Growing up, I had zero issues with acne. Didn’t get a single pimple during puberty and always had clear skin throughout high school and university.
I thought I was one of the lucky ones that would never have to deal with acne. And I 100% didn’t think I would be dealing with acne as an adult woman.
Like 99% of the girls I knew, I started taking the birth control pill in high school when I was about 15-16. I had no reason to take it. I wasn’t having sex, my skin was clear, and periods were completely normal. But, all my friends took the pill so I figured I should too.
My doctor gave it to me with no questions asked and out the door I went. Zero explanation of how it impacts the body (more on that later). Out the door I went with three months of oral contraceptives in hand. Popping a pill every day at breakfast became my routine for the next 9 years.
Over the next decade, I switched around to different pills like Alesse, Yaz, and Ortho Tri-Cyclen. When I was 20, my best friend told me about how awesome having an IUD was. I wouldn’t have to remember to take a pill every day and it lasted for 5 years.
I booked in to get an IUD and thought oral contraceptives were a thing of the past for me, Within a month, my skin started to break out. I had never in my life had a pimple but here they were at 20 years old.
They were super tiny, skin coloured bumps across my entire forehead, temples, and upper cheeks. It looked like wall to wall mini pimples. A month or so later, cystic acne started to form on my chin and jawline.
By month 6, I knew I had to get the IUD out. Back to the doctor I went.
I told her I wanted to IUD out because it was causing my skin to breakout. She told me there was zero way changing from the to an IUD was causing this to happen. I knew my body better and knew it 100% was.
Out came the IUD and back on the pill I went.
While the cystic acne lessened slightly, the littles bumps remained. My pores look 10x bigger and my skin was super oily. I also started noticing more whiteheads popping up.
I tried everything to resolve it.
Used the medicated ointments and prescriptions from my doctor religiously. No change.
Bought every acne skincare regime under the sun. Nada.
Went for monthly facials. Still had pimples.
I was doing all of this leading up to my wedding in the summer of 2014.
Up until about February of that year I had absolutely no idea that the birth control pill had any negative effects on the body — at all. My doctor had never told me and I was living under the ignorance is bliss umbrella.
While having dinner with one of my soon-to-be sister-in-laws, she was shocked I was still taking the pill after almost 9 years of using it.
“Ummmmm…you know it’s like really bad for you, eh? You should not be on that long term at all. Especially if you plan on giving me nieces and nephews anytime soon.”
I was dumbfounded. I had never considered the pill could be impacting my health.
I stopped cold-turkey the next day. After almost a decade of being on the pill.
Within two months, my skin was horrific. The cystic acne covered my jawline, chin and temples. I had pimples all over my forehead, cheeks and nose. I could barely look in the mirror at myself. And, oh ya, my wedding was in a few months.
I went back on the pill about 1 month before my wedding. My skin just barely cleared up in time. I still remember getting my makeup done and her having to spend extra time colour correcting the pimples on my face and layering creams and powders over the scabbed areas. It covered the redness but did nothing to hide the texture. You could still see the little bumps on my temples, chin and across my forehead.
I look back on my wedding photos and that’s all I remember.
After I got back from our honeymoon, I stopped the pill for good. There was no going back.
Three months later, I went back to school to study nutrition. The first textbook I read had a page on the pill and female health.
From that moment on, I obsessed over all things alternative healing and acne.
I went to countless naturopath appointments and tried a number of supplements.
I regularly saw an eighth-generation Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner and was given a few dozen boxes of herbal pellets.
I read through every one of my nutrition textbooks with a fine toothcomb; writing notes in my journal every time I came across even a single line on acne.
I started changing my diet and eliminating certain foods to see how my skin would react.
I slowly phased away from regular makeup and skincare to natural options free from hormone-disrupting chemicals.
This was months and months and months of trial and error.
Then in my last few months of nutrition school, I had to do a dozen case studies for my final exam. I purposely sought out women that were dealing with acne, as well. So I could test all of the things I had been researching and implementing over the last year or so.
At the end of all of this, I realized that acne was an external symptom of an internal issue. Not only that, but it was a result of these five things:
Each one of these had to be addressed in order to stop the symptom of acne from happening.
So, let’s connect the dots.
First up, the gut. It gets damaged from prescriptions (like the pill and antibiotics), chemicals in our food, inflammatory diet, infections and chronic stress. The damage that occurs is an imbalance in good/bad bacteria plus intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut). Both of these allow for body-wide (systemic) inflammation to occur and can impact the proper elimination of waste from the body. Without proper elimination, toxins and hormones can recirculate into the body.
This leads us to the liver.
The liver is a powerhouse organ in the body and has over 500 functions. And one of its main jobs is: detoxification. Every single thing you eat, drink or apply to your skin must be sent through the liver.
A hundred years ago, this was a cakewalk for your liver. These days, the liver is inundated with chemicals and prescriptions it’s never had to deal with before.
When the liver is overloaded, hormones and toxins can’t be filtered properly. Hello, hormonal imbalances, inflammation and breakouts.
Aside from an overworked liver, hormones can become imbalanced by birth control use, gut dysbiosis, chronic stress, and hormone-disrupting chemicals in food, water and personal care products.
Still with me? One more to go: chronic stress.
First, it can lead to an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone) which triggers for overproduction of sebum. If we take it one step further, mental health conditions (like stress, anxiety and depression) can alter the microbiome in the gut. Alternation in the bacteria in the digestive system, causes acne to occur
These are the five things that I did to stop my acne and it’s the exact system I teach my clients in The Clear Skin Solution.
You need to be taking a whole-body approach it heal acne because it’s a multi-faceted issue.
And most importantly, you have to remember this is not an overnight process. You have to first heal the body so the symptom of acne goes away. Time and consistency are the magic ingredients.