Clearing up my acne

by Khushboo on February 6, 2017

Hey guys!  A while ago I posted about my experience with applying coconut oil on my face and thought I’d do a follow up post.  Unfortunately things didn’t really get better.  If anything, it seemed to trigger a series of breakouts on my face which went on to last about 4-5 months. Especially as adult acne is rarely spoken about, I wanted to candidly share my experience in case it helps anyone going through something similar. 

Acne before & after

Given the amount of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis, adult acne has become extremely prevalent.  Stress levels, changes in hormones, various medications (e.g. birth control) also act as triggers. Although pimples can show up anywhere on your face from your forehead, chin, cheeks and lips, my breakouts were particularly around my jawline and in the form of cystic acne – think large, inflamed & extremely painful bumps.  As someone who grew up with flawless skin, it got to a point where I didn’t recognise my complexion at all.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take somewhat of a toll on me mentally. 

During this period, I am truly grateful to have worked closely with a fantastic skincare specialist in Mumbai Mala Punwani who guided me in terms of my skincare routine – talk about a godsend!  While switching over to milder products with less chemicals helped, I am almost certain that changing up my diet helped tremendously in the healing process.  While we all have different skin types and responds to foods differently, here are some of the dietary changes I made to heal my acne:

  • I switched over to a more plant-based diet i.e. I drastically reduced my intake of animal products.  While I still love dairy, meat, & seafood, I’m now eating them a couple of times a week (e.g. when I’m out) rather than on a daily basis.  Especially given the amount of hormones and antibiotics pumped into meat and dairy, it’s no surprise that this switch has helped tremendously.  As someone who started her mornings with yogurt bowls and always had a packet of chicken breast in the freezer, this change has actually been so much easier and more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined…and I have a newfound appreciation for beans & legumes.

Edamame Gado Gado

  • In line with the above, I cut out eggs from my diet completely.  Given the vast amount of nutrients in eggs, I never even thought to consider them as an acne trigger.   When Aunty Mala initially suggested cutting eggs from my diet, I was extremely reluctant but was also desperate to try anything…so I did.  Especially as I used to rely heavily on eggs & egg whites as a convenient source of protein, part of me hoped that they weren’t a trigger for me.  Lo & behold, this dietary change seemed to make the biggest difference. Within 3 days of cutting down my egg consumption, I noticed my skin improving and the breakouts had almost ceased.  It turns out that eggs are extremely heaty and inflammatory. Eggs are an allergen but never seemed to affect me before so why now? That’s the thing about our bodies – they just keep on evolving. 
  • During the healing process, I also made an effort to keep my veggie intake high. Between their vitamin & mineral content and alkalising properties, veggies naturally help repair & rid the body of impurities & excess oils. In particular, I tried to increase my intake of dark green veggies which tend to be more nutrient-dense (e.g. broccoli, kale, spinach, bok choy). 
  • I made use of nature’s free acne medicine i.e. WATER.  In order to keep my body hydrated, I continued to drink at least 3 litres of water daily. Ultimately this helps moisturise and cleanse the cells from any built-up waste.

Tofu Stir Fry Sriracha

  • Our gut is the root of all our bodily functions so it only makes sense to ensure it’s running optimally.  As the skin is very closely connected to the gut, inflammation in the gut can also lead to inflammation.  Even though doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for acne, I introduced a daily probiotic. Probiotics create ‘good’ bacteria in the gut which helps it digest food & better absorb the nutrients.  When the body doesn’t have enough of this good bacteria, it can wreak havoc on your entire body and cause immunity levels to drop along with a series of breakouts due to inflammation.  Consequently, eating probiotic-rich foods (e.g. tempeh, miso, kombucha, pickles, yogurt) helps balance bacteria levels in the gut and essentially reduce irritation of the skin.  Given I don’t eat nearly enough probiotics in the form of food, relying on a daily supplement is just a more convenient way for me to cover my bases.

While my skin is still on its way to looking 100% better, I’m thrilled that I am about 97% along the way.  I can’t remember the last time I had a breakout and the marks have almost completely faded.  As I’m sure anyone who has experienced acne before will understand, it feels SO liberating to be able to walk out of the house without the need to apply any cover-up and/or foundation!

Have you ever experienced acne?
 What foods work for/against your skin?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jess February 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm

I suffer from acne. I have found plant based really makes a difference too! Impressed with how much it has helped you!

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Khushboo February 9, 2017 at 9:27 am

So glad you’ve found a style of eating that helps your acne too, Jess!!

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dixya @food, pleasure, and health February 6, 2017 at 5:32 pm

i deal with acne and its really frustrating. over the years, it has gotten better but i depended heavily on antibiotics and prescription medications. coconut oil has worked really well for me but i can definitely do better with eating plant based meals.

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Khushboo February 9, 2017 at 9:28 am

It’s really is so frustrating, D! Try adding a plant-based meal at least once a day and see if it helps- can’t hurt :)!

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Parita February 7, 2017 at 1:05 am

As you know I’ve struggled with acne my whole teenage and adult life. Something I’ve noticed that is my flareups can be contributed to two things – the time of month (not in my control!) and how much sugar I consume (in my control). The less sugar I eat, the clearer my skin is. I think (again, not 100% sure) cow milk dairy products have the same effect as well. Great post, K!

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Khushboo February 9, 2017 at 9:29 am

Thanks so much, P! I know we’ve discussed the woes of adult acne in the past and I’m so glad you’ve been able to pinpoint the triggers. While it might not help you eradicate the flare-ups completely, at least you can manage the severity and frequency!! Hope you are doing well, mamma-to-be :D!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig February 7, 2017 at 5:01 am

You know that I’ve suffered my fair share of acne, too! The one thing that I can’t bring myself to do is cut out eggs. However, I tend to not eat eggs when I am on holiday, and my skin is always better for me. I just can’t break the habit in my normal life! Your skin is looking great 🙂

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Khushboo February 9, 2017 at 9:31 am

I know what you mean about eggs- I felt the same when I even considered eliminating them from my diet. As much as I used to eat them before, knowing how they affect my skin has been a complete turn-off. Hope life in Australia is going well- it sure looks like it :D!

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Ayushi February 7, 2017 at 5:58 pm

Amazing insights Khushboo! Perversely enough, I feel as though fresh dairy helps clear up my skin – although I have noticed that the heaty properties of eggs have worked against me in Mumbai… It’s so interesting how different climates/ body types etc change the equation!

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Khushboo February 9, 2017 at 9:32 am

Thanks Ayushi!! I love hearing how different foods affect other people’s skin and it’s amazing what a positive difference dairy has on you—> bring on the vanilla ice cream ;)! COME BACK TO BOMBAY and I promise to serve you all the dairy + gajar halwa!!

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Nisha @ Honey What's Cooking February 10, 2017 at 12:20 pm

I had acne in my 20s. WHat changed for me was … I obviously saw a derm and she helped control my acne. On my own though, I took Neem pills (you know the desi ones by Himalaya). I changed my diet… cut out sugar, processed foods, exercised, at healthy, i didn’t give up one particular thing, I just cut down on sugar over all. High protein, low carb helped me a great deal. Hope this helps. You’re in your 20s, it will clear up. Don’t worry!!

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Khushboo February 24, 2017 at 12:19 pm

So glad you’ve found something that works for you Nisha- skin is so individual!!

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