Thursday, 29 January 2015
What's Eating At Your Skin? [Hormonal, Acne Prone Skin]
Having dealt with acne/skin problems since I was 8 (yes, you did read that correctly!), it's been a long struggle to work out what works best for treating my skin. I'm sure anyone who had acne or spots when they were a teenager (and perhaps if you are a teenager or you have a daughter/sister/niece etc) knows that many of the products on the market in Boots/Superdrug/supermarkets that are aimed at blemish-prone skin all too often tend to make the issue worse. My older brother persistently used Clearasil which did nothing but strip his skin off and make his acne worse, eventually resorting a dermatologist prescribing him Roaccutane (a very strong drug that is used as a last resort and makes the skin very brittle whilst using it).
Fortunately I stayed well away from Clearasil though chopped and changed my face washes from Clean & Clear to Neutrogena.
I was never particularly contingent with my use of these products and would often go for hard abrasive scrubs or deep cleaning 'face wash-and-mask in one' type products, having been sold by the TV adverts that promised these products contained magic ingredients to clean deep into your pores and remove all blackheads.
Being the young, naive girl I was I totally believed all of this would come true yet would be disheartened after a couple of uses when my angry red blemishes, blackheads and under the skin spots would still persist, wrecking my confidence, meaning I'd give up using them until a few weeks later....
It wasn't until my Mum started treating me to Liz Earle's Cleanse and Polish, amongst the other products in the range, when I was about 15/16 that I started to get into a full on, regular skincare regime. This definitely helped to improve my skin though my skin was never truly clear.
Fast forward a few more years and many products later what I can really, truly say has helped my skin has been evaluating my diet.
All the while these fabulous products can do wonders just keeping the skin clean and nourished, your diet plays a huge part in keeping the skin looking and feeling healthy.
Last year I was finally diagnosed with PCOS having spent many, many years wondering whether or not I did (I'll write about this soon, promise). This gave me the biggest kick up the bum to really sort my diet out because I finally understood that due to a hormonal imbalance, that was a definite reason why my skin was constantly all over the place. And what plays a huge part in controlling your hormones? What you eat. And what one thing can seriously mess up your hormones, leading you to breakouts and painful cystic acne? Sugar.
Had I known when I was 14 that those triple chocolate cookies or chocolate muffins, or even multiple glasses of orange juice or 'healthy' yoghurts I'd have were most likely the root cause for my irregular periods and horrible skin, I like to think I'd have taken a step back and ease off them sooner rather than later.
What really helped to balance out my skin and my hormones was learning about nutrition and what foods did what to your body. As my mum always says 'spots thrive off of sugar', if you're struggling with spotty skin at the moment or you've got bad acne, do try to seriously cut down on your sugar intake.
Believe me, I know that it is hard. But the effects of waking up a week or so later to clear, glowing skin or at least minimal spots - there's nothing like it.
So, what shall you do?
Well, first of all lets just have a look at what you need to avoid...
- Fizzy drinks
- Alcohol (it pains me how much sugar there is in a glass of champagne or wine)
- Low-fat yoghurt (in fact, low fat anything)
- Cereal bars/cereal based 'snacks'/'breakfast biscuits'
- Shop bought fruit juices/smoothies
- Agave Nectar/other alternative 'healthy' sweeteners (stick to 100% maple syrup/coconut sugar/light brown sugar IF you ever find the need to use sugar....)
- Fruit (give me a moment....)
- And lay off the 'white stuff' if you can too (white pasta/bread/potatoes)
Instead, fill your fridge and kitchen cupboards up with...
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Nuts (unsalted, I love macadamias, pistachios and cashews)
- Dark chocolate, 70%+, thought preferably 85% and above
- Greek yoghurt (Fage Total Greek Yoghurt is the best you can get, and the 'non-essential', regular Waitrose Greek Yoghurt is brilliant too)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil/Coconut Oil
- Nut butters (without added sugar, look for the highest percentage of nuts you can find. The Real Peanut Butter Co & Meridian are great)
- Sweet potatoes and butternut squash
- Berries (lowest in sugar than all other fruits, and the tastiest in my opinion. Try getting some bags of frozen raspberries and stir it into a warm bowl of porridge - they start to 'defrost' and add so much flavour)
- Lean cuts of meat and fish (salmon is your new best friend)
- Veg, veg, veg...
It may seem like you've probably heard all of this before but I honestly cannot stress enough just how much switching your diet up and reducing the amount of sugar in your diet will work wonders on your skin. Although fruit is healthy, they still contain sugar (albeit natural however your body will metabolise them in the exact same way as any other sugar/sweetener - I'll post about this soon). Your body doesn't 'need' processed, sugary food and drink, and most definitely your skin doesn't.
Do try and find some good, nourishing products to actually clean your skin with. Una Brennan has a great, affordable line at Boots that I'd really recommend if you're young/on a budget. Avoid foaming/gel cleansers, 99% of the time, they'll strip your skin. Get a good moisturiser and a face mask or two (one deep cleansing and one nourishing). A treatment such as the La Roche Posay Efeeclar Duo [+] will go down well with your skin too. Use a clean flannel everyday and stick them in a hot wash once you're done with them.
Hopefully this is useful for some of you. I intend to write some more posts regarding this topic in the future. Do you have any tips for reducing sugar intake or products that work best on acne prone skin?
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