Hi everyone. I'm shocked to see how many hits these posts are getting. For anyone out there who wants to be updated; I have since stopped using topical probiotics for several reasons.
1. My acne fluctuated between mild and severe over the course of almost a year, never keeping a consistent trajectory of improvement. I used probiotic spray up to four times daily.
2. In my experience, topical probiotics don't work even if you ditch your facial cleanser which supposedly kill the friendly bacteria you need. My acne actually became significantly worse when I was just using water and topical probiotic spray.
In the past week, I've managed to drastically improve my skin with a totally different ingredient altogether. My acne had gotten worse after the water-only method and in a desperate attempt I decided to try diluted apple cider vinegar. The results were almost unbelievable. I have read the reviews for ACV on acne.org and I noticed that it didn't work for everyone. And it may not work for you.
Acne is cured at the source and not at the symptom. My personal journey with acne began when I was 18 and started wearing makeup. Because everyone had told me wearing makeup to bed was horrible and unhealthy, I scrubbed my face clean with TWO kinds of cleansers every night. Over three years, my face broke out from one or two pimples to full blown cystic acne on both cheeks, forehead and chin. I had never stopped using cleanser during that time. I attribute my horrible skin condition to prolonged overwashing, prolonged exposure to BP and clindamycin. My point here is I know the cause of my acne. My skin had completely lost its ability to function after years of abuse. It no longer performed the functions of protecting itself from bacteria and dryness that it did when I was a teen. And I sought to repair it.
Everyone who HAD clear skin up to the point where they started using facial products should consider the fact that your body is built with everything that it needs to care for itself. Sometimes we wear down those functions with our obsession with "cleanliness." So I stopped using cleanser. And in addition, I read the research on ph levels and skin. I knew I needed my skin to be slightly acidic. I knew it needed to be hydrated. I know exercise is good and so is a balanced diet.
Combining all of this knowledge I came up with a routine to cure my acne from the source. It felt counterintuitive but I dont use cleanser at all. I use cotton pads dipped in organic safflower oil to gently wipe my face. I splash some lukewarm water on it, wipe dry and apply diluted apple cider vinegar to the skin. (It's important to dilute. I did 1 part acv to 2 parts water). I let the acv dry and apply a few drops of safflower oil to hydrate the skin. This is done twice a day, taking extra care to be very gentle on the skin. This is combined with exercise 3x a week and many vegetables, no dairy except for kefir which is probiotic.
In one week, nearly all pimples faded. No new ones formed. The acv was the only change I made to my routine so I can be certain it is making a difference. Its also important to note that a different cause calls for a different solution. If your acne is more hormonal, this may not help.
Thanks for reading. I'll update again soon.
----update 3 days later--- I decided to test my theory about the connection between overwashing and acne. The last time I used cleanser was over a week ago. During that time I had almost no new bumps.
Saturday afternoon, I used Cerave hydrating cleanser after the gym. I used safflower oil afterwards as a moisturizer.
By Sunday evening, I had approximately three new pimples.
It can't be confirmed nor denied completely until I once again remove cleanser from my routine. Will update.
Really exciting news. I recently purchased a new AO Mist from Mother Dirt. With just ONE night, I saw reduced redness, no new break outs! Miracle? Probably not. Just taking care of your skin's bacterial ecosystem.
Other factors that have contributed to this breakthrough: change in pillow cases, 1 cup of kefir per day, gentle exfoliation with oxy pads, NO LONGER SLEEPING WITH WET HAIR.
My skin had been slowly improving since my last probiotic update. Since that time, I've reintroduced kefir into my diet which has brought probiotics into my gut digestive system. I changed my pillow cases. And one surprising factor: sleeping with completely dry hair.
Driven by curiosity, I decided to research the dangers of sleeping with wet/damp hair. My mom has always told me not to do it but she never told me why. I found that sleeping with wet/damp hair, especially if you have a bad habit of tying your hair up after you shower, promotes bacteria/fungal growth on your scalp. Bacteria thrive in damp, warm locations. There's no better place than your scalp! The result is an itchy/flaky scalp. Imagine what passes from your damp bacteria filled hair to your pillow every night? Sickened by this, I no longer shower at night. I changed my pillow cases and the improvements showed within days. And it exponentially improved within the first two sprays of Mother Dirt's topical probiotic. I will continue to monitor the progress.
In my previous post titled I. Origin + Treatment Philosophy, I mentioned using a probiotic spray. Since, then I have been spraying twice a day for about two weeks. Unfortunately, I discontinued my use of Mother Dirt's AO mist because it is too expensive for my student budget at 50 dollars a bottle. In addition, it only lasts a month. I'll keep this update short. I ran out of my AO mist and haven't been able to replenish it. My skin has been getting worse. It took about two weeks for it to show but the difference is significant.
There are too many other factors at play to know for certain if the lack of AO mist is the culprit for new breakouts. I have also in the past two weeks; eaten cookies (sugar) and gluten (whoops), slept at ungodly hours of the night, been stressed out because of exams and I've had more than a few drinks.
There are a few of these factors that I will be eliminating to see if I should really get another bottle of AO mist. For now, I will focus on going back to a sugar-free, gluten-free diet. If that doesn't work, sleeping earlier and alcohol will have to be cut. And if none of those work, I will have to buy another bottle of AO mist.
I am quite certain that the AO mist is the ultimate factor in my healing. Again, I encourage everyone to research skin microbiomes. If Mother Dirt is too expensive for your budget, there is another topical probiotic spray called Probiotic Action at 14 dollars a bottle.
In this initial post, I want to share my origin story with acne. I think it's important for everyone to note the causes of their acne (when and why it started) in order for them to find the most effective treatment. I will then share my treatment philosophy following the origin story.
In the next entry, I will post a break down of my goals as well as possible obstacles I might face.
Like a lot of people, I had clear skin in high school. My skin care routine was to wash my face twice a day with just water and a towel. I had break outs maybe once or twice a month. My diet included a healthy mix of vegetables, meat, grains, fruits. My parents strictly prohibited sugary drinks and we rarely ate processed food. I also drank a lot of green tea. I didn't have to think much about my skin.
When I was 17, I had a yearly check-up with my doctor. I just so happened to have a couple break outs on my face on that day. My doctor noticed it and prescribed me a strong benzoyl peroxide wash, clindamycin (a topical antibiotic), and topical Retin-A (speeds up regeneration of cells). I didn't question it. I didn't think there was any harm in using these medications so I applied them religiously as my doctor instructed. I used these three medications daily for the following year. The summer before college started, I was running out of the medications. I never had the time to get them refilled. Plus, my skin was looking amazing so I didn't care.
College classes were starting and I decided to dabble more in make up. I started using more products on my face; face washes, make up removers, oils, strips, foundations, primers. This is when the break outs began. And I no longer had my medications, nor did my insurance cover these medications any longer. It started with one or two on my cheek. And over the course of the year, it spread from one cheek to the other. And now in my second year of college, it has spread to my forehead, chin, temples. It's everywhere. It's inflamed, red, scarred, pigmented. I can't leave the house without concealer. My confidence has plummeted. It's devastating. And for most of us on this website, I'm sure you understand how crushing it is to wake up, look in the mirror and want to be someone else.
Over the course of these two years, only two things have provided a significant improvement in my skin; 1. Severe diet restriction (this is when I had money issues and couldn't afford much food. Mostly peanut butter sandwiches, brown rice, tomatoes, eggs, fruit, very small meals) And daily exercise 2. No make-up, No products (just a dime-sized amount of cerave wash twice a day and organic cold-pressed sunflower oil for moisturizer)
At its current state, my skin is the worst it's ever been. It saw improvement last year but I fell back into my old ways and it got much worse. After a lot of reflecting about my skin history, I can safely attribute my skin's sensitivity with the prolonged use of prescription-grade benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics and Retin-A followed by immense stress from school, the exposure of hundreds of different chemicals through skin products, and finally, a major change in sleep, diet, overall lifestyle due to my leaving the care of my parents.
The Treatment Philosophy:
I spend a lot of my free time researching acne treatments. I've done oil cleansing, watching ph, acv, lotion p50, glycolic acid, clay masks. Nothing worked. I realized I was looking for a quick fix, a magic potion. But nothing was going to magically cure my skin.
Because of my specific skin history, I decided the best treatment for me will be topical probiotics and holistic health. I decided on this approach after learning more about microbiomes from Chris Kresser, a famous advocate for the paleo lifestyle and holistic healing. Here is an article from his website about skin microbiota. His approach to skin (and overall health) is to treat it as an ecosystem, populated by several bacterial strains; some bad and some good. In the article, he promotes a company called Mother Dirt (I'm not sponsored). Mother Dirt backs up their products with real undeniable evidence. Why is acne a virtually non-existent health issue in hunter-gatherer societies that still thrive today? They don't use products and their skin contains good bacteria. The argument they make is that the micro-organisms that make up a healthy skin ecosystem are wiped out by modern day "skin care" products. It just makes sense. The science behind microbiomes is growing and I encourage everyone to research and educate themselves. I have done the homework and I recently purchased Mother Dirt's AO Mist, a LIVE probiotic spray. I have only begun using it for a few days but the results are unbelievable. I am not promoting this product as the fix-all, magic potion. It may not work for you. Please evaluate carefully your skin history and overall health. But for my purposes, the AO Mist is indispensable. My skin is far from cured but it is making progress.
The second angle to my treatment is to consider my holistic health; in other words, my health as a whole. Every aspect of my life must be considered; diet, sleep, environment, mental health, exercise. In order to be the most effective, I have adopted a lifestyle change that I support and have done extensive research on; the paleo diet. There are some personal modifications I've made to better fit my personal needs but in summary my diet will include foods that existed pre-agricultural revolution; organic, non-gmo, whole, nutrient dense foods. I will reincorporate as much exercise as I can, consisting of interval cardio and strength building. As for mental health (which could honestly be a blog on it's own), I will reincorporate therapy, meditation, journaling, positive thinking and I will work to build healthy, supportive networks. I will dedicate time to create aesthetically pleasing, clean, organized and safe spaces within my apartment. I will prioritize sleep and health as the school year begins.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the readers of my blog. Please feel free to follow, share, comment. Success will not be possible without a supportive network. This blog is very methodological but I also want this space to be uplifting and positive! Please spread the love! Thank you - C.