My six-word memoir might read something like this: Acne-ridden girl grows into acne-ridden woman.
But really. I’ve been battling breakouts since the millisecond I hit puberty. At the solidly adult age of 25, it’s safe to say that this is not simply a case of stubborn teenage hormones.
For most of my life, looking in the mirror has meant seeing all of my blemishes — the old, the new, the fading dark spots, the suspicious red or lumpy patches that will soon give birth to pimples. I understand now how much of my self-esteem has been tied to the condition of my skin.
My face is still not exactly clear, but my attitude has sure come a long way. Were it not for my obsession with trying to understand what was causing my lifelong plague of acne, I never would have discovered the Paleo lifestyle. Indeed, “going Paleo” changed everything. Over several years of (mostly) cutting out grains and processed foods from my diet, my acne has lessened, my brain fog has lifted, my pants size has dropped (slightly), and most importantly, my confidence has slowly been climbing.
If it weren’t for so many despairing years wondering how to get rid of acne, I wouldn’t have come to understand firsthand just how much food affects, well, everything! For anyone wanting to read up on the Paleo or Primal philosophies, I recommend Mark Sisson’s book The Primal Blueprint, Loren Cordain’s The Dietary Cure for Acne, or William Davis’s Wheat Belly (definitely one of the greatest titles ever).
My goal in writing this post is not to market the Paleo life, but rather to say this: A major turning point for me was realizing that having acne can actually be a blessing.
Acne is a symptom. A very complex, frustrating, and mysterious symptom. I’m not about to attempt to go into the science of insulin resistance and hormones and vitamins. But we understand more and more the connection between diet and skin conditions. If you use your acne as a signpost indicating deeper problems, begin to investigate your eating and other lifestyle habits, and start to understand what your body is trying to tell you via the state of your skin, you just may save your body much suffering later on.
My acne was and still is trying to tell me things: Eat less sugar, get moving, eat vegetables, cut the wheat, lay off the harsh face wash chemicals, and please for the love of God try to CALM DOWN.
I’m still learning to listen, and I still get breakouts. I break out because I still eat sugary yogurt, occasionally indulge in pizza or whatever else tickles my fancy, and I generally feel pretty stressed. But my skin has improved drastically over the last couple of years. Several people have remarked how nice my skin looks and even described it as glowing or radiant.
For an acne sufferer, these compliments are enough to elicit tears of joy.
You also start to learn that people don’t notice acne as much as you might think.
If you’re struggling with stubborn acne, examine what you eat. Check out the books I’ve suggested. Chances are, you have other irritating physical symptoms that may come from a poor diet — IBS, fatigue, mood swings, being overweight or underweight, or whatever else. Get to understand what makes you feel bad, and what makes you feel good. Adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
I still hate my acne. But when it flares up, I take it as a reminder to examine how I am treating my body — particularly, what I am consuming. The more we practice tuning in to what feels good and what feels right for our bodies, the more beautiful we will look, and most importantly, the more beautiful we will feel.