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 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