Since my early teenage years, I have battled with chronic and unrelenting acne that persisted into my late 20s. I have tested numerous prescription and over-the-counter topical creams, been prescribed oral acne medications and birth control methods, and created crazy at-home concoctions to try and beat my acne. I have stood in a dressing room at the mall and cried my eyes out because I couldn't find a single Summer dress that didn't showcase my glaringly obvious shoulder and back zits. I have personally dealt with the immense emotional and psychological toll that having severe adult acne can cause.
And I am here to tell you, it will get better.
Fifteen years later, I'm finally learning to feel comfortable in my own skin. It took a lot of tears, trial and error, and breaking down of my own bias to get to this point. After years of research and personal successes and failures, I've come as close as possible to finding the perfect cocktail for skin clarity.
It's important to note that this routine won't work for everyone with adult acne, but this is what worked for me.
1. I Rethought My Diet
Your skin is a direct reflection of your gut health (*cough* eczema, acne, rosacea, etc.). Thus, acne in adults often results from a "toxic" and inflammatory gut environment. To decrease this toxicity and inflammation, start by eliminating dairy, high carbohydrate, and processed foods. Begin by incorporating a variety of antioxidant rich, high-alkaline, and low glycemic foods for healthy internal healing. Examples include: kale, broccoli, cucumbers, blueberries, avocado, and spinach.
If you are like me and have already eliminated dairy, carbs, and highly processed foods with minimal results, try taking a closer look at the "healthy" foods in your life. When my progress plateaued, I knew I needed to make more drastic changes. That's when I finally cut out bananas (high in sugar), swapped my Reese's for 85 percent and higher organic cacao bars (low in sugar), and gave up my one true love in life, peanut butter.
2. I Took Time to De-Stress
Adult acne can lead to embarrassment, shame, and even depression. Because of this, acne creates a vicious and seemingly never-ending stress cycle. The longer acne lingers, the more stress it creates. Thus, it is crucial to take time each day to lower our stress levels. Choose your favorite way to de-stress, whether it be yoga, the great outdoors, mindful meditation, journaling, or coloring. Make a habit of spending 15 minutes each day to do something that allows you to breathe and unwind.
3. I Switched to Natural Products
This all cycles back to that pesky internal toxicity we've been talking about. It can often be tempting and easy to use prescribed or over-the-counter "quick-fixes" for acne. Trust me, I used them for years without batting an eye. Instead, try looking for natural, paraben-free products that won't alter your hormone balance or create a toxic environment. One of my favorite affordable products is Trader Joe's Natural Facial Cleansing Pads With Tea Tree Oil (found for under $10).
4. I Kept It Clean
Make sure that at least once a week you are cleaning anything that comes in contact with your face or skin, including your cell phone, makeup brushes, or pillowcase. If you notice your chest and back are still suffering, consider evaluating your laundry detergent and swapping to a natural, chemical-free detergent.
5. Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate!
For anyone who has suffered from chronic acne with scarring and discoloration, exfoliation is critical. Exfoliating will help to slough off old skin cells and promote regeneration and healing of scarred and acne-prone skin. Instead of using chemical-filled exfoliating cleansers, I purchased $5 exfoliating gloves from a local, natural beauty store and use them with a gentle cleanser three times per week. As for anything else in life, moderation is key. Avoid over-exfoliating to eliminate skin irritation and dryness. Just like any other item that touches your face, make sure to clean your gloves at least once per month to maintain their effectiveness.