7 Lifestyle Changes That Helped My Skin
Dealing with bad skin is hard. Dealing with bad skin between the ages of 21-24 when you had perfect skin as a teenager and need to have your face in photos and videos is even harder. I'm sure you've probably heard me speaking before about how one of my PCOS symptoms just so happens to be acne (lucky me). And it's finally after years of not knowing what was wrong, and then trying to figure out the best way to ease my symptoms am I able to feel happy with how my skin is again.
I can't even find a way to sugarcoat it when I say that having acne destroys your confidence. I know there are people out there you have/had it worse than I did (mine was confined to the lower half of my face, the hormonal area) but it still does some damage to how you feel about yourself. Sometimes I still catch myself avoiding direct eye contact with people, or looking away hoping they're not looking at my skin, despite the fact there's nothing wrong with it anymore.
I spent months going to facialists, trying internal remedies that were meant to help (clays, ciders, vinegars, 'hair/skin/nails' mixes, herbal extracts, teas, vitamins, etc) and ploughing through skincare products like no tomorrow, and then I just stopped caring so much. I'd reached a point where I'd put too much into it and there was nothing left to care about anymore. I always try to stick by the philosophy that treating internal problems will do far more good than any external treatments, but at the time I had no idea what was wrong internally. I stopped trying a million different skincare products, and I stopped taking all my supplements, I also had a lot of other things going on in my life - so I gave up at that stage.
These are the simple lifestyle changes that I made which made a world of difference to my skin - I'm not going to touch on skincare products at all. These are just my personal experiences and reactions that I noticed in my body, so they may not apply to you directly, but if they help, that's awesome.
Water has always been a big one for me, I drink a lot of the stuff. There weren't any real changes that I made to this habit but I thought it was an important point to bring up, because it will make such a difference to how congested your skin is or isn't. I like to drink a minimum of 3L of water per day, sometimes up to 4L in summer. Keep in mind I live in a climate that's warm all year 'round and I exercise daily, so I may need a little more water than some.
I'm not a huge coffee drinker because I hate the shakes it gives me and the anxiety that looms a few hours after it. Every now and again I'll have a cup of coffee, and 2-3 days later I get a small breakout. Avoiding it all together is a good way for me to guarantee no random little breakouts (especially when my skin was already very painful - see picture above from September 2016). This is definitely not the case for everyone, but if you have a few gut sensitivities like I do, perhaps it's time to ditch the coffee.
This took a little while to notice, as with any dietary change (stick to it!). Around mid last year I swapped to a low carbohydrate diet, keeping my carbohydrates under 100g per day as a way to alleviate some of my PCOS symptoms and hopefully regulate my cycle. If you're unaware, carbohydrates can directly impact your testosterone levels via the spiking of insulin. After 2-3 months of having a diet which was lower in carbohydrates my skin began to calm down. There were still a lot of issues with the texture and damage that needed to be repaired, but I could see that it was changing.
I've currently been in ketosis for 3 months now (it was far easier to transition to this from a low carb diet than it would have been from how I was eating before - an even balance of carbs/protein/fat). Keto is very high in fats, which I find help my skin, and my insulin sensitivity, tremendously. At the moment I'm eating maximum 20-30g of carbohydrates per day, around 90g of protein, and 130-140g of fat. Having such a large amount of good fats in my diet (think: salmon, olive oil, macadamia oil, nuts, avocado, etc) works very well for my skin. This kind of diet definitely does not suit everyone, and some people might perform very poorly on it, but I'm finding it suits me.
Through the adaptation of my diet I've been able to start correcting the hormone imbalance which I discovered around the time I found out I had PCOS. Within the first two months of eating a low carbohydrate diet I was able to halve my free testosterone levels, and that continued to drop until it steadied off at a nice 11, which is inside the 'normal' range for females. Because my acne was hormonal (placement on the face can tell you this; my facialist knew I had PCOS before I even did because I was breaking out purely on my cheeks, jawline, chin and neck), making sure that I can keep my hormones in check is the key for keeping it under control.
Last year was very stressful for me, more-so than usual. My schedule is pretty jam-packed all the time, but it's full of things I love to do, and although sometimes the work hours can be long, I'm usually very happy doing what I'm doing. The stress came from my personal life, which had a lot of changes all go on at once, and I was subject to a lot of things which I am still trying to get past, but which I didn't, and wouldn't, share online. Thankfully now I'm at a point where I'm no longer in the whirlwind of it all and I'm able to start moving on and I can see a clearer path for myself. Having less stress in your life will allow your body to focus on actually healing itself, rather than dealing with the excessive amounts of cortisol it's producing.
This is what I did after my skin had stopped breaking out, but whilst all the scarring and pigmentation was still fresh. So fresh in fact that it looked like I still had acne, but my skin was just incredibly red, and very damaged. I went to Laser Clinics Australia (the Queens Plaza one for any Brisbane pals who might be reading), and after we made sure my skin was no longer breaking out we started skin needling (derma rolling). My skin technician used a 1.5mm roller every time (which is the longest length they had available), and I had 6 treatments in total - one every 4 weeks. The principle behind skin needling is that when you create 'micro-wounds' the body sends fresh blood, white blood cells, collagen and elastin to the area to repair the damage, and while it's repairing the needling damage, it's also repairing the scarring and pigmentation at a quicker rate than it would have previously.
LEAVING IT ALONE
Just stop touching your skin. Staring in the mirror, analysing it to bits, picking/scratching/whatever else you do to it is terrible. Stop touching your skin and leave it to a professional to do extractions and microdermabrasion if it's really clogged up. Those sort of treatments are very affordable now, and it will minimise your chance of spreading the infection and making your skin worse. Picking at it yourself can also cause bad scarring (and pitting) to happen, which just ruins the texture of your skin when the acne is finally gone.
It's important to remind yourself that end the end of the day it's just skin, it's not who you are as a person. I know it can effect your confidence, and even change your behaviours because of that, but it's up to you to remind yourself that you can get through it. Dealing with acne can be difficult, but I believe it's your body sending you an alarm bell that something isn't right. You don't get acne for no reason, so start investigating it and figure out what your body is trying to tell you.
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