My Journey to Clear Skin (Part 3)

(Photo courtesy of http://belezaesaude.com/demaquilar-lavar-tonificar/)
(Photo courtesy of http://belezaesaude.com/demaquilar-lavar-tonificar/)

I’ve learned throughout this process of clearing my skin that it’s never just about one thing. Like only taking supplements would be enough. Well, it could be. But for me and my body, it’s not. It has to be a holistic approach.

We’ve looked at diet and food supplements – all internal fixes to help improve acne (see Part 1 and Part 2). Finally, what rounded out my journey to clear skin is the external aspect of this condition – the first and obvious layer we try to address – OUR SKIN. 

What goes on underneath all the products we use?

So here’s the thing – we use products to try to clear our skin. But sometimes, chemicals used in these products are actually HORMONE DISRUPTORS. These are toxic, harmful, skin-irritating ingredients that are absorbed by your skin, into your system and causes imbalances in your hormones. These products that promise to rid you of acne may actually be aggravating your already inflamed skin.

So what products should you use?

I want to say none. Go commando – CAVEMAN METHOD. Use only water. Don’t apply anything on your skin – no cleanser, no toner, no moisturizer, no sunscreen, and not even makeup. Let your skin breathe for a change. The idea is, eliminating these products will allow your skin to regain it’s own healing and regenerative properties.

If only I were that brave too.

So at the very least, avoid products that contain these toxic ingredients. 

  1. Parabens
  2. Synthetic colors
  3. Fragrance
  4. Phtalates
  5. Triclosan
  6. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
  7. Formaldehyde
  8. Toluene
  9. Propylene glycol
  10. Sunscreen chemicals

(Source: www.huffingtonpost.com – 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid)

If you’re anything like me, just avoid any ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Always read the ingredients label. Even products that pose as “Organic” or “Natural” may still contain these ingredients (I was surprised that a certain organic/natural “Z” gugo shampoo contained SLES). Another guiding principle is, if you can’t eat it, would you put it on your skin?

Here’s what my skin care beauty regimen looks like these days:

Morning

  • Spray kombucha on face (one part kombucha, one part filtered water). Leave for few minutes then wash with water. OR. Apply raw honey. Leave for few minutes then wash with water.
  • Apply apple cider vinegar toner (one part ACV, three parts filtered water)
  • Apply Be Organic Emu Skin Perfecting Cream
  • If I’m going out, I apply on ONO Sun Blocker 30.

Evening

  • If I used makeup, I first take it off with wet wipes. Wash face with soap. Currently, I use MKay Organics Clear Off Yellow Soap. OR. Once a week, I use Human Nature Detoxifying Mask Scrub.
  • If I didn’t use makeup, I just use my kombucha spray then wash with water.
  • Apply same toner and cream.
  • Apply Katialis spot treatment on “live” acne and blemishes.

And that’s it! Less is more.

It’s been a real roller coaster ride waiting for my skin to clear up. But by addressing my body’s needs inside and out, I know we’re getting there.

Thank you for following my skin journey! Let me know if yours is anything like mine. Here’s to wishing you a happy, clear skin!

 

Cheers!

Jen

 

My Journey to Clear Skin (Part 2)

IMG_20160725_114054

In my previous post – My Journey to Clear Skin (Part 1) – I shared my up and down cycles with acne. Just when I thought that battle was over, it comes creeping right back up under my skin. But this time, I feel like I’ve come to a deeper understanding of what causes acne. To heal my acne, I have to fix my gut. So that’s where I started.

The idea is to be conscious with what we put into our body. It could either heal or damage your gut. So you want to make every food, every bite, every bit of calorie to count. Ask yourself, Will what I eat add nutritional value? Or will this aggravate my already damaged gut?

Now that I’m at the four-month mark and seeing great improvements in my skin, I’m no longer as strict in what I eat. Just a few days ago, attending a social event, I couldn’t say no to the host when dessert was offered (It was the opening of a bakeshop.). I thought of the breakouts this may cause me but I indulged anyhow. A new acne now sits on top of my eyebrow. But hey, no longer cystic and painful, so it’s all good.

While food plays a central role in the healing process, taking in supplements may also help move things along.

Here are the supplements I took/take:

  1. Probiotics. I only bought one box of this as probiotic supplements are expensive! I just continued on with my kombucha. I tried Protexin. There are other brands out there (I’ve been told of USANA and GNC). What you want to look out for here is the specific strains it carries.
  2. Zinc. Acne has been linked to zinc deficiency. The best form is zinc picolinate. There’s a brand available in Healthy Options. Solgar around 500php. However, I already bought chelated zinc gluconate 50mg and it works just as fine for me.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar. ACV is a prebiotic, which feeds the probiotics. It’s good for the digestion, immune system, blood sugar, and has plenty of other benefits. Choose organic raw unfiltered ACV with “the mother”. Braggs is the go-to brand. I take a teaspoon of this diluted in glass of water every morning, first thing when I wake up. I even use this as toner (1 part acv, 3 parts filtered water).
  4. Coconut Oil. This is another wonder food with lots of benefits. It’s an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, high in natural saturated fats – good for heart health and cholesterol. At first I would take this before meals but it had a strong laxative effect on me. Very strong. So I started taking this after meals instead, occasionally. I also use it for oil pulling.

Another, which I will not include in the above recommended list, is Cod Liver Oil with Vitamin D3. But I would advise against this (and is making me think twice now) because of the bad reviews. Read here and here. It was recommended awhile back because of the good mix of Vitamin A, D and Omega-3 fats. But new studies reveal that vitamin A and D has to be in good ratio, otherwise it could either be toxic or useless. Also, cod liver oils are highly unsaturated by nature. Unsaturated oils may contribute to free radical damage, which means, short-term your skin looks good but long-term your skin is aging faster.

With that said, taking vitamin D3 alone may suffice. Vitamin D3 is known as the “sunshine vitamin”, which means the best way to take this in is from direct sun exposure. I know the scares on skin cancer (I lather on sunscreen like there’s no tomorrow.) But did you know that 10-15 minutes sun exposure is equivalent to 10,000 IU vitamin D3? And that’s the maximum number you’re targeting for. But if you’re really an indoors person, aim for 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D3 supplement. How do you know how much to take? The best way is to get blood work done. But if not, gauge for yourself: If you’re getting some sun and eat foods that contain vitamin D, then 2,000 IU may be enough. Otherwise, increase the dose. But remember, more is not necessarily better. So take precaution.

 

Question: Can I just take supplements and not change my diet? 

Answer: Maybe. I did that in 2014 and it certainly cleared me but my acne came crashing back even while on supplements. So if your acne is mild to moderate then supplements alone may improve it. But if it’s severe like mine, then supplements alone will have nothing to work with in a damaged gut environment.

 

Hope this helps you in your acne-free skin journey! Next, I’ll discuss lifestyle factors that can make or break your skin. Drop me a line if you have questions.

 

xx,

Jen

 

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.

 

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.

 

acne2

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.

 

xx,

Jen

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.