) is linked with cystic acne. This can successfully be mediated through supplementing/ingesting foods high in or supplemening with vitamin b5.
Biotin has an indirect effect on skin – in layman terms, it essentially causes the production of sebum – which is generally a good effect as it keeps the skin moisturized and lubricated – but unfortunately an over production of sebum can lead to acne, especially the cystic kind – as the bacteria strains linked to acne thrive and overpopulate in a high sebum environment.
vitamin b5 controls sebum production.
Though too much vitamin b5 can cause skin dryness, which can lead to cracked skin and the formation of wrinkles and a reliance on the external application of moisturizers.
It is about balance and finding the right balance in each individual as everybody’s composition of these nutrients, and sebum production is different.
I wonder if it has to do with blood type. It seems that people with blood type A have more problems with dairy and breakouts.
Although dermalmd acne serum is for Cystic Acne I decided to give it a try for my Follicles as well. In 2 weeks it is the ONLY treatment that has worked in 2 YEARS!! This little container is worth the money!!
I have been using Dermalmd Acne Treatment and it works great. If u want a quick fix then this is it, it works overnight to reduce inflammation and if u keep using it ur acne will go away