“There is no single disease which causes more psychic trauma and more maladjustment between parents and children, more general insecurity and feelings of inferiority and greater sums of psychic assessment than does acne vulgaris” (Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine 3rd Edition, 2012).
Wow! Even 20 years after my acne it still reminds me of those feelings. My acne was something I never talked about, but I’m ready to share my story with you now.
My acne started in junior high school and my doctor started me with soaps and cleansers (Neutrogena, pHisoderm and Sea Breeze) and then topicals. No improvement, just acne and drier skin. Then I tried courses of antibiotics (tetracycline, minocycline, erythromycin, etc.). Nada. Finally I tried Accutane in high school. If you’re not familiar with it, it has a long rap sheet of side effects and can cause severe birth defects and liver damage. I was required to be on birth control pills and have my blood and urine tested every month. But it was a miracle, it worked! And back then I didn’t care about the side effects, I just wanted to look normal. I experienced night blindness (which meant I couldn’t drive at night) and dry cracked, bleeding lips. I was on it for a few months and my clear skin lasted for about a year. But it came back, and I was back on it for another round.
Worse than the side effects was the embarrassment, low self-esteem and social stigma. I remember working my cashier job and having customers giving me unsolicited advice. I was told to try sugar paste, baking soda paste and toothpaste. I know they all meant well but it embarrassed me further and each comment was a constant reminder of my acne.
I was told not to eat sweets. I cut sugar out of my diet but it seemed to make no difference.
In a teen magazine, I read an interview with Catherine Bach (who played Daisy Duke in the Dukes of Hazzard - loved that show!) and she talked about how she was an ugly kid. She advised readers that ‘every ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan’. I held onto that hope for years. I’m certainly no swan but my looks definitely improved.
The school photographers were able to touch up my photos, which made me look better but they felt fake. I threw away any photo of me with acne except a single untouched high school graduation photo, pictured here (complete with bushy eyebrows and permed and back-combed hair!).
My acne problems weren’t over however. Well into my late-twenties I used ProActiv and stayed on the birth control pill which helped keep things in check. These days I still get whiteheads if I’ve had too much sugar or have lost weight (the toxins stored in your fat are released into your bloodstream). As a matter of fact, as I write this I’m experiencing two cysts which I rarely get unless I’ve been eating poorly (I’ve been eating fast food for a couple of days!).
I guess you can say I was left feeling scarred for life. All this time I’ve been covering my face with foundation or a tan, looking but not seeing the marks on my skin. I’m finally ready to face it, to look in the mirror and see my scars and my broken capillaries for what they are.
But enough about me, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned so far, from experience, research and by reading Clear Skin by Nicholas Perricone, MD.
Let’s start with how acne forms as its important in understanding how to prevent or reduce acne. When there’s an increase in inflammatory chemicals in the cell, proinflammatory cytokines (proteins) are produced by your immune system. Cytokines make the skin cells sticky and trap dead skin cells, clogging the pore (Perricone, N., MD, The Clear Skin Prescription, 2004). This causes sebum and bacteria to build up resulting in a comedo (whitehead or blackhead). A comedo can develop into a papule or pustule, better known as a pimple. These can develop into nodules or cysts.
When we’re stressed, lacking sleep or eating inflammatory foods (not just sugar but high glycemic foods such as juices, white bread, potatoes, white rice, etc.), the hormone cortisol is released, increasing our blood sugar and leading to inflammation (Perricone, N., MD, The Clear Skin Prescription, 2004). Additionally, the hormone androgen exacerbates the condition by increasing sebum production.
In order to reduce inflammation, we need to drink plenty of water, sleep well, reduce stress and consume an anti-inflammatory diet. This diet means low glycemic index foods, moderate amounts of lean protein and unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, salmon, nuts and seeds) and plenty of vegetables. Here are some resources to check the glycemic index of foods:
Topical anti-inflammatories can also be used in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory diet. Look for products with alpha lipoic acid, dimethylaminoethanol and glutathione (Perricone, N., MD, The Clear Skin Prescription, 2004).
Another alternative is to look at a face map, especially if your acne occurs in one spot. This is based on Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Think of it like reflexology, where problems with a specific part of your body are a window to an internal problem. This helped me clear up the acne on the tip of my nose. The face map says it may be related to circulation, heart issues or gastrointestinal problems; and as soon as I resumed regular exercise, it cleared up. Here’s a comprehensive face map for you to explore: https://www.muktiorganics.com/blog/face-mapping-how-to-read-your-skin-from-within.
Hopefully one of these more natural ways to deal with your acne works for you. And there’s a bonus. The side effects of eating an anti-inflammatory diet are disease prevention and looking younger!
Stressed out? You’re not alone. A 2017 survey by Accountemps found that “58 per cent of Canadians feel stressed every day while at work and 70 per cent said work-related pressure had increased in the past five years”. And an increase in stress is nothing new. An IPSOS survey in 2000 found that 42% of Canadians felt more stressed than five years earlier. The only thing that seems to have changed is that men are now feeling almost as stressed as women.
Even in my 15 aromatherapy case studies, 80% of participants named stress as one of their top issues. And of those participants, most didn’t see their doctor about it. Those that did see their doctor felt that their doctor couldn’t do anything for them or didn’t care.
What happened to technology making our lives easier? Maybe it does make tasks easier, but I think instead of using that extra time to enjoy life, we just try to achieve more. Instead of enjoying the moment, we’re busy checking email and social media or booking our calendars full of events.
So what’s causing all this stress? Usually its work, finances, relationships, school or health and mostly like a combination of these. There’s just not enough time to get it all done.
Stress can affect your sleep, increase headaches, lower your immune system and make you irritable. Because stress leaves you feeling tired and short on time, we tend to drop all of our healthy habits (healthy eating, exercise, sleep, socializing and relaxing), even though these are the very things we need to combat stress. And our health only gets worse when we’re chronically stressed, leading to more stress. “Stress carries several negative health consequences, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, as well as immune and circulatory complications” (Perceived Life Stress, Stats Canada, 2014).
We are all familiar with at least some of these stress reducing activities:
We know what we need to do, so why do we struggle with it?
The main problem is these activities all take time, time that we don’t have. When we’re stressed we often feel like things are out of control and we promise ourselves we’ll do these things just as soon as we get A, B and C done. And as you know, those things are replaced by new priorities that can’t wait either. The truth is, nothing is going to change unless you take the time to change it. Because believe it or not, you ARE in control! And if you don’t take care of you, who will?
The best piece of advice I’ve received in all of my 48 years, is this: If you don’t like something, you have three options: accept it, change it or leave it. Some things we may not like but can accept. If you can’t accept it, you need to try to change it. If you’ve tried to change it and things don’t improve then it may be time to leave it.
Assuming you don’t want to accept feeling stressed all the time, you can try to change it. To make that easier for you, here are things I’ve learned about de-stressing my life:
And there is one last thing you can do to help with your stress which isn’t mentioned in most articles and books and takes no time at all - aromatherapy! 92% of my case study participants confirmed that essential oils helped with their stress as well as sleep and headaches. You can inhale essential oils using a diffuser, a couple of drops on a tissue, an aromatherapy inhaler or by diluting it in soap, lotion or oil. Here are some common oils you can use separately or in a blend:
Some of you may need to change or leave a job, your studies or a relationship to improve your stress or life. None of it is easy but only you can improve things by taking control. And trust me, when you do it you’ll wonder why you waited so long!
Loves living a healthy lifestyle and sharing what she learns along the way.