Let me begin by saying that the experience of acne is different for everyone. My grandfather had acne, my mother had acne, and my two brothers and I had acne, and every one of us had it differently. After years of having people tell me that my skin was “not that bad” when it was crushing my self-esteem and making me quit things I’d previously loved to do (like going to the beach or running track), I’ve learned that if you have persistent, stubborn acne, it will make you feel like you are out of control, even if it’s not “as bad” as someone else’s. I realize that my skin now is nowhere near where it was when I was a teenager pre-Accutane, but that doesn’t mean it’s not taking it’s toll.
I have SO MANY FEELINGS about this, but let’s move on, shall we?
Less about my feelings and more about how I’m becoming a total herbal weirdo in an attempt to clear up my face.
Disclaimer: 100% of this is either documentation for myself at the beginning of this experiment or hopefully helpful information for other super creeps furiously googling things like “angus castus acne” while panicking about their break outs. So, if you’re not into “before” photos and aren’t curious how to regulate your hormones with herbal supplements, you can probably skip this one. It’s okay. I’ll forgive you.
In my last post, I promised I’d talk all about my fancy new vitamins – and the day is upon us! I’ve just lived my first full 24 hours taking all the supplements I’d planned on, and I haven’t gotten sick or had any headaches, which were things I’d read were side effects. I’m entirely off of sugar, dairy, caffeine (except what’s in green tea, as I’m drinking a ton of that these days), and am phasing out gluten, at least for the time being.
I’m also not wearing face makeup anymore, as of this morning. Everything is drying up anyway and putting makeup on a scab is pretty much exactly as effective as it sounds. Still, though, despite the fact that this actually means progress, today was pretty humiliating. There’s nothing quite like having the one thing you are hugely self-conscious about being on display for all to see.
Before we get to the vitamins, here’s some hard-hitting photojournalism I call “The Records of My Face”:
19, pre-Accutane, miserable:
Just looking at these photos pains me. Seeing how much that girl hates herself is still traumatic, and I’ve been staring at these photos for years.
26, post-Accutane, on birth control:
Accutane left me with that horrible squint line down the center of my forehead, probably because it did irreparable damage to my skin’s ability to heal and then made my eyes so sensitive to light that I squinted all the time, so I have a massive wrinkle now. Still and all, though, it’s a win, I’d say.
December 2013, 27, taking supplements and not eating sugar:
Today, a day I went to work at my professional job:
Lovely. That’s what my adult face looks like right now. Today was a horrifying day of meeting up with bosses and other esteemed professionals (as well as students I am teaching) without wearing any makeup on that chin.
These five gems are the healing pimples. Everything else is scarring. Again, post-Accutane, my skins heals so slowly.
In addition to discontinuing the use of makeup, I’ve also stopped putting any acne treatments on my face. I gave up on salicyclic acid and benzoyl peroxide long, long ago – long before Accutane, actually – so what I mean is that I’ve stopped using a homemade goo made of nutmeg, cinnamon, and honey, and have ended my brief love affair with tea tree oil. I’m washing my face with warm water only.
I figure, at this point, I’ve done everything but just let my skin heal up on its own. Therefore, have at it, Skin! Get well soon, pretty please!
So, I’m cleaning up my diet, I’m not spreading pale-ghost-tone shellac on my face in the morning, and I’ve stopped spot-treating with goo. On to the supplements!
For the last week, I’ve been taking the same course of supplements I took at home in LA: a multivitamin, cod liver oil, flaxseed oil, and beta carotene. The multivitamin is mostly because, prior to cutting out sugar and only buying whole foods at the grocery store as of last Monday, I am a terrible eater and felt bad for my bones. Cod liver oil, flaxseed oil, and beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A in the body) are good for the skins.
On Saturday, I added agnus castus and burdock root to the mix. The last time I tried agnus castus (a hormonal regulating herbal supplement also known as Vitex or chaste berry), I got splitting headaches for two days and stopped taking it. After doing some research, I learned that ol’ Agnus can cause hormonal headaches if not taken with a liver detoxifier like burdock root or milk thistle, also (you guessed it!) herbal supplements. Burdock is said to “cleanse the blood” and ease inflammation. I’ve taken agnus castus and burdock at the same time for four days now and have had no headaches, so despite the fact that writing about blood cleansing herbs makes me feel a bit like a maniac, I’m inclined to say it works?
Just last night, I started DIM, or diindolylmethane, which is a natural plant extract taken from cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. It has an incredible reputation for restoring hormonal balance in people who are total messes, like yours truly. In fact, I was a bit intimidated by DIM – I’ve read such amazing stories about it’s success that I thought 1) this shit is powerful and 2) this shit could be really disappointing. (Any product with 270 ratings and four stars on Amazon is something to be loved and feared.) According to all the literature I read (and there was a lot), DIM works by detoxifying the liver and promoting the production of “good” estrogen, which aids in the balance of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.
It is entirely too soon to report on any possible benefits (or terrible problems), but I’ve been taking all of these together (with food), and thus far, I have not had headaches or nausea or other crazy side effects. This is huge, because my body is pretty prone to sensitivity freak outs (as evidenced by the fact that I’ve had acne for the majority of my adult life). In addition, there appear to be the trappings of healing happening on my face.
Despite not wanting to put the cart before the horse, because the only pills that work within 24 hours are pain relievers and narcotics, I am extremely optimistic about the improvements all this will make. I am being extremely careful about what I’m ingesting now and regardless of how obnoxious and granola all of this sounds, I really believe that there’s no arguing that what you put in your body impacts what you get out of it. I’m making a conscious effort to change the way I treat myself, and I’m hoping I can see improvement in how I feel and (obviously) in how I look.
I’m doing literally every single thing differently than I have in the past – cleaning up my diet, taking aim at the root of the hormonal issues, not touching my face or painting it with chemicals, letting my skin heal on it’s own, despite how embarrassing and unsettling it is for me to do so – and I’m hoping it makes a difference.
Fingers and toes crossed.