Hey everyone! I have been lurking on the Acne.org boards for some time now, but this is my first time to post. After living with persistent back acne for about six years, I’ve finally found a way to stay clear! I know everyone’s acne has different causes, and what works for me may not work for you, but I wanted to share my story just in case it could help someone out there. Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts!
I’m female, 20 years old. My acne began ~6 years ago, at 14.
My breakouts have only been body acne – my face has always stayed relatively clear. At 14 or so, my acne started out as light shoulder acne, but progressively got worse until my back and shoulders usually had 2-3 cysts at a time, with milder acne covering most of my upper back, and some on my lower back and chest. At its worst, my back acne was between moderate and severe. The frustrating thing was that it just kept spreading – farther down my back and onto my chest to the point that I couldn’t wear anything but a crewneck without showing my breakouts. Topical treatments didn’t do much either, and I tried several:
Neutrogena anti-acne body wash
I never had great results with topical treatments, although I wasn’t super faithful with all of them. AHA left a sticky residue on my shirts, and BP bleached them and spread in the wash, so neither were great options. I still use Dan’s cleanser and Neutrogena acne body wash to cut oil, but I don’t think it has a huge effect on my skin.
My cure? Diet.
Since age 11, until about 3 months ago, I was a vegetarian – so for 9 years total. While I felt great during my early years of vegetarianism, it eventually began to take a toll on my body (although I didn’t make the connection until later). I always ate a fairly “healthy” diet: very little “junk food,” soda, etc. However, cutting out meat meant that carbs made up the bulk of my diet. I had a host of health problems… just random stuff, not feeling well, getting sick frequently, etc. Among my health maladies were some symptoms of high androgens, or a PCOS type hormonal imbalance – another link to acne.
Three months ago, I decided to switch back to meat for health reasons. Within a week, the texture of my skin notably improved. I was by no means clear, but adding in meat made a significant difference.
The final piece of the puzzle was sugar. Currently, after 26 days with virtually no added sugars of any kind, my back is almost completely clear. I have next to no active acne, and the significant scarring I once had is actually getting a chance to fade. My skin isn’t oily like it once was, either. Overall, I would say that my skin is 90% of the way to acne-free, and that’s in less than a month free from sugar.
What I avoid: Anything that is highly concentrated and sweet. No desserts or added sugar obviously, but I also avoid natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, etc. I stay away from dried fruit, fruit juice, and white grains too… basically anything with a high GI.
What do I eat? I focus on eating low GI and relatively low carb to prevent blood sugar spikes. My diet consists of mostly unprocessed food, a lot of fresh vegetables, healthy fats, dairy (no milk, just yogurt/cheese), and a good bit of protein. Eggs, meat, salads, etc. I do eat carbs, but try to keep them as minimal as practical (50-80 g/day) especially those with gluten. Fresh fruit is the only “sweet” thing I eat, and again, in moderation. I do make an exception for very small amounts of sugar added to non-sweet foods, like what’s in a sandwich wrap or certain condiments. In addition, I drink a good bit of tea (green tea is great) and hot apple cider vinegar water most days.
Cutting out sugar might not sound like a fun diet, but it’s honestly not as bad as it sounds. Sugar cravings disappear pretty quickly once you stop eating it regularly, and it’s smooth sailing from there on out. Losing the acne is definitely worth any sugar I’ve had to give up – it feels amazing!
So to sum up, if you have any inkling that blood sugar issues are playing a role in your acne… be it hormonal (PCOS, high androgens) or anything else, please give no sugar a try! Please let me know if you have and/or what you think.