Face Forward

December 10, 2016

Do you struggle with acne? How do you deal with cystic acne?

Typical Teenage Trauma

If I recall correctly, my acne breakouts started the year I turned 13.  When I look at pictures from my teenage years, I don't see much evidence of breakouts.  I honestly don't remember how frequent or severe they were but as a teenager they were definitely high on my list of traumatic events.  I do recall having one on the tip of my nose - and I still remember how it hurt when I heard a couple of the girls making fun of me for it.

I believe that my breakouts settled down in my late teens and early twenties as I have no memories of any specific events during that time period.  As they say, "no new is good news".  That changed, however, when I hit my early to mid-thirties, and it's been an on-again, off-again relationship with acne since then.  (As an aside, that was also around the time that my thyroid troubles began, but that's another story in another blog).


Around my mid-thirties I finally broke down and went to see a dermatologist.  And this dermatologist did exactly what all well-trained doctors do - he prescribed an antibiotic for me.  Minocin.  Did it work?  Yes, it did in that I no longer had any more breakouts.  My face did not exactly clear up.  I still had a number of bumps and lumps in some of my trouble areas but I no longer had the ugly red breakouts that I had been dealing with in recent years.

Unfortunately, this was the extent of help that I received from this doctor.  A year later, I was still on the minocin and I'm thinking this is really not a good long-term solution.  My insurance covered the cost financially but I feared my body was paying the price in ways that I didn't yet know or understand. Naturally the Doc is still convinced that the minocin is a good idea.  So I ditch that doc and I'm on my own again looking for a solution.

The Investigation Begins

Over the next 10 years or so I see my acne breakouts come and go.  I am cleaning up my diet during this period and starting to learn about some of my triggers.  Turns out that chocolate is not a big offender - YAY - as long as it's not the commercially prepared concoctions that show up in the local convenience stores.  Generally I don't buy any food-like products from the convenience stores anymore as they are not a part of my lifestyle.  

I found that one of the worst offenders seemed to be commercially prepared mayonnaise - and I suspect it's the oil in that product - so I have since worked to eliminate poor-quality oils from my diet.  When I turn down treats people often assume I am refusing the sugar.  Yes, sugar is also something I have drastically reduced in my diet.  More often, however, I don't eat the treats because I am also worried about the oils in them and how my face will react to them.  The prospect of yet another breakout is enough of a deterrent for me to pass up even the most delectable-looking and sweet-smelling desserts.

Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep

We've all heard this one before and yes, indeed, beauty is more than skin deep.  But as a long-term sufferer of acne, I can also vouch for the fact that acne can make a person feel ugly. The condition of my skin is a real game changer in terms of how confident I feel.  

And when my acne somehow morphed into cystic acne, that ugly feeling multiplied ten-fold.  I can't tell you the number of times I've skipped events or even called in sick to work because I simply felt so bad about my latest breakout.  Those cysts would appear almost overnight and last for weeks.  Trust me, that's a long time to feel bad about how you look!  Add to that the fact that cystic acne is incredibly painful - and it wasn't long before I once again sought out yet another dermatologist.  I didn't believe my diet was that bad that I should be suffering that much.  The first thing I told this dermatologist was that I wasn't interested in yet another prescription.  So what did this doc do then?  He proceeded to write out 3 different prescriptions for me - telling me I also had rosacea and I needed to treat that as well.  That was my first and last visit to that doc.

Gut Health 

Hippocrates said that "All disease begins in the gut".   And if that is the case, which I believe to be true, then that is where I needed to go to address my cystic acne.  So I did.  

Over the past few years, I have added a number of quality gut health products to my regimen.  Gut food, probiotics and enzymes.  Yes, I aim to eat healthy.  But I also know that good food alone will not heal my gut.  How much damage did I do to my gut microbiome taking antibiotics for a full year straight? No way to know.  That's not a strategy that I would ever repeat but, unfortunately, it's another lesson for me.  Too soon old, too late smart - as I like to say.

My gut is not yet healed, nor is my face.  But my cystic acne is mostly a thing of the past.  I still have breakouts but they are not as severe or as long-lasting.  So I know that I am making progress.  That means I am on the right path, and I'm sticking to it.  And as anyone who knows me will attest, I am nothing if not persistent.  

B - The Healthy Guerrilla





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