your skin will heal
"This - your skin - your skin will heal", I thought to myself as I stroked my fingers up and down my face. And within five hours my acne had reduced to almost nothing.
It's a moment I will never forget: To go sleep and to wake up with significantly improved skin.
That night, I believed - more than I ever had - that my acne, pimples, scars and redness would disappear. It was such a simple, clear and affirming thought. With my internal thoughts, I was able to change my physical exterior.
I initially wanted to write this blog post explaining the various treatments and products I have used for my acne over the last two years but I realised I wouldn't be telling the full story. While I have been working incredibly hard to balance my hormones and attempting to cure my acne after coming off the contraceptive pill in June 2015, I had a profound experience that changed everything.
I was out of the city, in a beautiful retreat center, staying in big teepee tents beside a cactus labyrinth, neighbouring horses and a massive river dam. Held by the majestic Riviersonderend mountain range and gentle curved hills in Greyton, South Africa, I was guided into a deep plant medicine ceremony and meditation.
Having prepared my body and mind for the ceremony, I arrived with a very clear, concise and crisp intention of wanting to find the self-love within. Holding onto that intention throughout, never losing focus, and remaining calm, meant that I received exactly what I asked. I allowed myself to fully engage in a deep self-loving process of touching my body with intense mindfulness, adoration and love.
It was as if I had hands of another and was experiencing the curves, the softness, the resilience, the miracle of my body for the first time.
With the same care I gave my hands, stomach, arms and breasts, I gave my face, and by the time I awoke from the ceremony, all of my cystic acne and pimples had reduced significantly.
It is the power of the mind.
It is the power of the mind that can heal more so than cleansers, toners and laser treatments.
While I will get into the specifics of what skincare products have helped me over the last few years, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a clear mind and a loving heart when it comes to healing oneself of acne.
From my personal experience, angry skin is a result of a lack of self-love within.
so what is my story?
Acne was always an issue for me growing up. I went on various anti-biotics throughout my teenage years with very little success. By the time I got to my final year in school, my skin was clear. But it was also pale and lifeless. Why was this the case? I was suffering from an eating disorder.
Does your skin become clearer when restricting food? It's a question that's always puzzled me and I haven't been able to find many credible sources that could explain this. If you know of any information on this, please comment below :)
Straight after school, I went to a clinic for six weeks and was put on a meal plan. Going to a clinic was a tremendous step in my recovery. With all of the food and nutrition circulating around my body, my skin broke out - in particular, on my forehead (acne in this region usually indicates digestive issues which would make sense in my case). While my body was trying to fix the parts of me I had ignored, mentally I was still struggling. Recovery wasn't (and still isn't) easy and my skin was physically reflecting my internal world.
Upon leaving the clinic, I was told I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and was promptly put on Ginette (a form of contraceptive and hormonal pill). For most girls, going on the pill was as normal as wearing a bra so I didn't question it. It was something all girls did, right? Unfortunately, my skin was not getting better, so I was given another pill, Androcur, that I was required to take "for ten days, five days after getting a period". Again, I took it with no question. I just wanted clear skin for once in my life!
And it did clear. But after a while, I began to question if it was safe to take such medication. I attempted to stop Androcur and it just resulted in a messed up menstrual cycle, bad skin breakouts and an angry dermatologist. I was totally spooked. At that moment in my life, it was more important to have clear skin so I put myself back on Androcur, and continued feeding my body fake hormones.
Then I went vegan.
It was a defining moment as it was the start of a deeper desire to become more in tune with my body. I reattempted to go off Androcur once more and I experienced zero side effects (I credit that to the diet change). My skin remained clear and my cycle continued.
However, I was hiding a secret from myself that I didn't want to admit. And it went a little bit like this...
If I wanted to go off Ginette, I would have to gain weight in order to establish a healthy, regular menstrual cycle.
So what did I do? I continued taking the pill. On the outside, all looked perfectly normal: I had clear skin and I had a cycle. But I was underweight. It had been five years since leaving the clinic for my eating disorder but I had reached a plateau in my recovery. If I wanted to bleed without the help of synthetic hormones, I had to put on weight - which I wasn't prepared to do. (FYI: females require a certain amount of body fat % in order to produce the hormones required to have a menstrual cycle and to prepare the body for a baby).
In 2015, I decided to go traveling for just over six months, and half-way through my trip, while volunteering at a yoga retreat center, I threw all of my pills in the dustbin.
The end. There was no going back.
For two years from that moment, I struggled with balancing my hormones. I was in a constant fight with my face that was filled with sore, cystic acne that kept me up at night. Additionally, I went without a period for nine months. It was a confusing, daunting time and nothing could have truly prepared me for the side effects I would experience. But man oh man, did I grow. I made huge strides in my eating disorder recovery, overcame my acne and established a healthy cycle.
It took two years of patience and perseverance, and remaining firm in my belief that I was doing things in the safest, most natural and sustainable way.
Over the last few months, I have tried countless skin care products, and while I cannot mention it enough the importance of working on the inside first before you can expect to see results on the outside, topical creams and treatments can help speed up the process.
My acne journey over 2 years in 12 pictures
PS: I was too ashamed to take photos of my skin when it was at its worst so what you see below is a fragment of what I went through.
Here's what worked for me:
When my skin was at its worst, I used the acne range from Nu Skin, including their Marine Mud face mask and Galvanic Spa (not 100% convinced about this product tbh). While the acne range may not be considered 100% natural, I felt my skin did require something a bit more intense to deal with the acne that was surfacing daily. I used their products for about four months, including a prescription spot cream, Retin-A, for individual pimples. I often looked like a spotty Dalmatian. Overall, I would say these products certainly helped as a first step in the right direction.
Once my skin started getting more under control, I switched to Origins Skin. I found their products helped me as things began to stablise. I found this cleanser to work really well as well as this spot/mask cream (by now I was trying to stop using Retin-A as I was trying to move to more natural products). I also tried their Brightening Skin Care range to help with my redness and scarring but it caused more breakouts unfortunately (I think it's just that range that wasn't a good fit for my skin as everything else was really great!).
Microdermabrasion and Chemical Peels
Around this time, as my acne was coming under control, I began going for microdermabrasion treatments and having chemical peels to help with my scarring. These treatments are only useful if you don't have active acne, and are a good starting point before moving onto dermapen needling (more on this below).
Micodermabrasion makes use of tiny crystals shards which are sprayed on the face to remove the outermost layer of dry, dead skin cells. It's non-chemical, non-invasive and a fairly quick procedure with a fast healing time too. I saw pretty good results after a few treatments. Depending on your scarring, you can expect to see moderate results after two or three treatments.
Chemical peels are more intense but yield better results. I had about two treatments and saw a reduction in my scarring immediately. A chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes it to exfoliate and eventually peel off. The peel only stays on the face for about 30 seconds to two minutes. It's not the most comfortable of treatments but you get a nice cooling gel rubbed into your face afterwards :)
My saving grace. While more expensive than microdermabrasion and peels, these treatments are usually staggered over a few months. It's not something you can do every week! I have had a few treatments extended over a year and have seen incredible results. The treatment is intense and requires a numbing cream to be applied to the face 45 minutes before. Micro-needles penetrate the skin in order to tighten, lift and and rejuvenate skin, as well as help with acne and scars. It is not suggested to be done if you have active acne and are often in the sun, but if you are dealing with scarring mainly, I would highly recommend it! The down time is about five days. Expect your skin to peel, lots of redness and burning sensations for a few days after the treatment. However, as you go to more treatments, the skin heals quicker and quicker.
This is a great moisturiser which I used for a long time, and in particular after my dermapen treatments. Epi-max is super light on the skin but incredibly soothing and restorative. It was a life saver when my skin was peeling after it had needles stuck into it. For my South African friends, you should be able to easily find this at any chemist at a very decent price.
Kaylan Bamboo Charcoal Soap with Tea Tree
This. Product. Is Everything. I came across this product by mistake while browsing online on Faithful to Nature. I almost didn't give it a chance due to its ridiculously low price of R27.00 ($2-ish). Surely it must be a low quality product with such a price?! I was however intrigued by the combo of ingredients and decided to give it a go.
Bamboo charcoal, often called "Black Diamond", in Asia, has been used for hundreds of years. Bamboo, after carbonisation is also called "activated charcoal", resulting in the creation of an exceptional purifier. The bamboo has naturally occurring anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. The bamboo charcoal is absorbent, helping to unclog pores to remove dirt, toxins and free radicals. Lastly, tea tree essential oil helps kill bacteria and fungus and reduces skin reactions.
Each bar is hand cut and the ingredients are incredibly minimal: Avocado oil, olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil, tea tree essential oil, bamboo charcoal, lye and distilled water. I have gone through about four bars thus far and will probably continue using this simple yet effective and deeply cleansing soap for years to come. I am also very grateful to have found a local brand to support, and I am very keen to try other products from the Kaylan brand.
For those who don't live in South Africa, there are a few brands who have charcoal soap bars on the market. Read the ingredients carefully and enjoy the benefits of an awesome ingredient!
Gels and Serums
While traveling in New York City, I was told about Follain, a "safe skincare and beauty store". They test, curate and stock 70 non-toxic beauty and skincare products themselves. Want to know a crazy stat? Over 1,300 substances are prohibited in Europe as too toxic for use in personal care, while in the US, only 11 are banned! I walked into the store wanting something to add to my charcoal soap, to specifically hydrate my face, and to help with some last remaining scars and redness.
I was recommended Tammy Fender's Capillary Strengthening Blend for broken capillaries, redness and rosacea. Packed with fatty acids that help damaged tissue and stimulate regeneration, this serum has become a staple to my skincare regime. While it is an expensive product, it only needs to be used sparingly. Ingredients include: grape seed oil, chamomile and potent oils: neroli, rose and carrot seed.
I was also given a this bestseller gel/moisturiser combo that assists in calming redness and inflammation. Thanks to active aloe botanicals with transformative, skin-soothing properties, the Organic Soothing Gel from Dr Alkaitis is comforting, hydrating, anti-inflammatory and absorbent. I saw results immediately after using this product for a few days. This product was actually developed in response to curing the director's daughter who suffered from adult cystic acne.
So where to from here?
Skin care is an on-going process. As you can see I used many different products and treatments for the various stages of my acne. Some of these may work for you, some won't.
I now refuse to put my body through any form of fake hormone medication, even if it means my skin isn't totally clear all of the time. I will continue to fuel my body, mind and soul correctly with nutritious vegan food, good rest and exercise, while maintaining at a healthy weight so that I am able to create hormones for clear, bright skin, a regular menstrual cycle, sustained energy, and a happy and stable mood :)
Ultimately though, skincare starts within. Begin the internal journey. I wish you all the love. Keep your skin up. The world needs your beauty.
For information on hormonal balancing, check out details on my upcoming e-book, Eat with the Moon.
No products mentioned in this post have been paid for. I have tried and tested a ton of brands and products and have shared only the best that I worked for me.