I had stubborn cystic acne from October 2011 to April 2017. I finally cured my cystic acne that was all over my forehead, cheeks, chin, and even my back by addressing my food allergies and treating my acid reflux. This was after quite some time trying to figure out what was the root cause of my acne because merely treating the symptoms of it, the acne itself, was not helping. Read on to find how I healed my acne by focusing on my food allergies and acid reflux.
My Arduous Journey With Acne
By March 2016, I was already 4.5 years into dealing with acne. The left side is actually when my skin looked “better”. It had been much worse than this.
You know how everyone in high school gets pimples? Well, I didn’t except for one or two around my period. I led an acne free life, and yes, I took that for granted! All of a sudden at the end of 2011, at age 24, I started getting acne all over my face. I thought acne was just for kids, not women in their 20s!
It started out as a cluster of “normal-sized” pimples on my forehead. I finally knew what pizza face meant, and as much as I loved pizza, I’d rather be eating it than it hanging around my forehead. After a few months, the pimples on my forehead started making moves.
No they didn’t go away. They just decided to spread around my whole face because the forehead wasn’t prime real estate enough for them… or something.
They moved down to my cheeks and chin, and this time, they weren’t just “normal-sized” pimples. They were HUGE and deep. The pain was awful too. I couldn’t believe that something so relatively tiny to the rest of my body could cause a lot of pain. Even when I wasn’t touching them, my face felt bruised.
October 2014 at My Bridal Shower – Wearing Makeup Didn’t Cover My Acne
As you could imagine, I was devastated. This no-makeup natural woman started to wear makeup, but you know how it goes, make-up or not, I was self-conscious. Plus at the end of 2014, I got engaged, and in 2015, I had my wedding to look fab for! Great timing, right?
Anyways, after much trial and error and learning a lot more about my body than I ever thought I would, my acne finally went away in the beginning of 2017.
What I Tried But Didn’t Work
Anyways, from 2012 – 2016, my acne attacked my face daily and made my poor soul hurt. Every time I looked in the mirror, I gagged a little bit, and I had to relearn in this time period to love myself for who I was on the inside, not by the number of red dots on my face. Here’s everything I tried to make my acne go away:
- Self-love— Get ready for some hippie dippie sh*t. I didn’t start doing this until a few months of this horrendous battle, but I thought perhaps that my own mind was poisoning me and that my acne was getting worse because I was drawing so much negative attention to it. I even read posts about people who looked in the mirror everyday and said, “I love and accept myself for who I am” and healed their acne that way. That didn’t work for me, BUT I would recommend this practice to anyone, not just anyone who has acne. Good lesson, but I needed something stronger, or at least, something faster.
- Over-the-counter products— Of course, my first reaction to getting new pimples was use over-the-country products from a pharmacy. “They” say you’re supposed to give you new product one to two months to really start seeing the effect of it, and I did. I waited and waited, and you know how it went, it didn’t do anything.
- Prescription topical medicine— After I tried over-the-counter products for a couple of months without any success, I saw a dermatologist. He prescribed harsh topical medicines that only treated the pimples aka the symptoms. He did not look into why my body was producing these pimples. At one point, he suggested me taking oral prescriptions for this, but I read so many accounts online about how these antibiotics can mess up your gut and body balance. I declined this medicine as to not further mess up my body.
- Caveman method— For a couple of weeks, I only washed my face with water to let my skin naturally do its thing. I also watched a ton of Youtubers doing this for weeks. After week one, I couldn’t handle it, nor did it help.
- Apple cider vinegar— The acidity in the apple cider is supposed to cut the bacteria on your skin and somehow restore the pH balance of your skin. This didn’t work. Also, note, if you try this, DO NOT put this vinegar on your face directly; dilute it with water.
- Tea tree oil— Tea tree oil is supposed to kill the bacteria on your skin, but again, because this was topical and not treating the root cause, it didn’t help. Again, dilute with water. DO NOT apply it directly.
- Hospital pillow covers— I even got to a point where I was so paranoid, I was using disposable hospital pillow sheets to swap out my pillow cover nightly! It was a bit crazy, and of course, it didn’t work.
What I Didn’t Do to Make My Acne Go Away
Change My Diet
I must’ve read 100 blog posts and watched 1000 YouTube videos saying that in order to get rid of my acne, I needed to stop eating junk food, add more fruits and vegetables into my diet, and drink eight cups of water a day. Plus, I should exercise daily. Well, I didn’t change my diet or exercise routine because as a New Yorker, I walked five miles a day naturally, drank eight cups of water, and ate plenty of fruits and vegetables a day.
For breakfast, I actually drank a homemade cold-pressed juice in the morning of apple, carrot, kale and celery, and for lunch, would eat a handful of baby tomatoes, green beans, or whatever veggies I had. Then for dinner, I either went out with friends or cooked protein and veggies at home.
Of course, I ate poorly when I went out to eat or would get street food, but overall, my diet was pretty damn healthy so I wasn’t going to change it ’cause I didn’t know really how to! I already did the things that every blogger said I should be doing.
If you don’t eat a “healthy” diet, then perhaps for you, switching up your diet would help, especially if you eat lots of dairy. I am lactose intolerance so dairy’s not in my diet, but dairy and sugar are huge culprits for cystic acne because they cause inflammation in the body! Try (sadly) cutting those out for 3 weeks and see what happens.
On that note, my diet was actually NOT healthy for me and was one of the major causes of my diet. Keep reading to find out what in my diet made my skin freak out.
Take Prescription Medicine for Acne
My dermatologist recommended me taking an oral antibiotic after months of the topical prescription creams not working, but this is definitely something I did not want to do. First off, your acne gets WORSE before it gets better when taking these, and ugh, worse than it already is? No thank you! Second, antibiotics– enough said. Reasons why i didn’t want to do this.
Stop Picking at My Acne
Oh my, this was a hard one. Now this is something I definitely should’ve stopped doing, but I couldn’t resist. Who can? I would pick at the pimples coming in, and guess what, my skin started scarring! I looked this up online, and apparently, Asian skin scars more than a Caucasian person’s skin. So on top of all my acne, I had a handful of scars that made my acne look worse.
The Only Thing That Worked (Temporarily)
Clear Skin on My Wedding Day!
After two years of trying everything I mentioned above, I was getting hopeless. My wedding was five months away, and my skin looked awful. All a bride wants for her wedding is clear skin, right? Ok, maybe clear skin, clear skies, everything to go smoothly, and 100 other things…
As a temporary fix, I decided to go to a facialist again, but this time, a more expensive one. Normally, I’m not one to spend a lot on beauty treatments. My usual routine consisted of going on Groupon, finding a relatively inexpensive facialist, Googling the company or person briefly to see if it was good enough for the price, and go. This time around, I did some proper research and found Facials by Bonnie. I was hoping that she could possibly help me out for the wedding, but I didn’t hold my breath. I wasn’t expecting much.
But wow! When it comes to a facialist, perhaps, more money DOES mean better results! I only went to Bonnie twice, and she did wonders for my skin. I started seeing her two months before my wedding, and by the time my wedding came around, I only had 1-2 pimples on my skin, and a lot of the scars were gone too. It was amazing! I glowed on my wedding day thanks to her.
That being said, having an excellent aesthetician really made all the different, but after my wedding, I couldn’t shell out $150+ per session so I stopped going, and as it goes with any topical treatment, it only worked as long as I was seeing her. I was so grateful for her help as she was also a super kind person with a warm, motherly vibe (yes it felt like home when I stepped into her office), but I had to keep digging deeper into how to heal my acne.
What Finally Healed My Acne Permanently
At some point in my non-stop acne healing research, I came upon a Chinese face map that pointed out different parts of the face correlate to different parts of the body. Although my acne was really everywhere, I pinpointed exactly where the problem areas were: my cheeks, chin, and forehead.
These spots apparently meant I had issues with allergies, hormones, and general lung issues, which made sense because I have asthma, and at the time, lived in New York City, a very polluted city.
Cutting Out Foods I’m Allergic To
I immediately went to the doctor’s and requested an allergy test, and WOW! This was the start of something wonderful… or terrible… depending on how you view it. I found out that I’m allergic to carrots, apples, celery, green beans, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, peaches, cherries, cats, dogs, dust mites, pollen, cockroaches, and the list goes on and on…
This made a ton of sense since every morning for months, partly due to trying to fix my skin, I drank a homemade, fresh apple, kale, celery, and carrot juice. Then for lunch, I would eat raw tomatoes, green beans, and almonds. I was eating everything I was allergic to!
Overtime, the stuff I was allergic to was breaking down my stomach lining and messing up my digestive system. Once I cut all the food out that I was allergic to, got off birth control pill, regulated my hormones, and focused on my healing my digestive system, my acne started slowly going away.
In addition to cutting out these foods, I started taking these supplements to balance out my hormones and heal my digestive system:
A high quality probiotic to improve healthy gut bacteria. I bought this brand on March 18, 2015, and it’s been the most effective.
Note: I am not a doctor. These supplements are based on my own trial and errors. Please consult your physician before taking these.
Taking Care of My Acid Reflux
After cutting out the foods I was allergic to, I had much less pimples around my face in general, but the cystic ones on my cheek were extremely persistent. They wouldn’t go away until I finally address another stomach issue I had: acid reflux.
I had had acid reflux for years but because I had so many other health issues such as widespread nerve pain, tingling, and chronic muscle issues, acid reflux kind of fell off the list of things I needed to go to the doctor’s for. To be precise, I had acid reflux for 7 years before treating it.
Once I started taking Omeprazole, my cystic acne on my cheeks were finally going away!
Note: I do not recommend taking Omeprazole long-term. A lot of doctors get carried away and will prescribe this for life, but it can do more damage long-term than good. Take this until you feel like your gut is healing while making lifestyle changes like eating a anti-acid reflux diet and focusing on gut health.
Watching What I Eat
Ok so now that I stopped eating food I was allergic to and was managing my acid reflux, the final step in curing my cystic acne was watching what I ate. I’ve noticed on days I eat a lot of dairy or fat, I will get acne popping up around my face, or if my digestive health is poor, a lot of foods can trigger my acne even if normally they don’t.
Keep a journal of what you eat and how it affects your skin. Keep in mind that what you eat today can make something pop up on your skin in a couple of days!
My Skin Care Routine
Even though my food allergies and acid reflux were a huge cause of my acne, I still care of my skin diligently. Long gone are the days of my teenage years and early 20s when I would use any random store bought cleanser on sale and sometimes even forget to wash my face at night. Here’s my skin care routine.
For Cleaning My Face
I use Dr. Organic Tea Tree Face Wash, which helps balance the pH of your skin and cleans it well. This cleanser is also AMAZING at taking off my makeup fully.
About three times a week in the morning, I switch out the Dr. Organic Face Wash for The Face Shop Cleansing Oil Moisturizer, which is great for pushing whiteheads and blackheads to come out and brightening your skin. You use the oil by rubbing it on your face for 5 minutes. Afterwards, you’ll see and feel tiny white and blackheads on your hand as the oil attracts and pull out the oily substances on your face.
I discovered oil cleansing in my trial and error phases, and it really does help keep my skin clearer by taking out oil before it becomes a problem. If you haven’t heard of oil cleansing, the scientific idea behind it is that ‘like attracts like’ so the oil cleanser should attract the oily substances in your skin.
Don’t worry! It washes away clean and doesn’t make your skin oily.
After both the Dr. Organic Face Wash and the Cleansing Oil, I use Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Face Wash. So in the morning and at night, I wash my face with two cleansers in total.
For Treating Pimples
I don’t really get pimples anymore except for during my period or if I eat foods that my body doesn’t agree with like dairy, foods I’m allergic to, and greasy foods. When I do get pimples, I spot treat them daily so I don’t feel tempted to pick at them ’cause then that leaves scars.
I use this Differin Adapalene Gel, and dab a pit on my pimple every day until it goes away. But reiterating this, since I focused on my diet, I don’t really get pimples often anymore.
For Moisturizing My Face
Before I apply lotion during the day or at night, I use this Vitamin C serum that helps with acne scars and prevents future breakouts.
During the daytime, I use an inexpensive effective lotion with SPF to protect my face from the sun, and at night, I use a moisturizing night cream that repairs and restores the skin, which I need for my acne scars.
3x a Week
In the past month, I started using this handheld LED light skin device, which has done wonders for brightening my skin, healing my scars, and getting rid of bacteria on my face that might cause acne.
You basically use this three times a week, and switch between each LED light color, which do different things. For example, the blue LED light takes away bacteria from your face that might cause acne whereas the purple/white light brightens up dull spots on your face. I definitely recommend this!
What to Personally Take Away From My Experience
So you might not have food allergies or acid reflux, but what you can take away from my acne experience is that you should try to find the root cause of your acne. Acne is simply the symptom resulting from something deeper going on underneath the skin.
For a majority of people, it’s about:
- drinking 8 cups of water a day,
- eating more vegetables,
- taking out processed foods from your diet,
- taking out dairy and sugar from your diet,
- and exercising to get your toxins flowing.
For people like you and me who have tried the above without much relief, it might be gut, allergy, or hormonal related.
Whatever your root cause of acne is, keep trying to heal yourself within. Know that once you fix the root cause, you’ll be healthier overall, and you won’t have to rely on expensive products to keep your acne at bay. It’s a win-win!
It’s been over a year since I’ve had no cystic acne on my face! Finally! Now I have remnants of scars from the acne I had in the past, which are almost gone too because of my skin care routine above.
I hope my post helped clear your skin a bit. Good luck!
Thanks for stopping by! xo.
Can we stay in touch via Facebook?
Or perhaps Instagram? Your pick!
Thank you so much!