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I. Origin + Treatment Philosophy

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. 

Origin:

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.



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