Improving My Skin with Essential Oils and My Decision to Go Dairy-Free

It’s been about three months since I last updated (Wow! Sorry for such a long pause!).  During this time, I celebrated my 25th birthday, which means I have entered my thirteenth year of dealing with cystic acne.  I would love to take a minute to share what I love about having cystic acne:

Absolutely nothing.

I guess I didn’t use all of my minute, so I’ll use the rest to tell you how most non-acne-sufferers interpret your acne (particularly when you are older than 15).

  1. You don’t take care of your skin.
  2. You don’t know how to take care of your skin correctly.
  3. You aren’t trying hard enough to get rid of your acne (their solution is usually more expensive chemical-based products and/or prescription drugs).
  4. You aren’t aware of just how severe your acne is, so therefore they must tell you.
  5. You eat poorly.
  6. You have some sort of hormonal imbalance, so (if you’re female) you really need to get on hormonal birth control.
  7. You need to see a dermatologist.
  8. Your acne is offensive, so they must either a) stare or b) look away from you in disgust.
  9. You need makeup lessons because if you can’t get rid of the acne, you should at least cover it up.  To assist with this, they will recommend their makeup routine to you, suggest you drop-in to a counter or beauty consultant for a consultation, or inappropriately ask about your makeup routine until you take the hint.

After thirteen years, I have heard and seen every possible reaction to my acne and I have tried everything to “cure” it.  As I last shared, I decided to embrace a chemical-free beauty regime to help address my acne and connected skin issues. Many of you have been asking me for an update, so here we go.

First, what am I using?

I based my new beauty regime off what Paula Davis wrote over on Tera Warner’s site about how she stopped being a Pimple Potion Junkie.  Her  information was truly eye-opening and taught this self-professed “acne expert” a ton!  So based on Paula’s recommendations, here’s what I’m doing:

  1. I no longer use a traditional “cleanser” on my skin.  Paula talks about our skin having an oil-barrier and how traditional cleansers can actually make oily, acne-prone skin worse.  Instead, I wet a washcloth with warm water and add a little jojoba oil to it and rub that gently into my skin.  The wash cloth helps exfoliate the skin as it removes my dead skin cells and acne scabs, leaving my face feeling really soft.
  2. After cleansing my face with the jojoba oil on a washcloth, I spritz a few sprays of a natural toner-like combination all over my face and neck.  The small, amber spray bottle contains water, about 10 drops of 100% pure essential lavender oil, and about 10 drops of 100% pure essential tea tree oil.  
  3. In the morning, I end my beauty routine after spraying the water/lavender oil/tea tree oil combo on my face.  I let it dry, then apply my more-natural concealer to cover any acne cysts/pimples and redness.  At night, I let the water/oil mixture dry, then apply a mixture of organic coconut oil and 100% pure essential thyme oil.  Please note: thyme oil is considered to be a “hot oil,” so it should never be applied directly to your skin or it will burn (trust me!  It does not feel good!) but rather mixed with “carrier oil” like coconut oil.
Chemical Free Acne Treatment

My acne skin care army!

And that’s all I do!

So how is it working?

I would love to report that my skin is acne free after doing this for about 2.5 months.  It’s not, but I don’t blame the beauty regime.  My skin has improved somewhat and feels healthier, despite still being heavily broken out.

Why the lack of substantial improvement? I blame my diet.  You see, going natural with what we’re putting on our face only works when we’re going natural with what we’re putting in our body.  Paula recommends that individuals get plenty of water and eat a nutritious, veggie-rich diet.  Over the past 2.5 months (okay, a little longer), my veggie-rich lifestyle has crashed and burned.  So to summarize, I am sticking to the beauty regime and forcing myself to commit again to my plant-strong eating habits and then seeing how my skin looks.

Why does what you eat even matter?

Despite being told for years  by every dermatologist and skin care “professional” I encountered that my diet had nothing to do with my skin, scientific research proves them all wrong!

Much of our Standard American Diet (SAD) causes numerous health problems for us.  Looking just at acne, the nutritional cause can be overly-simplifiedto be caused by the intake of dairy and sugar, as well as from some nutritional deficiencies in the good stuff that arms our bodies with anti-inflammatory agents.  Kris Carr has a fabulous post on her site going in much more clear detail about the nutritional causes of acne, so I recommend you check that out.  Here is an excerpt:

The dietary pimple-producing culprits—dairy and sugar (in all its blood-sugar-raising forms)— cause spikes in certain pimple producing hormones. Dairy boosts male sex hormones (various forms of testosterone or androgens) and increases insulin levels, just as foods that quickly raise blood sugar (sugar and starchy carbs) spike insulin.

Androgens and insulin both stimulate your skin to make those nasty, embarrassing pimples.

While pimples are not as simple as too much milk or sugar in your diet, both have a significant impact. Nutritional deficiencies, as well as excesses, can worsen acne. Correcting common deficiencies, including low levels of healthy omega-3 anti-inflammatory fats, low levels of antioxidants such as vitamin E, zinc and vitamin A, and including an important anti-inflammatory omega-6 fat called evening primrose oil all may be helpful in preventing and treating unwanted pimples.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman looks at how to prevent acne with diet, as well.  Stating:

For years doctors have proclaimed that diet has nothing to do with acne. That reflects the nutritional ignorance of physicians and their inexperience in treating disease with superior diet. Scientific studies have demonstrated that the diet is very important, because what we eat can affect the hormones that contribute to the oil production, hyperproliferation, and inflammation that cause acne. The acne-promoting dietary factors that have been most extensively studied are dairy products and high glycemic load foods – these factors influence hormonal (increase IGF-1 levels) and inflammatory factors increasing acne prevalence and severity.3,4

After reading what health experts such as Kris Carr, Dr. Fuhrman, JJ Virgin, and Paula Davis have to say about the relation between acne and diet, particularly acne and dairy, I have decided to go dairy-free.  I believe that my body has an allergy to dairy, which it manifests in my severe cystic acne.

When I was eating a more strict plant-based diet before moving back to Wisconsin in June, I had almost no dairy in my diet for six weeks and my acne almost completely disappeared.  I have faith that if I adhere to a plant-based lifestyle again that my acne will clear and, once again, the other health ailments I encounter will go away as my energy increases. I believe eliminating dairy and significantly decreasing my sugar-intake, coupled with the skin regime I outlined above, my acne will clear, and much of the scarring and skin damage the past thirteen years have wreaked will go away.

I will use this space to share my about this process and my progress.  Thank you for reading and your ongoing encouragement!