Acne - The Truth and How I Overcame It
Acne is a very common problem these days. Many companies seem to have the solution and the research is inconsistent. Some claim diet is the source, some claim certain products work, some claim use no products at all. Who's right and how do you navigate this confusing, overwhelming topic to heal your own acne?
First I'm going to show you before pictures. Sorry for the poor quality of the first two. It was an old iPhone that clearly wasn't very good. The first two are from 2014 and then the last ones in this group is from May of 2019 before I went and saw my cosmetic esthetician.
As you can see it's not pretty. And I had tried everything from going to a dermatologist for 5 years and trying the pill antibiotics (which are NOT good for you), harsh washes like benzyl peroxide and Retin-A cream, I've tried diet (vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free), although to be honest I wasn't completely consistent for the full couple of months I did it, but pretty much I was and I should have at least seen a difference when I decreased all the diet stuff. I've tried products like ProActive and also gut health products like Restore thinking maybe it stemmed from the gut like some articles claim. I've researched all these other products and they all seem to say the same thing: use a toner, wash and moisturizer. It's always three steps. Most products out there treat the acne with either Retin-A, benzyl peroxide or salicylic acid or even sulfur products. Each of varying strengths in combination with other ingredients. So who's right? None of them for me. If you've tried salicylic acid, Retin-A, all the standard acne fighting stuff out there, then simple products are most likely not going to work, like in my case. You have to go deeper. And yes, that still means money, but at least it won't be a waste like buying all these products and trying them and never knowing if you're trying them for long enough or if another variable is interfering. It's extremely frustrating.
Here was my answer. My mom had a facial lady that she saw called a cosmetic esthetician, which is essentially a skin beautifying expert. One of the most common ones to try for people is microdermabrasion, which is essentially sluffing off the old skin and trying to get the new skin to come in. That's what my mom does for smoother skin, but she doesn't have acne problems like me. Granted dermabrasion worked for my grandma who had very bad acne apparently as a teen but always had clear skin when I knew her. So it might be the answer for some acne problems. When I consulted my mom's esthetician (also sometimes spelled aesthetician), she recommended glycolic peels, also known as chemical peels, because I had active acne. The definition of a glycolic peel, per Google is: "It uses glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid and one of the most effective exfoliating chemicals, to weaken the bonds between cells on the top layer of your skin—effectively removing that top layer."
And mind you I had been battling acne for 20 years! Since I got my period at 12, boom, volcanic eruption. It got a little better in my early 20s when I was on birth control but then as your hormones change into your later 20s and early 30s it just stopped helping. And the birth control never completely took the acne away, just made them smaller so they were less noticeable and sometimes I did have periods of less acne. But most of the time it was constant, never ending, all over the face acne. Nobody should have to deal with that. No makeup in the world can cover that or make that unnoticeable. It affects your mood, your social life, your confidence, everything.
The glycolic/chemical peel worked! After my very first peel with her (I started on the low end because I wasn't sure how my skin was going to react), I noticed a difference. The pimples started drying up slowly and eventually went away and didn't come back! Now it took a few peels for the acne to get under control. Because I had had it for sooooooooo long, it needed some time. It was recommended to do it once a month for 3-4 months, which I did. Finally, by the last month I was clear. And it didn't matter what I ate, what bad habits I did, what products I used on my face (although I did switch to products that my esthetician had just because she's a miracle worker), the acne stayed away. The only downside is that you have to continuously get it done. But at least now once you have clear skin you're more motivated to really try those diets or other lifestyle changes and maybe it will extend the life of the peel of no acne. Then you can finally know for sure if diet actually makes a difference. When you're using products after products and are shooting in the dark with diets not even knowing if you're in the right direction, it's hard to want to try it for a month or so and then be disappointed that it doesn't work and then have to try something else, which there are hundreds of things out there saying they work and clear skin.
Here is my most recent unfiltered picture.
I may get a pimple here and there, as you can see, but the skin itself is smooth. And pretty much I'm constantly clear. Diets be damned. I eat sugar and dairy and other stuff and it doesn't seem to affect my skin now while I'm doing the peels. My conclusion is that acne and hormones are just too complicated for anyone to understand and they haven't tried to figure out the hundreds of hormones raging through our bodies because it's too complicated, so they just try to put Band-Aids on it.
Here's an image with them side by side:
Because this is a cosmetic procedure, just like facial products, you do still have to fork out the money out of pocket, but this was so worth it for me! I pay to have it done every 3 months (which is about $270 now because I get the most advanced peels). So every 3 months paying about $300, but I guess if you added up all the other products that you've tried or used on a monthly basis, for example, ProActive which is $30/month so about $100 you're spending every 3 months on something that may or may not work. If you get the lighter peels they still worked for me, I just wanted to get down deeper. Those are only like $150. So really it's not that different. And again, totally worth it!
I hope this helps some people out there who have struggled for so long like I have. There are so many blogs and articles about people changing their diets or using products and then you see the transformation, and I'm sure that did work for that one individual. But the problem is that our bodies are just so different. What works for one may not work for another. The good thing about seeing a cosmetic esthetician is that they are skin experts that can evaluate what would work for you. And as someone who has tried everything out there (except Accutane because my acne wasn't the right kind - thankfully! That's dangerous stuff), I wanted to share what actually worked for me. There's no miracle and I don't honestly know if diet affects acne or if it was a fluke for some people. I have no idea. No one does. The body is super complex and every person is unique. That's the hard truth. And that's why it's so frustrating because you want to believe that it will work for you but you know that it may not.