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Stress. It’s not good for you, y’know? It’s correlated with high blood pressure, heart attacks, sleep disorders, and, as many of us well know, breakouts! And breakouts are extremely stressful, which just makes the whole stress leads to acne thing a never-ending cycle.

So what’s a person seeking clear and radiant skin to do? The truth is, there’s always going to be something to stress about (and this year, the stressful things really keep piling on), so rather than trying to control that which is out of your hands, we recommend finding ways to allow your mind to unwind.

Not sure what is is, or think it’s just for Phishheads? Think again. These days, incense, candles, and aromatherapy oils come in some of the best looking packaging we’ve laid our design-hungry eyes on. After a long day at work (or a quick scroll through your increasingly depressing twitter feed), try lighting some Japanese style Bodha incense in Calm, lying down or sitting still on a pillow, and breathing in and out slowly for a minute or two. Everyone can put aside a minute (and if you can do five or ten, even better), and your mind will feel so much clearer when you’re done. Bad skin be gone!

Work it Out

Between working crazy hours, scheduling in tinder dates or quality time with your significant other, and finding time to eat something moderately healthy, I know exercise can easily get moved to the bottom of the to-do list. So be realistic; with my current life, I’m never going to be able to get in five workouts a week, but it is possible for me to push to get in two. And when I do make the effort, I feel great. There really is nothing else like the endorphin high and mental clarity that comes from getting really sweaty and gross for an hour. Do it, and watch your stress level go down.

Face Mask and Chill

It’s no secret that I have a face mask problem, and my skin has never looked better for it. While there are immediate skin benefits that come from my Matcha & Honey mask routine, there’s also something to be said for the mental space the ritual around it gives me. After I put on a mask, I make sure to luxuriate in those ten or so minutes while it dries, using that time to straight up chill. Masks: good for the body and mind.

Drink Some Tea

A hot cup of tea can be healing on so many levels. For one, sipping something warm and soothing is calming in and of itself. But then add in all the antioxidants and health benefits that come from tea leaves and the various dried fruits and herbs that often accompany them, and you’re drinking a skin saving elixir. Peppermint and chamomile are especially great for relaxation

When I see a zit or two or more like, ten on my face, there’s usually something at play. I’m either about to get my period. Or I’m feeling crazy stressed. For the past few months, I’ve been consistently dealing with the latter and I just couldn’t seem to chill out.

For weeks I wasn’t sleeping, I was constantly tense, and I just wasn’t being kind to my body. I wasn’t eating the healthiest things and I was skipping workouts pretty regularly. Plus my new blemishes were giving my seemingly calm exterior away.

No matter what I tried, my zits were not going away. After a few quick Google searches into the connection between stress and acne I realized my lack of chill was making my stress hormones turn on my skin. Obviously I needed to find a way to relax.

I reached out to Dr. Liana Ashenden, dermatologist and founder of the natural skincare line Nudu, to find out if this was something that could actually help me out and it turns out, it is. She recommends meditation, exercise, or whatever gets you to ditch your phone for a hot second and focus on yourself to anyone dealing with stress-related skin issues. She told me that stressors, big or small, trigger survival responses that produce hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, the number one hormone that can wreak havoc on your skin. These hormones are supposed to temporarily spike when we need them to, you know for survival. But when you’re juggling a busy schedule, crazy deadlines, and whatever else is causing stress, you can end up feeling these effects 24/7.

“We are not supposed to feel like we’re being chased by a lion every Monday morning!” Dr. Ashenden says. “Chronic stress and feeling overwhelmed can be deeply disruptive to our sleep cycle, digestive process, inflammatory response, and other delicately balanced internal systems that keep us happy and healthy.” So it’s important to find ways to slow down and pay attention to your body and mind.

I’ve tried guided meditation apps and videos in the past to calm myself, but I never stuck with them. And I’d been to the MNDFL Mediation studio in New York City once before for a work event. A teacher there explained that mindfulness is just the practice of being aware of the present moment. It seemed pretty in tune with what I needed—a break from worrying and obsessing about daily life stuff—so I figured I’d give it a try.

Lodro Rinzler, the co-founder and Chief Spiritual Officer at MNDFL, suggested coming to classes regularly over the course of a few weeks to really notice a difference. “Some may think, ‘Ugh I tried it once and I don’t feel immediately peaceful,’ which is about the rough equivalent of ‘I went to the gym once, I didn’t lose ten pounds,'” Rinzler says. “Over time, around the 3-week mark, doing any kind of positive habit like meditation actually begins to become habitual.”

So I made a goal: Meditate for an entire month and see what it does for my skin.

My meditation classes focused on mindfulness, which thankfully isn’t just emptying your head for 30 minutes. Instead, you focus on the present by using things like your breath or an intention. And if other things pop into your head, you just acknowledge them and move on—no pressure.

I started taking a 30 minute class every morning at 7:45am. And, of course, waking up an hour earlier was brutal at first, but after a week I started naturally waking up earlier and looking forward to going to class. And while some days I left class feeling like a zen rockstar, other times I’d beat myself up as I sat on my cushion because instead of slowing my mind down, I was making mental to-do lists.

The Skin-Clearing Benefits Of Happy Thoughts

Have you ever had the following thoughts?

“I hate my life!”
“I look like sh*t!!!”
“This is genetic, I will never fix it!”
“My skin is horrible!”
“I’m always breaking out!”

I used to think those thoughts, a lot. The thoughts led to negative emotions. I was consumed with feelings of shame, and self-pity when I looked at my skin. I just wanted the pimples to go away.

But the pimples stayed. Oh they stayed.

And I was allowing my exterior to dictate how I felt. My negative thoughts led to negative emotions, which of course, led to negative results on my actual FACE.

I was so consumed with not having what I wanted (clear skin), that I wasn’t even present to enjoy my journey. It seemed like I was always in a state of waiting… Waiting for clear skin, so that I could live my life and be my best self. My joy was conditional.

But I was approaching the problem from the wrong angle — backwards in fact.

I needed to start allowing my interior to dictate my exterior, that is have my feelings dictate how I looked.

What if I told you that you can look amazing, only if you feel amazing first?

Wherein lies the pickle.

What Are Thoughts?

I don’t know about you, but I think a lot. A LOT a lot.

I’ve been thinking since an early age, and then I started overthinking, and practiced becoming a professional ruminator…

I thought that thinking a lot made me smarter, more capable of dealing with the world around me. This is probably true to a point. But where did my thoughts end, and somebody else’s thoughts begin?

How could I even be sure that my thoughts were my own?

I couldn’t, because my thoughts weren’t my own. They are a part of the collective thoughts — my mom’s thoughts, my neighbour’s thoughts, the media’s thoughts…

We’re bombarded by good and bad messages from a very young age and we have to make sense of them all — categorize them, accept them, ignore them. The sad thing is that we take a lot of them on board and start identifying with them, whether we relate to them or not, whether they help us or not.

When I was younger, I had so many insecurities…

I was afraid my toes were weird so I wore socks with sandals in the summer. Then I was afraid my ears were too big, so I never wore a ponytail afraid to expose them. Then I thought I was fat, had a huge forehead, my eyes were too big, my eyes were too small, my lips were too small, my lips were too big, my waist was too small, my waist was too big, my eyelashes were too blonde, my skin was too uneven, my butt was too small, my butt was too big… I can keep going.

None of those things were real. Even I, the very person who was thinking these things, was contradicting myself. How could I think my eyes were both too small and too big?

Only through the gift of hindsight did I realize that I was making things real that were never real. That was the power of my thoughts.

When I thought my eyes were too small, they seemed small.

When I thought my eyes were too big, they seemed big.

Either way, I was right.

Once you take a step back, and realize that your thoughts aren’t even your own, you can actually start observing your thoughts without judging yourself for thinking them in the first place. You can even start choosing your thoughts…

I realized that negative thinking was a mental waste of energy and that negative thinking led to negative emotions and negative results.

Furthermore, negative thoughts actually physically WEAKEN your body. Obviously, I couldn’t start healing if I was simultaneously thinking and feeling badly.

Stop Taking Your Feelings Personally

I’ve stopped identifying with my thoughts and my moods once I started realizing how many different factors actually influence my feelings.

The most important factor that influences how I feel is actually my physical state — how my BODY feels.

If I’m hungry, I’m more likely to be irritable. If my gut is out of order, than I can feel low energy or sad. If I don’t get enough sleep, I can feel lethargic and unmotivated.

I used to think I was just irritable, sad, lethargic, and unmotivated.

As my wise friend, Danielle Lynn says, “The less stories you tell yourself about ‘why this is happening’ the more you are connected with the present moment.”

I took my PHYSICAL state personally, and identified with my body. I told myself stories about why I was irritable, sad, lethargic, or unmotivated… I’d blame myself or others, or a situation. And I believed my rationalizations.

But I am not my body.

You are not your body either. It’s super important to know the difference, and to take care of your body, because it’s through this one beautiful vessel that you get to experience the world.

I realized that if I eat more regularly and more healthfully, take care of vitamin deficiencies, exercise regularly, and sleep well that I have an easier time thinking good thoughts, and therefore feeling really good!

Did you know that your gut produces more serotonin than your brain? If your gut is having issues, like leaky gut for example, then you might experience symptoms like depression. So are you depressed, or does your gut just need healing?

Read about how to heal your gut here.

Understanding that your feelings don’t actually mean what you think they do is a powerful shift that can help you ultimately feel better. You give your feelings meaning, they don’t give you meaning.

Again, you are not your body, but you need to take care of your body so that it helps you take care of your mind.

I usually exercise about 3-4 times a week, which makes me feel amazing. If I stop exercising for only 2-3 days, I feel less focused, less motivated, more tired, my sleep isn’t as good, and I feel uncomfortable feelings like guilt and fear.

A healthy body is a healthy mind.

How To Turn Off Your Negative Feedback Loop

Your negative feedback loops are a well-practiced part of who you are. You’ve been thinking the same thoughts for a long time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t change them.

And there’s one easy way to do it: gratitude.

Gratitude Is The Secret Sauce

Gratitude is becoming a mainstream phenomenon that I’m happy to write about. Gratitude actually WORKS.

No matter what situation you’re facing, you can ALWAYS cultivate the feeling of gratitude.

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us be thankful.

Learn the skill of gratitude on demand — practice this especially when you’re not feeling your best. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it will become to be grateful instead of worrying.

Gratitude can influence your body profoundly — it can actually LOWER inflammation. I told you that inflammation is the root cause of acne, so lowering inflammation every way you can is an obvious move to make for better skin.

If you start your day with 5 things you’re grateful for, you can actually prime your body to feel more grateful throughout the day, and to attract experiences that make you feel good and add to your gratitude. You can end your day the same way, by recalling 5 things for which you are really, truly grateful.

While you are feeling grateful, you don’t have space to feel angry or sad. It’s quite literally impossible to be grateful and fearful, grateful and sad, grateful and angry…

What If I’m Just An Unhappy Person?

What if you’ve just identified with an unhealthy body for too long, to the point that you started to believe that you are your body?

“I’m unhappy,” is a limiting belief — or a plain lie that you believe.

Happiness is a choice, just as suffering is a choice. You can choose to take care of your body and choose happy thoughts, or you can choose to let your body down and think negative thoughts.

You can choose to be angry, and carry your heavy anger around. Or you can forgive yourself, or the person you are angry at, and move on.

I used to carry around a lot of resentment for one person in my life — my father. So much so that in quiet moments of peace, I’d find my thoughts going to him and thinking about how much he disappointed me.

I carried that around for years, until I realized that I didn’t have to…

How To Forgive

The first person you need to forgive is yourself. I know I’ve been super hard on myself throughout the years, wanting to be my best self… Every time I didn’t measure up to my arbitrary standards, or every time I did something too slowly, or too late, I’d criticize myself.

I was hard on myself if I felt guilty, fearful, lazy…

But the aspects of you that you criticize are actually the parts of you that are most uniquely you. They are your defining features, and you can choose to be proud of them instead of hating on them.

For example, I used to criticize myself for my skin and for my inability to hold down a job. Now I’m extremely proud of my skin clearing-journey and turned it into a business. My “bad” skin and unemployability were there for my benefit all along… I just didn’t see it yet.

In this moment, you don’t see the puzzle, you only see the puzzle pieces. But one day, you’ll look back on your life and you’ll see the whole puzzle, and understand that all the puzzle pieces fit perfectly together.

Forgive yourself for being so hard on yourself, and show yourself some compassion. And forgive others and show them compassion — we’re all just doing our best.

The 3-Year Old Inner Child

One amazing exercise that helped me forgive myself and others is imaging the subject of your anger or disappointment as a 3-year-old. I learned this from the book “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay. I recommend you read it — it’s life-changing.

In this case, I pictured my father as a 3-year-old…

I actually went as far as to imagine his circumstances as a 3 year-old, a 6 year-old, a 10 year-old; the village where he grew up, his 10 km walk to school ever day, his two older brothers, his mother too busy running a farm and working as a nurse, his father away on long trips as a truck driver…

I realized that he needed a lot of love that he didn’t get. How could I be angry at someone like that? I felt so much compassion and love after this exercise that I forgave him immediately.

My father is no longer a trigger for me, and I love and accept him without any baggage.

But this exercise works with anybody because what it really shows is that we are all the same. All we want is love, compassion, and understanding. Sometimes it’s hard to understand other people, but that doesn’t mean you need to discount that person and tell yourself a story about how awful they are.

Whatever story you tell yourself, you will be right.

What You Focus On Expands

When I told myself that I had big ears, I actually saw big ears. When I told myself my eyes were too big, I saw ginormous eyes.

Whatever story you tell yourself, is a story that you will manifest. Whatever you focus on will expand.

So when you go around feeling sorry for yourself and hating your skin, you are sending out a feeling of “I’m not enough”, and you end up getting more of that feeling.

The real trick is feeling amazing about yourself despite what you think you see in the mirror… And watch your reality change…

Because you are not your body, and you certainly are not your skin. You are far more than all that. You’re a powerful mother*cker.

The Power Of Your Thoughts

Realize the power of your thoughts. Every cell of your body is always listening to your thoughts. So what are you telling yourself?

Are you sending yourself a message of love or a message of self-hatred?

You have total power over yourself, and it’s time for you to take the power back. You can start thinking more positively, and you’ll see that positivity will start permeating the rest of your life.

Your body will enjoy positive thoughts more than negative thoughts. It will heal more easily too.

I know that no matter how well I ate, no matter what supplements I took, and no matter how amazing my skin care routine was… I still broke out.

Why? Because thoughts matter! Negative thoughts kept me from healing.

It wasn’t until I took my thoughts seriously and started thinking in a supportive way instead of a damaging way, that I saw results on MY FACE.

I had to feel good first before I could look good too.

Your Life Is Your Responsibility

You are responsible for everything that you are experiencing because you are a creative being, just as I am a creative being. Our thoughts are creative too.

Every thought results in something, even if we can’t make out that result YET. As easy as it would be to make others responsible for your happiness or lack thereof — the only person responsible is you.

This means you can’t blame anybody or anything for what you’re experiencing right now. You have to make the decision to make your life better if you are unhappy with something.

Step 1 is gratitude. Everything else can go from there.

Be aware and present and grateful. Feel a negative thought creeping up on you? Stop. Reset. Gratitude.

Gratitude is the healthiest emotion you can have because it opens the window to the soul

Show yourself some gratitude and compassion. Everything happening in your life is a good thing, pimples included.

Life is forcing you to grow, become better, healthier, more compassionate and forgiving, and more loving towards yourself and others.

I am grateful to be able to sit in a cute cafe in Vancouver, enjoying a delicious organic vanilla rooibos tea and write this to you.

What are you grateful for?


P.S. Sign up for my 28 Days Of Clear Skin video series to get my BEST hacks for clear skin in your inbox! 🙂

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1. It’s the most common skin condition in the United States.
According to the Academy of Dermatology, mild to moderate acne affects between 40 and 50 million Americans. And while acne usually begins in puberty and affects almost 100% of teenagers, acne is not restricted to any age group. In fact, acne affects 20% of adults between the ages of 25 and 44.

2. There’s only one way to get a pimple.
When your face’s oil glands overproduce oil and combines with dead skin cells, it blocks your pores and hair follicles. Then, bacteria develops in those clogged follicles and pores, causing a breakout.

3. But outside triggers can make breakouts worse.
Heredity, hormones, and environmental factors can determine how bad you break out. And stress, diet, exercise, and how you care for your skin also plays a part. Other hidden culprits? A dirty cell phone, used yoga mats, and pillowcases, all of which are full of dirt, bacteria, and oil.

4. There are six types of pimples.
Blackheads and whiteheads are slightly raised bumps that are caused by oil, dead skin cell, and bacteria buildup that blocks your pores.

Papules and pustules are larger bumps that are caused when blocked pores become irritated. Papules are hard, raised bumps that might be tender to touch. Pustules (which are often confused with whiteheads) are topped with white or yellow pus-filled lesions and are red at the base.

Nodules and cysts are deeper pimples that should be treated by a dermatologist. They are usually very large, painful, and solid. (Cysts are pus-filled.)

5. Washing your face a lot won’t clear up blemishes.
Over exfoliating and over cleansing can actually exacerbate your acne problems. It irritates and dries your skin out, which makes you produce more oil. And overdoing it with acne treatments can have the same effect. So stick to a morning and night regimen — cleanse, medicate, and moisturize.

6. Chocolate doesn’t cause breakouts.
Neither does pizza or fries. Actually, there’s little evidence that specific foods actually do cause acne. Although, staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet can help improve skin.

7. Makeup with mineral oil can aggravate acne.
Actually, anything made with oil can. And that includes your moisturizer or hair products that might seep onto your face. Instead, look for products that are oil-free or that say “noncomedogenic” on the label.

8. Sun exposure can help minimize breakouts.
Spending small amounts of time in the sun can be beneficial for acne — 10 to 20 minutes is ideal. But too much sun exposure can be a bad thing: It can cause more breakouts and darken existing acne scars. And no matter how long you’re in the sun, wearing sunscreen or an oil-free moisturizer with SPF is a must.

More Skincare Tips:
• 6 Embarrassing Skin Issues — Solved
• 12 Surprising Ways You’re Aging Your Skin
• 9 Skin Treatments You Can Make Yourself

Photo credit: Getty Images

7 surprising facts you didn’t know about acne

Whether it’s just a couple of spots or a series of angry breakouts, 85 per cent of us will have acne at some point in our lives, according to leading dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe.

But how much do we really know about this near universal condition? We visited Dr Lowe’s practice in London to find out some interesting facts about acne and what we can do to prevent it.

1 Trending: adult acne
While the peak incidence for acne in the 1970s was late teens, adult acne is on the rise for the 21st century, with 25 per cent of acne starting in adulthood.

2 There are entire populations that are acne-free
A population of 1200 Kitvan islanders in Papau New Guinea reported no acne at all, and it was the same case in the Aiche tribe in Paraguay. Researchers think that this may be due to their diet, which is entirely free from refined sugar and processed foods. Who else is jealous right now?

3 Diet can play a big part
High-GI foods and dairy have both been linked to acne. Consider switching to dairy-free milk alternatives and eating low GI foods if you’re trying to improve your skin, advises Dr. Lowe.

4 There are some unexpected causes
Acne can be caused by everything from diet and stress to pregnancy and friction from clothes.

5 Why you don’t get acne on your toes…
Acne occurs mostly where sebaceous glands are concentrated, explains Dr Lowe, in areas such as the nose, forehead and chin (explains a lot!).

6 Adult acne has a whole new look
Compared to teenagers, female adults with acne develop more red spots and pustules. However, they also get less blackheads and whiteheads. Guess that’s one upside…

7 It’s not about finding a single magic cure
Instead, acne treatment requires a number of different lifestyle changes, including diet changes, topical treatments, starting a course of antibiotics, and hormonal treatments, such as the contraceptive pill.

Did you find this piece useful? Tweet us @healthymag – we’d love to hear from you!

To find out more about Dr. Nick Lowe and his treatments, visit

Summary Article Name 7 surprising facts you didn’t know about acne Description We talked to leading dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe to get the lowdown on acne, what causes it and how to prevent it from occuring Author Francesca Specter Publisher Name Healthy Publisher Logo

5 Surprising Facts You Should Know about Acne

Are you fighting a losing battle with acne? First, make sure you’re doing everything you can to lower your risk for those frustrating outbreaks that make you look (and feel) like Godzilla’s cousin. Here are five facts about acne outbreaks you should be aware of.

Chocolate CAN Trigger Acne Outbreaks

Chocolate is a tasty treat and dark chocolate is rich in heart-healthy antioxidants, but it’s not the best indulgence if you have acne. Although most studies don’t show chocolate itself worsens acne, sugary foods and dairy products that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar can trigger an acne outbreak. If you eat chocolate, choose dark chocolate that’s as low in sugar as possible. Also avoid other sugary treats, including sugar-sweetened drinks, which cause a rapid rise in blood sugar.

Stress Isn’t Your Friend if You Have Acne

Stress isn’t good for your body in general, and it’s not healthy for your skin. A study published in the Archives of Dermatology showed college students were more prone toward acne flare-ups around exam time, when they were “stressed out,” than during non-exam periods. You may not have complete control over the stress in your life, but you can find healthy ways to deal with it. Try meditation or yoga to help control acne outbreaks. Can you say “om?”

Resist the Urge to Tan Away Your Acne

Acne outbreaks are more common in the winter when skin is less exposed to sunlight. Although there is evidence that sun exposure improves acne symptoms, lying in the sun carries drawbacks, such as an increased risk for skin cancer and accelerated skin aging. The evidence that sunlight is beneficial for acne is so weak that it doesn’t justify the risk. Don’t use sun exposure as an acne treatment; the downsides are too great.

Exercise Won’t Worsen Your Acne

Many acne sufferers have the mistaken belief that working up a sweat will trigger an acne outbreak. A study published on Medscape Family Medicine showed this isn’t the case. The sweat you generate during a workout does not clog pores or contribute to pimples. The study found no correlation between the number of hours spent exercising, or the degree to which one sweats, and acne outbreaks. Don’t skip on exercise to save your skin — it probably won’t help and you’ll miss out on the other health benefits of exercise.

Squeezing Pimples Does More Harm Than Good

Most people squeeze pimples in hopes of helping them heal more quickly, but it’s safer not to. Squeezing or picking at pimples can lead to scarring. In areas of dark pigmentation, scarring can be permanent; if you have a darker skin tone, you’re more prone toward laying down dark pigment if you pick at or injure your skin. Resist the urge to squeeze.

Aggressive Cleansing Can Aggravate Acne

Common wisdom is that you should scrub away every last bit of oil from your skin if you’re prone towards acne. Don’t even think about it. Harsh cleansers and excessive cleansing can cause skin irritation, which can lead to breakouts. Plus, when you remove all oils, your skin compensates by producing more. Cleanse no more than twice a day with a gentle, non-soap cleanser and a light, non-comedogenic moisturizer. Contrary to popular belief, even oily, acne-prone skin needs a light moisturizer, and if you choose one with added oils or fragrances, it probably won’t worsen your acne.

Bonus tip:

Buy a headset for your phone. Pressing your cell phone or smartphone against your face can block oil glands and trigger a breakout. Even better, spend less time chatting it up and send a text instead. It’s better for your face.

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The beauty industry is intent on selling us the idea that good skin comes from good products. More specifically, a carefully designed lineup of luxury ones. All we have to do is nail down the specifics. I can’t really complain; the shelf in my bathroom proves that this is an effective strategy. But I was shocked when I discovered I could get clear skin with one (very free) lifestyle change. SO MUCH WASTED MONEY.

When I moved to New York, my jawline broke out like crazy. I chalked it up to circumstance — new stress, new climate, new everything — but as my mind and body adjusted, my face didn’t. So I blamed my hormones. I tried everything: facials, new products, the whole nine yards. Nothing worked.

Then, one day, I overheard someone drawing a connection between jawline acne and dairy consumption. I googled it. Half a million hits. Fuck. The last thing I ever wanted was to blame was my diet. I was sold on moderation; I didn’t want to become the ingredient checker, the birthday-cake skipper, the nitpicky one at dinner. I didn’t want rules. But those reasons didn’t compare to bad acne. I cut dairy from my diet completely and within a week, my active acne healed. Within a month, I realized I hadn’t gotten a single zit since. My skin changed completely. There was no tapering — it was sudden. I was surprised, considering I’d never had any digestive issues with dairy before. The downside? Now I do get stomach aches when I eat dairy. I’m still negotiating this rule. I’m both thrilled and annoyed by it.

Either way, the answer is clear: dairy triggers acne for me. And the more I shared my experience with other women, the more I learned that many of them had similarly dramatic anecdotes, but with a different catalyst swapped in. When I put a call out on Instagram, I got hundreds of responses. Many were solutions I’d never even heard of! These stories are worth sharing, I think, as an alternative to the narrative that more and more products are the answer. Read on to hear six women’s experiences and then, if you have a story of your own, please share it below!

Candace Marie, 29

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

My skin has always been a combination of oily and dry, so it was very difficult to find an antidote that could clear up my face. Even into my mid-twenties I remember FaceTiming my mother and her always asking me why my skin was breaking out so badly.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

Traditional remedies like Proactive and drugstore products. I became so exhausted trying different remedies that I met with a dermatologist who suggested Accutane. After hearing about the side effects and everything that I would have to do to just take the drug — including being on two types of birth control — I began researching to find a natural remedy.

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

I learned about tea tree oil, and also learned that vitamin C can help clear acne scarring, which I also struggled with. I found the tea tree oil at Whole Foods and online at iHerb: Aura Cacia Lavender & Tea Tree Oil. The vitamin C treatment I use is called Vitabrid Spot — it’s available exclusively at Barneys and will be online in August.

What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine?

My skin just slowly started to glow. As I stuck to the routine, my face started to clear up, slowly but surely. Now I feel comfortable not wearing makeup and when I do put on makeup, I don’t have to cake it on. I can just lightly touch up my face and be done. My routine includes a light face wash with cold water, blotting my face with tea tree oil and dabbing Vitabrid Spot over any scarring before applying my makeup. I do the same routine before I go to bed at night.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I would say try it. I do think that everyone’s skin is different and what might work for one person may not work for another. I love that my routine is simple and natural. I would advise people to do their research. I learned that a lot of dermatologists suggest a drug because they get a percentage of the sale, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being force-fed a skin antidote when there might be a simpler solution.

Angela He, 25

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

I got my first pimple when I was 10. I remember my aunt dabbing Chinese medicine on it and laughing, “You’re becoming a woman!”

Like many teenagers, I had acne. Unlike many teenagers, it didn’t go away when my teen years ended. The stress blemishes I got before exams turned into raging cystic pimples that lasted weeks at a time. As college started, I felt as if I was permanently marked. It felt shameful, as if my skin was a reflection of something I was doing wrong. I refused to be in public without a thick layer of makeup. I’d apply a full face simply to pick up my mail. My self-esteem was nonexistent.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

I tried everything you’re “supposed” to do as part of a healthy skincare routine. Wash, tone, moisturize, use non-alcoholic products. Three-step routines, 10-step routines! My best friend (who has flawless skin) even posted a note on my bathroom mirror that read, “Don’t be too drunk to wash your face!” Nothing worked.

My dermatologist, unconcerned but growing aggravated with my continued skin sorrows, finally suggested I “grow out of it.”

So I waited…

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

At 18, I visited my doctor in hopes of a cure for a newfound lethargy I was experiencing. I was also missing periods and having trouble losing weight. She immediately sent me to an endocrinologist, and later to a gynecologist, where I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries and cyst growth inside the ovaries. Symptoms can include facial hair, irregular periods, obesity and cystic acne. Left untreated, PCOS — which is also a leading cause of female infertility — can increase a woman’s chances of diabetes, depression and endometrial cancer. Though there is no cure, hormonal birth control is a commonly prescribed treatment.

At the time, my symptoms were mild (some acne, some weight, some tiredness) and birth control was frowned upon by my parents who thought cosmetic reasons were not enough to justify the possible side effects. (Oral contraceptives still carry a stigma, both medical and moral, in Asian American communities.) They persuaded me not to take it, in the hope that I would again “grow out of it.” So I let it go and forgot about it. What we didn’t know was that symptoms of the disorder can worsen as women enter their prime reproductive years.

By the time I turned 22, I was ready to put my foot down. I was having crazy mood swings, painful irregular periods and my weight was inching higher every year despite my best efforts. My acne had also grown out of control and makeup could no longer hide it. I felt foreign in my own skin. I was depressed, anxious and lost. I was about to start my first big job in New York City. I couldn’t go on like this.

I began researching how I felt and one thing kept coming up: PCOS. I dug up my records and demanded that my doctor put me on hormonal birth control the next day.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

It was like night and day. Three months into taking hormonal birth control pills, my acne became practically nonexistent. The occasional pimples, which were few and far between, were easily treated by better lifestyle choices and beauty products.

Now my skin finally reacts to a routine! Not being in constant battle with it has allowed me to really enjoy beauty and makeup products. I wash my face of makeup and pollutants with Shiseido’s Perfect Cleansing Oil, then follow with Nature Republic’s Green Derma Mild Foam Cleanser and a toner. I moisturize with Clinique’s Moisturizing Gel and use TonyMoly sheet masks twice a week. (I clearly enjoy this process!)

And, most importantly, I take my birth control pill every night.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

Yes. 100%. If you think something is wrong inside your body, be vocal. Go to your doctor, get checked out. Being treated for PCOS has not only cleared up my acne, but has also vastly improved my emotional and physical health. I’m very lucky that my birth control is covered in full by my insurance for now, but that may not always be the case, which is both frustrating and terrifying. Call your Congressional representatives. Support Planned Parenthood. Support each other. Support women.

Patty Carnevale, 29

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

Hormonal. Wildly hormonal. It flared up when I hit puberty in high school, and then had I bouts here and there in college, but it wasn’t until my early to mid-20s that it raged into full-fledged, painful adult acne.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

Proactiv, Spironolactone, elimination diets, doxycycline hyclate, retinols like Epiduo, facials, yoga, herbal teas, pleading with the universe…

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

Isotretinoin (Accutane). I had been to three different dermatologists over four years by that point. With the first two, I’d refused to entertain the idea because of some scary things I read online about Accutane — namely mood swings and mental health issues — that they both seemed to be underplaying. When I exhausted all other options, I did additional research and started to talk about it out loud, which is when I learned that a few people I knew had tried it and it had really worked for them.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

I took what looked like horse pills twice a day for five months (it’s prescribed for anywhere from three to six months depending on severity, so that gives you an idea of how bad it was), then I was done. After the first year I had zero breakouts (this was three years ago). It was magic. This problem that took up so much space in my brain, whether I wanted it to or not, was suddenly solved. I felt really free. I don’t think I fully understood how much adult acne was impacting me until it was gone. Today I use gentle cleansers and moisturizers like CeraVe and keep things simple in the makeup department. I do occasionally get a breakout here and there, but it’s nothing compared to what it once was.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I advise lots of research and talking to your doctor. In the US, anyone who is prescribed Isotretinoin must sign a digital contract each month saying they’ll use two forms of birth control while on the drug and and also must see their doctor for a monthly blood test. (You can’t take it if pregnancy is at all an option during that time.)

What I so appreciated about my dermatologist (Dr. Alison Gruen in NYC if you’re looking for a good one) is that she walked me through the process, didn’t try to minimize the seriousness of the reactions I could/would have while taking it and offered solutions and regular guidance throughout. The reactions vary from person to person, but universally it totally dries everything out. I tend to run on the oily side, so that was actually kind of nice. A major plus was that I didn’t have to wash my hair as much and I had to drink a shit ton of water every day. I definitely piled on the moisturizer and lip balm, and left the house in a coat of Aquaphor during the winter months. The skin sensitivity freaked me out sometimes — forget loofahs and body scrubs of any kind — but it was all very very worth it for me.

Aubrey, 30

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

I have had acne off and on most of my life. My skin used to be super oily when I was younger. Going on Accutane in college balanced that out, but I would still break out on my chin and along my jawline. Big, deep zits followed by itchy rashes.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

A variety of topical creams and chemical peels. I even tried putting toothpaste on pimples. Nothing was successful.

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

Quitting caffeine completely! I came about that solution in a sort of roundabout way, though. I have a lot of food allergies that cause digestion problems. I had two serious attacks with anaphylactic symptoms that sent me to the clinic for a steroid shot. I went to see my allergist to reevaluate why I was having these reactions. All the anaphylactic food allergies, foods that cause your throat to close, came back negative. I couldn’t figure out why I kept having this throat-tightening feeling and bad breakouts with rashes. After doing some research, I found out caffeine can cause this. I gave it up last summer. No coffee, no chocolate. Sad face. It is pretty amazing how fast my skin cleared up, though, and my throat hasn’t tightened since.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

I don’t get giant pimples anymore, even under stress. My skin stays clear with the occasional dry patch from the change in season. I drink chicory in the mornings now, which has the same texture as coffee, but without the caffeine. I wash my face twice a day and am loyal to using CeraVe hydrating face wash and moisturizing cream, even though it’s like putting butter on your face.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I highly recommend trying it if you haven’t. It’s not only given me great skin, but more energy, too. That afternoon sleepy lull has been rare for me since cutting caffeine. It probably helps that I also always drink a lot of water.

Ysenia, 22

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

I was a very late bloomer, and so was my acne. When I got to college, I had massive breakouts in my T-zone, specifically my forehead. It was a slice of pepperoni pizza that I tactfully cropped out of every single selfie.

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

I tried Proactiv, but that was a total bust. I religiously followed another three-step routine (Clinique), which was semi-effective but did nothing for my forehead issue. After that, I wondered if the problem was that I was being too hard on my skin with chemicals, so I switched to a “pure and natural” face wash that ended up doing NOTHING. I tried using rose water as a toner. Rose water by itself. Just a bar of soap. Scrubs. Toothpaste. Eventually, I just settled for the three-step routine that worked okay.

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

The beauty routine just maintained and controlled the acne that I had, so I figured it was my best bet. My big skin change, though, was something that happened unintentionally.

About two years ago, I went on a health kick and decided to cut most dairy out of my diet and switch to soy. Within a month, my skin unexpectedly began to clear up. Not completely, but a lot. At some point, I started dealing with bad stomach pains. I honestly assumed they were caused by my pants being too tight around my waist. I lived with the pain for over a year because it didn’t happen all the time. It wasn’t until about four months ago I realized it happened when I consumed soy-based drinks.

As a result, I made the full switch to almond milk, and let me just say, it was magic for my stomach and my skin.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

Now I have little to no breakouts, and I’m starting to see the scars disappear. Of course, I still deal with occasional pimples caused by PMS and resting my chin on my hands, but for the most part, my skin is a lot healthier. I’m comfortable enough to walk out of my apartment with no makeup on. My routine is a Clinique three-step with a Clinique scrub once to two times a week!

And no dairy. And NO SOY!

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I’m not an expert, so I can’t say cutting dairy and soy out is THE solution to having clear skin, but I definitely think it’s worth trying. You don’t have to be allergic to something for your body to react to it in unexpected ways.

My one tip would be: When you’re breaking out, don’t jump to the conclusion that you need to change your routine. Think about all external influences that may be the source of the problem.

Leslie Price, 35

Tell me a little about your skin and history with acne.

I didn’t start having real issues with my skin until I went off hormonal birth control pills. Things very quickly spiraled. It was terrible. I mostly had jawline problems, weirdly focused on the far corners of my jaw. (The more I type “jaw,” the weirder it looks. JAW. J.A.W.)

What solutions had you tried that didn’t work?

I tried all the usual stuff — Retin-A (which seemed extremely harsh), facials, the entire Somme Institute kit.

What finally did work? And how did you come about trying it?

A non-prescription DIM supplement called Estroblock. I found it on a blog after hours and hours of fruitless late-night internet research, looked at the Amazon reviews and was like, “Fuck it.” It took a while to work — honestly, more than a few months — but it’s been very effective. I’ve been taking it for six years now. I notice that when I go off it, I have skin problems. A lot of people have blogged about it: see here, here, here and here. I take one capsule in the morning when I wake up, and one when I go to sleep.

Tell me about the change. What’s your skin like now? What’s your routine to keep it that way?

I have very few problems with my skin now, save for dark undereye circles and occasional redness. I barely do anything to it. I’m lazy/efficient like that.

Would you recommend it to others? Why or why not? Have any tips?

I would recommend it to others, with the caveat that they do their own research. I’m obviously not a doctor; I can only speak from my own experience.

One of the best things about being 14 is that you know, one day, you’ll be an adult. You’ll be able to drive. You’ll be able to buy beer. You’ll stop getting zits.

The joke was on you.

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Sure, those first two turned out to be true, but acne? It can haunt you for life. In fact, Dr. Michael Lin, a Beverly Hills, California-based dermatologist and founder of Dr. Lin Skincare, says blemish flare-ups are very common among adults. “It’s a myth that only teenagers get acne,” he says.

Of course, as a teenager, a pimple was a cause for tears, but you’re a grown-up now. Instead of calling in sick from work, just follow these tips for clear skin in no time.

RELATED: Can you really ‘detox’ your skin? 11 skin care mistakes you’re making

Text more often

This might annoy your mom, but using your fingers to chat could save your skin. Just think of all those oils, all that bacteria and all those germs on your iPhone. When you hold it up to your face, it’s a little like rubbing your cheek on a New York City sidewalk. {Shudder.} When you need to talk, wipe your phone with a cleansing wipe or go hands-free.

Change your sheets

A U.K. survey found that on average single men only change their sheets four times a year. And while we certainly hope you are swapping out your linens much more frequently, dirty pillowcases can lead to clogged pores. Nasty as is sounds, bacteria can build up on your bed and your face rubs around on it for a good eight hours a night. Well, that just can’t be good. If your skin is oily, change those sheets (or at least your pillowcases) twice a week. It might be a pain, but isn’t a clear complexion worth it?

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Don’t wait until bed to wash up

“Sweat and makeup are two of the most preventable culprits behind breakouts,” Lin says. “A clogged comedone can result in blackheads, whiteheads and acne. These types of breakouts can be prevented by wiping away sweat after a workout or makeup when you get home instead of waiting to wash your face before bed.”

Break out the Champagne

Not that you needed an excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly, but if a pimple should threaten to ruin your evening out, reach for the Champagne. Its tartaric acid (found in grapes) is said to not only ease acne, but also to contain anti-aging properties. So, soak up a cotton pad with your champs, and apply it to the infected area (it won’t hurt to rub it on your whole face, either). High-class problems? We’ll drink to that!

Raid your refrigerator

Lin says he recommends applying egg whites directly to a pimple to shrink a breakout. “The protein in the egg will help dry out the pimple,” he says. “You can also apply honey to a breakout to calm redness. Honey is a naturally soothing ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties that helps heal the skin. Leave it on for five to 10 minutes, then wipe away with a damp cloth.”

Another food to try: lemons

They’re not just for squeezing over pasta, chicken or vodka sodas anymore. Apply lemon juice via a cotton ball to the infected area before you go to sleep. In the morning, wash your face as normal. The citric-acid properties of the fruit will have helped calm the inflammation.

Take two aspirin and call us in the morning

It can cure a headache, help with heart disease and zap zits? We love you, aspirin. The salicylic acid in the little white pills can help treat acne. Whip up a mask by crushing up some pills with a few drops of water and honey, apply to your blemish, and, after 10 minutes or so, wash it off.

RELATED: Debunked: 5 most common lies about adult acne

Quit using all those styling products

Sure, your tresses look terrific, but that gel, pomade or hairspray you’re using might be the reason all those blemishes are popping up around your hairline. Do your best to cover up your skin when you’re primping and don’t be afraid to wash your face after doing your hair to get rid of any pore-clogging residue.

Put your makeup tools to new use

When using benzoyl peroxide, instead of dabbing it on with your finger or a cotton swab, use a dedicated eyeliner brush to apply to the spot alone. This will prevent flaking and over-drying the surrounding skin.

Lesley Kennedy writes for Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

This story was originally published Jul. 16, 2014 on

Ten Tips For Clear Skin

3. Stay away from “high androgen” foods. These are found in peanuts, peanut oil, peanut butter, corn oil, wheat germ, shellfish, organ meats (i.e. liver, sweetbreads and heart). These contain hormones that exacerbate acne.

4. Some swimming pool disinfectants contain Iodides and Chlorine, which can remain in the water, causing skin problems for frequent swimmers. Many swimmers find that the combination of hot and humid weather, the physical exercise of swimming and the chlorinated pools, can cause major acne flare-ups.

5 Don’t pick. Instead of picking, rub ice on pustules and pimples for about five minutes, twice a day. Try to catch them when they are first forming and they most likely will go away. You can use Benzoyl Peroxide for this, but the surrounding tissue may get very dry.

6. Use fragrance-free detergents such as Cheer Free, All Free & Clear, Tide Free or Arm & Hammer Free.

7. Do not use fabric softeners and/or fabric softener sheets in the dryer, especially on pillowcases as they cause a waxy residue that can clog pores on acne-prone individuals. If you are worried about static cling, then use some anti-static cling balls that you can purchase from Bed Bath and Beyond for $5.

8. Avoid low-estrogen birth control pills, Norplant, Provera, and Depo-Provera. Also progesterone hormone replacement Premarin can be problematic. If you have polycystic ovaries, they will cause hormonal changes and breakout. See our article about birth control for more information. Also, the taking of birth control pills may delay the onset of acne and once off them, you may experience the acne you would’ve had before taking them.

9. Do not use cosmetics OR hair products that contain pore-clogging ingredients. See our article on Pore Clogging Ingredients for a list of ingredients to avoid. Retin A has the pore-clogging ingredient, isopropyl myristate as its first ingredient.

10. Don’t lay out in the sun to help get rid of your acne. You can give yourself skin cancer – there’s a much safer way to peel the skin than a sunburn.

These tips alone will not get your skin clear however. They just support your acne-clearing program which is truly the key to clear skin. Let the acne experts here at Face Reality help you to get the clear skin you’ve been dreaming of.

© 2012-2019 Face Reality Acne Clinic

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