My Journey to Clear Skin (Part 1)

Acne has plagued me since high school. Puberty hit and you thought it’d be over in a few years. But it’s been 15 years and I still feel as lost as that little school girl on what to do with my skin.

Here is a brief history of my rocky relationship with acne:

2000-2003 – dermatologist consults, conducted cleaning/pricking, injections. Topical cleansers, ointments. Gave me antibiotics, told me to stay away from shrimps and mangoes

2004 – new dermatologist. Prescribed birth control pills and roaccutane/accutane/acnetrex. Prescribed Duac and Differin as topical ointments. My face totally cleared up at this point! She told me that food has nothing to do with it.

2005-2009 – regular visits to derma, cleaning, on and off cycles of pills and accutane. Derma told me that I will always have acne. Cried inside.

2010 – last box of accutane

2011 – last box of pills. Consulted a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who prescribed Chinese Herbal Medicines (Huang Lian Shang Qing Pian and Xiao Yao Wan)

2012 – continued Chinese meds

2013 – off any meds. Still clear at this point until latter half of the year. Acne started taking over my whole neck.

2014 – I knew at this point that what was wrong had to do with my system. So solutions should focus on oral meds over topical ones. Started taking Acne-d Skin Clarifying Supplement. Skin cleared up.

2015 – still on acne-d. Acne started coming back around October

Early 2016 – tried taking lactoferrin. Acne on full scale (cystic and pustules): chin, jawline, temples, upper lip, neck and back. Near my monthly period, rashes also surfaced around my underarms, back of knee, crease of elbow. This was Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis.

March 2016 – Something had to change..

I weaned off taking pills and accutane because I knew they were bad for me. The Chinese meds cleared me but not as effective as accutane. Also, it had a sort of laxative effect on me. I thought the acne-d supplement would be my savior, but even while on it the acne came back. Through all this, my diet and lifestyle remained the same. I ate whatever I want, used whatever product I fancied.



What Changed?

At first, my research just focused on what new supplement to take. My thinking was that my body cannot process certain foods so I need the help of supplements. It had not occurred to me yet to stop taking those foods that my body can’t process. Because, what would I eat then?

But the more I researched, the more I learned that my diet played a central role in what comes out of my skin. So this is the first part that I need to address.


Understanding Acne

Acne is only a symptom. It’s a sign that something deeper is wrong with my body. Just as with the rashes. It’s an autoimmune response of the body. Acne is an autoimmune disease. The fighters of the immune system can no longer distinguish the good guys from the bad guys so they start attacking ALL.

Root Cause of Acne

As often quoted, here is what Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” The gut! How simple and yet wonderfully complex it is.

Leaky Gut Syndrome is often associated with acne. This believes that the gut lining (or intestinal permeability as the scientific term) has been damaged. Years of processed food, refined sugar and antibiotics have compromised the gut flora. There is an imbalance. And so, instead of the gut being able to digest the food and process it for the body’s proper use, it doesn’t. Undigested, the food goes directly to the bloodstream, causing all sorts of havoc on other bodily functions (blood sugar, hormones, immune system etc), resulting in inflammation and comes out as acne.

So to address acne is to address the gut problem.


Dietary changes

Remember, “One man’s cure is another man’s poison.” What worked for me may not work for you. Our skin and bodies are all different. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. 

  • GAPS/SCD/Autoimmune Paleo Protocol and Low FODMAPS

I first stumbled upon GAPS then to SCD then to AIP. (Here’s the article that convinced me to go on AIP and low FODMAPS.) Let me state first that I don’t strictly follow these diets. These diets are very restrictive and have its benefits for those with more serious illness concerns. I only follow parts of it because (1) I don’t have the resources to go all out on these diets, (2) I don’t want to be too picky when I go out to dine with people, and (3) this is what felt right for my body.

With that said, there are certain cornerstones to these diets that I will outline here.

1. Avoid gluten, dairy, refined sugar and vegetable oil.

This means no bread, no pasta, no pizza. Anything that uses white flour. Some say white rice is ok, but white rice is mostly just sugar. No sweets or chocolates. No cow’s milk. Vegetable oil is hard to avoid especially if you go out to eat. So I’m not too strict about this.

2. Bone broth

This is very important as it contains nutrients and gelatin that help rebuild gut lining. Best to use probiotic free-range chicken, sea caught fish and grass-fed beef.

3. Probiotics or fermented foods

Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi. Remember, you want to repopulate the good bacteria in your gut. Homemade ones are the best as you can control the fermentation process. Store-bought ones may contain more sugar and ingredients/preservatives than you’d want and who knows how long it’s only been fermented for. For yogurt, it has to be fermented for at least 24 hours as it uses dairy. I make kombucha. There are good and bad reviews on this. As with anything, proceed with caution.

4. Avoid processed foods

Anything that goes through too much process. This goes for junk food, soft drinks, powdered juices, fast food, canned and anything instant. The idea is to eat raw and fresh. The less chemicals, the better. Thus the organic movement. Read the ingredients label. Here’s a link on what ingredients to avoid.

5. Greens, greens, greens and a whole lot of vegetables

Nothing beats getting our daily required vitamins and minerals direct from the source. Whether cooked or raw, you want to balance your meals with the right amount of carbs, proteins and vegetables. The more colorful, the better. And go organic. Pesticides used on plants will find its way into your system. But if due to budget constraints, traditionally farmed vegetables can be washed with vinegar. And if your resources only allow between organic vegetables or organic meat, go with organic vegetables as animals have their own way of processing chemicals/antibiotics.


Going on this diet is not permanent (although it will benefit long-term health). At present, acne may also be a result of food triggers or allergies. That is not to say that you will always be allergic to that food, but the idea is to eat/avoid foods that will allow the effective and efficient rehabilitation of your gut so that it can in turn gain back its ability to process and digest that certain food.

If you don’t immediately see any results, just stick with it. It takes 3-4 months before your body can completely release built-up toxins or chemicals. You may even experience a “die-off” effect in between, wherein it gets worse before it gets better. I know I did. It may also reach a point when nothing is improving anymore. JUST STICK WITH IT. Don’t be discouraged.

Next stop, will discuss the supplements that I’m taking.




Disclaimer: I am not a Certified/Professional Healthcare Practitioner. All of this is based on my own personal research and trial-error on what worked for me. Do your own research, consult a healthcare professional if you wish and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. I can’t stress that enough.





4 thoughts on “My Journey to Clear Skin (Part 1)

  1. Thank you for this post, Jen. My journey to clear skin has some similarities to yours. It has been a decades long struggle and I’ve truly tried everything under the sun. This past year, I came off all drugs and unnecessary supplements. I started to breakout in places I had never broken out before (jaw line and neck). It has been frustrating and self-esteem lowering. However, I agree that diet really can heal. For me, the right whole food supplements and loosely following a paleo plan has helped a ton. I’ve been avoiding dairy for many years now. Using natural, organic, preservative, and fragrance free products has been the other part of the equation. Hopefully my body will stabilize in the near future. Until then I’m always looking to live clean and find new aids in the fight against acne! Best Wishes!

    • Thanks, Jackie! It’s great to know I’m not alone in this journey. And yes, I’ve also started cleaning up on the products I use. I’ll discuss more of that in my upcoming posts. Your website looks amazing, btw. Looking forward to more of your posts! 🙂

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