A Little History
I have struggled with my skin for as long as I can remember. I had pretty bad keratosis pilaris (not acne, but bumps all over my cheeks) as a kid, and as I got into my teenage years, the acne started. I remember going in and out of the dermatologist’s office even as an elementary-aged child. I remember taking pills, using creams, having to keep stuff in the refrigerator for my face, using something that actually BURNED the skin on my face… I am no stranger to skin issues.
You’d think that when you get older, your acne should go away. I mean, you shouldn’t have to start dealing with wrinkles while you are still dealing with acne, right?! Those things should be mutually exclusive!
However, after I had my kids, I started getting the deep cystic acne, the kind that creates boils under your skin. This kind of acne is so painful! It’s the kind that makes your face hurt… if you’ve had this before, you know what I’m talking about. I’m not exaggerating when I say parts of my face would swell up and almost look misshapen. This sounds dramatic, but I promise that’s what was happening! I’ve even had minor bruising a couple of times around the area! This kind of cystic acne is no joke.
It seemed to have no rhyme or reason. I mean, I always bought ‘non-comedogenic’ products, washed my face before I went to bed, washed my sheets and towels once a week so I was always using a clean pillowcase and face towel… what was going on?!
So I was whining to a friend one day who happened to be dealing with a similar issue. I mean, we turned 30 – why were we still dealing with something we thought we should have outgrown in the teenage years?! She told me she thought she would get these breakouts when she ate cheese. I remember thinking WHAT??!!
Fast forward a bit, and that was around the time when I had started learning about how our diet affects our skin, our health, our mental well-being, etc. (duh! But this was NOT common sense to me at the time). I realized she might be on to something, and I was learning that dairy is often a big offender with skin issues (and other issues as well, like allergies, asthma, etc.). So I decided to completely cut out dairy for a bit to see if it changed anything. The cystic acne definitely got better. Slowly I added back in different kinds of dairy (like yogurt) to see if I could handle it, and I was able to narrow the problem down to just cheese.
Diet – A Solution Found
It was so crazy… during this time when I was super sensitive to cheese, it was like clockwork – I could eat pizza for dinner at night, and sure enough, I’d wake up with a boil the next day. I’d stay off cheese for several days, test it again about a week later, and the same thing would happen. So I just learned to go without cheese for a while!
Although the boils most definitely stopped happening as frequently, they were still happening occasionally. Through more trial and error, I realized I was sensitive to chocolate, too. Boooo!!! Chocolate is one of my most favorite things!! One of my absolute worst breakouts happened a couple years ago at Halloween. I was grabbing bits and pieces of the kids’ junky candy (a Reese’s here, a Butterfinger there…), and my skin retaliated big time!! It was a total mess. It was undeniable that there was a link between what I was eating and the state of my skin.
The Other Piece to the Cystic Acne Puzzle
I had definitely figured out a piece to the puzzle by realizing I am sensitive to cheese and chocolate. You can be sensitive to any foods, but cheese and chocolate are definitely common offenders, and these happened to be my triggers.
Even though I had figured out a large trigger for my cystic acne, I would still get boils from time to time. I can’t remember exactly how I figured this out, but when I STOPPED washing my face with my foaming face wash in the morning (I started only washing at night), the cystic acne virtually went away. Note that I didn’t stop using the face wash, but I stopped using it twice a day!
Over Washing and Too Much Product
I think when you struggle with your skin, you are trying so many different things to clear it up, and many products, even your face soap if used too much, can be really drying. Then you having to use more moisture and more product to make up for all the oils and the protective barrier that has been stripped away. Figuring this out was definitely the other piece to the puzzle for me! Once I stopped using my sudsy face wash and switched to a more moisturizing cleanser, my skin healed even more.
One thing I wanted to note is that specific ingredients in your products can cause problems as well! For me, anything with coconut oil is a definite No-No. It always ALWAYS leads to clogged pores, and sometimes to boils under my skin! So just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean your skin will agree with it. That being said, I can use products with other oils just fine! Apricot, jojoba, almond… fine! My skin actually prefers being nourished with these kinds of oils. The key is finding out what works for YOU.
How I Got Rid of My Cystic Acne
In a nutshell, to get rid of my cystic acne:
- I identified the foods I was sensitive to and stopped eating them (cheese and chocolate).
- I stopped washing my face in the morning, and I just washed at night instead. After swapping out my foaming/sudsy soap in the evening to a moisturizing cleanser, my skin got even better.
I’m happy to report that after being off of cheese and chocolate for a long time, I am now able to eat them from time to time without issue! I want to also mention that now when I eat cheese, it is almost always organic and often raw. Chocolate is the same, usually organic (so it doesn’t contain a bunch of extra garbage). I do think if I started eating conventional cheese and chocolate regularly, I may very well experience skin issues again.
Why I’m Sharing
I’m sharing my story in the hopes that it may help just one person! I KNOW how frustrating it is to deal with acne, especially adult cystic acne! In my experience, trips to the dermatologist always included pills like antibiotics, which can strip the good bacteria from your system causing more health issues, strong medication that could have long-term health effects, creams that dried out or burned my skin, or some other ‘regimen’ I wasn’t comfortable using long-term. I never found an actual SOLUTION to what was going on until I started looking on my own. If you struggle with acne, try writing down and paying attention to what you are putting IN your body as well as ON your body, and you may be able to solve the mystery yourself!
When you KNOW better, you can make a SHIFT to do something differently.
I am sharing my story below as well, feel free to share if you know someone who might benefit!
PS – My favorite cleanser is Beautycounter’s Rejuvenating Face Cleanser – it cleanses my skin without drying it out, which has been a huge KEY for me in this process!