This is the second part of the My Journey to Clear Skin series. You can view the first part here and the third part here.

If you’ve suffered from any kind of acne, gut issues, or hormonal issues, you know how hard it is to diagnose the exact problem. I had IBS (which is a whole other blog post that I’ll work on) for 22 years before I was diagnosed or even introduced to the idea that I may have it. I went to doctor after doctor and their only answer was meds. So, I went on them and they kind of worked. I was still breaking out though. Everyone in my life was basically telling me to wash my face more. Ugh. I literally cringed when I heard those words. Everyone around me thought it was a topical thing, but I was trying everything in the book. Trust me, I know people were trying to help but I was sick of hearing the same thing over and over again and not seeing any results.

Once I moved to San Diego 5 years ago, I went to a naturopathic doctor (the doctor I shared my acne photo with in my first acne post here). They can be one of the most helpful doctors but can be very expensive, since insurance doesn’t cover it. After spending $$$ on meds, doctor’s appts, aesthetician’s, proactive, other creams, and everything else people recommended, I was willing to try anything.

We sat down and we discussed the many issues I was having, specifically, my digestive system issues, hormonal issues, and of course, my acne. My acne was always top priority because it was the first thing people saw. Yes, there were more important issues I was experiencing, but the world didn’t see them.

I had basically every blood test in the book done, and there wasn’t any signs of any hormonal balance or anything that was alarming. Which honestly, seemed like the story of my life. Nothing ever came up, yet, I was breaking out like crazy for 6 straight years. It was so frustrating. The naturopathic doctor saw my hormonal issues as a priority. She wanted to get to the root of that problem. She had me eat 3 full meals a day and add more fish into my diet. I’m a huge snacker, so truthfully, sometimes I would skip a meal because I snacked so much. She had me go on: DIM, a supplement that helps balance out your hormones (this stuff is amazing, btw!), Vitamin D, Vitamin B Complex Plus, Vitanica Women's Phase I (I’m maybe on my 10th bottle of this stuff, it helps with every PMS symptom in the book and honestly a gift to the world, hello no mood swings!). She was definitely very specific with the brand of vitamins I use. They’re not all created equal.

After a couple of months of just doing that, I was still experiencing the usual breakouts. A month after that, I had my worst breakout ever (posted a photo of it here). This was when I emailed her a photo of my face (I was traveling abroad) and she suggested upping my supplements. I was also doing my own research and it seemed like I had high levels of estrogen. From experience, balancing hormonal issues takes a long time. Although, I 100% had imbalanced hormones, it wasn’t the only issue I had.

Once I got back to San Diego, a coworker suggested I go to an allergist and also suggested I give up gluten and dairy. She knew it worked, from experience. I had a doctor and aesthetician mention cutting out dairy and gluten but they never made a big deal of it. They were more set on their other suggestions, so I never made it a priority. I was too busy trying their other highly recommended suggestions.

It really hit me when I was at the allergist and he told me,

“stop looking for a diagnosis and try cutting foods out until you figure out what’s triggering the acne”

It’s true. I was always looking for a diagnosis. I saw a diagnosis as an easy way out, ya know? It would tell me what was wrong and then I would google it and google would tell me ways to fix it. Well, instead, the doctor recommended I follow an elimination diet (which I’ll write a whole post on) but basically, it’s a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods that may be causing allergies and in my experience, digestive reactions. Then you reintroduce the food one at a time in order to determine which foods you’re able to tolerate and which you are not.

So I gave up many things I loved in my diet:

  • Coffee

  • Gluten

  • Dairy

I added anything with probiotics and collagen into my diet:

I also kept taking all the supplements the doctor recommended, in addition to others. As they were working for my hormonal/digestive issues I was having:

My biggest surprise was the coffee. I had 2 friends tell me to cut it out about a year prior but I was in complete denial. I refused to believe coffee caused acne. It actually isn’t the caffeine (luckily! Hello new tea drinker), It’s the coffee beans itself.

In just 3 months of cutting out and adding the above, I went from breaking out all over my face to getting maybe a breakout a month. The acne that I had for 6 years, basically gone. Just like that. Not only was my acne barely visible anymore, but I was no longer on any meds for my IBS. I still get chills from it. I had a leaky gut and had no idea what that even meant. In college, I was all about the ramen and pasta sides. Obsessed with them. Give me a plate of Alfredo and I’m in heaven. I was always dairy obsessed. It all makes sense now. So two years out of the rut, I for sure had a leaky gut and hormonal issues. But instead, I only saw it as an acne issue.

I’ve learned good digestion is essential for gut health and gut health is essential for clear skin.

My journey to clear skin has taken YEARS and although I don’t breakout like I used to, it’s still a work in progress. I still breakout here and there, especially during that time of the month or when I’m eating too much sugar, dairy, or gluten. During the holiday season this year I was breaking out more than usual and I cut out sugar, dairy & gluten and just like that, it was gone again. It was also pretty ironic because I was in the middle of writing this blog post. Here I’m thinking I finally cured it but was it making a come back? From this entire experience, I learned that not everyone is the same and just because something worked for me, does not mean it will work for you. It’s all trial and error, just don’t give up and be open minded to what may be the cause of it all.

If you experienced something similar, please share! I’m sure everyone wants to know what worked for you so they can add it to their list to try.