This one's been a long time coming.
I haven't written very much about my struggle with acne,
But it's a story worth telling, worth sharing, I think -
If for no other reason than to be honest, real, and transparent
About this piece of my wellness journey.
My intention is to send a message of hope.
If this helps even one person then it's totally worth it!
Earlier this week, I posted the photos below on my Facebook page.
They sparked a lot of interest,
As well as many kind comments from friends, family, and even strangers.
Thank you so much for your kinds words. XO
Mine, it turns out, is not a rare experience.
So many deal with acne, L O N G beyond adolescence.
And there's a lot more where those "before" photos came from.
A little over a year ago, I decided to commit, 100%, to finally "going natural" when it came to skincare. I documented the experience with my iPhone. All the photos are unedited and makeup-free.
Over the years, I've tried just about everything:
- Prescription medications (creams, antibiotics, birth control)
- Various specialty brands targeting acne sufferers (Proactiv, Murad, Rodan and Fields, acne.org, to name a few)
- And, more recently, many natural concoctions (manuka honey, local raw honey, baking soda, witch hazel, aloe, lemons, egg masks, clay masks, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, oil cleansing, hot washcloth scrub, washing my pillowcase super often, and more)
The one thing that worked for me was benzoyl peroxide, at a low percentage, applied gently and generously. Nevermind the tedious process of cleansing, toning, and applying this mask-like amount of BP. Nevermind all the discolored and ruined towels and clothing (mine and others') the BP touched. It was all worth it, you see, in order to feel confident with clear skin.
Except here's the interesting thing that happened along the way: When I first discovered this particular method, I realized that I'd have to commit to a transition period. No makeup. Nothing to interfere with the process at all.
As a result, I spent many months with severe, cystic, red, painful acne, and nothing to cover it up. It was raw, dry, often painful. This was during the time I was in grad school, so I was in my mid-twenties.
A very strong part of me decided that the people that really mattered and cared would love me as I was, and I wouldn't allow myself to wallow (too long) in the emotional pain of acne. Instead, I would focus on school, studying, learning, and connecting with my nursing school friends.
The result? Back then, in my mind, the miracle of that experience was that my skin finally did clear up. And with persistent BP use, it stayed mostly clear for a good long while!
However, the true beauty of that time was that I learned to be more-than-ok with myself, to accept myself, to share myself with others (and not hide), and to face the world head-on, despite the pain/embarrassment.
People saw past the acne. Some, I think, didn't even see it at all, once they got to know me.
That was the greatest lesson I learned.
And it would come back to me years later, when I decided to go natural.
My own health journey is an interesting one. Ups and downs and ups.
But the most significant changes have come about as a result of embracing a plant-based lifestyle. I eat mostly (not all) plants, and I also turn to plants (most of the time) to further support my body, mind, and spirit.
Through study, education, and experience, I've become acutely aware of the dangers of toxins in our environments. Unfortunately, this can be an especially ever-present and overwhelming challenge when it comes to skincare.
Nonetheless, as the great Maya Angelou said, "When you know better, do better."
And, guys, I knew better.
I'd read about the many carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting, system-disturbing chemicals in the products I was using. But I'd been too scared to stop doing what had finally worked to keep my skin clear.
THE CAVEMAN METHOD
In my quest to find something natural + effective, I stumbled upon the life-changing concept of "the caveman method", through this gal. She embraced a holistic approach, with a lot of natural support along the way. Great information on gut health, diet, stress, and other crucial pieces of the puzzle!
The thing was, I'd already addressed those pieces.
But what was most fascinating to me was the cavement method she talked about. Want to know what it's all about?
Well, let me start by saying it sounded terrifying! But when you're desprate to make a change, you're willing to give "crazy" ideas a go!
Here's the idea: There is a very fine, slightly acidic outer layer of our skin called the acid mantle. When it maintains a healthy pH, the acid mantle helps to naturally protect the skin from bacteria and other potential contaminants.
But guess what screws with the acid mantle and disrupts its perfect pH? All those funky products we've been using on our skin for years!
In a nutshell, that's the basis for the caveman method:
Stop putting things (especially all the unnatural products, soaps, lotions, magic potions, etc.) on your face, let the acid mantle return to balance, and watch what happens.
In my case: M A G I C
Did I have to embrace a transition period again?
Yes. But I could see the gradual change over time.
Was I able to handle it better this time around?
Yes, I'd learned a lot from that first go-round.
Did I stop washing my face?
Yes! Just a little splash of water in the shower/after working out.
Did I stop putting products on my face?
Yes! (So liberating, and money-saving!)
And did my skin clear up?
Yesssss, my friends! It did!
So do I still follow this method?
Pretty much! I now use some very natural and gentle oils to soothe, nourish, and hydrate my skin. Just a little dab here and there is all I need. I'm keeping things super natural, super clean, and very high vibe. Quality is key.
The best part was knowing that I was no longer putting funky chemicals on my body. And the even better part was watching, slowly, as my skin returned to balance and cleared up, which you can see in the photos above. The human body is truly an amazing thing!
Today, I have a new level of respect for my skin. I love it and celebrate it. I thank it for taking care of itself and me. I trust myself to give my body the things it needs to return to balance. And I don't mind if a little blemish pops up here and there. I know that, if I leave it alone, it will go away quickly.
Please feel free to share my story. And also to reach out if you'd like to connect personally for more support.
There's so much we can do to help our bodies do what they are naturally meant to do.
Sending you love + hope + hugs on this journey.